Vancouver International Women in Film Festival travels the globe

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Films from more than a dozen countries will be featured at the eighth annual Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, which runs from March 7 to 10 at the Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour Street). This year, the 27 short, mid-length, and feature films on display were selected by a volunteer programming committee rather than an artistic director, resulting in a diverse range of films.

“It’s a really exciting lineup. It’s the most international we’ve ever had,” Carolyn Coombs, executive director of Women in Film + Television Vancouver, which founded the festival, told the Georgia Straight in a recent phone interview. “We have more features than we’ve ever had before, and each film really represents a unique vision, a distinct artistic voice.”

One of the films Coombs is excited to include in the festival is Little Black Spiders, a feature from Belgium by cowriter-director Patrice Toye. Little Black Spiders is based on a true story about a group of pregnant young women who are sent away by their families to live out their pregnancies in a hospital’s attic.

“It’s a film about friendship, ultimately, but you find out that this place where the teenagers are sent, they have no agency, and they don’t realize that,” Coombs said. “It’s a sad but very beautiful film, and the story of friendship is quite uplifting.”

Coombs believes audiences will also connect with “Телега (The Cart)”, a 26-minute silent film from Russia written by Andrey Migacyov and directed by Natasha Novik. Following a wooden cart that travels on its own, the film captures the responses of the people who encounter the vehicle.

“One of the responses is to take it apart, to try to figure it out, study it. This particular individual puts it back together and lets it go,” Coombs said. “The last guy, he seems to really need it where he is in his life, and he just gets on it and he sings. It’s very uplifting.”

“Jamón” is one of three animated films being presented this year. The traditionally animated short film from the U.K. tells the story of a teenage pig struggling with identity issues among a family of humans. “Jamón” was made by London-based director, animator, and illustrator Iria López, who created the film while pursuing her master’s degree in animation direction.

“Our criteria was to choose films that challenged artistic boundaries and really had a unique voice,” Coombs said. “I think perhaps the compassion that either the filmmaker shows to the subject or the characters show to each other, it’s definitely in all of the films.”

Each film screening will be followed by a moderated Q & A session, and filmmakers from as far away as New Zealand and Israel will be in attendance.

“We think that the opportunity to speak to the filmmaker about the film is something unique that a festival can offer, and it’s really valuable for the filmmakers to have the opportunity to listen to their audience,” Coombs said.

Local filmmakers will also be featured in a variety of industry panels and workshops during the festival. Vancouver writer-director-producer Karen Lam will lead a March 8 genre workshop on making horror movies; her latest dark fantasy film, “The Stolen”, will be screened the next day.

“There are films in the festival that you really won’t have an opportunity to see anywhere else, and I believe there’s a need for festivals such as ours to help promote women in the industry,” Coombs said. “I think it’s not just providing an opportunity to the filmmaker but to the audience. There’s definitely a hungry audience for the stories that women tell, and we need to develop that audience as well.”

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