By Eva Crocker
Check out Simone’s horror webseries “Housed” and some of her current favorite webseries below!Read More
By Eva Crocker
Check out Simone’s horror webseries “Housed” and some of her current favorite webseries below!Read More
Ruth Lawrence co-wrote the webseries “Buy the Boards” with comedians, Luke Lawrence (who happens to be her son) and Matt Wright.
While writing “Buy the Boards” Ruth researched comedic webseries from around world, we asked her to recommend a few of her favourites.
“Buy the Boards” and Ruth’s top three are below for your viewing pleasure, be prepared to laugh a lung up.
By Eva Crocker
Hannah Cheesman is the co-creator, co-writer and star of the webseries, “Whatever, Linda”.
Hannah’s short film “Cheese” showed at SJIWFF26, where I had the opportunity to talk to her about writing for the web, the challenges of making a period piece and what it means to make a feminist show.
Watch “Whatever, Linda” on the show’s website.
By Eva Crocker
The Film Lover’s Lottery is an annual fundraiser in support of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and the RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award.
This year’s winning tickets were drawn at our Emera NL Closing night which featured Jenina MacGillivray’s 2014 RBC Michelle Jackson Award winning short film, “The Tour” and Deepa Mehta’s Beeba Boys.
Congratulations to the winners!
Melissa Tobin winner of the DIRECTOR’S PRIZE
A 13-day Adventure Canada Greenland & Wild Labrador Cruise, with flights, provided by Adventure Canada and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. Winner may take a companion at 50% off. June 29-July 11, 2016.
Prize value: $15,200
A 32GB white iPad tablet with Smart Cover, provided by Optimized Risk and Insurance Ltd.
Prize value: $600
A one night stay, including dinner and breakfast, at Fishers’ Loft in Port Rexton, Trinity Bay.
Prize value: $300
A Mallard Cottage BBQ for 10, provided by Mallard Cottage.
Prize value: $500
by Emily Deming
With Packed houses and engaged audiences, the documentaries outshone the fictional feature films this year. Here were two highlights:
Radical Grace (Dir: Rebecca Parrish)
I first heard about the Vatican’s censure of The Leadership Conference of Women Religious in a 2012 interview on Fresh Air where Terry Gross interviewed Pat Farrell (former president of the leadership conference). Farrell was articulate in a calm, deep way. Her clear vision and unwavering sense of what is right and good were paired with an open and questioning mind and no discernible ego (beyond self-love and confidence) to get in the way of her desire to elevate communication between herself and her detractors (The Church). I have rarely been so impressed with a speaker.
Radical Grace takes place a couple of years after that interview and documents nuns in America fighting that vatican censure of them and their work and simultaneously, and very relatedly, fighting for social justice. I went to the film with the memory of Pat Farrell’s competence in mind and was moved to tears over and again as the filmmakers captured that same resolve and intelligence and concern for the world that I now cannot help but think is pervasive among the Women Religious.
It was a classic documentary. It was simple and well executed with interviews interspersed with footage of current events and “walk-alongs” as the cameras followed the nuns on their daily business of changing the world. A flashy style would not have done; the work and the communities these women work for is the whole point. of everything. Basic goodness and love were fought for with complete conviction and tenacity. The hurt implied in the church possibly denying the central tenant of the nun’s lives was deeply felt by capturing small expressions and gestures. The camera stayed on their faces in between words to expose the deep emotions of women used to not making a show of themselves. The documentary took its cue from its subject and showed the work over long stretches without embellishment. The nuns and their triumphs are clear and moving. People devoting their lives to the betterment of the world by remaining solidly in that world, and simultaneously having to advocate for their very correctness in doing so, is riveting, uplifting and worthy of screen time.
The Amina Profile (Dir: Sophie Deraspe):
This film is a documentary about the unfolding of a mystery. It is a thriller at times and it is terrifically sexy. It is sexy without feeling exploitative of the intimacy of its subject. A Canadian woman begins an online affair with Amina, a woman in Syria. As the Arab Spring heats up, Amina begins a blog of her life that is both political and personal: A Gay Girl in Damascus. When Amina disappears after months of online activism, her girlfriend, Sandra Bagaria, back in Montreal, begins frantically to search for her. That search unearths much more truth than she was expecting.
