Diaries of an Intern

Blog entries, movie reviews and behind-the-scenes action with Talking to Crows, an artistic enterprise and film production company based in Bellingham, WA

Tuesday, 05.19.20

By Brooke Wilson

Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival (or The Sweet Salvation we Desperately Needed)

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By the grace of resilient people whose hearts beat for the film community, the Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival carried on triumphantly with a virtual experience that supplied supreme content and a dire sense of normalcy in high demand ATM.

Screenings and panel discussions looked a little different compared to previous years (okay, I’ll admit “little” might be an understatement.) But despite the physical distance and tight itinerary, event organizers still managed to stir up excitement and reach audiences during nationwide lifestyle adjustments to the pandemic. Quite an achievement IMO.

Here are a few special moments from the digital festivities I think deserve a round of applause:

On Thursday evening, a conversation broadcast live with the director, producer and actors from the narrative short Blood and Glory kicked off the weekend festivities. 

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Local filmmaker Satinder Kaur and lead actress Jomarla Melancon spoke about the project with great reverence as an opportunity to translate an impactful, formative experience like military service through a visual performance.

“We draw so much from our own experiences,” Kaur said, who served in Baghdad, Iraq for a year. 

Along with mining for the truth and humanity in her own personal history, Kaur said she aims to establish her characters in morally ambiguous situations to arouse conflict and intrigue.

“It’s our job to ask questions, it’s our job to tell our stories,” Melancon said.

While courage, commitment and a code of honor propel a strong current throughout the story, an inner turmoil also reflects the struggle Kaur said she grappled with in her twenties. Her thirties provided the time and space necessary to reflect on her experiences drawn from the military.

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“You need distance from these things to process,” Kaur said.

Personally, I’ll be waiting with bated breath for the arrival of her upcoming feature about a soldier wrestling with a moral crisis and duty to her country.

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Born and raised in the greater Seattle area, I jumped at the opportunity to watch a panel discussion on the lesser known story behind the iconic structure poised by the Puget Sound. Director BJ Bullert and Spectrum Dance Theater performance artist Nia-Amina Minor were both in attendance to discuss the complexities and creative layers involved in extracting the history behind the architecture.

Buildings are gendered, and women have often been rendered invisible in these contexts, Bullert said. Unlike other widely recognized designs, like the Washington Monument or the Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle reflects a feminine elegance and symbolic empowerment among women.

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Syvilla Fort // Image © Al Doggett 1981
Syvilla Fort // Image © Al Doggett 1981

In order to transcend convention and reimagine its origin story in the most authentic sense, Bullert commissioned poetry from Seattle’s Civic Poet Jourdan Imani Keith, who paid tribute to its muse – Syvilla Fort, a legendary professional dancer and educator in the entertainment industry. Multiple records and interviews throughout the documentary unearth how Fort embodied the spirit and legacy expressed by the Space Needle.

Through these stories, oral history survives and strengthens community, Minor said.

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Given that certain archival information is often inaccessible or undocumented, storytelling aims to complete those blank spaces. Bullert explained how active storytelling can shift the kaleidoscope of perception, and in her specific case, frame conversations about the Space Needle through a dynamic, intersectional prism.

From indigenous directors to foreign language features, each category delivered stories about women in every shade and silhouette imaginable. Several honorable mentions include “Dom,” a portrayal of two distant sisters who share inhibitions and an unspoken connection that threatens to shatter the freedom and exhilaration they chase after. Another short entitled “The Shallow End” captures a slice of adolescence during the 80s under the sweltering sun at a local community swimming pool. French feature “100 Kilos d’Etoiles” (Stars by the Pound) documents how a heavier set teenage girl negotiates her dream to become an astronaut with her earthly bound barriers. Sixteen-year-old Lois cleverly likens bodies that bear more weight and occupy more space to aliens from Jupiter called “Jovians,” native to the largest planet in our solar system.

Be kind to yourself and others, step outside and breathe some fresh air before curling up on the couch again to stream your favorite series.

Xoxo,

B

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