Her.Stories: West Memphis Three, Iranian women’s rights, feminism in Canada and more

Interview with Director Amy Berg and Producer Lorri Davis – West of Memphis
at Women and Hollywood

This is a film I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  More than 10 years ago I heard about the West Memphis Three through something I read or heard from Henry Rollins, and soon after, saw a fascinating and heartbreaking documentary film about Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, all just kids when they were accused, tried, convicted and sentenced (living for years on death row) for the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.  This was a deliberate effort by the criminal justice system to “hang” these young men for the disgusting and abominable murder of three young boys despite evidence pointing to the stepfather of one of the boys as the murderer.  The story of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley is a story of injustice that was overcome — in part (they are now out of prison but are still fighting (and paying for, quite literally), to be legally absolved of all charges) — through years of tedious and torturous work by legal teams including Echols’ now wife, Lorri Davis; celebrity supporters (among them Henry Rollins, Margaret Cho, Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, and Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson who produced this film); and unfathomable dedication.  Berg’s film opens in theaters on December 25.

Khaleeji women filmmakers push boundaries, gently
at Variety Arabia

Festival addresses Iranian women’s rights
at the Daily Targum

Still from the documentary film “Sister” by Brenda Davis

Interview With Filmmaker Brenda Davis on “Sister,” her new documentary film about healthcare for childbearing women in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti (includes VIDEO CLIP)
at Tadias

 

 

For Women’s Sake, the film festival Our Lives…To Live (with a theme of “NO! to gender violence”)
at the Indian Express

No Country for Young Women multimedia project in production on showcase of women in film
at the Virginia Film Office

Heroines of Cinema: An A-Z of Women in Film in 2012
at Indiewire

Top 10 Female Hindi Film Directors to Look Out For!
at Miss Malini

Filmmaker Khadija Al-Salami

“The Scream” raises Yemen women’s voices in Dubai, directed by Khadija al-Salami who was forced to marry at 11 years old
at Middle East Online

 

 

Whistler Film Festival 2012: Director Karen Cho on the Status Quo of feminism in Canada
at Straight.com

Filmmaker Nishtha Jain

Interview: Nishtha Jain, Director, “Gulabi Gang” about gender violence, rights of the poor
at Dear Cinema

 

 

 

Interview with Director Stephanie Assimacopoulo of “Le Train Bleu” (includes VIDEO CLIP)
at Disarray

Interview with Montreal filmmaker Eisha Marjara

Can you describe your career up to this point and talk about why you became a filmmaker?

I would consider myself a mid-career filmmaker at this point in time. I started out as photographer but found the photograph limiting because it did not provide multiple perspectives, temporal and spatial context. This was a problem because it did not represent how I viewed the world and the multi-dimensional reality of human experience. While I was studying photography, I tended towards producing photomontages, photo essays and super-impositions to avoid the single perceptive frame. My thesis project became my very first video/film called 24 Hrs which addressed everyday violence against women. My father had bought me a video camera for my birthday and I went out and shot and edited an 18 minute video, without any clue of what I was doing and taught myself in the process. It was during the making of that video when the polytechnic massacre happened at Université de Montréal where 14 women were shot and killed by Marc Lépine. The video premiered at The Montreal International Film Festival of that year and launched me into filmmaking.

Clip from The Incredible Shrinking Woman:

 

