Whistler Film Festival 2020: EDA Award Nominees and AWFJ Juries – Jennifer Merin reports

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For the eighth consecutive year, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists has the honor to partner with Whistler Film Festival to recognize women filmmakers with presentation of EDA Awards for Best Female-Directed Feature Film and Best Female-Directed Short at the 2020 festival, held virtually from December 1 to 20, 2020.

For 20 years, under the guidance of Executive Director Shauna Hardy Mishaw, Whistler Film Festival has consistently opened the doors of opportunity for female filmmakers through its programming of films, various mentoring programs and partnerships with AWFJ, Women in the Directors Chair and other organizations.

The 2020 WFF presents more than 100 films, including 30 feature films and over 65 shorts curated in nine programs. WFF’s female representation remains strong for 2020, with a record 47% of films directed or co-directed by women or non-binary individuals: including 42% of features (13 features) and 51% of shorts (29 shorts).

The festival has nominated six films to be considered for the EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Feature, and ten films for Best Female-Directed Short. AWFJ invites members to sit on jury panels dedicated to each of the two EDA Award categories. The details are below:

NOMINATED FEATURE FILMS (in alphabetical order):

GODDESS OF THE FIREFLIES/La déesse des mouches à feu
Director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
An astutely observed coming-of-age story set in the 90s around the rise of grunge music, the film follows Catherine, a sixteen-year-old in rural Quebec, whose parents are getting a divorce and who seems to be entering her rebellious stage. She is a shy high-school girl who is sometimes bullied by those around her. Hanging around with friends in shopping mall parking lots and abandoned shacks, she starts experimenting with mescaline and sex. Read more.
 

A SHOT THROUGH THE WALL
Director Aimee Long
Inspired by a true event, the film is about an Asian American police officer who accidentally discharges his weapon during an investigation, killing a black teenager through an apartment wall. The case spirals out of control as the incident is deemed police racial bias. His fellow cops and unions initially tell him there’s nothing to worry about, but politics erupt and he’s left standing alone. His fiancée is African American, but his reluctance to involve her as part of a PR defense unleashes a series of mishandled opportunities for him to defend himself. Read more.

SMALL TIME
Director Niav Conty
Naiv Conty’s Small Time is about childhood, family, and the role models around us. Stubborn patriotism, dogmatic faith, and the sexualization of young women are all themes that swirl around in this tragic story about a ten year old girl surrounded by addicted adults. Director Niav Conty frequently works as a DOP, so this film is breathtakingly shot. In fact, Emma could be growing up in the Garden of Eden were it not for the snake of drug addiction that is shredding the community around her. Your heart goes out to her. Read more.

STILL THE WATER
Director Susan Rodgers
Three young men from a dysfunctional family reunite in Malpeque, Prince Edward Island, and dredge up unresolved issues from the past. Jordie, a semi-pro hockey player who got fired from his team, presumably for fighting, returns aimlessly to his hometown. He is the prodigal son with anger and resentment that have eaten away at his adult self. Jordie meets his brothers and their ailing alcoholic father, who abused them growing up. His brothers seem to have made peace with their shared past, but Jordie just can’t seem to move on. Read more.

SUGAR DADDY
Director Wendy Morgan
Darren, a new age music composer and performer. is trying to break into the record industry. She’s fired from the job that pays her rent, so she starts working as a “paid dinner companion” for older dudes. No sex, she proudly proclaims, but that doesn’t stop her from arguing with her feminist friends over whether she is allowing herself to be treated as a commodity. She reacts very harshly to her friends’ criticisms, and does not handle her roommate’s crush on her with aplomb.Read more.
 
UNDERGROUND-SOUTERRAIN
Director Sophie Dupuis
One of the most exciting, original Canadian movies of the year, this ode to the courageous miners who work underground across Canada has its sensitivities firmly planted in Quebec’s hard-scrabble working class realities. A mining disaster has occurred and five miners have not emerged from the collapsed rubble. Maxime, a troubled man, summons the courage to try to save his trapped friends. Despite a limited budget, the mine collapse scenes are directed with a verve that rivals Hollywood. Read more.

