BIG NEWS FOR CANADIAN WOMEN IN FILM!!!

 

Waaaahoooo!

I love this post. Instead of talking about the ingrained sexism present in the film and television industry, I come bearing exciting and encouraging news- the best kind! The National Film Board of Canada has committed to allocating 50% of its production spending to women producers, writers, and generally just women led projects. They are making it a priority to invest in women- This is HUGE!

Word on the street is, over the next three years, the NFB is going to be on the lookout for women driven projects to invest in to support the goal of diversity and inclusion in the film industry in Canada.

I love to bring you such exciting news. I hope that it inspires you the way that it has me. Now is the time, more than ever, we need to be in communication and collaboration with each other to create amazing content. To learn more, go to the National Film Board of Canada. Comment below and let us know how you feel about this promise of resources to women filmmakers in Canada, and please share with all the creative boss ladies in your life who may need a little encouragement. 

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Hidden Figures

Related imageIt’s hard to stay calm about Hidden Figures. Not only is the cast include Hollywood’s most talented leading female actresses, but the story itself is a remarkable, refreshing narrative that highlights the genius of black women- something not often seen on the big screen. Hidden Figures shines a light on the success and struggles of the real life African-American women responsible for one of NASA’s greatest accomplishments. The work of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson goes unacknowledged no more, as Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe play these incredible mathematicians and engineers who each had to transcend race and gender barriers to succeed.Image result for Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson

This film is a tribute to the brilliance of women of colour- stories of remarkable women of colour are not hard to find, however they are rarely chosen for the big screen. We applaud those who saw this story as note worthy and hope that it’s success will set a precedence around portraying black women as the full, dynamic and intelligent women they have always been, rather than playing into a tired stereotype that demeans them. I hope that Hidden Figures is just the beginning of many more stories to come shining out from the shadows of history to make their debut on the big screen.

The film has received outstanding amount of support thus far, even First Lady, Michelle Obama hosted a special screening of the movie at the White House. Hidden Figures won the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the 23rd SAG awards. Their acceptance speech is enough to make you want to watch the movie.

And of course, if you haven’t already – Check out the Trailer here:

Check out our latest Interview with Documentary Filmmaker, Colleen Cardinal

Tell us about your latest project? What inspired its creation? Why is it important?

My latest project The Sixties Scoop: A Hidden Generation started in 2012, I was looking for a way to share my story of what happened to my sisters and me.  At the time I was volunteering with Families of Sisters in Spirit, a grassroots initiative for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women. With their encouragement and support I became empowered through sharing my lived experiences at presentations, panels and workshops. My sisters and I had been trafficked through colonial child welfare policies and placed into a non-Indigenous households now loosely named the 60’s Scoop. We experienced a staggering amount of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in that household without any protection or intervention by the State who had failed to protect us. We ended up fleeing that household to escape the physical and sexual violence at the ages of 15. My sisters and I were navigating the world on our own with no supports facing racism, poverty, unresolved trauma and more violence. My eldest sister was murdered when she was 20 years old, she left behind two small children. For my surviving sister and me we would continue living in violent relationships for many years until one day I escaped the violence to start over with my children.

I knew something terrible and profound had happened to us girls as children due to our abusive adoptive household but at that time I didn’t realize how many other Indigenous people were impacted by the systemic racist colonial child welfare policies and how those policies have othered Indigenous people as disposable, incapable or unworthy. The documentary is meant to expose the impacts of intergenerational trauma across generations, loss of language, ceremony and the familiarity of belonging but also the journey of reconnecting with culture, language, birth family and the work that needs to continue for people impacted by assimilative policies like the 60’s scoop.  The film seeks to address the many issues Indigenous adoptee cope with daily in their lives such as living with HIV/AIDS,  being a family member of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman, poverty, mental health, addiction and raising children who are also impacted by our trauma and stopping the cycle of violence.

I had no experience in film making or journalism, I just knew I had a story that needed to be told. I began to look for ways to learn how to make films which led me to take some workshops at Saw Video Media Art Center which is a production center for independent media art. I submitted a grant application for a small equipment grant for equipment and workshops. I successfully won the small grant and it was there I began to learn videography.

I was inspired by a friend of mine who was a journalist, she believed in me and knew sharing my story was important, that it would make waves and help others while exposing a hidden generation of adoptees who have largely been forgotten about and/or whitewashed as Canada’s best intention to save Indian children.

It is another important chapter in the crimes committed by the State against Indigenous people, the stealing of Indigenous children children, erasure of culture and identity for access to lands, resources which Canada is built on.