In 1994, I made the short film The Incredible Shrinking Woman which was a satirical commentary on anorexia in a sexist culture that humorously appropriated pop cultural and cinematic tropes. Later, I was selected in a nationwide search for innovative documentary filmmakers in a program called “Fast Forward” by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) that gave me the opportunity to write and direct my first professional film which became the feature docu-drama Desperately Seeking Helen.  The film juxtaposed my (fictionalized) search for the Bollywood movie star and vamp “Helen” with the real life experiences of my mother, an immigrant and housewife who struggled to find a home in her adopted country, and her tragic death in the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, which also took the life of my little sister. It was a deeply personal film that addressed universal themes and took risks in style and subject. It was a hybrid of forms, genres and mediums, blurred fiction with documentary in unconventional ways – something that had never been done before. It was truly post-modern in that sense and could not be put into a box, which I feared might also be its downfall and become a promotional nightmare. I was also nervous about how it would be received and terrified that my life so exposed would be open for ridicule. Thankfully, it was a critical success; it received several awards and had a theatrical run in several cities. After five years in the making however, and no longer at the NFB, I found myself quite lost and alone. It was as though I had come out of a rabbit hole after that difficult process and emerged into a foreign world. I had a hard time finding my place in the industry that had been changing very rapidly in early 2000. Technologies were changing, film was unaffordable, video had limitations and funding bodies were restructuring and downsizing and becoming more heavily burdened. Despite the success of my feature docu-drama, I was not finding much success in my filmmaking career with the subsequent films I was looking to get produced.

Poster for "House for Sale"

Poster for “House for Sale”

Still from “House for Sale.” Photo credit: Bobby Shore

Still from “House for Sale.” Photo credit: Bobby Shore

I felt I had not established an identity as a filmmaker, even after all these years. Was I a documentary filmmaker? Sort of, but not really. Fiction? More likely but I had no actual experience in traditional dramatic filmmaking. I found myself starting over and searching for a “home” within the industry, while producing screenplay after screenplay.  Naturally, I thought training in fiction film directing was in order. I turned to the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto (the CFC) and applied to the Director’s Lab, but because of my lack of fictional filmmaking experience, I was refused and told to “go home and make a short fiction film” and apply again once that was done. Frustrating, to say the least. So “naturally,” I fled to Germany! There, from the success of my NFB film, I met a producer and found a supportive community of media professionals that were excited about helping me produce a short film that I shot in Munich. I invested $2,500 of my own money and with volunteer help and post production grants from Montreal, I made a film aptly called The Tourist which is about a wandering loner and misfit who finds himself in Bavaria during the Oktoberfest and entangled in a couple’s troubled relationship. I have since been developing several feature film scripts, and establishing myself as a feature film writer and director.

Clip from Desperately Seeking Helen:

Clip from The Tourist:

 

How do you see yourself fitting in, or not, to the Canadian film industry or even the Montreal filmmaking community?

I don’t fit in. I have given up trying to fit in and resolved by just producing work that I feel connected to and am passionate about. The most relevant creative work that I will do are films that delve deepest into subjects that most profoundly move me. Those stories emerge from the subjective and idiosyncratic nature and course of my life journey that is unique to me. Not fitting in might be the best thing that could happen to my creative life. Yet when it comes to realizing this “creative life,” I have to believe that my difference is a strength, not a hindrance and convince others of that too, and that my stories have relevance and a place within the cinematic landscape. As women, I think we do set the bar really high and demand 200% from ourselves before believing in ourselves and stepping out taking up our space. From the films that I have been making, I am slowly finding a place within the film community in Montreal which is kind to noncommercial filmmakers because it supports and encourages marginal voices and more creative approaches to film. However, as I develop and grow in my craft, I am increasingly clear that I am a filmmaker without borders. In other words, I am not identified with any nation or culture, but perceive myself as someone who is transnational and sees through the limits of cultural, racial, religious, gender based identities and views a world in which differences give way to universal human experiences.

Does Quebecois film, which is supported so much more than English-language film in the rest of Canada, play a role or have a major influence in your own work?

Quebecois cinema has been influential in my work and has presented an alternative to American mainstream and Indie cinema. Naturally I am proud of cinema that has come out of Quebec that has been quite stellar, however I do find that it’s an industry that has not been easy to penetrate, for someone like me who is not white, male and Francophone. Apart from documentary films, I have not seen much of myself or my experience reflected in most if not all Quebec movies, commercial or otherwise with the exception of films like Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar, which were however both written, directed and produced by white Francophone males who are also my peers. I do think there is a desire for diversity and a multi-cultural and global perspective, yet resources and funds are limited, and they tend to fall into the same hands. I am bent on changing that.