This film is not simple and honors the many questions that arise during the search for Amina: questions about our loyalties and our sympathies and how we parse them to people far away; questions of journalistic responsibility; questions of when to believe and when to be skeptical. And throughout it remains texturally lush and sensual. The footage is diverse and more evocative than reconstructive. It is complicit in allowing us a romanticized vision of events abroad, and yet rigorous in exposing those visions as untested. The bloggers and activists from around the world are compelling characters and hold our interest outside of their online mediums.
The editing on this film is a triumph. With art and facts and made and found sequences fit to a pace that keeps the audience’s interest and allows the pervasive miasma of uncertainty to move our curiosity forward through each scene without devolving into confusion or a befuddled narrative. This is a story full of unreliable narrators and everything can be manipulated in an online world. The boundaries between manipulation, deceit, artistic license and exploration are both exposed and used effectively. And though I will not give away the ending, the film maker, Deraspe, does her work getting us there in a way that is both verified and satisfying journalistically and emotionally. This film is not a mystery wrapped in an enigma. It is a mystery, cloaked in personal and political tragedies that was painstakingly and rivetingly untangled.Read More
by Emily Deming
Writer/director Patricia Rozema introduced her latest film, Into the Forest, with her assurance that she would not ruin the audience’s experience with an introduction. As one of her great pleasures is watching a movie that she knows absolutely nothing about, she treated us to that pleasure as well. If that is a word I can use for 101 minutes of deep tension. In honour to that pleasure of discovery, this post is a shade of what the movie cast, not a movie review. To properly review, I would have to give things away and lay judgements on territory that, even when flawed, is powerful, effective and entertaining, and most forcefully so when seen with fresh eyes.
The two central characters, sisters played by Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood, are strong and wonderfully imperfect. Layers of intra and inter tensions both within the girls’ home and between their stronghold and the outside world make up the unseen fascia of the film. The world outside is quickly devolving into an unpredictable “wild west” after a power outage leaves everyone around the sisters’ home in the woods of the Pacific Northwest without means of communication, transportation or any of what we consider “necessities” today. There is no way to find out how far the outage extends.
Rozema builds the stresses well with lots of space for our own worry and dark imaginings. Watching good people become more and more hesitant to offer help to others marks the escalation of danger. The tide turns quickly between charitable goodwill and cautious self-defense. The griefs and trials bring the central characters closer but only in a halting and realistic way.
Page and Wood do great homage to sibling relationships. They do not seamlessly unify under duress. Their natural differences and simmering grievances at first harden with hardship while their commitment and loyalty to each other still holds. The little bursts of hope in the film are the moments when they help each other most by admitting defeat in their relations. When they let go of explaining or arguing a point and just exist in companionable opposition. Making sure each is fed and safe rather than in agreement. It is a beautiful and accurate look at true love. There is no time to mold each other into the perfect partner. But they must remain partners; they must be a two-headed, four-armed, knowledge and weapon wielding beast with no back, always facing every direction to stave off external dangers, relying implicitly one on the other to defend their vulnerable sides.
I would love to talk more about the plot, the pivotal events, as they are talk-worthy in their brutal nature and unflinching direction. The camerawork during one violent episode is so well done that the terrible emotions resulting from the incident are easily integrated into our own understanding. I will say that the movie does not shy away from darkness, and the aftermath and mess of each trauma are weighed as heavily as the punctuating actions. All more keenly felt as small warmths, natural beauty and humour are not ignored and serve as a highlighting giving boundaries and perspective to darkness.
I would love to delve into the choices that make the ending something that will linger in my mind for a long time. Because, while the traumas of the movie make the ending plausible, what does it say about us that it also made so many in the audience squirm and try to figure a way out of the finality of it? But, until the film is in wide release, I will only be vague, as I do not want to ruin the pleasure of shock and discovery that Rozema granted us on opening night of the SJIWFF, and that a fresh viewing of this spartan thriller/drama holds for future audiences.Read More
Mariana Sol Porta’s short film “Discovering Newfoundland” is showing at CBC Friday Night at Heart on October 22nd at 7:00pm at Holy Heart Theatre before the screening of Strange & Familiar : Architecture on Fogo Island. The screenings will be followed by a Q & A with founder and CEO of Shorefast Foundation, Zita Cobb and the film’s director, Marcia Connolly. The Q & A will be moderated by CBC’s Jane Adey. We talked to Mariana about making her film.