AWFJ FEATURE FILM JURY:

Liz Braun
Lois Alter Mark
Jennifer Merin (Chair)

SHORT FILM NOMINEES (in alphabetical order):

THE BATH (THE BAIN)
Director Anissa Daoud
A young father, Imed, finds himself alone for the first time with his 5-year old son for a few days while his wife is away on a business trip. After a short moment of resistance, Imed seems to appreciate the opportunity of a privileged time with his son, but this simple and banal interlude in the life of a family reveals in Imed a dark side tied to a heavy secret.
 
 
MARCH
Director Emily Dickinson
First time director Emily Dickinson’s narrative short March takes place in 2024, and follows an American woman in her mid-twenties, as she travels to Canada to get a now-illegal abortion. A day in her life showcases abortion tourism, the current state of relations between the two neighbouring nations, the implications of a misogynist government, and the resilience of women.
 
 
MODERN WHORE
Director Nicole Bazuin
University student by day, escort by night, Andrea Werhun led a secret life under the alias “Mary Ann.” To her horror, Andrea discovers outrageous online reviews of Mary Ann’s sexual performance. In this hybrid documentary, hobbyist and escort perspectives collide with hilarious and revealing results. And when the sex work narrative is controlled by johns, there are darker consequences than just a bad review. Modern Whore is a rare sex work narrative told and performed by the sex worker herself.
 
OUR HEARTS BEAT LIKE WAR (ZCHUHIT BAYAM)
Director Elinor Nechemya
With his eyes in a fantasy book and his ears to the horrific testimony of an Eritrean refugee, nine-year-old Sinai falls asleep at his mother’s workplace, and his mind drifts away.
 
 
 
 
THE QUIETING
Director Ali Liebert
On the eve of a life changing event, a newly queer woman in the throes of self-doubt and fear is confronted by an unexpected guest. Sara Canning and Julia Sarah Stone star in this psychological thriller by Ali Liebert that snaps the struggle of identity sharply into focus.
 
 
 
SCARS
Director Alex Anna
Alex Filmmaker Anna’s body is a canvas: her scars come to life to tell a new story of self-harming. Live action and animation intertwine in this short and poetic documentary, both intimate and universal.
 
 
 
 
SHOOTING STAR/COMME UNE COMÈTE
Director Ariane Louis-Seize
On a family trip to observe the shooting stars, Chloé, a withdrawn teenager, discovers a dazzling attraction for her mother’s new boyfriend.
 
 
 
 
 
SINGLE
Director Ashley Eakin
Single confronts the complexities of being disabled and dating. Kim, who was born with one arm, gets set-up to go on a blind date. When she finally meets Jake, to her horror – he only has one hand. Unable to get over the apparent ignorance of the matchmaker, as well as her own insecurities about being different, Kim tries to bail on the date.
 
 
WHEN THE NIGHT HAS COME
Director Janice Mingas
When the Night Has Come sheds light on the dangerous reality of systemic racism and police brutality. It tells the story of Matt, a young Black man whose life is forever changed after he is stopped by the police for an identity check.
 
 
 
 
 
YOU WIN USA VACATION RESORT
Director Georgia Fu
Mei is a young immature pregnant Chinese girl dreaming about becoming a real American. When the immigration police raid her maternity hotel, she escapes only to find herself stuck with a Chinese boy belonging to one of the other residents. Caught between taking responsibility for the boy or preserving her American dream, Mei learns the American experience is not all that she hoped for.

 
 
 
SHORT FILM JURY

Marina Antunes (Chair)
Jazz Tangcay
Susan Wloszczyna

Whistler Film Festival 2020 takes place virtually from December 1 to 20. The EDA Award winners will be announced at the Whistler Film Festival Awards Ceremony on December 4. Stay tuned for updates.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).