Lorraine Wilde | 03/11/2019 | Insider Blogs |   

CASCADIA International Women's Film Festival in Bellingham in April

Seeking to elevate the work of female directors in the film industry, CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival is celebrating its fourth year April 16-19, 2020. Its mission and goals are noble and lofty. The annual festival showcases films directed by women from around the world while also providing:

  • Educational opportunities related to viewing, making and distribution of films
  • Promoting Bellingham, Whatcom County and the surrounding Pacific Northwest as a destination for filmmakers and enthusiasts.

A 2017 study by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative titled, “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair?” evaluated 1,000 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 directors that once held their own in the film-making industry. CASCADIA is trying to do their small part to correct the imbalance.

Thanks in part to activism by prominent female directors like Ava DuVernay, and blockbuster success by women directors like Hurt Locker’s Katheryn Bigelow and Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins, the tide may be slowly turning. CASCADIA is doing its best to help raise those numbers too.

But this year is also special. The year 2020 marks the 100th Anniversary of women’s suffrage, ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote. CASCADIA is building a portion of its program around that celebration.

CASCADIA welcomes everyone to turn out and support these women by seeing their films and, in some cases, meet the directors in person.

CASCADIA’s History

CASCADIA got its start in 2015 when it collaborated with Toronto’s Female Eye Film Festival (FeFF) to bring eight documentary films directed by women to Pickford Film Center’s (PFC) Doctober, a month-long film festival held every October in downtown Bellingham.

This April they’ll again host a full-scale festival with pre-festival panel discussions and workshops, a live script studio, and four days of film screening, many of which will be followed by Question & Answer sessions with the directors attending from around the world.

Each year, CASCADIA has about 15 directors, several guest panelists and assorted entourage of editors, actors and writers coming from around the world for the festival. In the past they’ve traveled from as far as Italy, Brazil, Russia and Australia to be part of this inspiring long weekend of films and fun.

Board of Directors & Advisory Board

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 the 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. She wrote for TIME Magazine, becoming the magazine’s West Coast medical reporter. Cheryl later moved to Bellingham with her husband Michael Petryni, a successful screenwriter. He’s been a writer and story editor for many popular television movies and 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. Board Member Sheila Goodwin (Larken) has been a professional actress for 40 years in theater and television. She may be best known as Margaret Scully in The X-Files. She now lives in Bellingham and 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.

You can read about each of these dedicated individuals that have volunteered incredible hours to this cause on their website.

Official Selection 2020

CASCADIA has prepared 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. This year they’ll present 36 films from 12 countries. Many of the screenings will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

Trailers, summaries and a schedule for the full Official Selection may be found on their website, but I’ve mentioned just a few of the ones I’m most excited to see here.

UniFrance Showcase

French film has developed its own genre, pushing boundaries and leading the art form. I’m very excited to see the UniFrance Showcase of short film. It will be interesting to see the similarities and differences between the variety presented in a single ticket.

If you’re not familiar, UniFrance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting French cinema around the world. Thanks to their efforts, France’s film production is now the second most exported cinema after the US. They represent 1,000 French producers, filmmakers, actors & actresses, agents and sales companies, all working together to promote French film among foreign audiences, industry executives and the media.

France’s New Rurals, a group of young, ambitious workers who are electing to live in the picturesque pastures of France’s countryside, take center stage in this love story between a farmer whose prized breeding hog has escaped and his close friend who has returned from a long stint abroad.

Director Marine Levéel will attend the festival and participate in a panel discussion after the showcase.

Feature film Stars by the Pound is also an UniFrance film about sixteen-year-old Lois who has only one dream, to become an astronaut—but it looks like her weight might be an obstacle. Her teen friends who also know about tough break just might help her overcome it. This heartwarming, fun film explores social norms around weight and disabilities and self acceptance

Closer to home and showcasing beautiful British Columbia, the feature film Guardian chronicles the work of wildlife stewards amid sweeping legislative rollbacks of environmental protections in Canada. Part hermit, part biologist, Guardians live on boats full-time, in one of the last pristine frontiers of the world to monitor salmon, who are the backbone of the ecosystem, economy, and culture along British Columbia's coast.

