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St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival celebrates 30 years

From left, Ella Ballentine, Ryan McDonald and Nicole Dorsey at the Toronto International Film Festival.
From left, Ella Ballentine, Ryan McDonald and Nicole Dorsey at the Toronto International Film Festival. - Contributed

Event will screen 50 films

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival is celebrating a huge milestone in 2019, marking 30 years of festivals celebrating women, film and women in film.

Running Oct. 16-20, this year’s festival will screen 50 films, and offer over a dozen panel discussions, networking opportunities, master classes, pitch sessions and more.

The festival’s Exxonmobil Opening Night Gala was held at Cineplex in the Avalon Mall, screening the local full-length feature “Black Conflux” in three theatres.

Written and directed by Nicole Dorsey, “Black Conflux” is fresh from the Toronto International Film Festival. Here at home, local audiences were familiar with many of the filming locations, like Topsail Beach, Mount Pearl Square, The Trip Inn in Conception Bay South and more.

The film is set in the 1980s, and the protagonists are Jackie Dunphy (played by Ella Ballentine) and Dennis Smarten (Ryan McDonald), two very different people at very different points in their lives. Despite their differences, each one is silently struggling with human connection – emotionally, mentally and physically.

Day 2 of the festival kicked off at The Rooms, with a midday screening of “Luben and Elena,” and “A First Farewell” later that night at Cineplex.

Simultaneously, downtown at the LSPU Hall, the first installation of Evening Shorts was underway.

The U.K.’s Maryam Mohajer started us off with “Grandad Was A Romantic,” a hilarious animated short with a surprise ending.

Director/writer Emily Diana Ruth and producer/writer Jamie Miller — both the same age as the festival — attended the screening of their touching and heartwrenching film, “Likeness,” which explored mother/daughter relationships, asking, “What would it be like if you met your mom when she was your age?”

Susan Cahill’s “Almost Home” brought up questions about resettlement, as the writer/director explored one couple’s dedication to building a cottage on family land. Throughout the film, an instrumental rendition of the locally renowned folk song “The Government Game” played over artistic and aerial shots of the former community of Clattice Harbour.

“Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous” was my favourite short of the night. A French experimental rom-com, this piece brought two strangers together under strange circumstances — a trip to “the moon” via automobile, and the scattering of a loved one’s ashes. Clever cinematography evoked visions of the 1969 moon landing, while a witty script kept the crowds chuckling.

Another animated short, Regina Pessosa’s “Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days” detailed the director/writer’s relationship with an eccentric uncle seemingly dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and how he inspired Pessosa.

The world premiere of “Shut Up” followed, with director Molly Flood and writer Lucy Hill in attendance. Highlighting gender inequity in theatre, this short followed one actress fighting to make her voice heard, as her male colleagues trivialize her experience and talk over her. Frighteningly relatable, “Shut Up” made many of us laugh in solidarity, and want to scream out our frustrations in unison with the lead.

The Evening Shorts finished with Andrea Cass’s first film, created through NIFCO’s first-time filmmaker program. “River of Fire” gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the Victoria Park Lantern Festival, shining a spotlight on the volunteers and organizers that make the festival happen.

After viewing eight films in two days, and knowing that I’ll miss out on over 40 more screenings, I implore you — get out there and take in the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, because you never know who, where or what you’ll see on the silver screen.

wendyrose709@gmail.com
 

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