By Gwen Roley
The number of women represented in the film industry remains low, but the third Cascadia Film Festival has grown since last year, with its unique lineup of female-driven films.
The 2019 Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival will take place from Thursday through Sunday, April 11-14, at various locations around Bellingham, including the Pickford Film Center, Mount Baker Theatre and Western Washington University. The festival only screens films directed by women.
Over the course of the festival, 37 films from 15 different countries will be screened – an increase from the 25 films they showed last year. Cascadia will also be hosting panels and discussions focusing on the film industry and its relationship with female filmmakers.
“The quality of our films has always been really high, but this year the level and quality has maybe taken a step up,” said Cascadia Film Festival executive director Cheryl Crooks.
There will be feature-length films, documentaries and three times as many shorts as last year’s festival. Crooks said she is only aware of four other festivals in the country that showcase exclusively work of women filmmakers.
The centerpiece of the festival will be a screening and discussion with Academy Award-winning director Freida Lee Mock for her film “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” on Friday, April 12 at the Mount Baker Theatre. The documentary came out in 2014 and focuses on Anita Hill’s testimony of harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas during his 1991 nomination to the Supreme Court.
“Having Frieda here to talk about the movie, I know it will be very enlightening,” Crooks said. “[The film] is very relevant right now and we expect there will be a lot of questions.”
This year’s festival will also be the location of a U.S. premiere for a French film by director Laetitia Carton, said communications coordinator Tara Almond. “Le Grand Bal” is a documentary about a seven day folk dance festival in Gennentine, France, and will screen on Saturday, April 13 at the Pickford Film Center.
On Sunday, April 14 the festival will screen “Edge of the Knife,” which is the first film shot entirely in Haida, the language of the First Nations tribe of the same name. The film will be shown at the Pickford and was directed by Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown.
The first Cascadia Film Festival was in 2017. Crooks said this came after two years of organizing and testing the concept at local events, such as the Pickford’s Doctober.
“We wanted to provide a platform for those films women make to be seen by a wide audience,” she said.
A 2017 study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University titled “The Celluloid Ceiling” found a large gap in the number of women and the number of men employed in the film industry. According to the study, 11 percent of the 250 top-grossing films of 2017 were directed by women. Researchers also found 30 percent of the top 250 films had between one and zero women working on them as either directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors or cinematographers.
Crooks said along with promoting the work of women filmmakers, Cascadia also aims to educate the community on the art of filmmaking and promote Whatcom County as a destination for the film industry.
According to the Cascadia Film Festival website, there will be a preliminary WWU showcase with a screening and discussion of “Boys Who Like Girls,” directed by Inka Achte, on Wednesday, April 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Arntzen Hall on Western’s campus. The first event after the official start of the festival will be a panel discussion titled “The Art of the Short Film” on Thursday, April 11 at 2 p.m., also at Arntzen Hall.
The first film screened will be “Becoming Astrid,” directed by Pernille Fischer Christensen, and will be shown at the Pickford at 7 p.m. on April 11. Nearly all of the events require tickets and Crooks said interested festival-goers should buy in advance, as many of the films sold out last year.
For a full schedule and links to buy tickets, visit cascadiafilmfest.org/schedule/.