 The number of women in positions of influence in the film and television industry is few, but this level of representation falls even shorter in terms of First Nations women’s voices. Could you speak to these issues of representation and the importance of who controls and contributes to the popular narrative?

Since my childhood I’ve had very few Indigenous women in the film and television industry to look up to, role model or see myself as a First Nations woman reflected in popular media. In my early adulthood I began to see Indigenous women like Tantoo Cardinal, Tina Keeper, Michelle St. John portraying roles where racism, violence, alcoholism or the stereotypical role of addiction, child welfare involvement and poverty were predominant. These were the images being reflected of Indigenous women in popular media in the early 80’s & 90’s l For the most part, I could relate but there was never context given to why Indigenous women were experiencing these issues. On the very extreme spectrum  I’ve also seen documentaries exploit Indigenous women continually as being victims which lends to this saviour type of ideology that we have no agency and need help or saving which is exactly the mentality that has led Indigenous people being precariously portrayed as perpetual victims.

As a grassroots Indigenous woman, I have no illusions about how little control or influence I have on the popular narrative which is why I chose to do independent media. It is important for Indigenous people to represent their own work, in their own words without taking out critical connections of how State policies have impacted generations of lives. I feel like we still have steep barriers to climb just to break into the world of film and media. Not only is the industry controlled by men, there is an unwritten code of “how things are done” which caters to the patriarchal heteronormative gaze, my goal is not to cater to the old way of doing things but from an Indigenous way that centers wellness, healing and ceremony.

What led you to documentary films?

Documentary film is way to reach a wider audience through storytelling and digital media art. Oral story telling is part of culture and how we share teachings and history. But since colonization we’ve been taught to not talk about our experiences, not be emotional, not to dwell on the past or leave things alone. Not talking is not healing or dealing, we need to create safe spaces to have a dialogue where listening, validating and meaningful healing takes place.  Digital media is a way to amplify the voices of those who wouldn’t normally be heard or seen in mainstream media. I’ve always preferred documentaries that are revealing with critical thought, truth baring but also showing the work or way to do the work that needs to be done to make things right. I’ve always believed that documentaries can be used in many ways besides truth telling but also for community building, understanding and of course, reconciliation.

How have you chosen to tackle methods of finance and distribution?

One of the biggest challenge is not knowing where to start and retaining control of how the story is told so that it is not white washed, or sanitized that might be required from working with people who do not center Indigenous . Not only am I making a documentary but it is a commitment to building trust and relationships with those who have joined in the effort of making the documentary, sharing their stories and trusting the process. It has also been a learning curve understanding realizing we are all in different stages of grief, loss and healing.

I’ve chosen to keep the documentary grassroots, funded carefully by grants and donations.  It has been a challenge because when people have asked to be involved, I have been guarded to make sure it stays true to the goal of being grassroots with Indigenous voices being amplified and told from an Indigenous perspective not through a settler’s interpretation.

As of right now, distribution is in the back of my mind. I want to make the documentary public and available, with subtitles and in French. I plan to host it on a website, and if there are donations they would be donated to initiatives for Indigenous adoptees who are doing grassroots organizing that includes healing, cultural knowledge and cultural education and or repatriation. The documentary needs to be included in any work that talks about reconciliation as a learning tool for community building, schools and institutions, especially anyone working front line with Indigenous people in health and social services.

What barriers have you faced during this project and what kind of support makes it possible?

The biggest barrier is my health, I live with Complex PTSD and a chronic pain disability that impedes my mobility along with compromised immune disease which flares break outs of psoriasis triggered by stress. Learning to manage my health and find balance has been a challenge, my second biggest challenge is learning the film making process on my own. Of course financing has been an on-going obstacle, funding the travel and equipment to get footage while connecting with the adoptees who have been impacted. Making sure adoptees feel safe, listened too and supporting through the sharing of their experiences.

What do you hope to accomplish with your film?

I hope to reach a national and international audience to expose the 60’ Scoop for the Canadians who do not know about it, but also the adoptees who may have been taken oversea and foster cared children who may be searching for a reason why it happened, find support, put a name to the unknown loss they might be experiencing and gain support.

Help other adoptees connect with other adoptees, build community with non-Indigenous people but most of all story-telling is healing, I think this has been a huge project that started out as a personal journey and turned into a movement of adoptees connecting from all over the world.

Tell us about your interests and influences in documentaries, television, media… What are you watching? Who’s inspiring you lately?

