After the complete and utter bromance of Cannes 2012, Toronto’s Female Eye Film Festival comes as a refresher. It’s been 10 years since its inception and now serves as a diverse showcase of stirring international talent by women filmmakers.
FeFF founder and director Lesley Ann Coles began the festival because she saw a void in the industry: “I was attending an international film festival with my own film and hanging around the international film scene,” Coles says. “Women were a minority among the directors at these events. I started asking myself, Why are there so few women directors? Are they just not getting programmed?”
And so it began. This year’s heavy hitter was American director Nancy Savoca with her film Union Square. With previous breakthroughs like 1989’s Sundance prizewinner True Love and the floating River Phoenix flick Dogfight (1991), this family drama–– screened but underappreciated at TIFF last year–– shows the story of two estranged sisters who reconvene and battle out their differences. The film offers audiences both heartwarming and comedic overtures alongside Academy Award Winner Mira Sorvino’s convincing New Yawk disposition.
Canadian Director Deanne Foley was awarded Best Debut Feature with her irreverent comedy Beat Down about family, wrestling, and following your dreams. Casting Robb Wells (Trailer Park Boys), real-life professional wrestler Cherri Bomb, and her real-life daughter, this is an experimental passion project in its utmost state of success.
Director Desiree Lim of Vancouver strayed from the traditional ghost story and collected Best Canadian Feature for The House. Her film revolved around an ex-stock broker taking refuge in a friend’s vacant home only to find herself immersed with troubled but friendly ghosts. Not quite the psychological thriller one might expect, the film’s contemplative twist sets it apart.
Not only does the FeFF promote top-tier female production from all over the world, it encourages women aspiring to get into the business. With workshops, lectures, and open panels, a platform of discussion is provided that can continue long after the lights go up and the curtains draw. This summer’s big screen playout features some great female talent such as Sarah Polley’s second feature length film The Last Waltz and Lynn Shelton’s highly anticipated Your Sister’s Sister. While women directors are still known as needles in the industry’s haystack, the genre paradigm is sure to shift with consistency, dialogue and supportive endeavors like the FeFF.
Lesley Ann Coles says it well: “Women deal with issues differently. They treat content differently,” she says. “With sex and violence, nothing is gratuitous. Often it’s what you don’t say that’s compelling. You see women of all ages in their films. Women directors often have a female protagonist. These are stories close to women’s hearts.”
Here’s to women, their stories, and taking them relentlessly to the next level.