8 must-see local films at 2018 Women in Film Festival
The 2018 edition of the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival opens on Tuesday, and it’s poised to be mighty: from opening night film Dark Blue Girl (Mascha Schilinski’s family drama set in Greece that veers back and forth between realism and myth), to a free screening of Deepa Mehta’s Anatomy of Violence on International Woman’s Day, to panels about gender balance, audience building, and Indigenous filmmaking, to dozens of women-driven documentaries and narrative films from all over the planet, VIWIFF serves up numerous opportunities to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where the victories of the past year might lead (while entertaining us in the process).
We’re especially excited about VIWIFF’s Vancouver contingent. Our local filmmakers are pushing boundaries with shorts and feature films that speak to the diversity of voices within the Vancouver screen scene. Here are eight must-see films from homegrown filmmakers:
Send Us Smokes
We love this film’s starting point – a young Canadian girl is determined to send a package of cigarettes to her dad who is serving in the trenches during World War One, just as the post office is about to close – and we love where it goes and how it gets there. Send Us Smokes doesn’t proceed how you might expect it to, and it doesn’t hit you over the head with its message. It’s charming and impactful – and fun! – from beginning to end: a near-perfect specimen of the short film genre. Featuring stellar performances from newcomer Ada Jones-Kuranko and screen veterans Sara Canning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) and Matthew MacCaull (Black Fly).
Directed by Michelle Kee
Screens March 7 at 6pm
If You Fall
If You Fall represents Tisha Deb Pillai’s graduation project from Emily Carr University, which astounds us and makes us really excited about her future. If You Fall is a sweet and endearing animated short film about Lila, a cautious 8-year-old Indian girl, who struggles to find her balance while riding her bicycle during a stressful time in her family. Distinctive style, wonderful writing (with Hindi interjections), and nuanced characterizations; If You Fall is one of the few shorts we’ve seen where we can imagine a larger feature set in that world.
Directed by Tisha Deb Pillai
Screens March 11 at 4:15
Michelle Ouellet (Afterparty, The True Heroines) is the force behind Prodigals, a feature film starring David Alpay (The Tudors) as a law school dropout who returns to his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie to support his old friends when one of them is charged with murder. Sara Canning shines as Jen, the abandoned but beloved ex-girlfriend. Prodigals is at once a legal thriller, a reunion film, and a poignant love letter to hometowns.
Directed by Michelle Ouellet
Screens March 10 at 9pm
Like airports and police stations, hospitals are transitory spaces where many of the people passing through are in the midst of something horrible. The Curtain takes place in a hospital room where two strangers – Jordan (played by Sarah Dawn Pledge) and Lucas (Albert Nicholas) – are separated by a standard-issue hospital curtain. Even though Lucas and Jordan can’t see each other, they reveal their darkest truths through the curtain, and, in so doing, alter each other’s lives in unexpected ways.
Directed by Crystal Lowe
Screens March 11 at 4:15pm
Memory of the Peace
This documentary lays out three perspectives on the Site C Dam project from a trio of individuals who live in the Peace River Valley: a recovering addict and oil industry worker with a baby on the way; an Indigenous woman haunted by the murders of her cousin and friend; a Millennial Dane-zaa drummer who wants to preserve the past in an area that will soon be flooded.
Directed by Jean Parsons and Jennifer Chiu
Screens March 10 at 3:15pm
Despite its Dali-esque moments and fantastical flavour, there’s something all too real about Mental if you have any experience with mental illness. Caught in a loop of depression and anxiety, Alicia (co-writer Meeshelle Neal) uses prescription drugs to numb the nearly unbearable experience of mental instability. Strong performances and lingering visuals bring a relatable nightmare to vivid, cinematic life.
Directed by Jax Smith
Screens March 9 at 5:30pm
Wendy D has been photographing the charismatic and wildly expressive dance theatre artist Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg for years now. This inventive short highlights Friedenberg’s mastery and control, Wendy D’s creative process, and the trust that exists between the two remarkable artists – and they accomplish all of this on an island in Friedenberg’s kitchen. (Fun fact: Friedenberg choreographed another inventive short – the dance film All About You, which takes place on the streets of downtown Vancouver – that screens March 7 at 6pm).
Directed by Wendy D
Screens March 9 at 5:30pm
The beautifully shot Akashi stars its writer and director Mayumi Yoshida (The Man in the High Castle) as Kana, a woman who returns to Japan from abroad for her grandmother’s funeral. Here, the magic is in Kana’s endearing conversations with her grandmother (seen in flashbacks), played with grace by Vancouver-based theatre artist Yayoi Hirano, as well as with the taxi driver (Altered Carbon’s Hiro Kanagawa) who drives her to the funeral. It’s a film about values, family, tradition, and love, handled with a deft and elegant touch. (Pictured above)
Directed by Mayumi Yoshida
Screens March 11 at 4:15
The 2018 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs March 6-11 at VIFF’s Vancity Theatre. Tickets and schedule information at www.womeninfilm.ca.