Alanis Obomsawin documentaries reeled me in, they were so revealing and showed the side of Indigenous realities that needed to be seen. Her films because my source of inspiration because they were so authentic using stories of Indigenous people affected by government policies. The late Gil Cardinal is also a source of inspiration, his documentaries were the first films I have seen that reflected images of other Indigenous children who experienced child welfare policies. I remember feeling like I wanted to know more and see more documentaries that were so profound.

Another one of my favourite documentaries is Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside by filmmakers Alejandro Zuluaga and Harsha Walia which showed the real life strength and survival vs. victimhood of Indigenous women living and thriving in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver where hundreds of Indigenous women have been murdered, disappeared and othered because they use drugs, alcohol or sex work. Go Home Babygirl by Audrey Huntley which talks about one First Nation family’s struggle for justice and healing as they deal with having a young woman die a violent death.  Empire of Dirt by Jennifer Podemski, Rhymes of Young Ghouls and Drunktowns’ Finest are among the films that I can relate to the most when it comes to seeing Indigenous lives and realities reflected on the big screen. Each year there are more and more Indigenous film makers and documentaries exploring and delivering profound artistic mediums of cinematography, music, and dialogue about the most emotional, deep wounds that we are dealing with from. It makes my heart soar with pride for the resiliency and determination we as Indigenous people have to heal and move forward.

A Hidden Generation Poster by Colleen C

Pacific Standard Films: Creating opportunities for women in lead roles both on and off screen by Liija Cassidy Eskola

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There was a lot I couldn’t watch as a child (now referred to as a tween) in my house. Nothing violent (sorry Power Rangers), nothing featuring serious teen issues (take a hike Degrassi: Junior High) and certainly nothing sexually explicit (no Dawson’s Creek for me). So I can only assume I was at a sleepover the first time I saw Cruel Intentions. It was the teen drama of the millennium, and by the principles I had grown up on, completely scandalous.  In the final scene as Annette peeled away from town and seemingly her troubles, it was as if Reese Witherspoon herself was speeding towards a promising future. She followed up Cruel Intentions with hits like Election and Legally Blonde, eventually leading her to the Oscar winning role of June Carter in Walk the Line. The Oscar curse is not much more than an old wives tale for the A-list set, a promise of career misfortune once that gold statue has been won.  For Reese Witherspoon it may have been the Oscar curse, or just poor timing but a career that once seemed locked on a one way towards success was turning into a dead end.

In a humble interview for 60 Minutes, Witherspoon referred to the period after her Oscar win for Walk the Line as a slump; taking roles with little consequence just to keep working, her mind tangled by her divorce from Ryan Phillippe which came only months after the Oscar win. By the time the fog had lifted and she found herself back in meetings with top film executives in 2012, she was confronted with a lack of opportunities for women of a certain age and for women period. For some I suppose it can be difficult to look past her porcelain skin, beautiful blonde hair, southern drawl and the fact that she dated Jake Gyllenhaal. Yet in spite of all that privilege, she was still being met with resistance in her career; a field in which she had been awarded the highest of accolades.  If opportunities were scarce for America’s Oscar winning sweetheart, what must it be like for others? For women still in the opening act of their careers? For women who aren’t Meryl Streep?

Gender inequality in film is not an anecdotal conversation to be had over the dinner table or a debate to engage in online for professionals like Bruna Papandrea and Reese Witherspoon; it was a lifetime devoted to an art form of storytelling and expression that apparently no longer had a place for them.   The pursuit of a renewed faith in filmmaking resulted in Australian born producer Bruna Papandrea and Witherspoon joining forces and founding Pacific Standard Films, a production company aimed at creating comparable opportunities for women in leading roles both on and off screen.

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At the Produced conference back in May of this year, Witherspoon noted that if half the population is made up of women, perhaps the films we watch should be a reflection of that. However this is more than a numbers game for Witherspoon and Papandrea; Pacific Standard is not only concerned with an increase in the quantity of roles and production positions available to women, but in the quality of these assignments. Do the acting roles have depth? Are the characters a true representation of the strength, resilience, race and age of the women who provide inspiration all around us? Whose stories are being told? Are the production positions cultivating new female talent? In an interview with The Frame, Witherspoon asks not only of herself but of the industry at large “What are you putting into the world and why?”.

