16 Women-Directed Films to See at the Nickel Independent Film Festival

City of Joy, Madeleine Gavin

City of Joy, Madeleine Gavin

At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the hot topic for discussion was Sofia Coppola’s award for best director -- especially because she’s only the second woman director in Cannes history to win the award. That’s 70 years. And some perspective: this officially puts Cannes ahead of the Oscars, which has only awarded one woman (Kathryn Bigelow) the best director award in its 90-year history.  

Following that, actress Jessica Chastain made a statement saying that she found the portrayal of women in most films at the Festival to be disturbing, and Nicole Kidman announced she’d be supporting more women filmmakers by vowing to be in a woman-directed film every 18 months.

So following in the spirit of supporting badass women in film, we’ve put together a quick-and-easy list of the women filmmakers in the spotlight at the Nickel Independent Film Festival, coming up in St. John’s June 17-24!

Brianne Nord-Stewart, Beat Around the Bush

Brianne Nord-Stewart is all about taking on taboo subjects, and she does so with wit and hilarity. Beat Around the Bush is a 12-minute film about Una, a 75-year-old woman living with Alzheimer’s, who decides to have her first orgasm. The film won the BEST COMEDY SHORT at Arizona International Film Festival, 2016.  

Chrystene Ells, Berny Hi, Der Glöckner

 Chrystene Ells is a powerhouse of a filmmaker/artist from the Alberta prairies, where she grew up on a cattle ranch. She’s been honoured with the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Innovation in the Arts, and the Regina Mayor’s Arts and Business Award for Leadership in the Arts, and is currently an artist in residence in Regina. So it’s no wonder that Der Glöckner -- a 16mm homage to German Expressionism -- is a standout film. It follows an aged Bellringer (Glöckner) as he witnesses the ravages of WWI on his village until a ghostly young girl leads him to transcendence through loss and beauty.

Lian Morrison, Flight of the Fisherman

 We love when filmmakers have no problem breaking down cultural barriers to get close to their subjects, and Lian Morrison is a perfect example. This documentary follows Huang Yuechuang, a 77 year-old cormorant fisherman who is the last of his generation to carry on the traditional method of fishing in rural China.

Flight of the Fisherman, Lian Morrison 

Flight of the Fisherman, Lian Morrison 

Trisha Stovel, Russell Clark, Exploring Bell Island

 All townies who are guilty of never having explored Bell Island, raise your hands! Trisha Stovel and Russell Clark were part of the team travelling along with the Royal Canadian Geographic Society’s First Explorer in Residence, Jill Heinerth. This documentary showcases some delightful historical pieces around Bell Island, including the four WWII ships sunk by German U-Boats in 1942.

Martine Blue, The Perfect Family

 You might remember Martine Blue from her sold-out night of films at our Festival last year! She’s been living here for years and she’s known for her punk-ish, edgy style. We like the grit. The Perfect Family is about a parrot-woman hybrid and former circus performer struggling to deal with her teenage daughter’s newfound embarrassment of her freakish family.

Jenina MacGillivray, The Tour

Jenina MacGillivray is another Festival regular here at SJIWFF, and most recently she was our film mentor at the FRAMED West camp in Corner Brook. The Tour is actually the result of a previous RBC MJ Award win -- about an unlucky-in-love tour guide who takes her unsuspecting passengers down a comical road less travelled. Laughter guaranteed.

 Emily Corcoran, Shattered Mind’s Eye

 Emily Corcoran is a local up-and-coming filmmaker and actress who you might recognize from her role in Sadie a few years back (and several other films as well). Shattered Mind’s Eye is Corcoran’s directorial debut, about a lonely widower leaving his house one afternoon with no intention of returning. A chance encounter with a precocious, but troubled young girl, shifts his outlook, but will she also shift his plans?

Wanda Nolan, Crocuses 

Who can forget Wanda Nolan? She’s one of our Festival ambassadors, and the 2015 winner of the RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award, with which she wrote and directed Crocuses, debuting last year at SJIWFF27. It’s a sweet story about about an elderly widow packing up her home with her daughter while reflecting on her past, in the remaining years of her life.

Crocuses, Wanda Nolan

Crocuses, Wanda Nolan

Rozalind MacPhail, Leave a Note

 What happens when you combine musical genius with fab filmmaking skills? Rozalind MacPhail, evidently. MacPhail recently won a 2017 ECMA award, and during SJIWFF26 she performed a live, improvised score for Ingrid Veninger’s He Hated Pigeons. Now she’s turning heads with Leave a Note -- a 3-minute short about a mysterious woman with a choice to make. Does she return to the comforts and familiarity of home, or remain in Wilmington for a chance at true love? Stay tuned.

Brittney Gilliam, Slice of Life

 Brittney Gilliam is a local, and Slice of Life is a humorous 2-minute short about a woman waiting impatiently by the phone in this urban fairytale of love, longing, and eventual fulfilment. This one’s produced by College of the North Atlantic.

Melanie Oates, Ida Here & There

 Melanie Oates is practically a household name these days, having recently been selected to create her first feature film under Telefilm's Micro-Budget Production Program, AND having just launched her new web series The Manor. If you missed it at last year’s SJIWFF, check out Ida Here & There at the Nickel -- a great film about a scraggy foster kid’s encounter with her new, cruel sisters.

Molly McGlynn, 3-Way (Not Calling)

 Things are ‘bout to get a little steamy in here with McGlynn’s short, 3-Way. Mel is secure and a bit bored in her relationship. A milestone birthday prompts a threesome with her semi-reluctant boyfriend, and a Tinder-fatigued barista who overstays her welcome.

3-Way (Not Calling), Molly McGlynn

3-Way (Not Calling), Molly McGlynn

Emily Bridger, In So Many Words

 It’s no secret we love Emily Bridger -- she was last year’s recipient of the RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award, and she's a regular around SJIWFF. In So Many Words is a real treat, and we screened it last year at the Festival, too. In a nutshell: two lovers meet on the beach for the final conversation of their affair. He wants a clean break; she wants to linger and delay the inevitable.

Andrea Dunne, Malignant

 The Nickel Film Fest is chock full of local filmmakers this year! Andrea Dunne’s short film Malignant follows Caroline, a young woman who discovers a lump in her breast and must face her health fears and fear of being alone.

Sinéad O'Loughlin, Homecoming

 The name probably gives it away; Sinéad O'Loughlin is an Irish filmmaker with huge talent. Homecoming is about a young man who returns home to Ireland after some extended travel abroad with friends. He struggles to find his place after the economic collapse of the Celtic tiger, and hopes a familiar face will anchor him. This one was the winner of Best Irish Narrative at the 2016 Kerry Film Festival.

Madeleine Gavin, City of Joy

 We’re definitely looking forward to this jarring award-winning feature documentary by Madeline Gavin -- in fact, the only woman-directed feature at the Nickel Film Fest this year. Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, amidst a guerilla warfare fuelled by greed, economics, and colonialism, City of Joy follows the first group of women at a remarkable centre for victims of gender-based sexual violence. The film takes unflinching look at the strategic use of rape and sexual violence as a systematic weapon of war, and the complicit behaviour of Western governments, business, and consumers in these conflicts. We’re not gonna lie -- the subject matter is difficult to digest, but it’s well worth the time.  

City of Joy, Madeleine Gavin

City of Joy, Madeleine Gavin

And there you have it, 17 women filmmakers to check out at the Nickel Independent Film Festival this year. Get your tickets!

Candice Walsh