Banner week for Women's Film Festival

Tara Bradbury
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Majorie and John W. Doyle present their film "Regarding Our Father" at the closing gala of the St. John's International Women's Film Festival at the Arts and Culure Centre Saturday night. The pair produced the documentary about their father, businessman Gerald S. Doyle, using his own video footage and snapshots. Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

It was 80 years ago when local businessman Gerald S. Doyle took his 16-mm movie camera on his summer business trips around Newfoundland, filming daily life in outport communities.

It seems it took about the same length of time to put together the film based on Doyle's footage, his daughter Marjorie joked Saturday night.

Marjorie and her brother, John W. Doyle, introduced their film "Regarding Our Father," which was shown as the closing feature at the St. John's International Women's Film Festival gala at the Arts and Culture Centre.

The brother and sister filmmaking team took 12 hours of their father's footage and dozens of his snapshots, taken in the 1930s-1950s, and compiled them for the film, which is narrated by Marjorie. The film took about three years to produce.

Doyle, through his business Gerald S. Doyle, Ltd., which he opened in 1919, was the province's distributor of household items manufactured outside the province. As well he sold his own line of patented medicines. Doyle spent his summers on his yacht, Miss Newfoundland - often with his family aboard - promoting and bringing the products around the island. Doyle also established "The Doyle Bulletin," a radio program airing public service announcements, weather reports, advertisements for his products and personal messages for people across the province.

Doyle was interested in the province's traditional music and poetry, and collected them during his trips. He eventually published them in "Old-Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland," a booklet that was republished five times. Doyle died in 1956 of cancer.

Alongside Doyle's footage, Marjorie and John have peppered "Regarding Our Father" with interviews with folklorists, Doyle's family members, friends and others, including businessman Harry Steele and Great Big Sea members Alan Doyle (who produced the documentary's soundtrack) and Sean McCann, each of them talking of the impact Gerald S. Doyle had on local culture. "Regarding Our Father" was aired last month on CBC-TV, which has bought the rights to four more airings.

Producer Mary Sexton is working on getting a national broadcast for the film, John told The Telegram, and he and Marjorie are submitting it to various film festivals worldwide. The DVD of the film will be in stores this week.

John said he's amazed by the reception the film has been getting.

"I knew that older people would like it, because it would take them back to the time, but I've been surprised that young people are quite engaged by it," he said.

"From what I've heard from people, one of the things that really strikes them is that (the footage) is in colour. People say you always see that period in black and white, so the people seem removed from us, like black and white people. To see it in colour, they're like, 'They're just like us."

John and Marjorie were both grateful "Regarding Our Father" was chosen to be featured at the film festival's closing gala, Marjorie calling it "a great honour."

"To see it with a nice, warm receptive crowd on a big screen in our hometown, it was really, really gratifying and made the labour worth the effort," John said.

The gala opened with a screening of "Decolored," a short film by local filmmaker Allison White about a colour-blind man who meets a woman and begins seeing colour. Last year, White was the recipient of the inaugral RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award, and she dedicated the film to Jackson, a Mount Pearl filmmaker who passed away in 2008 at age 34.

"I didn't know Michelle. I was away when she was making films, but through receiving this award, I've been in contact with a lot of her friends and family, and it seems to me she was a real firecracker and loved making films," White told the audience.

Filmmaker and actor Ruth Lawrence, who's also co-artistic director of White Rooster Theatre and former executive director of the Nickel Independent Film Festival, was named this year's winner of the Michelle Jackson award, and was presented with it at the gala. In addition to a piece of art by local artist Doug Clouston, the award comes with $40,000 in cash and services, which Lawrence plans to use to complete her short film, "Two Square Feet."

Saturday's gala ended a banner week for the 22nd St. John's International Women's Film Festival, which received a record number of 468 submissions, 277 of them from international filmmakers, this year. Eighty of those, including a new record of 17 that were written, produced and/or directed by local residents, were screened over the past week. Twitter: tara_bradbury

Organizations: Great Big Sea, CBC, Mary Sexton White Rooster Theatre

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's, Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • mary
    October 24, 2011 - 08:28

    Congratulations to the Doyle siblings. I can't wait to buy the DVD when it becomes available. I saw the show aired on CBC about the life of Mr. Doyle and his family touring NL. on his yacht and it brought back so many memories growing up in an outport. He was an amazing family man who showed much love for his children, heart warming to see. Great show!!