Still from "The Tourist."  Photo credit: Eisha Marjara

Still from “The Tourist.” Photo credit: Eisha Marjara

How do you go about navigating your identities (as you put it to me) as a Canadian South Asian Quebecois feminist woman?  Do you consciously inject your identity into your work, or do you avoid such a personal point of view?

It’s incumbent upon me to avoid consciously injecting my identity into my work, and to consciously seek ways to make implicit my subjectivity in the stories that I tell. Research and development prior to that phase lays the groundwork, shapes my opinions, prejudices, politics and allegiances. I rely on that process to inform the story that my creative brain will end up generating. Viewers and critics are quick to put a film into a box and if it screams “feminist” or “a film about racism” or “a movie about women’s issues,” it will immediately get marginalized and set apart from “regular” boys’ films and not taken as seriously, and more likely receive less exposure, which happens with women’s work in a sexist culture. Such labeling also discourages men and a white mainstream audience, those who would most benefit from the film, access to the films. I am eager for the day when such descriptives as “female” or “black,” “gay” or whatever else will no longer apply to filmmakers.

Have you found or worked with many women within the film industry in Canada? Do you belong to any women’s film or media organizations?

One of my very first jobs was at the notorious Studio D of the National Film Board of Canada, which was a feminist run studio that was mandated to produce documentary films for and by and about women. There I met Kathleen Shannon who spearheaded the Studio, Cynthia Scott and Ginny Stikeman who was the executive producer that the time, director Ann Claire Poirier who was in the French sector and Susan Trow one of the few successful women cinematographers who really inspired me to direct. The Studio produced films like If You Love This Planet, Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives, Academy Award-winning I’ll Find a Way and Flamenco at 5:15,among others.  Sadly I watched the studio shut down in 1996. Since then, I have worked on only a few indie films (documentary) by women as cinematographer, but I am seeing increasingly more women appear in the industry working as cinematographers, producers and directors.

There are a few women’s media organizations, like Réalisatrices Équitables, a Montreal based women directors’ group of which I am member, and Femmes du Cinéma, de la Television et des Nouveaux Médias (FCTNM).

Intvw-Marjara-DSH-poster

Poster for “Desperately Seeking Helen”

What has your experience been with funding your projects? Have you ever depended on any of the numerous and established funding schemes available in Canada?

All of my projects except for my docu-drama that was exclusively funded by the NFB, have been funded by artist grants, such as The Canada Council for the Arts and Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec. There are also grants offered by film coops and the NFB which has resources to assist independent filmmakers. Filmmakers and producers who have a company, have more options available to them for financing. They can approach several other financing institutions like SODEC and Telefilm among others. In most cases, there are up to two deadlines a year, and it takes three to four months to receive the results from the application. If the submission is unsuccessful, the applicant can apply again, which also means that it can take years before a film, even a short film or documentary can receive funding. A new jury or assessment committee is selected for each application period. I have tried my hand at crowd funding, but I need more skill to be truly successful at it.

What is your latest project, and what are you working on next?

My latest project is the short suburban drama House for Sale that is having a successful festival run now. Since its release last February, it has picked up six awards. It is from the momentum and success of this film that I would like to get produced a feature film called Venus which, like the short, centers on a transgender protagonist and grapples with themes of identity, belonging and love. I am also developing the drama Calorie which is about an Indo-Canadian mother who travels to India with her troubled teen daughters, only regretting the trip which turns to tragedy.

