This land is Herland

By Alex Hejduk

Calgary is joining the growing number of cities hosting independent film festivals showcasing a plethora of directors and artistic styles.

The herland Feminist Film and Video Festival, promotes women directors with a Canadian focus, but incorporates female directors from around the world. The festival includes films exploring issues from a female perspective.

One of the festival’s events, Lovin’ II, features local directors who participated in herland’s first ever summer workshop. Each video had been lovingly woven to make an personal artistic expression from each woman. A wide variety of topics were explored, including the perspective of a toddler as it was spoken to in motherese and fed at its mother’s breast, the tale of elderly immigrant and his views on family values and how love binds, and a humorous exploration of lesbian relationships in How to ask a lesbian out on a date.

One of the participants was Shawna Harper whose directorial debut and then I saw the sky examines the complex web of emotions involved in an intimate relationship. From the initial euphoria to the final bitter remains, Harper dissects the layers of human bonds.

"It’s in a sense like art therapy," she explained. "Trying to be in a positive relationship and trying not to let those past negative sexual experiences come up, but unfortunately they do."

Harper experienced the catharsis of filming of her video and views the final result as a positive one.

"It’s definitely negative at the beginning," she said of her film. "It’s like you’re laying on your back and you’re looking at the ceiling and you’re all closed in. And then all of a sudden something triggers and then the world opens up. The room and the ceiling aren’t closing in on you. Innocence blossoms."

Watching and then I saw the sky allows viewers intimate access into one individual’s unique way of dealing with negative sexual experiences and the ultimate goal–transcending painful memories.

Breaking through boundaries, both personal and social is what herland is about.

"It’s important to have, there aren’t that many women’s film and video festivals in Canada," said Harper. "The workshop is intended to open up doors for women who want to get into video and don’t know how to.

"It was unbelievable for its first year it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The film and video industry is predominantly male, it’s important to keep nurturing women."

Lovin’ II plays on Thurs., Oct. 21 and herland runs Oct. 14-Oct. 24.

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