Pacific Standard is setting a standard all their own; screenplays are being sought out and adapted from novels with strong female protagonists that are then transformed into meaningful leading and supporting roles for women. The films are performed, produced and directed by Hollywood heavyweights and the industry has taken notice. The company’s first films, Wild and Gone Girl, garnered Oscar nods for best actress in leading and supporting roles and made a half a billion dollars at the box office. Gender inequality in Hollywood seems to have a ripple effect; the absence of women in positions of leadership and innovation as writers, directors and producers, impacts the types of roles being designed and written for women. In discussions of privilege I am often met with the idea of representing what I know. Who could possibly be a better story-teller of women than women? The representation will always be more accurate from someone who has lived the experience, and judging by the projects Pacific Standard has dug into, nurturing a strong female voice is at the forefront of their mission. A single person, group or production company that can fully and accurately represent all women is a tall order.  Pacific Standard will not be filling the gender gap in one fell swoop using only complex character writing and a team of female producers and assistants.

A quick search (yes, back to Google) of the top production companies in Hollywood led me to Warner, Disney, Universal and Columbia, not surprisingly there was not a female CEO in the lot. Pacific Standard can’t, isn’t and won’t be changing the face of women in film alone, but Papandrea and Witherspoon have already taken leaps and bounds in the right direction. They have upwards of 20 film projects currently in varying stages of production and 3 television shows in development. While there are always improvements that can be made, their success is already worth celebrating

After reading a few articles on the conception of Pacific Standard and watching the film Wild, I couldn’t help but draw a dot or two and connect them. Both the journey in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and the creation Pacific Standard were born out of a desperate need for change in the status quo. Perhaps I recognized the feeling, the one that stems from the realization that somewhere along the line a few bad calls were made, that trust was not placed in the right people and help was sought in all the wrong places.  Cheryl Strayed fought for atonement in the solitude of the Pacific Crest Trail and found a new lease on life while Reese Withserpoon fought for a resurgence of her own and found a new lease on her career. Yes, these are radically different in so many ways, but both are stories of soul searching, challenges being accepted and obstacles overcome; they are stories of strength and ingenuity. Stories of women, for women, by women.

Matrilineal Matters and Masculine Moves: ImagineNATIVE Film Review by Margot Frayne

Lesson number one: when attending a film festival at the TIFF Light Box in Toronto, if you don’t have one of those super cool press passes, for the love of everything holy pre purchase a ticket. As I was anxiously waiting in a lengthy overflow lineup to attend a compilation of shorts that was part of the Imagine Native Film Festival, the excitement in the foyer was so palpable it seemed to have wrenched my eye balls from my head as my focus darted around the crowded foyer. I was in the midst of a family reunion, members of which had traveled from the ends of the earth to experience such camaraderie. Everyone belonged.

Lesson number two: strength is showing your growth, not show casing your grievances. By injecting humor and humility into issues of being not only native but a member of humankind, the shorts in Matrilineal Matters dealt the themes of hardship, optimism, and the path to insightfulness while being navigated through the ever changing  entity that is life.

Lesson number three: there cannot be an honest understanding of life for a female without acknowledging the likeness of our male counterparts. Truly, it is the interactions of the two that impacts each facet individually and cannot be teased apart without negating the fragility of gender. It wasn’t until I was heading for the foyer, warmly anticipating my sweatpants, that I knew in my heart I could not leave before hearing the men’s side in Masculine Moves: Short Program; conveniently placed half an hour after its sister counterpart.

Strength: Comparisons of its meaning for both Indigenous Males and Females

And my cinematographical study reached its apex at this thesis: In close investigation of the themes and portrayals in the disparate shorts, the concept of strength and “being strong” is viewed in a gender neutralizing manor.

Here me out.

In each short film, both male or female inspired, strength was the thread running through each segment. Females showed strength through their ability to hold their communities and families together, despite how they continuously overcome loss and displacement, and with grace and good humor. Female strength shows a balance between being a warrior in the face of adversity and being a whimsical wealth of comfort and empathy.

Conversely, Masculine Moves shorts depicted a disappointment in the gendered way the meaning strength has been conveyed to men. Each short carefully peeled away layers upon layers of expectations about what it is to be a strong man, exposing the misconceptions of entitlement and brutish physical dominance that have poisoned the relationship between the sexes. The true meaning of strength seen in the protagonists of each short was seen in their the ability to care for and help families flourish and their willingness to see past insubstantial societal conventions to embrace a deeper understanding of their individual needs that are not gender prescribed.

And thought I sat in the dark absorbed in thoughts of the complexity of humankind, I had never felt so enlightened.

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Sudbury Launches Women in Film Wednesday

 

WOMEN IN FILM WEDNESDAYS

SUDBURY INDIE CINEMA PRESENTS: WOMEN IN FILM WEDNESDAYS 

A monthly showcase of the work of women directors. This holiday, what better way to warm up than with a film. Just check out this great line up.