Trailer for House for Sale:

Learn more about Eisha Marjara at:

Website: eishamarjara.com
House for Sale: houseforsalefilm.com
House for Sale Trailer: vimeo.com/30089402
Wiki page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisha_Marjara
ImDb: imdb.com/name/nm0548205
Facebook HFS page: facebook.com/House4SaleFilm

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Intvw-Marjara-headshot

Photo credit: Mélanie Robert

Montreal filmmaker Eisha Marjara first drew attention with the witty and incisive The Incredible Shrinking Woman followed by feature docu-drama Desperately Seeking Helen, an NFB production which received the Jury Prize at the München Dokumentarfilm Festival and the Critics’ Choice Award at the Locarno Film Festival in 2000.  The Tourist (2006) was nominated for best short at the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto.

She’s currently developing several features including Venus as well as the controversial docu-drama Lolita Diaries which explores girlhood and sexuality through the lens of Nabokov’s Lolita. Her latest film, House for Sale (2012), has received several awards. (Contact Eisha.)

Guest post by New Brunswick filmmaker Gretchen Kelbaugh

For years my mother asked me to read Auntie Gert’s memoirs. I knew that the wrinkled woman with a cane who we visited once a year had been a militant suffragette fighting for the right of women to vote. But that era seemed so distant, so unrelated to me. Auntie Gert died in 1977.  Guestpost-Kelbaugh-gertharding

When I finally read her memoirs ten years later, complete with photographs and her own sketches, her story changed my life. Personally, Gert became a beacon to light my feminism and social activism. Professionally, I became committed to telling the world this little-known story of the fight for the female vote. The violent revolt by British women less than a hundred years ago is without precedent, yet it continues to be treated without prestige.

Guestpost-Kelbaugh-bumper

Misfit: The Early Years, New Brunswick and Hawaii (1889-1912)

Gert Harding is born in 1889 on her parents’ farm in New Brunswick, Canada, youngest of six. One simple sketch shows a girl galloping across the field on Old Barney the workhorse, with nothing but a halter and rope. Gert goes camping in the woods alone; she prefers fishing to sewing and hunting to housework. When she is 18 her mother dies, leaving Gert to do all the cooking and housework, with no indoor plumbing, hot or cold. Discovery of a heart murmur turns into a godsend. As such conditions are considered risky in those days, Gert is sent to Hawaii to be companion to her sister Nellie, who has married wealthy Dr. Ernest Waterhouse.

For a few years, Gert leads a life of relative ease: tennis and horse riding, boat parties and midnight walks on Waikiki Beach. But Gert strains against the fetters of financial dependence on her brother-in-law. After sneaking off to her first paid job – selling chocolates at the Palm Cafe – she is found out and forced to quit the job because “Waterhouse women don’t work!” Gert concludes, “And so ended my first sallying forth to gain independence in the year 1910.”

Guestpost-Kelbaugh-campingfishinghunting

Rebel: The Suffragette Years, London and Glasgow (1912-18)

At 23, Gert is invited to go with Nellie’s family to their new home in England to study art. Within weeks of landing in London, Gert sees a poster parade of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the WSPU, whose members are called militant suffragettes. Their slogan, “Votes for Women,” strikes a chord she didn’t know she had. Gert quits art to join up as a volunteer and finds herself in her first poster parade. In her words:

Clapham is a miserable sordid suburb of London and a poster parade of women supplied delightful entertainment to the sadistic-minded men and youths lounging on street corners. From fruit and vegetable vendors they would select the most luscious of overripe plums, tomatoes and apples to hurl at us as we plodded along in the rain trying to be oblivious to all that went on around us. Being the last in line, I was a prime target and received a perfect barrage of these unsavoury objects. Then, without thinking, I did the one thing sure to bring on disaster – I raised my umbrella! With loud guffaws of joy the onlookers armed themselves with fresh ammunition and made a bulls-eye every time. Too late I realized the stupidity of my would-be humourous gesture and hastily put down the battered umbrella.

Having shown her pluck, Gert is asked to join up as one of only 75 paid workers in this organization of thousands. Her six siblings, spread out now from New Brunswick to Malaya, are horrified. Joining any of the dozens of women’s suffrage groups is shameful, but to work for the notorious Pankhursts and their lot — one of only two groups that condone militancy — is scandalous. As Gert joins, the WSPU has just started its ‘campaign of terror’ against property. Women terrorists? How did that happen?

