5 Powerhouse Female Directors at VIFF 2017

By Anita Bedell

There are a myriad of amazing directors at the festival this year and women are well represented amongst them. While they are each uniquely talented and doing important work, here are 5 we just had to highlight!

Léa Mysius

Director, screenwriter and producer, Léa Mysius has considerable accomplishments for having graduated from France’s La Fémis film school in the screenwriting department only a few years ago. Ava is Mysius’ first feature film, exquisitely shot in 35mm with award-winning DP Paul Guilhaume, and described as “a sensual, accomplished but Avaawkward study of teen female sexuality” by Leslie Felperin in the Hollywood Reporter. Now 28, Mysius was only 26 years old when she began filming Ava. Co-writer of award-winning director Arnaud Desplechin’s recent film, Ismael’s Ghosts (2017), Mysius has also directed three award-winning short films selected for a number of festivals: Cadavre exquis (2013), Les Oiseaux-tonnerre (2014), and L’île jaune (2016). Les Oiseaux-tonnerre was selected for the Cannes Cinéfondation award and L’Île jaune was co-directed with Paul Guilhaume. Her short films earned her many awards and accolades, including the SACD Award at the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival. Mysius is a young brilliant filmmaker, undoubtedly one to watch.

Ava is screening Friday, September 29 @ 3pm and Sunday, October 1 @ 6:45pm at International Village. Get tickets here


Greta Gerwig

Indie darling Greta Gerwig is best known for her early involvement in the “mumblecore” film movement with roles in Noah Baumbach films Greenberg (2010), Frances Ha (2012), and Mistress America (2015), not to mention countless other films that she has co-written, co-directed and starred in over the last decade. She makes her directorial debut with Lady Bird, a semi-autobiographical story about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan), a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento where Gerwig was born and raised. Like Gerwig’s roles, and we imagine Gerwig herself, Lady Bird is refreshingly idiosyncratic, personally felt and honest. It’s difficult to unravel all that Gerwig has accomplished since her role in Joe Swanberg’s LOL in 2006. With an impressive filmography and collaborations with some of the most notable award-winning filmmakers such as Woody Allen (To Rome With Love, 2012), Gerwig has received numerous nominations and awards. In 2011, Gerwig received an award for Acting from the Athena Film Festival as one of Hollywood’s definitive screen actresses of her generation, and in 2013, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture for her performance in Frances Ha. With Lady Bird being touted as Gerwig’s “charming and witty directorial debut”, it seems there isn’t anything Gerwig can’t do.

Lady Bird is screening Monday, October 9 @ 4pm at The Centre. Get tickets here


Kathleen Hepburn

Winner of Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film at VIFF 2015 for her short film of the same name, Never Steady, Never Still is the much-anticipated feature length debut by young Vancouver-based filmmaker Kathleen Hepburn. “Eloquently scripted, and directed with both tenderness and assurance, the film uses its note-perfect, naturalistic performances and intricately calibrated revelations to create powerful, cathartic drama,” according to Radheyan Simonpillai of NOW Magazine. It’s no surprise Never Steady, Never Still was awarded the WIDC Feature Film Award and Best Screenplay at the 2014 Vancouver Women in Film Festival. A graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s 2014 Writer’s Lab and co-founder of Experimental Forest Films, Hepburn is in development on several dramatic features, including Murder in Hecate Strait, a mystery set on a long-line halibut boat; and Simona, Simon, a love story about trauma and self-discovery. Her short films, It’s Not As If We Haven’t Been Here For A While (2010) and A Land That Forgets (2011), which have screened at festivals across North America, draw from fragmented memories, personal histories, and a deep connection to landscape. Hepburn is interested in story above all else.

Never Steady, Never Still is screening Friday, September 29 @ 8:45pm at Rio Theatre, Saturday, October 7 @ 12:15pm and Tuesday, October 10 @ 6:45pm at International Village. Get tickets here


Kaouther Ben Hania

Tunisian director, screenwriter and activist Kaouther Ben Hania makes her fiction debut at VIFF 2017 with Beauty and the Dogs. A fiercely political film about the aftermath of a woman’s rape by policemen, Ben Hania’s first full feature-length film is based on a true case that sparked outrage and was a Cannes 2017 Un Certain Regard selection. Drawn to addressing social issues through social satire and faux-documentary, Ben Hania initially studied commerce before entering the École des Arts et du Cinéma de Tunis (EDAC) where she made three short films: La Brèche (2004), Me, My Sister and “the Thing” (2006), and Wooden Hand (2013). Her first feature film, Challat of Tunis (2013), opened the section ACID in Cannes in 2014 and won her the Syndicat Français de la Critique de Cinéma prize at the Amiens festival, as well as the Salé International Women’s Film Festival, and the French International Film Festival of Namur 2014.

Beauty and the Dogs (Aala Kaf Ifrit) is screening Tuesday, October 10 @ 1:15pm and Thursday, October 12 @ 7pm at International VillageGet tickets here


Léa Pool

Born in 1950, Swiss-Canadian writer-director Léa Pool is among the most prominent auteurs in Québecois cinema and has been making films since 1978. Her first feature, Strass Café (1980), shot in black and white and on a shoestring budget was a true experimental art house film, gained her four prestigious festival awards. Her second Still1—Worst_Case_We_Get_Marriedfeature, Woman in Transit (1984) was her international breakthrough and launched her career. With an impressive filmography of award-winning documentaries and feature films, Worst Case, We Get Married is Pool’s thirteenth feature film and based on the bestselling novel by Sophie Bienvenu. Perhaps most well-known are her films Set Me Free (1999) and Lost and Delirious (2001), her first English film thoughtfully exploring lesbianism and female identity. Pool has received numerous nominations and awards including three Genie Award nominations for Best Achievement in Direction for La Femme de l’hôtel (1984), Desire in Motion (Mouvements du désir) (1994), and Set Me Free (Emporte-moi) (1999). Most recently, Worst Case, We Get Married was nominated for a Sichtwechsel Film Award at the Hamburg FilmFest 2017. Pool teaches at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) in Montreal, QC, and was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2013.

Worst Case, We Get Married is screening Saturday, October 7 @ 7pm and Sunday, October 8 @ 1:15pm at International Village. Get tickets here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: