Festival films are not limited to female themes but must be produced, written or directed by women, hence the festival’s slogan: “Made by women for everyone.” This year the festival features 80 films, including 17 from Newfoundland. Highlights include Niam Itani’s SuperFull from Lebanon and a six-film Spanish spotlight. There is also a special concert by the Senegalese rapper, singer and activist Sister Fa, who is the subject of Maria Luisa Gambale and Gloria Bremer’s documentary Sarabah. The film is about childhood female genital mutilation, a common African practice of which Fatou Mandiana Diatta (Sister Fa) was victim.
When you think of St John’s, Newfoundland, what likely comes to mind first are fishermen, rain, cliffs, colourful houses and the goofy Newfie. But St John’s is also home to its own International Women’s Film Festival.
Now in its 22nd year, the festival features a lineup as colourful as the rows of vibrant, digitally enhanced houses on Republic of Doyle. Filmmakers from 12 countries and Canada World Youth volunteers from places as far away as Palestine and Ghana are flocking to St John’s to participate.
“To now have Sister Fa on her way to St John’s to play a show in conjunction with her screening is far, far beyond anything I even thought possible for the festival. We’re all just blown away,” says Kelly Davis, the festival’s executive director.
Founder Noreen Golfman started the festival to give voice to the many talented female filmmakers in an industry dominated by men.
“It’s painful to accept, but the fact remains that the number of women directors, producers and writers – let alone cinematographers – of the best-selling 250 films of the last year has actually gone down,” she says. “What’s up with that? It makes me crazy when people ask why we still need a women’s film festival. Give me a break. Check the credits of the next film you see and tell me where the women are.”