Lesbian filmmaker Aerlyn Weissman has been named the winner of the City of Vancouver’s 2009 Mayor’s Arts Award in the category of film and new media.
“I was delighted,” Weissman says of learning of the award.
“The awards this year are just a beacon and a really strong statement that the arts in our city are very importance and need to recognized,” she says.
Weissman is best known as the director of the controversial documentary Little Sister’s vs Big Brother. The film documents the Vancouver gay bookstore’s fight of more than two decades against Canada Customs book seizures.
The film’s 2002 debut at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival sparked an outcry from the queer community when a provincial Film Classification Board official tried to close it down on opening night.
Weissman’s first feature film, A Winter Tan, was nominated for Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Actress and Best Sound at the 1989 Genies.
Four years later, she co-directed Forbidden Love, a film on the lives of Canadian lesbians in the 1950s. The film received many audience and technical awards at international festivals, and won the Genie for Best Feature Length Documentary of 1993.
Weissman was also involved as a field director and series director on Kink, a series based on the lives of people in the BDSM community.
Weissman’s latest film is The Portside in which she and poet Daphne Marlatt created a historical drama reliving Vancouver’s lesbian scene of the 1970s.
Weissman says the arts are part of being proud of ourselves and what we have to say to each other.
But, if recent funding cuts are any indication, the BC Liberal government seems not to understand that, she says.
“I don’t think they care about culture, not a clue,” Weissman says. “I think they’re a bunch of philistines.
“It makes no sense economically,” she adds.
Each of the mayor’s arts award recipients is invited to select an emerging artist in their discipline who demonstrates the promise of the next generation. That emerging artist will share the award and the cash prize of $5,000.
The emerging artist Weissman nominated is Mangla Bansal, an Indo-Canadian filmmaker born and raised in Vancouver.
Weissman says Bansal has managed to create some beautiful work while gathering a creative community around her “at a time when it’s really hard to get resources together to do something.”
Bansal is also a programmer with The Vancouver Asian Film Festival.
Mayor Gregor Robertson will pay tribute to the recipients at a reception and presentation ceremony at the Museum of Vancouver Nov 16.
The event will be hosted by gay broadcaster and author Bill Richardson.
Each year, a jury convened by the Alliance for Arts and Culture nominates a local artist or community member in each of 13 categories for making a significant contribution to the city’s creative life.
The Mayor’s Arts Awards recognize established and emerging artists in a diverse range of disciplines, from literary to culinary to performing and visual arts.