Biography: Films by Prairie Women Filmmakers

BIOGRAPHY: FILMS BY PRAIRIE WOMEN FILMMAKERS

Curated by Cecilia Araneda for the 2012 WNDX Festival 

Canadian cinema has a short memory of itself, and perhaps an even shorter memory of the women filmmakers working in its midst. This may be most especially true on the prairies, where a crop of independent women filmmakers has been working for a decade or more, often receiving little attention outside of their home provinces and frequently even less within them. It is only within a newer generation of film programming and criticism, which is significantly more open to the work of women, where women filmmakers have started to receive more opportunity, and attention in turn. And in the post-digital world, where digital tools have become a great equalizer from the influences of traditional gatekeepers, these resources have served to provide a greater equality of opportunity for women in film in particular. However, the place of the generation of women directors who emerged on the prairies before the digital age has never truly been properly acknowledged.

If women filmmakers emerging today find it possible to work in cinema, it is because the women who came before paved the way. At first, there was a very small group – which, in Manitoba, is reserved to just three: Norma Bailey, Elise Swerhone and Shereen Jerrett – and these were followed by several more within the generation that emerged in the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s. These women are often overshadowed by their male counterparts, but yet must be considered pioneers in the region. This middle generation of women entered into filmmaking after first developing themselves as artists in other disciplines, including photography, writing, music, theatre and dance, and typically a later age than when male filmmakers commonly commence their careers. These are accomplished filmmakers who have completed significant bodies of work even as they continue to develop themselves as artists, frequently working in multiple forms, including drama, documentary and experimental film.

The works included in this program are experimental, handmade works that reflect over a decade of filmmaking by women on the prairies. They consider themes that are common in specific to this generation of women filmmakers, including the essence of the identify – and in particular the female identity – through the examination of memory, nostalgia and loss, and the essential connection of daughters to their mothers and women to their families and communities.


 FILMS SELECTED (62 mins)

Time Away (7 mins, 2007, video) – Carole O’Brien | MB
Time Away is a meditation on finding your place in the world when your reality is more like floating in space. Time Away was commissioned by the Winnipeg Film Group for its 30th anniversary.

Waiting for the Parade (7 mins, 2009, video) – Paula Kelly | MB
Waiting for the Parade transforms the 75th anniversary celebration of Winnipeg in 1948 into a discourse on the city’s shifting identities through decades of progress and regress, cynicism and hope. Waiting for the Parade is part of a collection of three short films, Souvenirs, commissioned by the City of Winnipeg’s Public Art Program.

Froglight (4 mins, 1997, 16 mm) – Sarah Abbott | SK
Froglight is about having faith in the unknown. The film is in memory of Marian McMahon – filmmaker, academic and independent curator whose ideas and suggestions were instrumental in the development of this film.

She Drifts (4 mins, 2002, video) – Coral Aiken | MB
A woman contemplates an unusual dilemma as she drifts. Shot on Super 8 film, She Drifts examines the borders of a difficult choice. A collaboration with poet Ada Bello.

Embowered (2 mins, 2002, video) – Danishka Esterhazy | MB
A “bower” is an enclosed garden but also a medieval woman’s private chambers. Embowered is a short re-telling of The Lady of Shalott and an exploration of the restrictive demands of femininity. Inspired by the imagery of Julia Margaret Cameron, Embowered was shot on B&W 16mm, hand-processed, and hand coloured.

Ashes (7 mins, 2005, 16 mm) – Dianne Ouellette | SK
Not long ago, my uncle told me the secret to life; shortly thereafter he had a massive heart attack and died. My grandfather lost both his wife and his son – my grandmother and my uncle – in a span of three years. Images of my grandfather by my grandmother’s grave talking about his own mortality and life together, are mixed with images of family.

her silent life (31 mins, 2011, video) – lindsay mcintyre | AB
A version of family. From mother, grandmother, great-grandmother to me, stories flow through out matrilineal heritage to explore the remarkable life of my Inuk great-grandmother.