Seeking to elevate the work of female directors in the film industry, CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival, is Bellingham’s newest film event, this year on April 11-14, 2019. Its mission and goals are noble and lofty. Now in its third year, the annual film festival showcases 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.
A 2017 study by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative titled, “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair?” 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 directors that once held their own in the filmmaking industry. CASCADIA is trying to do their small part to correct the imbalance.
I had the distinct pleasure to work as the festival’s Communications Director for two years where I met many of these inspiring female filmmakers. Their work and the causes they showcase has motivated me to continue to pursue my goals as an emerging filmmaker.
The Dawn Comes (Biidaaban), by Amanda Strong of Canada will screen with the animated shorts and the Indigenous Filmmakers Showcase.
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. They included a Directors’ Panel Discussion hosted by Western Washington University’s (WWU) College of Fine and Performing Arts.
Over the past several years they developed a full Board of Directors and Advisory Board, obtained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and received supporting grants from both the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County. 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 12 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, Brasil, Russia and Australia to be part of this inspiring long weekend of films and fun.
Grit, a documentary short by Sasha Friedlander and Cynthia Wade, shot in Indonesia and the U.S. about Dian’s emerging activism in the fight against a drilling company that struck and unleashed an underground pocket of mud that buried 16 Indonesian villages, still working 10 years later to correct the problem.
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 magazine’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 movies and shows including Knots Landing, Spencer for Hire, and Moonlighting.
Becoming Astrid, a Narrative Feature by Pernille Fischer Christensen of Sweden/Denmark chronicles the life of a teenage Astrid Lindgrin in her life before becoming the author of beloved children’s book series, Pippi Longstocking.
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 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 Purves, Executive Director of PFC also serves on the Advisory Board. She and her independent film theater 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.
Official Selection 2019
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.
Wednesday, April 10, Pre-Screening: Boys Who Like Girls
Western Washington University, 6:30 p.m.
To encourage student attendance, a free pre-festival event is usually held on the Western Washington University (WWU) campus. This year on April 10 they’ll screen Boys Who Like Girls, about making the world a safer place for women, one boy at a time. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with WWU alumni, students and professors.
Thursday, April 11, Opening Night Film, Becoming Astrid
Pickford Film Center, 7:00 p.m.
After the film join Cascadia directors, panelists and board members for a glass of wine and late-night bites at Vinostrology Wine Bar.
Friday, April 12, Film Screenings
Pickford Film Center, 1:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.
Friday, April 12, A Conversation With Freida Lee Mock about her film Anita: Speaking Truth to Power
Five-time Academy Award-nominated director Freida Lee Mock is best known for her Oscar-winning film Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision, Rose Kennedy, A Life To Remember, and Wrestling With Angels–Playwright Tony Kushner. Her forthcoming film is RUTH: Justice Ginsberg In Her Own Words.
The event begins on the Main Stage of the historic Mount Baker Theatre, with a catered reception of heavy appetizers and beverages, followed by a conversation with the director at 6:45 p.m. and her film Anita–Speaking Truth To Power. It will be followed by a discussion at 8 p.m. with the director.
Saturday, April 13, Panel Discussion – Pickford Film Festival Front-Line: Inside the Mind of the Reviewers
Pickford Film Center, noon
Saturday, April 13, Film Screenings
Pickford Film Center, 1:30 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m.
Indigenous Filmmakers Showcase
Sunday, April 14, 4 p.m, at Pickford Film Center
Because of the past history of oppression by Indigenous peoples and CASCADIA’s close ties with area Indigenous Nations, each year CASCADIA presents a showcase of films by Indigenous filmmakers or about Indigenous communities.
For the third 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 PhD 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 narrative, OChiSkwaCho, is about a sacred being, known to many Indigenous people as a spiritual messenger. Kokoom, an elderly (spiritually ailing) two-spirit woman has to decide whether to stay with her grandchildren or follow the OChiSkwaCho.
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 PFC website for ticketing for individual screenings. Several of the films will be followed by a Q & A with the filmmakers. 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.