By Simon Thomas
Bellingham hosted the first ever CASCADIA Women’s Film Festival at the Pickford Film Center, Mt. Baker Theater, and Western Washington University from April 19-23. The festival booked 24 films to be shown across Bellingham, all of which were directed by women.
Cheryl Crooks is the president of the board and was a part of the creation of CASCADIA in 2015, following that year’s Pickford “Doctober,” where the Pickford shows documentaries throughout October.
“It started with an idea by a woman named Polly Miller who was, at the time, chairman of the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto,” Crooks said.
Pickford’s 2015 “Doctober” featured several films from the Female Eye and hosted discussion panels for them.
“We basically collaborated with the Female Eye to try it out,” Crooks said. “It was successful and very well received, so we thought ‘Cool, let’s see what else we can do.’ So we decided to move forward.”
The festival started at Western with a special event hosted by Western professor Dr. Mary Erickson and was sponsored by WWU’s Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.
There, they showed “UnSlut: A Film Documentary” about the harmfulness of slut-shaming.
Emily Lindin, a Western alumna, started the UnSlut Project in 2013 and since then she has been raising awareness about the dangers of slut-shaming, particularly to young people.
“I started the UnSlut Project by blogging my diary entries from when I had been sexually bullied in middle school, so the girls currently suffering would know they weren’t alone,” Lindin says in the documentary.
The documentary has won two awards from international film festivals since its release in 2015.
“We saw it last fall at the Port Townsend Film Festival, and one of our board members said ‘This is a movie we must bring,’” said Crooks about “UnSlut: A Film Documentary.”
Also shown the same evening was “Monster” an award-winning animated short made by Montana Hall, who hosted a discussion about the film and sexual bullying.
Hall said that the short, about creepy men following the protagonist away from a nightclub, was inspired by personal experiences and stories she heard from others, and says she hopes her short plays a role in changing cultural norms.
The festival continued throughout the rest of the week and included more award-winning films, like “The Founders” about the 13 original founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, “Big Sonya” a heartwarming film about the life of a women after she survived the Holocaust, and “About Love” a Russian romantic comedy.
“Looking at our program next to another festival’s, I’ll put it up against anything. It’s really good and it’s all movies directed by women, which is hard to find. It’s a big problem and it’s the reason why we are around,” said Crooks.
Crooks says that CASCADIA’s next plans are to solidify relationships established in the the community and focus on educational outreach.
She hopes to get the local film community more involved by hosting workshops with Bellingham Film, continuing involvement in the Pickford “Doctober,” and possibly having a summer film showing outdoors.