Bellingham is home to a thrivingÂ film community. Throughout the year, these creative groups partner to host a number of film festivals. The newest and perhaps most exciting is CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival. Its mission and goals are noble and lofty. They plan to present an annual film festival showcasing films directed by women from around the world while also providing educational opportunities related to viewing, making, and distribution of films and promoting Bellingham, Whatcom County, and the surrounding Pacific Northwest as a destination for filmmakers and enthusiasts. Their big dreams will come true for the first time this April 20-23, 2017.
A 2017 study by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative titled, â€śInclusion in the Directorâ€™s Chair?â€ť evaluated 1000 top grossing films from 2007 to 2016. Out of 1,114 directors, only 4% were female. The disparity of films directed by women isn’t limited to top grossing films either. Many are wondering what happened to women directorsÂ that once held their own in the filmmaking industry. CASCADIA is trying to do their small part to correct the imbalance.
CASCADIA got its start in 2015 when it collaborated with Torontoâ€™s Female Eye Film Festival (FeFF) to bringÂ eight documentary films directed by women at Pickford Film Center’sÂ (PFC) Doctober, a month-long film festival held every October in downtown Bellingham. They included aÂ Directorsâ€™ Panel Discussion hosted by Western Washington Universityâ€™sÂ (WWU) College of Fine and Performing Arts.
In 2016’s Doctober, CASCADIA sponsored a new program of documentary films and workshops this timeÂ including a kick-off party and two days of films and networking events.
Gradually over that time CASCADIA has also accomplished a lot of housekeeping. They developed a full Board of Directors and Advisory Board, obtained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and obtained supporting grants from both the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County. This April they’ll launch their full-scale festival with pre-festival panel discussions and workshops, a live script studio, and 3-days of film screening, many of which will be followed by Question & Answer sessions with the directors attending from around the world. As of this writing, CASCADIA will haveÂ 8 directors, two guest panelists and assorted entourage coming for the festival. Â One director and one actress are coming from Russia, another who is just 16 years old is coming from Australia.
Although too numerous to mention them all here, CASCADIA’s Boards are impressive in both the expertise they’ve brought from other areas of the country and their service within this community. Most have served on numerous boards of other area organizations as well as CASCADIA and all have a deep connection to filmmaking and the support of female filmmakers.
Executive Director Cheryl Crooks started as a journalist and arts critic in Phoenix. Cheryl wrote for TIME Magazine, becoming the magazineâ€™s West Coast medical reporter. She later moved to Bellingham and now has her own professional photography studio, Cheryl Crooks Photography, in Bellingham. Her husband Michael Petryni, a successful screenwriter, serves on the Advisory Board. He’s been a writer and story editor for many popular television shows including Knots Landing, Spencer for Hire, and Moonlighting.
Board President and Treasurer Amy McIlvaine has more than 20 years experience in financial planning and management. With a certification in Sustainable Food and Agriculture, Amy currently operates The Dahlquist Kitchen in downtown Bellingham, which serves as a commissary kitchen for local food entrepreneurs.
Board Member Sheila Goodwin (Larken) has been a professional actress for 40 years in theater and television. She may be best known asÂ Margaret Scully in The X-Files. She now lives in Bellingham and has a psychotherapy practice. Her husband Bob Goodwin, a TV producer of many shows like the X-Files and The Fugitive, also serves on CASCADIA’s Advisory Board.
Other Board and Advisory Board members have experience in New York, L.A., and Pacific Northwest-based film and television, film history, arts education, and finance. This festival is run by professionals who sincerely believe in the cause. It is their guidance and support that make it likely that this festival will become Bellingham’s biggest someday soon.
Susie Perves, Executive Director of PFCÂ also serves on the Advisory Board. She and her independent film theatre have laid the groundwork for independent film in Whatcom County since it opened with one screen in 1998. Read about each of these dedicated individuals that have volunteered incredible hours to this cause on their website.
If just pulling off a new film festival wasn’t enough, CASCADIA has also managed to wrangle an incredible slate of high-quality films exclusively by women directors that deftly push boundaries, inform, captivate, and assert a point of view. From documentaries, narrative shorts, animated films, and feature-length films, CASCADIA has tried to give us a taste of the powerful films to be had in every genre.
The Women Who Run Hollywood, a Feature Documentary by Julia Kuperberg and Clara Kuperberg of France gets at the heart of the festival. There were more women directors and producers in powerful positions before 1920 than at any other time in film history. This documentary premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 and examines the outstanding work of these women and the reasons why they have been largely forgotten.
The festival intends to showcase at least one film by a local female director each year. This year they’ve chosen Natalie Fedak’s 3022Ft, a Documentary Feature co-directed by Max Romey. Natalie is a graduate of Western Washington University and leadsÂ Bellingham Film’s Script Studio, a monthly pro-writer feedback and networking session for screenwriters. She is also part of a local poetry team, The Poem Store. The feature 3022FtÂ is about how in 2014, a full-time mom took on an Olympian, two pro-athletes and a former junior champion in joining hundreds of marathon runners challenging the 3022 feet of Sewardâ€™s Mountain in Alaskaâ€™s oldest and most dangerous footrace.
UnSlut: A Documentary Film by Emily Linden is a product of The Unslut Project, aimed at undoing the shaming and sexual bullying that goes on in our schools, communities, media, and culture. It features conversations with those who have experienced the life-altering effects of sexual shaming, but also offers immediate and long-term goals for personal, local, and institutional solutions. In addition to the festival screening, WWU’s Vicki Huesch’sÂ Women, Sexuality, and Gender Studies programÂ and the new WWU Associated Students group CASCADIA Women’s Film Club, are co-sponsoring a free screening of theÂ film on campus for the students in Miller Hall Rm 152 at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 19. Afterward, there will be a panel discussionÂ with Q & A between filmmakers, professors, and students.
Two films from Russia will be screened. Director Sofya Badalova and lead actor in the film, The Beard, from the Russian Federation will attend the screening and a Q & A session following the film. About Love, a Narrative Feature by Anna Melikyan, Russia Love is the subject of this sophisticated â€śFellini-esqueâ€ť anthology featuring famous Russian actors, from Vladimir Mashkov to stars of a younger generation, telling five distinct stories with five separate protagonists.
The FoundersÂ isÂ a documentary feature by Charlene Fisk and Carrie Schrader from the U.S. In 1950, thirteen amateur women golfers battled society, finances and sometimes even each other to stake their claim to become professional sportswomen by creating the Ladies Professional Golf Association (The LPGA)â€“and establish a lasting, global sporting legacy.
These incredible filmsÂ will be screened primarily at PFC, but additional activities will also happen at Mount Baker Theatre. Although the official schedule has not yet been released, ticketing for individual screenings will be through the PFC website. Several of the films will be followed by a Q & A with the filmmakers. Plan now to put this timely and meaningful festival in your schedule for this April, and every April to come.