St. John’s International Woman’s Film Festival: Part 2


October 2019

It was lights up on the 30th St John’s International Women’s Film Festival last night, and the next days and nights into Sunday are packed with screenings – both features and batches of shorts. Here’s a taste of some of the offerings:


Luben and Elena (written and directed by Ellie Yonona), is a luminous, illuminating documentary. Essentially conversations with Luben Boykov and Elena Popova, they are both so grippingly, lyrically expressive about their life and work it delivers dollops of insight, tension, and humour. Born in Bulgaria, the two visual artists made the decision to escape the restrictions of the communist regime in 1990. Through bribery, Luben obtained three tickets, for himself, Elena, and their daughter Ana. “I said, we are leaving in a week,” he remembers. “My legs started shaking,” Elena says. They knew the Moscow-Havana flight refuelled in Gander, Newfoundland. They knew Newfoundland was an island, and Elena had seen a Newfoundland dog. They had $60. KGB agents tried to prevent them from disembarking. But they fought their way to the tarmac. And the welcome they found “was totally inexplicable to us,” Luben recalls, still in wonder.

Laced with archival footage, family photographs, and viscerally gorgeous scenery, this film explores their interlinking lives and powerful art-making practices over decades and through several countries. Thursday Oct 17, 2:30pm, The Rooms.


Honey Bee (directed by Rama Rau, written by Bonnie Fairweather and Kathleen Hepburn) opens with Natalie (Julia Sarah Stone) getting the name of Ryan (Steven Love) tattooed on her wrist. “It’s you and me after this, he tells her.” But this isn’t young love – Honey Bee is working as a truckstop prostitute, with Ryan her pimp. The girls (they are girls) wait in front of a line of the giant rigs. Drivers request their services by blinking their headlights. Ryan, pocketing her earnings, tells her great changes are ahead – with enough cash they can head out to The Big Nickle. But then she’s arrested.

Honey Bee, (whose real name is Natalie), is underaged and can’t be charged. She’s released under the guardianship of Louise (Martha Plimpton), a no-nonsense farmer who already has two foster kids, Chante (Michelle McLeod), and Matt (Connor Price). Can Honey Bee adjust to the parameters of a new family? Or will she always be pulled to the violent edge where Ryan lurks? Oct 17, 9:30pm, LSPU Hall.


Radical (directed by Deanne Foley, written by Mary Walsh) is a six-minute, rousing, call-to-women-of-a-certain-age’s-arms that intercuts an interview with Mary Walsh with one of her performances. “I always did older women,” Walsh explains. When she was younger she was self-conscious of her looks, not a good starting point for comedy. And as she aged she realized, as novelist Doris Lessing put it, that she had shifted from an object to a subject, “the journey that all women travel.” Perhaps a loss of one kind of power might beget the potential of another? CBC Friday Night Shorts, Oct 18, 7pm, LSPU Hall


Body & Bones (written and directed by Melanie Oates) is a searing, frank, poetic coming-of-age drama. In a small outport outside of St John’s, Tess (Kelly van der Burg) has recently lost her mother, and her mother’s former partner, Gerry (Larry Barry), is moving in with his new love interest, Lisa (Ruth Lawrence). Though perhaps not legally responsible for Tess’s wellbeing, Gerry clearly feels a fond connection for her and suggests she come, too. Lisa makes her welcome, putting her in her son’s room – Danny (Joel Thomas Hynes) has not been around for almost 20 years.

But return he does, and of course complications ensue. Heedless of Gerry’s warnings, Tess is drawn to Danny’s complicated magnetism, away from what she has and knows of family, and home. This is a good look at character and consequences, with ripples of Ophelia-ish foreboding and real stakes. Oct 19, 8:30pm, LSPU Hall.


Rustic Oracle (written and directed by Sonia Bonspille Boileau) is a timely and fiercely gripping drama following Ivy (Lake Kakentawaks Delisle) whose sister Heather (McKenzie Kahnekaroroks Deer) goes missing, leading their mother Susan (Carmen Moore) on a desperate search through Northern Quebec and Ontario’s circuit of drugs and prostitution. Particularly effective – and affecting – as it is seen through the eyes of a child (who doesn’t always understand what she has witnessed). Closing Night Gala, Oct 20, 7pm, Scotiabank Theatre.


For a complete listing of films and other events please see

Do You Have It In You? (digital media and collage, 2022) by Rachel Gilbert. Situated in Ktaqmkuk, Gilbert is an interdisciplinary artist whose symbolist work explores her identity, experiences, and ideas…