That’s where CineFAM comes in. It’s a Toronto-based not for profit company recently founded by Canadian filmmaker Frances-Anne Solomon. “CineFAM is a Haitian creole word meaning ‘Films by Women’. We’re determined to change the Canadian film landscape and status quo by providing opportunities, access, and support to women of colour from culturally diverse backgrounds through a range of programs,” says Solomon. “Our aim is to create a pipeline of programs that will ensure representation of women of colour in the media industries, facilitating a paradigm shift.”
This week, CineFAM launches its inaugural Feature Film Incubator, a one-day mentoring workshop that will develop the creative, business and financial skills filmmakers need to master the complex and challenging world of feature film production. From a wide application intake, based on the strength and confidence of their storytelling, and originality of their voices, five women filmmakers of colour have been selected to participate: Chrisann Hessing, Maya Annik Bedward, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, Melanee Murray-Hunt and Muna Deria.
One of the Incubator participants, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, is striving to solidify her mark amongst the film industry’s finest. Fyffe-Marshall already has several music videos, web series and short films to her credit. She’s also been invited to be a juror for the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Her most recent short film Haven premiered at SXSW and at Cannes. It begins with a seemingly innocuous moment of a mother brushing her daughter's hair. But the powerful four minute film takes a terrifying turn, dragging viewers on to an emotional ride. “For me storytelling is a way to heal, to share, to release and to create communities,” says Fyffe-Marshall.
And she’s in good company. The other four women joining the incubator include:
Jamaican-Quebecoise director Maya Annik, whose work has screened at the NFB and worked on The Book Of Negroes.
Melanee Murray-Hunt directed an experimental film called Race Anonymous that made waves in Calgary.
Muna Deria is known for her short film Muslim Writer’s Room - about a Hollywood showrunner who enlists the aid of six Muslim comedy writers to develop a pilot about Jihad.
And Chrisann Hessing’s most recent work has been featured nationwide on Vision TV. It’s a short film called The Good Fight - where self defense, female empowerment and Islam collide.
The need for women filmmakers of colour to have representation and for their work to be taken seriously in the film industry is an ongoing struggle. “Women of colour make up a huge percentage of the stories that are being overlooked. I think it is important we, as women of colour, fight to get these stories told,” says Fyffe-Marshall.
For Fyffe-Marshall, a permanent Canadian resident, born in England of Jamaican descent, the struggle for representation is real. To overcome that and be seen in the industry, she’s choosing to launch her films primarily in spaces where her work is recognized for its quality and can speak for itself, like at film festivals. There, they emphasize the quality and importance of the work first, rather than the diversity of the filmmakers or making efforts to check the “diversity box” towards their own inclusion efforts.
“As an artist you want your work to speak for itself, and not wonder if you’re chosen because your film is good or just to tick boxes,” says Fyffe-Marshall.
Canada is thriving with stories, yet an unfortunate truth about the Canadian film industry is that most sets Fyffe-Marshall has worked on are from American projects. She believes it's important that Canada invests in itself on a larger scale, creating more opportunities and access for Canadian distribution, more funding and more access in general. With limited options within the industry, currently women filmmakers of colour are predominantly forced to rely on self-financing to create opportunities and space for their work.
Organizations like CineFAM, through industry partnerships and mentorships, are making strides to change that. The Feature Film Incubator mentors comprise a high-level group of credentialled Canadian industry experts including: Dan Lyon - Feature Film Executive, Telefilm; Susan Curran - Development Executive, A71 and Vortex Pix; John Galway - President, Bell Media's Harold Greenberg Fund; David Plant - Executive Director, Trinity Square Video; Jennifer Podemski - CEO, Redcloud Studios Inc.; and, Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell - Broadcaster and founder of VisionTV.
CineFAM’s Feature Film Incubator is supported by Telefilm Canada and presented in partnership with Ryerson School of Image Arts, The Harold Greenberg Fund, Trinity Square Video, and CaribbeanTales.
Here are some other events the organization has planned for 2019:
● April: “CineFAM Short Film Challenge” for emerging filmmakers (in partnership with Trinity Square Video and Urban Post).
● July: The 3rd Annual “CineFAM South Africa Co-production Accelerator for African Women”, produced each year in partnership with the Durban Film Mart.
● August-September: “CineFAM Incubator for Caribbean Filmmakers”( in partnership with CaribbeanTales, and the Caribbean Development Bank’s Cultural and Creative Industries Innovation Fund).
● September: The 3rd Annual “CineFAM Women of Color Film Festival” in Toronto.