Cascadia Women’s Film Festival

Lift every voice

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Put a woman in charge of directing a film and there’s no question you’ll get a different perspective than if a man filled the same role. At the Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival, which will take place Thurs.-Sun., April 12-15 in Bellingham, viewers will be treated to 25 of the best films directed by women. They are poignant, thought-provoking and provocative pieces of art that should not be missed, says Cheryl Crooks, executive director of Cascadia.
“Because women are so underrepresented in the film industry, we’re doing what we can to help rectify that,” she says. “We want films made by women to have a global platform where people can see them. We want to educate our audiences so they know there are fabulous films out there being made by women. And we want to provide opportunities for women filmmakers to network with each other. We’re not a feminist film festival, but we celebrate and showcase the work of women film directors, whatever their perspective may be.”
Cascadia is one of only two such festivals occurring nationwide, Crooks noted, the second one being the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival. While other women’s film festivals exist, these two focus only on the best films directed exclusively by women. The Bellingham event will kick into high gear with a special program Friday, April 13 where Cheryl Boone Isaacs will be the guest speaker.
Boone Isaacs, the immediate past president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was the first African American to fill the role and just the third female president of the organization. A film marketing and public relations executive, she has worked on motion pictures including First Wives Club, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Forrest Gump, The Kings Speech, and others.
Her presence gives Cascadia a huge boost, Crooks says. “It validates what we’re doing, gives us credibility and puts us on the map with a much larger circle of people, particularly the Los Angeles film industry, who might not otherwise know about us. Boone Isaacs knows everyone in Hollywood and they all know and respect her,” she says. “Cheryl’s voice is important and the work she’s done over the years is significant.
Boone Isaacs says she’s thrilled to attend the festival. “When I first heard about it, I thought, ‘This is fabulous because festivals like this highlight women and their excellence at being storytellers.’ So much of what is happening these days is about inclusion, and women and people of color need to be respected and known. The door is opening at last and we’re getting a chance to explore those talents and view the work of people who’ve not previously had equal opportunity to be heard.”
The curated selection of films this year is extremely strong, Crooks says. Highlights include Women of the Silk Road, a documentary by Yassamin Maleknasr, an Iranian American film festival, and Angels Wear White by Chinese filmmaker Vivian Qu, which will have its Washington premiere at Cascadia. “It’s about police corruption and child abuse of young girls, and it’s terrifically powerful,” she says. Sun at Midnight is the story of an indigenous teenager as told by Canadian filmmaker Kirsten Carthew from the Northwest Territories, while Two Bodies One Heart is a short film by Vancouver indigenous director Jules Koostachin. The films run from serious to humorous and everything in-between. The Divine Order by Petra Volpe is about women in Switzerland earning the right to vote in 1975, while Susanne and the Man by Milena Govich is a short film about men talking over women, and women’s responses to it. The opening-night film is Outside In, directed by Seattle’s Lynn Shelton and starring Edie Falco and Jay Duplass.
Only in its second year, Cascadia began in 2015, when Polly Miller, who lived in Bellingham at the time, suggested the city would be an ideal place for a women’s film festival. “She brought 10-12 of us together and we figured out how to make it work,” Crooks says. “The circle keeps expanding as more people get involved, and it’s astonishing how many people have come out of the woodwork who have industry ties and want to be involved. It’s an important thing we’re doing here.”
The Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival debuted in 2017 with 24 films. “The impact of film empowers women, supports local and global ideas and creates opportunities for community members and filmmakers to participate in the collaboration that is film,” Crooks says. “Cascadia is part of a larger movement to allow women’s voices to be heard.”

Tickets for the 5:30pm Fri., April 13 reception with Boone Isaacs at the Whatcom Museum are $50 and include appetizers, beer, wine, reserved program seating and a ticket to the film The Divine Order, which will be screened at the Pickford Film Center after. Films over the four-day event will be screened at the Pickford Film Center and admission is $12. Info about film showings, panels, workshops, guest speakers and more can be found at

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