MS: “Discovering Newfoundland” is an audiovisual poem on a few of the key historical events that occurred in Newfoundland.
The action is carried out through eleven symbolic/representative characters, who act as metaphoric representations of specific people, or groups of people who made History here. There is a young mother and her baby in Christian clothes representing early European settlers, a little boy playing with a kite – in reference to Marconi and his experiments before sending the first wireless sign from Cabot Tower, a 1st. World War Soldier, a Fishing Merchant, a Viking and a Beothuk Girl – in reference to Shanawdithit, one of the last known Beothuks, etc.
The film depicts history as a permanent discovery, a “collective knitting” into which the audience itself could ultimately feel invited.
Its poetic nature and the ultimate goal of being able to show the film to wider audiences (not exclusively English speakers), led to the idea of the film having no dialogue; instead the film has a few brief captions pointing out dates and events. For example, on top of the image of a kite like the ones Marconi and his associates used, a caption reads “1901: Guillermo Marconi emits the first transatlantic wireless message”. These captions exist in three different languages (En, Fr, Sp). So it’s possible to show the film in a different language by replacing the animation inserts.
I conceived the movie after moving here in 2005. I had practically never heard of Newfoundland and it certainly took me by surprise how many important milestones of recent Western History have occurred on this island.
Before coming here, I had been working in Argentina – my home country – on short films, in TV and teaching cinema to various age groups, so, I decided to present a project to NIFCO that would reflect my curiosity about History in this place. I went through weeks of research to come up with the script for a short film to submit to the FTFP (First Time Filmmaker Program).
SJIWFF: How did you choose the actors?
MS: I posted some ads but mainly I approached people who fit the “fixis physique du role” – an expression that refers to having the physical presence and attitude that fits the role. I held a casting session at NIFCO first, and then many rehearsals in my house.
The actors were fantastic to work with. They were all very talented people who did an amazing job, even though none of them worked in performance – it was very fortunate they found this project attractive enough to devote their time to it!
Because the movie has no dialogue, they had to be very expressive. They also had to be quite precise in their performances, as we weren’t able to do more than one take for most scenes – NIFCO provided 10 minutes of film and that was about the length of the Script. In that way, it was like acting for the theatre.
All of the actors provided valuable input regarding their role. One example would be Bill Hickey, who at the time was a DFO employee but is also the son of a skilled fisherman. Bill not only brought props for his role, but also the know-how to work with them. The actors input was key in terms of doing justice to the people they were representing.
SJIWFF: Can you tell me about what the quilt symbolizes?
MS: The quilt represents history in the making. It holds together the many loose pieces of the film.
It was one of the most difficult props to acquire.
Many of the actresses and their relatives ended up knitting small sections of the big quilt in my small kitchen. Isabella St. John (Old Lady in the movie) got in touch with several artists around the island through the Arts Council, asking for contributions. Many sent beautiful pieces, and some added notes. One of them told me that her piece began as a sweater for her son 30 years ago; the son is now a man, the sweater was never finished, but she sent the knitting in the hope that I would be able to use it to finish this new project.
Any time I was frustrated by a technical detail or was faced with a challenge in post-production, I drew strength from all these magical things that happened in pre-production, when a lot of effort and talent was put into the film by so many people. We accomplished a lot with limited means.
SJIWFF: Where did you get the inspiration to mix live action and animation?
MS: I had already used animation in other productions, it is very appealing to me as an expressive complement to the filmed images.
The challenge with animation is that it demands a lot of time and energy, and this was a modest project. In fact, I couldn’t have used animation without sponsorship from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.
The animation was a very long process, but again I was lucky to find great people to work with. First, Luciano Garay, a brilliant Argentinian artist and friend made all the drawings and the letters for the title. Later on, two fantastic local animators: Anne Macleod and Christopher Darlington, two professionals who are extremely warm people and a real pleasure to work with. They are, of course, busy people, so I operated as their animation assistant (scanning, rotoscoping, etc.) My oldest daughter, Lara Buren-Porta also helped, she hand-coloured every animation in the film. I was actually pregnant with her during the shoot, so she was present at every stage.