CASCADIA also presents a number of short films across a variety of genres. The short film Blood and Glorywill celebrate its West Coast Premiere at the festival. It was directed by U.S. Army Veteran Satinder Kaur who is originally from Bellingham, she attended Meridian High School, but now lives in Los Angeles.

Blood and Glory is a drama about the friendship between two homeless veterans living on the streets of Los Angeles. Jackie, a dreamer and a hustler trying to get her life back on track, takes care of her battle buddy Rosa, who suffers from debilitating PTSD. The two confront adversity, discrimination and Mother Nature in their attempt to find work and get through the day.

Indigenous Filmmakers

Because of the past history of oppression of Indigenous peoples and CASCADIA’s close ties with area Indigenous Nations, each year CASCADIA presents films by Indigenous filmmakers or about Indigenous communities. CASCADIA Board Member and Indigenous filmmaker Lyn Dennis is a member of the Lummi Nation and the Tahltan Band.

This year will include a feature and two shorts by Indigenous filmmakers. The short film by local Indigenous filmmakers Elli Smith and Darrell Hillaire, Women of Journeys: Finding our Medicine tells the story of the meditative exploration of the 2019 Paddle to Lummi Canoe Journey experienced by through the eyes of the women involved. A re-envisioning of America’s past and future as it pertains to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

For the fourth time in CASCADIA’s history, work by British Columbia Indigenous Director Jules Koostachin will screen at the festival. Cree from Moshkekowok territory, and a member of Attawapiskat First Nation, Jules was born in Moose Factory, Ontario where she was raised by her Cree grandparents, as well as with her mother in Ottawa. She is a Ph.D candidate with the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at University of British Columbia. Her educational endeavor and media arts practice address environmental and Indigenous issues.

Her short film,OshKiKiShiKaw: A New Day, follows twelve-year-old identical twins Tapwewin “Truth” and Pawaken “Totem” as they cut their hair for the very first time in a coming-of-age ceremony. In Cree culture, and in many Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, hair represents a sacred connection to AsKi, the Earth. Growing the hair is a manifestation of the growth of spirit. Koostachin is the twins’ mother.

Special Events

Red Carpet Gala and Centennial Celebration with a Special Screening of Iron Jawed Angels

  • April 17, 2020, Gala 5:30- 7:30 p.m. & FREE film screening 7:30 p.m.

Co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and to celebrate 100 years of voting rights for women, CASCADIA will honor the 2004 film Iron Jawed Angels. A ticketed Red Carpet gala reception will kick off the evening. You can expect to mingle with women directors visiting from around the world along with Iron Jawed Angels German director Katja von Garnier and award-winning cinematography Robbie Greenberg, and actor Adilah Barnes who will all be in attendance.


The gala will be followed by a free screening that is open to the public, no ticket needed, of Iron Jawed Angels. If you haven’t seen it, the film stars Hilary Swank at the infamous Alice Paul, one of the most influential individuals in the fight for women’s rights of the 20th century. Many don’t know that Hilary Swank grew up in Bellingham before heading to Hollywood in high school. Paul and her friend Lucy Burns, played by Frances O’Connor, risked their lives to fight for and win American women’s right to vote. The film is the story of that fight.

CASCADIA chose to make it free to attend so that everyone could join in the celebration. Arrive early to get the best seats.

CASCADIA Script Studio

  • April 19, 2020 Free and Open to the Public

A script studio is pretty fascinating. Developing scripts are read aloud by actors before a live audience and a panel of distinguished film industry professionals. The panel gives the writer feedback on how to best improve the script so that it may someday become a film. Panels in previous years have included film producers, directors, actors and casting directors. These incredible films will be screened primarily at PFC, but additional activities will also happen at Mount Baker Theatre and Sylvia Center for the Arts. Check the official schedule and the Pickford's website for ticketing for individual screenings.

Added this year is a limited number of multi-film passes available for purchase that will include admission to six films of your choice, plus free admission to the exclusive festival Directors Party and reserved seating at Iron Jawed Angels. Contact CASCADIA directly to purchase this exclusive new pass.

Several hotels are offering discounts to film fest attendees so plan now to put this timely and meaningful festival in your schedule for this April, and every April to come.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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