Set aside four days in April to see 26 outstanding films directed by women from around the world at this year’s CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival to take place at the Pickford Film Center, the Mount Baker Theatre and Western Washington University. This marks the premiere of CASCADIA, a non-profit film festival organized in 2015 and based in Bellingham, WA, dedicated to celebrating and showcasing exceptional films by women directors.

Among the films to be screened from April 20-23 will be the feature, “About Love,” from Armenian-Russian director Anna Melikan who explores the theme of love in five novellas threaded through one story. The film, Melikan’s fourth feature, stars some of Russia’s biggest film actors.

“UnSlut,” a documentary about a Halifax teenager who took her own life after cyber-bullying, will be presented in a special event at 6 p.m. on April 19 at Western Washington University and again on April 20 at the Pickford Film Center. A discussion will follow with filmmaker Emily Linden. The film is co-sponsored with WWU’s Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program with help from the CASCADIA Women’s Film Club, a new WWU Associated Students’ club.

In the local filmmaker showcase, the documentary “3022 Feet,” will take audiences to Alaska’s oldest and most dangerous footrace, up the 3022 feet of Seward Mountain. Filmmaker Natalie Fedak chronicles a full-time mom who decided to challenge the men’s record holder. Lyn Dennis’ short documentary film, “Muckleshoot Sla-Hal Bone Game,” tells of the traditional game of Sla-Hal played annually to bring families and native American tribes together for a day of fun, competition and culture building. A question and answer session with the audience will follow the film.

The short film subjects list includes the narrative film by Kosovo director More Raca, “Home.”  The film follows a young woman who takes control of her own destiny when her brothers decide to divide their paternal property and, according to tradition, try to find her a husband. “Peculiar Tides” is a poetic narrative made by 16-year-old Olivia Clifton of Australia and “Upir” directed by Laura Rembault of France is fantasy film about a child who believes his nanny is a vampire.

CASCADIA will also present “The Founders,” a documentary feature by Charlene Fisk and Carrie Schrader. This is the story of 13 women who created the Ladies Professional Golf Association, battling prejudice and preconception to create a lasting, global sporting legacy.

“Lutah,” made by Kum Kum Bhavnani focuses on the life of the architect, Lutah Maria Riggs who rose to the top of her profession and designed many of the most original buildings in Santa Barbara, California, one of this country’s most picturesque small cities.

The Festival will close on Sunday afternoon, April 23, at the Mount Baker Theatre with Lois Weber’s film, “The Dumb Girl of Portici”, made in 1916 and starring legendary ballet dancer and choreographer Anna Pavlova. The film was recently restored with a new score and is arguably the only epic film to be shot by a woman in the 20th century. It has been out of distribution for a century.  Throughout the Festival, question and answer sessions with

Throughout the Festival, question and answer sessions with visiting directors will help explain the challenges faced by today’s women filmmakers. The first challenge is that few women are directing today’s films. This is documented by a growing body of research, including a new 2017 study conducted by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Communications and Journalism School. Entitled, “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair?” the study evaluated 1,000 top grossing films from 2007 to 2016. It showed that out of 1,114 directors, only 4% were female, and that “there was no meaningful change in the prevalence of female directors across the top films from 2007 to 2016.”

Prior research by the group focused on how the paucity of women directors impacted the type of the stories told in film, and the opportunities available for other women in the film industry. For example, the program’s 2016 report showed that only 30% of speaking characters in top-grossing films were women. In 2014, women had leading roles in only 20% of the top 100 films; only 2% of those films featured non-white women in leading roles.

“At a time when women are succeeding in many traditionally male roles in business, academia, government, even construction and heavy industry, women’s voices are seldom heard in the films which we know shape our perceptions of the world. CASCADIA came together to help remedy this imbalance, to bring women’s perspectives and concerns into the public arena,” said CASCADIA Executive Director Cheryl Crooks. “This multi-day launch of our Festival is an idea whose time has come.”

A complete listing of films, ticket prices and times for the films, panel discussions and special events will be available on the CASCADIA website.

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