A World of Stories
Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival
What: Cascadia International Women's Film Festival
WHEN: May 13-22
Cost: Festival passes are $60 ($35 for students), feature films can be viewed for $12 each
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
What do Belgium, France, Morocco, the United States, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Spain, Argentina, Russia, Mongolia, Poland, Germany, Canada, and Denmark have in common?
The varied locales set the scenes for a world of cinematic stories created by both emerging and established female directors that were selected to be screened as part of the fifth annual CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival. From May 13-22, it will be possible for pass-holders to virtually travel from one country to the next simply by watching as many as possible of the 19 short films and eight features highlighted in this year’s program.
The volume of titles is par for the course. Since presenting its first multi-day festival in 2017, the Bellingham-based nonprofit with a mission to showcase the work of women filmmakers from around the globe has made it a point to include films from far and near that span all genres—whether they’re narrative, live action, animation, documentary or experimental.
“We’re very proud of our films again this year,” CASCADIA Executive Director Cheryl Crooks says of the lineup. “Our programmer, program selection committee and short film jurors worked very hard to find outstanding women-directed films in a diversity of styles, genres and subjects to engage and inspire our online audience.”
Since we’re living in a world where only two women have taken home Best Director statuettes from the dais of the Academy Awards—the second just a couple of weeks ago, when Chloe Zhao earned the Oscar for Nomadland—it’s clear there’s a need for alternate avenues for getting women’s films in the spotlight.
In a FAQ section on the film festival’s website, the question “Why the focus on films directed by women?” furthers that chain of thought by pointing out that an art form that teaches, informs, inspires and motivates is missing an essential perspective on humanity when women’s voices are not heard. Where Hollywood fails them by not funding or supporting their work—not to mention failing to protect them from sexual harassment and violence—CASCADIA sees a way forward by putting more women in decision-making roles and offering a support system for them to tell their stories through the medium of film (in pre-pandemic times, they routinely filled the Pickford Film Center lobby and theaters when gathering together for the cinematic celebration).
“While Hollywood continues to produce few women-directed films, CASCADIA sees that greater access to digital cameras and Internet postings makes it possible for women directors to bypass some of the ubiquitous Hollywood obstacles to their work, and to create good films that tell important stories,” organizers say. “We believe that a film festival dedicated to showcasing quality work by women is an important and welcome extension of these new technology-driving opportunities, by creating a new forum for the work of women directors to seen and their voices heard.”
Among the features in this year’s festival, virtual attendees can view a drama about social justice (A Shot Through the Wall), a romantic comedy with a decidedly weird twist (My Donkey, My Lover & I), a humorous homecoming drama (Persona Non Grata), and a narrative film by award-winning Canadian director Loretta Todd focusing on a woman reunited with her Haisla kin after receiving a message by her cousin’s ghost (Monkey Beach, pictured). Additionally, the documentaries Black Girl in Suburbia, Far East, Deep South, and Walchensee Forever explore history and family in unexpected ways.
In the shorts categories, head to Israel to witness the “cottage cheese boycott” of 2011 (Apple of My Eye), Spain to watch a vertical dance set in a quarry once destroyed by humankind (Harria Harria), and to the U.S. to watch a Black queer artist deal with daily slights from ignorant coworkers—including one who pressures them into contributing to the office lotto pool (2 Dollars).
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be gleaned by watching the aforementioned films, but the fact that there are so many of them—and that nearly half of them were by women of color or LBGTQ directors—bodes well for the future of filmmaking.
If you plan to “attend,” take a look at the schedule and see how you can best optimize your time. Whether you choose to binge-watch the entire lineup or just want to view a few of the films, keep in mind that that are virtual brunches, a collaborative drive-in movie event with Western Washington University, panel discussions with filmmakers, Script Studio webinars, virtual lobby gatherings and interviews with directors to consider as well.
“CASCADIA is films, but it’s also so much more,” Crooks explains. “It’s networking, sharing stories, making new friends, exploring new worlds, exchanging ideas and viewing exceptional films.”