Panel discussion Oct. 17 to focus on female film directors

Mary Erickson, visiting professor of communication studies at Western Washington University, will moderate a panel discussion on female film directors at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, in Communications Facility Room 125 on campus. Erickson has written extensively about film and is a former juror for the Eugene International Film Festival.

The discussion will focus on how women are more and more coming into their own as directors and what lies ahead for them. It's part of the upcoming Female Eye Film Festival weekend at the Pickford Film Center's Doctober.

The panel, which is free and open to the public, will include Leslie Ann Coles, the artistic director and founder of the Female Eye Film Festival which has been in existence in Toronto for 14 years.  The festival  is held annually and open to women directors worldwide in a variety of categories. Coles, who will be in town especially to attend the FeFF Doctober event, says:  “Over the years we have noted that women present a unique perspective in terms of how they convey story. Their films often feature a female protagonist. Most tackle difficult subject matter and feature women as complex characters in relationships not often seen in the mainstream blockbusters.”  FeFF encourages, promotes and showcases the films made by women directors, both established and emerging. 

Also on the panel will be Emmy- and Oscar-nominated director, Mel Damski.  Damski, who is founder of the Cascadia Film Workshop, has directed 28 films and more than 200 television episodes.  A member of both the Directors Guild of America and the Directors Guild of Canada, Damski will talk about his efforts to mentor women directors on his productions. 

Three of the directors whose films will be showcased at the FeFF weekend at Doctober will also participate as panelists. Among them is Heidi Kumao who directed “Swallowed Whole” a short film about surviving extreme isolation and physical limitations as a result of a traumatic injury. Kumao teaches at the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. She is a media artist and filmmaker who creates video installations, animated video shorts, and kinetic sculpture. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in the USA and internationally. Her film, ”Swallowed Whole,” won Best Experimental film at the Female Eye Film Festival.

Canadian director Ariadna Ochrymovych will also a guest panelist. Her short documentary: “Holodomor: Voices of Survivors,” is also one of the eight films included in the FeFF program at Doctober. In it, Canadian survivors movingly share their stories of survival during the Holodomor, a genocide engineered by Joseph Stalin on 1932-33 that decimated the Ukrainian elite and killed millions of men, women and children.

Local filmmaker Elli Smith will share her experiences as a documentary director. Smith grew up in Southern California and studied Art History and Integrative Medicine at UC Berkeley. Her film making career began by teaching video editing in the post-Katrina New Orleans school districts. She prepared a 20-minute director’s cut of her forthcoming full-length documentary, “Pulling Back Together.” for the FeFF Doctober weekend. The film is about the healing experience of the Lummi Youth Canoe Family during the 2014 Tribal Journeys. 

Also joining the panel is Avielle Heath, creator of the Bellingham Film Festivals which through its activities and workshops helps to bring the filming community together. Heath began working with Hand Crank Films as an art director, working on award winning commercials. Since starting with HCF, she has expanded her responsibilities to include casting and producing. 

Free parking is available for the event in Lot 12A, the gravel lot located in front of Fairhaven College.  A limited number of metered parking is also available directly behind the Communication Facility on the east side of the campus.