Guestpost-Kelbaugh-posterparade

Since 1867, British suffrage groups have been asking the Government to grant women the basic right in a democracy … and getting nowhere. You can put up with injustice and deception for only so many decades. In the early 1900s, legal tactics had escalated to noisy demonstrations and window-breaking, both in protest and to try to get media attention for the cause. When they were jailed as common criminals, instead of as the political prisoners they were, many militants began to hunger strike in protest. The Government’s response was, and still is in 1912, the degrading and painful torture of forced feeding.

Gert’s first “job,” along with co-worker Lilian Lenton, is to break into the world-renowned Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and cause as much damage as possible to the most valuable orchids before being arrested. At midnight, during a raging thunderstorm, they break into two orchid houses, smashing glass windowpanes and breaking pots and plants. No police arrive, so they scale a six-foot wall and escape. The next day 12 newspapers report on the ‘outrage’, some claiming that a male sympathizer to the cause must have perpetrated the havoc because only a man could have scaled the wall to escape. (“That was nothing for a farm girl from New Brunswick,” my mother always says.)

Acting on their own initiative, a few extreme devotees decide to up the level of violence even further than attacking public art and gardens. They start to bomb and burn empty buildings. Lilian Lenton returns to Kew Gardens alone and torches the empty Tea Pavilion. Such tactics were and are still used by men fighting for the vote, but with many deaths. The suffragettes ensure that they never harm ‘so much as a canary in a cage’. A feminine form of violent protest, if ever there was one.

The raid on Kew Gardens is Gert’s only act of violence. (She doesn’t say why.) She next joins the staff of the newspaper, The Suffragette, recently raided by Scotland Yard and driven underground. Gert and her colleagues travel through back alleys with soot on their faces to avoid detection. They set up the type and crank the printing press all night in secret flats, always on the lookout for spies and detectives.

Mrs. Pankhurst, who formed the WSPU with her brilliant daughter Christabel, travels far and wide giving rousing speeches, and by now she is the most recognized woman in the world. Each time Mrs. Pankhurst is imprisoned, she hunger strikes and is released. (The Government doesn’t dare force feed this renowned leader, wife of a former Member of Parliament.) When Scotland Yard is given the special unconstitutional power to re-arrest Mrs. Pankhurst on sight, the WSPU decides to form a secret bodyguard of women to prevent her constant re-arrest while pubic speaking. The Pankhursts consider Gert, the colonial from Canada, to be so resourceful and daring that they choose her to head up this bodyguard. Gert is one of only a few Canadians to join the WSPU.

Despite training in jiu jitsu and the use of India rubber clubs, the women soon realize that when pitted against the fists and truncheons of street-tough bobbies, they risk broken bones and concussions with each confrontation. Scotland Yard will have to be outwitted:

It had been advertised that [Mrs. Pankhurst] would speak on a certain evening, and when the time arrived a huge crowd was waiting, and so were dozens of plain clothes detectives determined to arrest her. Mrs. Pankhurst… made her speech, and then announced that she was coming down…. A veiled woman closely guarded by a group of the bodyguard was pounced upon by the eager police and spirited away after a token fight. Immediately afterward Mrs. Pankhurst quietly walked down the steps and I escorted her to a waiting taxi.

Sharp wits beat strength several more times, always with humourous results. Gert and the other organizers are wanted criminals, but they enjoy going about decked in costumes and wigs supplied by the Actresses’ Franchise League. For most of these women, their years as political protesters will be their happiest and most rewarding.

The string of bodyguard successes ends at a suffrage rally in Glasgow in 1914. Hundreds of police storm the hall and overwhelm the combined English and Scottish bodyguard.

