The Female Eye Film Festival makes its Bellingham debut as part of Pickford Film Center’s Doctober film festival Oct. 17-18.
Bellingham’s Polly Miller, who has headed up the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto for 12 years and has an advertising agency, The Backroom, in Toronto, was approached by festival founder Leslie Ann Coles to be the agency of record for the festival. After two years of working with Coles in advertising, Miller took on the role of festival chair.
Miller moved to Bellingham seven years ago and says that once she discovered the city’s beauty, its proximity to Vancouver, B.C. (which she calls the “Hollywood of the North”) and to Seattle, and the emerging film talent in Bellingham, she knew Bellingham would be the perfect West Coast home for the Female Eye Film Festival.
The media focus seems to be on how we need to start to hire more women in the role of directors.
Polly Miller, festival chair
For the first time, the festival will present eight of its finalists on Oct. 17 and 18 during Pickford Film Center’s annual month-long Doctober festival that celebrates documentary film making.
Miller hopes that by bringing the festival to Bellingham, the area will reap the economic and social benefits that successful film festivals bring to other host cities. After 25 years, the Toronto International Film Festival brings in $189 million and provides full-time, year-round jobs to the city.
What makes the Female Eye Film Festival unique, Miller says, is that only female directors can enter films in the international competition, although films can be co-directed by men. Still, 40 percent of the festival’s audience and participants — in educational seminars and discussion panels, for example — are men.
Bellingham filmmaker Elli Smith will show director’s cut of “Pulling Back Together,” which follows a group of Lummi Nation youth.
“It’s all about timing in life; right now, the media focus seems to be on how we need to start to hire more women in the role of directors,” Miller says.
Miller is working with a group in Bellingham, led by Cheryl Crooks, that is working hard to bring the festival to Bellingham as “the West Coast version.” Crooks agrees about the importance of the festival, and says it has gained the reputation as one of the top 50 film festivals in the world, as voted by MovieMaker magazine.
“Needless to say, we are very excited about the prospect of the festival coming to Bellingham,” Crooks says. “The showcase at Doctober is a first step towards that end.”
“Holodomor,” directed by Ariadna Ochrmmouych, should be of special interest to Bellingham’s Ukrainian community.
Two directors, Heidi Kumao and Ariadna Ochrmmouych, will be coming to Doctober to discuss their films.
Kumao’s short film, “Swallowed Whole,” is a somber, animated, experimental film about surviving extreme isolation and physical limitations as a result of a traumatic injury.
“Holodomor,” directed by Ochrmmouych, should be of special interest to Bellingham’s Ukrainian community. In her documentary, Ukrainian-Canadian survivors share their stories of survival during the Holodomor, the man-made famine of 1932 and 1933 that killed an estimated 2.5 million to 7.5 million Ukrainians.
In addition to the directors, festival founder and artistic director Coles will attend to lead question-and-answer sessions after the films with the directors, and will participate in a panel discussion Oct. 18 about women in the film industry.
The festival weekend will also include a director’s cut of “Pulling Back Together,” a documentary by Bellingham filmmaker Elli Smith. Her 20-minute version follows a group of Native American youth pulling a seagoing canoe through their cultural past and into a healthy future. Smith has been working with Lummi Nation to create her film.