Wed Dec 2nd: After the Last River by Victora Lean
Wed Jan 6th: Les Loups par Sophie Deraspe
Wed Feb 3rd: Diary of a Teenage Daughter by Marielle Heller

View the website for more information: Here

Meet one of our Writers: Liija Cassidy Eskola

 

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I can’t actually remember the last time I opened a search engine for research. Googling how to cook a turkey without giving everyone you know salmonella or launching an inquiry into the meaning of the hieroglyphics on your clothing labels so you don’t have to call your mother again, doesn’t qualify. The empty search bar was an open invitation; a blank slate. As I stared at the screen, something began to shift. With each flash of the cursor, that feeling of infinite possibility became increasingly distant, in its place grew bewilderment. Why exactly do I have to google anything? I wasn’t searching for something specific; I was googling a starting point. Why was it that I couldn’t immediately think of an engaging topic to write about? I had been presented with a no-holds barred opportunity to write about women and my first instinct was Google? What was I afraid of? Last I checked, I was in fact a woman, so why was it so difficult to write about my own gender? How exactly did this happen? When did it happen? How had I become so apathetic that the subject of feminism might as well be the Egyptian script on my tags?

I listen to the news while I get ready for work in the morning, occasionally becoming outraged by the ease with which people post insensitive comments on social media and consider myself to have a decently calibrated moral compass. However, I am no activist. I am not designing signs to hold or organizing rallies; I’m certainly not against them, but I’m not exactly with them either. I have a certain placation with life, an umbrella of blissful ignorance I use for shelter from the torrential downpour of reality.

Like an animal enjoying a deep winter sleep, when provoked I can easily (and gleefully) fight with the best of them. The need to advocate my point of view with zeal is a genetic marker; a gift from my mother. I have never met anyone who can execute a debate quite like she can; she is fierce, opinionated and argues while remaining deeply rooted in fact. She speaks up and out unapologetically and is never afraid of doing the right thing. Somewhere along the way, that instinct she passed along fell into hibernation.

Meanwhile, seemingly overnight, everyone had become an activist. I was besieged with cyber activism and while so many were finding their causes and more importantly their voices, I had lost interest in my own. Never before in our history have our opinions had so many platforms on which to be explicated and means by which to be absorbed by the general public. Making a statement on any form of social media is no longer simply a post on your wall; that statement is now out in the public sphere, ready and waiting to be copied, pasted, shared, linked and made into a clever meme, giving any thought the potential of going viral. In the midst of this outbreak of conscience, I couldn’t help but feel inoculated.

It has become easy to scroll past posts that should outrage me, only occasionally stopping and even more rarely feeling the urge to react. Perhaps for some the law of averages comes into play; only so many posts could be ignored, one will have to land and change their point of view forever. For me it was too much noise; things were being posted haphazardly and the true believers were never satisfied. There was always someone more environmentally friendly (you’re a vegan and your pants are made from conflict free hemp, we know), more politically conscious (I actually did vote, thanks for assuming I didn’t though) or more feminist (sorry, I still love Disney movies and their princesses) than I could ever be. But in spite of the comment wars being waged all over social media, I came to realize it isn’t about being ‘enough’.

There must be others who wonder if they are the right kind of feminist or if they’re feminist enough. I appreciate the fact that my mom kept her last name at a time when that was an unpopular choice, I support equal pay and value my rights to vote and choose. Then again I also like Taylor Swift, shaving my legs and when men hold the elevator doors so the 500 bags I constantly seem to be carrying and I can get in first. Is that feminism light? Feminism for beginners?? Feminism for the basic bitch??? I don’t know where exactly I fall on the spectrum of feminism but I do know everyone, every woman, has a lens through which they view women’s issues, each one unique. I’m probably always going to want to shave my legs but that doesn’t have to limit how I participate in the conversation. I may not be the perfect feminist, but I’m also no longer convinced there is such a thing.

Systemic inequality, entrenched sexual suggestion and chauvinistic representation surround women every day in nearly every facet of life and film is the perfect example. Having this website as an open forum on women, their position and representation both behind and in front of the camera is a modern and ubiquitous gateway into the foundations of feminist theories.

I choose not to focus on the embarrassment of the indifference that led me here, instead the optimism in my renewed sense of resolve. Every woman has a lens through which they view women’s issues, and while mine is a bit crooked and rose-colored, it’s never been clearer.