It was a fantastic scene of violence, with Mrs. Pankhurst in the midst of milling police and bodyguard trying to protect her from injury…. [T]he audience now began to join in with shouts of disapproval against the police. The elderly ladies (who had no use for Suffragettes) rose up in their boxes and, using umbrellas as weapons, began hammering on the heads of two policemen trying to climb on the platform with the help of the “garlands” strung across the front. They let go in a hurry however when the barbed wire [hidden in the garlands] came to light.

The speaker’s table was overturned, and chairs flew about in all directions. I found myself looking up at a very large policeman with truncheon lifted ready to descend on my head. For some unknown reason he lowered it and tossed me instead into a pile of overturned chairs. Many of the bodyguard had been struck on the head, and some were found later on to have suffered slight concussion. A brave and wonderful fight was put up by these women.

Mrs. Pankhurst is again imprisoned, the bodyguard dispirited. Back in London, Gert soon becomes editor of The Suffragette, as the senior staff is all in prison. It is July 1914.

Within a month, World War I breaks out. The Pankhursts make the controversial decision to cease protest and to help with the War effort. Many women leave for other suffragist groups that continue to fight for the vote. The WSPU scales down but keeps Gert on staff. Christabel Pankhurst, the brains of the organization, moves to Paris to monitor events, and Gert accepts the job of being her private secretary there.

Eventually funds are low and even Gert must be let go. With recommendation from the Pankhursts, now the Government’s allies, Gert is hired on at the huge Gretna Munitions Factory as a Welfare Supervisor to the women workers. She proves exceptional at this job, the precursor to our modern Social Worker. When War ends, the British Government finally grants women a partial vote in 1918, in response not only to their war effort but also to the Pankhursts’ threat that if the vote is not granted, militancy will resume.

Activist: Social Work Years and Retirement, New Jersey (1920-1977)

In 1920, Gert moves back home to the new Harding farm in Hammond River, New Brunswick. After a year, she lands a position as Welfare Supervisor in Plainfield, New Jersey, a job she keeps for 13 years.

Gert Harding’s biography, published under the author's married name.

Gert Harding’s biography, published under the author’s married name.

In her middle years, Gert continues to volunteer with many organizations, fighting for peace, women’s rights, animal rights and the poor. She keeps in touch with her nieces and nephews in New Brunswick and returns there to live in 1976, where she dies of cancer a year later, aged 88.

Guestpost-Kelbaugh-bumper

I was so taken with Gert’s story that I immediately found a Canadian publisher, Goose Lane Editions, and began to write her biography. Researching in London, my Irish assistant, Emily Cargan, and I visited her haunts. We found the glass houses with rare orchids at Kew Gardens and imagined where she and Lilian might have hidden at closing time to await their midnight attack. In museums, we read other firsthand accounts of militants, most of them young, scared and fiercely committed to gender equality. They use the word ‘feminist’, by times, and felt the injustice of being denied the vote as strongly as we would today, were we to suddenly lose that right. If I had been with them, I might have hammered some windows, too.

Here is the single fact that drove home how recent is this history: The WSPU formed in 1903 — the year my father was born. Wow. So Dad was in fourth grade in Maryland when Gert was being mobbed in Hyde Park. He was picking peaches on the family farm when she attended the funeral of Emily Wilding Davison, the renegade suffragette who died trying to tie a WSPU flag to the King’s horse on Derby Day. In fact, on the day of Emily’s funeral, when 6000 suffragists were following the hearse, Gert was in hiding with Mrs. Pankhust. The parade suddenly stopped at Westminster Mansions. “Mrs. P” emerged, gave Gert her handwritten press release and was quickly nabbed by police. This incident triggered the formation of the bodyguard.

Guestpost-Kelbaugh-Hydeparkcorner

As I researched Gert’s militant days, I kept seeing her and her colleagues committing their acts of daring on a big screen in my mind. Where are the movies about women heroines, women with a political story to tell? Women who, rather than being girlfriend to the hero, helped change the world themselves? I crave such movies, such stories.

So the day I mailed off my manuscript to Goose Lane, I began to write a screenplay called Hardie (Gert’s nickname), based on her most exciting 18 months in London. Hardie went on to win an Atlantic Canadian script competition.

