Why This Writer Supports Independent Film

film fest1Because of my involvement in the Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival, I’ve been asked on several occasions if I’m involved in film making in some way. The answer is “no”. I’m simply involved because I want to support independent artists. As a writer, I was familiar with the writing and publishing industry, but I was curious about the film industry and thought the best way to learn more was to talk to people involved.

This year I had the privilege of seeing some great independent films, chauffeuring Toronto filmmaker, Zahra Faraji, around Winnipeg and leading talkback sessions for four films. Each time I introduced myself to theater patrons, I opened with the following, which I think encapsulates why I continue to volunteer at the festival:

“My name is Melinda Friesen. I’m an author, and I also work for a local publishing company. I believe strongly in supporting independent artists because not every great book is found on a bestsellers table, not every engaging piece of music makes it to the Grammy stage, and not every worthwhile film lands at the Cineplex. It’s festivals like this one that open our eyes and our ears to new perspectives and new voices.”

I encourage everyone to find ways to support and champion local and independent artists. Not only will you encounter some new and amazing material, but you might even get the opportunity to interact with creatives. You may be surprised what you discover.

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Filmmaker panel.

Educate Girls, Change the World

girlrising4Tuesday, the Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival kicked-off with the documentary, Girl Rising. The film takes us on a journey around the world, from Peru to Egypt, Sierra Leone to Afghanistan, to hear the stories of nine girls and their struggle for education. The film’s mission is to share a simple fact with the world: that educating girls can transform societies.

The filmmakers paired each girl with an author from their own girlrising3country to tell their story. Each beautifully written story, told from the individual girl’s point of view, had a unique voice and style. It plunged the viewer into the girl’s life, her family, and her culture.

girlrising2I expected heartbreak when I entered the theatre and I got it. Did you know that the leading cause of death for girls aged 14-18 around the world is childbirth? That blew me away. But what I didn’t expect was the hopefulness—the grin of a spunky Haitian girl who refused to let anyone tell her she couldn’t go to school, the courage of a twelve-year-old rape victim who called herself a superhero, an eleven-year-old mother determined to continue her education. Each of these girls was strong, resilient, and hopeful. They wanted to get an education so they could change their worlds.

girlrising5This documentary is a must-see. I walked away with a better understanding of the impact educating girls can have on poverty, child marriage, and family and community health. This is a cause worth fighting for.

If you’re a Winnipegger make some time this weekend to come out to the film festival and catch Girl Rising, showing Friday, February 21 at 8:30 pm and Saturday, February 22 at 6:30.