The Female Eye Film Festival

The Female Eye Film Festival

Although the 8th Annual Female Eye Film Festival doesn't officially get under way until tomorrow, I've spent the past week watching selections from this year's lineup. Overall, it's a mixed bag of flicks celebrating the work of women in the movie biz - from malls in Poland and motels in Florida, to a Gothic romance set in 19th century Manitoba and a polite doc about James Blunt.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from the festival but there wasn't much in the way of surprises.

I was lukewarm about Crakie (March 26), one of TIFF's Canada's Top Ten films of 2009, when I first saw it in the fall. It's about a small town Newfoundland girl named Mitzy, who lives in a shack with her grandmother (Mary Walsh). Mitsy is sleeping with an oafish manchild and flunking out of hairdressing school. Another TIFF pick from Poland, Mall Girls (March 26) paints a portrait of cruel and self-destructive adolescence, dressed in big plastic jewelry. Beyond the rivalry and shopping, the story is a little thin.

Whether you like a music documentary really depends on whether you like the music. Case in point: Till You're Told To Stop (March 27) following James Blunt's career leading up to his megahit "You're Beautiful". And whether you like Danishka Esterhazy's first feature Black Field really depends on whether you like period dramas. In Black Field (March 27), set in 1874, a handsome French man with a mysterious backstory seduces a couple of sisters in the remote countryside of the Canadian prairies.

I'd have to go with Love at the Twilight Motel (March 28) as the best bet for this year's fest. In this doc, Alison Rose interviews regulars at a Miami hotel that charges by the hour. Their seedy confessions of infidelity, drug use, gang bangs, and prostitution are fascinating and soooo disheartening. One of her subjects, Mr. B., tells some vile tales about hookers and heroin, and how he keeps it all secret from his wife. Love at the Twilight Motel will have a short theatrical release in Toronto in April.

I'm gleaning from the press releases and schedule that the Female Eye Film Festival will be a draw for the industry crowd. Check out the listings here for more about panels and roundtables, the Script Development Program, a tour of Pinewood Studios, a brunch for Twilight (and Thirteen) helmer and 2010 Honourary Director Catherine Hardwicke, plus tons of opportunities to drink and schmooze.

The Female Eye Film Festival has a lot to celebrate after a brilliant year for women in film, notably Kathryn Bigelow and her many Hurt Locker wins. On this side of the border Kari Skogland, who got nods from the Female Eye Fest as an Honourary Director in 2008, picked up the Best Feature Film Director trophy at the Directors Guild of Canada Awards for Fifty Dead Men Walking. She's also up for Best Motion Picture and Achievement in Direction at the Genie Awards next month.

The Female Eye Film Festival will be championing films made by women from March 24th to March 28th, 2010. All film screenings will take place at the Rainbow Cinemas, 80 Front Street East. Tickets are available online $8 in advance or $10 at the door.

Still from Mall Girls courtesy of the Female Eye Film Festival.

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