In 2018, it will be the centenary of British and Canadian women getting the vote (2020 in the USA). Before then I hope to find producers for Hardie. This farm girl from New Brunswick happened to be in the right place and time to seize an opportunity to join the most radical group of women the world has ever known. Viewers will relate to her, shake their fists with her at those who oppose political equality. We’ll feel the humiliation of having rotten eggs thrown at us and we’ll laugh with the bodyguard at the blundering of Scotland Yard.

In August I was thrilled to find a New Brunswick producer who loves Gert’s story and wants to make a documentary about her. Now I need to find producers for my screenplay Hardie. I would appreciate any help with this.

Gert’s tale has it all: comedy, drama, action, heroes and villains, disguises and subterfuge — even government torture. This fascinating chapter in history is rarely told; this spirited heroine is little-known. Hardie will change all that.

Learn more about Gretchen Kelbaugh at:

Story First Productions: storyfirstproductions.ca
Videos: vimeo.com/gretchenkelbaugh
Twitter: twitter.com/GKelbaugh (@GKelbaugh)

(All images courtesy of Gretchen Kelbaugh.)

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Photo credit: Cindy Wilson

Photo credit: Cindy Wilson

Gretchen Kelbaugh has won regional and national screenwriting competitions. Her teleplay “106 Fire Hydrants” was produced for CBC-TV in 1999. Since then, Gretchen has produced independent documentaries and dramas that have screened around the world.

Gretchen’s screenplay Margaret and Deirdre won the CBC Producers’ Showcase. She then directed this as an ultra-low budget movie, which won Best Screenplay at the Trail Dance Film Festival in 2008.

Piece o’ Cake won Best No Budget Short at the Broad Humor Film Festival. Menocracy (featuring Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell) on women, politics and electoral reform, was recently picked up by Moving Images Distribution.

Her.Stories: Women filmmakers in Abu Dhabi, Fact sheet on women in the U.S. film industry, Ava DuVernay, Little Miss Jihad and more

Women Filmmakers Perfect Roles in Abu Dhabi
at Gulf News

Women’s Leadership Fact Sheet: A Project of Women Leaders Count
“Women in the U.S. Film Industry” (Fall 2012 Report by the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Rutgers University and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media)
Download the PDF report

Digital Hollywood Women highlight ‘What Women Want’
at Examiner.com

Ava DuVernay: A New Director, After Changing Course
Listen/read/watch at NPR

Seven Islands International Film Festival in Chennai; focuses on women in 2012*
at India Education Diary
*Good news!  My friend Stephanie Law’s short film, Little Miss Jihad (previously featured as a HF.Spotlight), has been invited to screen at Seven Islands! Congrats, Steph!

AWFJ To Present Special Awards To Women Directors At Cinema St. Louis SLIFF 2012
at We Are Movie Geeks

Women still a minority in film, figures show (in Canada)
at the CBC

Rehovot film festival to focus on women and religion
at Haaretz

‘Mrs. Judo’ Featured in U.N. Association Film Festival
at The Rafu Shimpo

Who will follow Rama Burshtein to the Oscars?
at Haaretz

Naples International Film Festival to host “Women Calling the Shots” panel on November 3
at the NIFF

The UK Jewish Film Festival: The Women To Watch Out For
at Female First

Review: “Spork” (2010)

A Film by J.B. Ghuman Jr.

“Spork,” played by Savannah Stelin, is a 14 year old girl trying to fit in and survive junior high.  She has a lot of things stacked up against her.  And let’s be honest, junior high isn’t exactly a walk in the park.  She’s a hermaphrodite (the reason she is called Spork), has crazy ratty hair, is a social outcast, and to top it off the mean girls are out to get her.  She’s also being raised by her brother in a rundown trailer, and her mom is buried in the backyard because they couldn’t afford a proper burial.  Fortunately, Spork gets some help from her neighbor, “Tootsie Roll” (the hilarious Sydney Park), who tries to teach her some booty boppin’ dance moves.  They get a little creative with the help of the classic game twister.