SJIWFF: The music has a kind of fairy tale feel to it.
I agree. I’m quite happy with the soundtrack. It was conceived from the script to be a rich, complex and key component. It really rounded the film out and brought it fully to life.
For the soundtrack I worked with Matthew Thomson, who did an exceptional job creating soundscapes and combining them with the several pieces of music. Maybe his work is less noticeable than the music itself but it plays a huge role in developing the texture and tone of the movie and it influences how we interpret the images.
For the music, I had the invaluable assistance of Nathan Cook, an accomplished cellist and professor at the School of Music at MUN. Nathan watched the silent version of the movie (which was quite tedious to watch) and suggested and played one of the pieces in the film. He also put me in contact with an extremely talented musician and composer, Andrew Noseworthy. Andrew, my husband Alejandro Buren (who is a biologist, but became my right hand on this project) and I worked together on each piece of music, meeting in a bigger kitchen during the harsh winter months – this time in the company of our third baby girl.
Andrew is such an intuitive and creative musician, it was amazing to see how he could interpret each of the pieces. He composed and retouched each one of them until they were exactly what I had in mind. Then, he recorded the song I had chosen for the credits, the popular tune “The Islander” by Bruce Moss – whom I contacted and who gracefully licensed the rights of the song to be played at the end of the film. Andrew recorded the song in three different sessions: one with a male singer, one with instruments (among them a fantastic violin) and finally a child singer, who was my daughter Lara.
SJIWFF: What did you like about “The Islander”?
MS: I liked the fact that it was so well known and popular here, and mainly I like its lyrics, which reflect in a few simple but precise words, the pride and strong belonging that people who born here feel.
I think my girls will feel that like that when they become adults, they have been “born and bred” here. I wanted to dedicate the film to them and honor their roots. I believe we all feel our own roots are strong and I know that whatever happens in their future, they will always be from Newfoundland.
SJIWFF: Anything you would like to add?
MS: I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to make (and finish!) this film.
“Discovering Newfoundland” is about all the waves of different and intermingled cultures that have shaped this place, but it is also about sharing with people outside the island the strong amazement Newfoundland produces for those of us who have been lucky enough to find it.
Rhonda Buckley’s documentary, “Terranova Matadora” will screen as part of SJIWFF’s Late Shorts on Friday, October 23rd from 9-11pm at the LSPU Hall.
“Terranova Matadora” investigates the life of Carolyn Hayward, a woman who moved from Newfoundland to Spain in the Sixties and became a world famous bullfighter. We talked to Rhonda about tracking down her subject, how she worked around Carolyn’s refusal to go on camera and Rhonda’s own feminist desire to leave a mark on the world.
SJIWFF: Can you tell me a bit about your film?
R: My film is called “TerraNova Matadora”, it’s about a female bullfighter from Newfoundland, named Carolyn Hayward. She went to Bishop Spencer School, here in St. John’s in the Fifties. Upon graduating she went to Spain to teach English. While she was there she became interested in amateur bullfighting and learned to fight smaller bulls. She went on to become a major bullfighter, she fought 900 pound bulls in Mexico. There are many posters that say she was one of the highest paid bullfighters in the world.
Ultimately, I’m interested in feminism and Carolyn is a woman who decided to do something different. She was one of fourteen female bullfighters in the Fifties and the number of female bullfighters hasn’t increased since then.
SJIWFF: Is Carolyn Hayward still alive?
R: She’s alive, she’s just over eighty. Bravo Canada funded me to make this documentary and they were brilliant to work with. When I found out I had the funding I started my search for Carolyn. I thought she was in Lima, Peru but it turned out she and her daughter had moved to Ontario. It took me a month and a half to track her down. I used the media to try and find her, for example I posted an ad in The Telegram and did CBC Radio interviews looking for anyone who had information about Carolyn’s whereabouts.
A man in Corner Brook who is from Lima got on board and tried to find out where she was through his crowd in Peru.We had someone go up and knock on what we thought was her door in Lima. We eventually found her in Ontario.
