The University of Winnipeg Film Festival is underway. From Oct. 23 to 25, the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film will host Manitoba’s only student film festival, with screenings by students from the University of Winnipeg (U of W) and across Canada, as well as moderated discussions with local film professionals.
Miranda Moroz, executive director of the festival, says she’s most excited for a panel called Can Cinema Change the World? The panel will feature Winnipeg Free Press entertainment reporter Randall King, Laura Friesen from the National Screen Institute and U of W professor Brad Simkulet, who will discuss “cinema as a tool for social change.”
According to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, about twice as many films by men were programmed than ones by women at film festivals in the United States in 2019.
While the topic of gender diversity is personally important to her as a female filmmaker, Moroz says “it’s our responsibility of the festival to put forward the best work that comes our way and show the best Canadian content,” not to specifically program content by diverse filmmakers.
However, Moroz says she “chose to select a jury of diverse backgrounds and opinions. People that were born here, people who weren’t born here, people that work in the industry here, people that are creators themselves, people that are familiar with programming (festivals, but) also performers, people that are in the movies that we watch or might be making the movies that we watch. It is a wide range of individuals, and (the jury members) are coming from a whole range of different perspectives, and I think that is reflected in the lineup.”
One such film, The Ceremony, is a collaboration by Taina Da Silva, a U of W student from Grassy Narrows, and Becca Redden, a Concordia University student. Nominated for best screenplay, the film is a mockumentary set 150 years in the future.
The Ceremony was funded by Montreal-based media arts non-profit Cinema Politica as part of their Documentary Futurism project. It was filmed on the land in Grassy Narrows, Ont., and Da Silva says “it was all filmed in Anishinaabemowin, my traditional language … I’m excited for the audience to see the film and get an Indigenous perspective on the language and the culture. The story ... kind of connects to climate change, so I want people to think about that.”
“I think women are starting to feel more comfortable in leading roles in film,” Moroz says. “We’re slowly building towards having more balanced crews and casts. The work I have seen by women in our lineup is very excellent, and we also have a lot of different voices that are being represented, not only women and men, but people that identify differently, so I’m just excited.”
Da Silva says that programming films by Indigenous voices “definitely sends a message that Canada wants to invest in more Indigenous art (and) the audience is more interested in art with a story of resistance.”
The UWPG Film Festival runs from Oct. 23 to 25. For more information, go to uwpgfilmfestival.com.