First, and foremost, I was sucked into the movie by the awesome music.  I was transported back in time to a little dance club in our dinky Wisconsin town when I heard “Tootsie Roll.”  There are some fun dance scenes as well. The movie revolves around a dance competition that Tootsie Roll is sure to win until she injures her ankle.  She wants Spork to win so they devise a plan to get her to learn some dance moves.  Betsy Beyotch and her posse are her main competition and are after Spork for rearranging Betsy’s nose with a basketball.  I’m sure most of you have dealt with some Grade A Beyotches.  And luckily for us they usually get what is coming to them.

The core of the movie is about fitting in and being okay with being different.  Junior high can be a daunting time so I love that “outcasts” are shown as the truly cool people.  This is the first film I have seen from J.B. Ghuman Jr., and I am definitely hooked.  The film was fun and full of nostalgia that will have you dusting off your old CD’s to have a 90’s dance party.  Now if you’ll excuse me. . .I gotta go and bust a move.  “To the left, to the left, to the right, to the right, to the front, to the front, to the back, to the back, now dip baby dip, dip baby dip. . .”

Check out the Spork website here.

Follow the film on Twitter @SporkMovie and Facebook at /SporktheMovie.

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Lotus Wollschlager is the official Her Film movie reviewer.  Find her bio on the HF.Reviews page.

Her.Stories: Sexism rife in drama world, Aida Begic’s film chosen for Oscars, Gaylene Preston to direct NZ drama, Shola Lynch’s new doc

Gainesville Latino Film Festival Kicks Off, Produced by the Latina Women’s League
at Gainesville.com

Sharon Lawrence: “Listen to Your Own Heart and to Another Woman’s Story”
at the Huffington Post

Parade’s End director says sexism is still rife in drama world: Directors’ group to investigate after Cannes film festival snubs women for Palme d’Or prize
at The Guardian

Bosnia selects ‘Children’ for Oscar race: Aida Begic’s film premiered at Cannes
at the Chicago Tribune

‘The Headless Woman’ Director Lucrecia Martel To Return With ‘Zama’
at The Playlist

Patricia Riggen Directing Chilean Miners Film, The 33
at Women and Hollywood

Magnet Releasing Embraces Xan Cassavetes’ Erotic Vampire Film ‘Kiss of the Damned’
at Indiewire

Gaylene Preston to Direct New Zealand Earthquake Dramatic Series, Receives $5M from NZ on Air
at the New Zealand Herald

On Screen & On Scene: ‘Somewhere Between’ (documentary by Linda Goldstein Knowlton)
at Hyphen Magazine

 

S&A In Conversation: Shola Lynch Talks ‘Free Angela & All Political Prisoners’
at Shadow and Act

Toronto: ‘Inch’Allah’ Director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette On Her Politically Charged Drama
at Indiewire

Audio: Behind the film Dreams Of A Life on Detour
at Triple R

New film: “The Light in Her Eyes” tells story of Muslim woman who teaches the Quran to women & girls

“A woman is a school. Teach her and you teach a generation.”

Muslim preacher Houda Al-Habash teaches women and girls the Quran at her mosque in Damascus, Syria, something she’s been doing for 30 years.  This is the story of “The Light in Her Eyes,” a new documentary film from Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix.  The film will be screening on September 19 in Austin, Texas, and will have several other screenings around the country this fall.  Take a look at the Screenings & Events page on the film’s website for dates, times and locations, or to host a screening yourself.

I missed the film’s premiere, unfortunately, as I was out of the country most of July.  Maybe some of you caught it on PBS on July 19?  If not, you can watch a trailer below, or just catch a screening in your town!

Check out an interview with Meltzer and Nix in The Austin Chronicle by clicking here.

Follow the film on twitter @lightinhereyes.
Read more about the film on the official website.