Oddly and challengingly for me as a documentary filmmaker, Carolyn wouldn’t go on camera. There was nothing that I did not try. She’s elderly, she has some confusion and she’s just not comfortable being on camera. There was a sound production house a kilometre away from where she lived but she didn’t even want her voice recorded.
What ends up happening in the documentary is that I tell the story through her granddaughter,Valerie, who was living with her in Oakville. Valerie was able to ask Carolyn lots of questions about her bullfighting years for me.
SJIWFF: It adds an interesting layer, having the story told by her granddaughter.
R: Yes and Valerie is very contemporary, she has a nose ring. She wants to be a filmmaker.
SJIWFF: Approaching this film you knew Carolyn Hayward was a wild, unpredictable force was there anything you learned about her that surprised you?
R: Someone wrote me anonymously and said you shouldn’t push this person to go on camera or give an interview because a bullfighter has a sacred relationship with the bull. Their articulation about their relationship with the bull is what happens in the ring. Carolyn is a very closed person. I understand that because my mother is eighty-eight and my aunts are in their nineties. They’re all very spry but they don’t talk about their personal lives. Older people are more reluctant to divulge things about their personal lives. I didn’t find out if Carolyn went to Mexico because she was in love. I didn’t find out if she stayed in Spain because she was in love.
A lot of the shocking things I learned about Carolyn I learned through archival images. I found a picture of her kneeling in front of a nine hundred pound bull. I went to see some bull fights and kneeling is a very courageous move, not all bullfighters do that.
I found a picture of her where it’s obvious that she enjoys the lifestyle, there’s a guitar player in the corner and she’s at a dinner party, surrounded by people from Mexico. In that way Carolyn and I are similar, we both enjoy that kind of lifestyle.
I did get to talk to some of her colleagues from her time at Bishop Spencer. Her family was in Gander so she stayed in a beautiful dormitory on Circular Road. Apparently she was a bit of a wild card, she used to sneak out at night and go on dates at the Blue Putee, which was a bar. She did that in a very strict environment, where you’re not allowed to have your skirt a millimetre above your knee. So she was certainly defiant.
SJIWFF: Do you see anything of Carolyn in yourself?
R: My immediate answer is no.
SJIWFF: No desire to fight a bull?
R: Definitely not. Valerie said she has no desire to be a bullfighter but she does wish that she had something she felt equally passionate about and that she would receive notoriety for it. I admire that Carolyn chose to be a bullfighter at a time when the career options presented to her as a woman would have been secretary, teacher or nurse. Those options would be really ambitious, most women were home taking care of kids, which is also difficult.
She left for Spain as a teenager with her cousin. That was very courageous – to leave Newfoundland for Spain at that time as a young woman. So I don’t think of myself as being like Carolyn but like Valerie, I do have an aspiration to do something that’s remembered. I want to put a flair on the world.
SJIWFF: Can you tell me about your next project?
R: I’ve started work on a project called “Avon Ladies of Rural Newfoundland”, it has a CBC broadcast license. If you’re an Avon lady in a larger city, you can just walk along the sidewalk going from house to house but in rural Newfoundland you’re going up over cliffs and through fields, around wells and around fish plants. The geography of Newfoundland makes it bizarre to be an Avon lady. In Newfoundland some Avon ladies go on all terrain vehicles, in Labrador some Avon ladies take skidoos. I’ve always been interested in stories about rural Newfoundland women and their robust nature. I’m fascinated by their ability to handle everything from finances to childcare, to chopping wood. They’ll just cook up a big feed for everyone in their community. All that imagery will be in the film but it’s also about selling beauty products in an environment that doesn’t always prioritize aesthetics.Read More
Lisa Vatcher’s short film “Long Term Care” will be screening as part of SJIWFF’s Late Shorts on October 23rd from 9 -11pm at The LSPU HALL.
We talked to her about the inspiration for her film, collaborating with her partner and the challenges of re-creating the past on the screen.
SJIWFF: Can you tell me a little bit about your film?
L: I wrote and produced “Long Term Care”, it’s a story about a father and son who are coming to terms with the fact that the father has dementia and needs to be admitted to a care facility. While it’s a heavy topic, there’s a lot of Newfoundland humor peppered throughout because that’s how Newfoundlanders deal with things.
