Four hundred and eighty-six films. Five days. It’s safe to say the organizers of this year’s St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival had their work cut out for them when it came to putting this year’s event together.
In the end they managed, and this year’s festival, set to happen Oct. 18-22, will include a stellar lineup of 80 films — a record 17 of them written, produced and/or directed by Newfoundland and Labrador filmmakers — over the course of the event.
The festival opener and one of its major local highlights is the premiere of “Beat Down.” Directed by St. John’s native Deanne Foley and starring Marthe Bernard, Andy Jones, Rob Wells and Mark O’Brien, the feature film tells the story of a teenage girl who defies her father with her efforts to become a professional wrestler.
“Foley has always produced wry and slyly amusing stories about girls growing up,” said Noreen Golfman, festival founder and chairwoman. “‘Beat Down’ capably extends her favourite theme into a full-blown narrative.”
Closing the festival will be “Regarding our Father,” a feature documentary by John and Marjorie Doyle about their father, salesman Gerald S. Doyle, using his own 16-millimetre colour film footage. Doyle — who established “The Doyle Bulletin,” a radio show airing public service announcements, weather reports and ads and collected and published music and poetry of the province — often took advantage of his sales trips around the island to shoot scenes of outport life.
Other local films to be screened include Christian Sparkes’ “A River in the Woods,” which recently showed at the Toronto International Film Festival, respectively; Mark O’Brien’s “Kathy” and Joel Thomas Hynes’ “Clipper Gold,” which both recently screened at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax; Barbara Doran’s “La Tapisserie du French Shore/Phantoms of the French Shore,” about the artists who designed and the women who sewed a 67-metre piece of cloth representing the history of French settlement in Newfoundland; and “Decoloured” by Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award winner Allison White.
“It’s really a remarkable study of a remarkable man,” Golfman said of the film, which has aired on CBC TV. “If you haven’t seen the film, you’re certainly in for a great big treat.”
This year also saw a record number of international submissions to the festival; 277 in total, including so many quality films from Spain, the festival will feature an evening just for them when it hosts “Spotlight on Spain” Oct. 19.
“Something is happening in the water there with filmmakers,” Golfman said.
“We didn’t include every single submission from Spain, obviously, but we’ve clustered them all in one program. There’s a number of shorts and they’re all quite different and quite extraordinary.”
Another highlight will be “Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy,” an adaptation of the final story in “Trainspotting” writer Irvine Welsh’s bestselling book “Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance.”
The film, which took more than 10 years to produce, is a drug-fuelled tale of life and love in the British club scene, much like “Trainspotting,” Golfman said.
Director Rob Heydon and producer Joni Cuquet will be attending the festival screening of the film, and plans are being made for Welsh to join them.
Festival screenings will take place at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, Masonic Temple, LSPU Hall, The Rooms theatre, Empire Theatre Studio 12 and Christina Parker Gallery.
More than just movies, the film festival will also see a series of workshops, networking sessions, panels and other events with local, national and international producer, distributors and other film industry representatives.
Tickets for regular screenings are $12 ($10 for students and seniors); $10 regular ($9 for students and seniors) for the MUN Cinema screening, and $20 ($12 for students and seniors) for the opening and closing night galas. Admission to screenings at The Rooms and the Christina Parker Gallery is free.
Tickets for film forum events are $15 ($10 for students and seniors). A festival pass is available for $100 ($50 for students and seniors).
A schedule of St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival events is available online at womensfilmfestival.com.