SJIWFF: How important is place to the story in “Long Term Care”?
L: It’s really important, one of the biggest challenges we faced in pre-production was location. My grandmother was admitted to a long-term care facility in St. John’s. I wanted to find a location that could capture the way that place looked and the visceral feeling you get when you enter one of those spaces. The Centre for Nursing Studies eventually came on board and they were incredibly supportive. We were able to use one of their study floors and turn it into a long-term care facility.
Setting the film in Newfoundland was also really important to me. I wanted to show the way that Newfoundland families deal with this stuff. We tend to turn to dark humor, there was a lot of that when my grandmother was admitted to a home. I wanted Charlie, the father character, to have that dark sense of humor.
SJIWFF: Charlie is willing to joke about his dementia but sometimes it feels like a way of hiding his insecurity about the loss of control he’s experiencing.
L: I’ve noticed my relatives aging with a sense of humor. I think that humor partly comes from a desire to make it easier on everyone else. They’re not thinking about themselves, they’re trying to lighten the mood and elevate everybody else.
SJIWFF: What made you want to tell this story as a film?
L: I mentioned earlier how visceral it is to walk into a long-term care facility. The sights and smells are completely different than anything else you’ve ever experienced. Those places are trying so hard to cultivate a sense of home and failing at it. The visual nature of a short film really captures that.
My partner Ian Vatcher directed the film and did the cinematography. We’ve been together for a long time and we work very collaboratively.
He was around when my grandmother went into the home. We had just graduated from university and gone backpacking across Europe. I was more of an audience member in that situation. I watched my mother and my grandmother going through that experience together. I wrote about a father and son but that was partly because I was thinking about Ian directing it.
We were really lucky to find John Pike who played Charlie, this was kind of his acting debut. He had done some work on Republic of Doyle as a stand-in and a few years ago he was in a play of Death of a Salesman. It was also me and Ian’s first time making a short film.
We would all sit down together and talk about the character. John was really interested in the backstory; what regiment Charlie would have been in, what kind of relationship he would have had with his family. He showed up on the day and did a great job.
SJIWFF: Can you talk a bit about filming the scene set in the past?
L: Our art director, Debbie Vatcher (who also happens to be my mother in law), worked on Republic of Doyle for years and lots of other films. Period pieces are her passion. She did a lot of research on wartime hospitals. She was able to find out exactly what regiment Charlie would have been in. She found out what hospital in Britain he would have ended up in and how it would have looked. The flashback is short but I think it’s very effective.
SJIWFF: What are some things that were done to make the set look authentic?
L: The set designers and painters did a great job.
One thing that helped make it look authentic was the medical equipment. The Centre for Nursing Studies was great for flimming the present day stuff but they also have a museum of medical equipment in the school that we were able to avail of. One thing that stands out to me is the I.V. stand and glass that hangs from it. There are all these little details that you add in as a writer without thinking about how props are going to be sourced. We just screened “Long Term Care” at the Atlantic Film Festival and it was really nice to see people’s reactions when the narrative switches into the past. It’s a big moment in the film.
SJIWFF: Who are some of your influences?
L: Jonathan Tropper, he wrote This is Where I Leave You . He writes a lot about family, the sadness and humor that you can pull out of family dysfunction. I thought a lot about his work when I was writing this.
This film came from a really personal place, I let it percolate for a long time. My grandmother unfortunately passed away in 2010. It wasn’t until I started working in production that I realized I had the tenacity to actually write something about it. I let it sit in my head for a really long time before I actually wrote anything down.
SJIWFF: What’s next for you?
L: I just saw Rhonda Buckley’s “TerraNova Matadora” at the Atlantic Film Festival, it’s a short form documentary about a Matadora from Newfoundland. I found that film really inspiring. There’s a lot of funding out there for digital and interactive projects so I’m thinking about doing something like a webseries or a short form documentary.
Rhonda Buckley’s “TerraNova Matadora” will also be screened during SJIWFF’s Late Shorts on October 23rd from 9-11pm at the LSPU Hall. Stayed tuned for an interview with Rhonda on the making of her film.Read More