Local filmmaker Deanne Foley doubles down at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival with a pair of high profile features
You don’t hear of this very often. A local filmmaker opening AND closing a festival. It’s rare, like unicorns and sasquatches, but when you’re good you’re good, and local director and creative force Deanne Foley has been particularly brilliant heading in to the 29th annual St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.
Opening & Closing Films
“I am over the moon thrilled to be able to have two films in the festival, opening and closing,” Foley shared with The Herald. “It’s a real honour. The festival has such a special place in my heart. I was 18 when I sat in the theatre watching short films at the LSPU Hall and going to the festival for the first time and just being inspired and wanting to make my own short films. It’s just such an honour to be able to open and close the festival this year.”
Foley’s gripping drama An Audience of Chairs, which wowed audiences at the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival with four award wins including Best Picture, is set to kick off SJIWFF on October 17th.
The closing night-gala features an all-star cast of women directors (Foley joins Latonia Hartery, Megan Wennberg, Stephanie Clattenburg, Ruth Lawrence and Martine Blue) on the multi-perspective driven Hopeless Romantic, starring Republic of Doyle’s Lynda Boyd.
For Foley, having the immense honour of having two feature films screened at SJIWFF is just the latest show of support for an organization that have stood by her from the onset of her promising career as a filmmaker.
“The festival has screened all of my work and have been incredibly supportive to me over the years, as an emerging filmmaker to today,” she says. “The industry side of the festival is really crucial with their industry forum. They bring in broadcasters and distributors and other producers to St. John’s so we’re able to have those face to face meetings. For people to see our work, it’s important to make those connections and have those networking opportunities in being able to present your work and connect with other filmmakers. If you can have a family of filmmakers at a festival I think the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival achieves that.”
Gripping & Emotional
In An Audience of Chairs, Foley finds herself tackling some of the more gripping and emotional subject matter of her career. Starring the fantastic Carolina Bartczak and adapted to the screen by Rosemary House from the award-winning novel by Joan Clark, the film centers on Maura (Bartczak), a woman battling mental illness who risks everything for a second chance to be a mother again to the daughters she thought she’d lost forever. It’s heartfelt, at times painfully tragic and expertly brought to life by an ace cast and crew.
“It’s definitely the most challenging and rewarding work of my career so far as a filmmaker,” Foley says. “I was really hesitant at first when I was approached with the project. I read the script and I just wept. I was so moved by the story, but also feeling the responsibility to tell a story about mental illness with respect and authenticity. I’m so honoured that they trusted me to tell this story. It’s an important one and I think it’s important to talk about mental illness and get people talking about that stigma and people’s journeys. Even during filming there were a lot of heavy scenes in the movie. Our lead actress Carolina Bartczak embraced this role fearlessly. Every day was intense. I think it was hard not to feel affected by the story, not just me but also the crew. There were definitely tears being shed on set.”
As to tackling such weighty material, particularly one that pertains to a deeply important message as mental illness, Foley shared she is proud to be a part of a project that grapples with the conversation head on, and does not shy away from hard realities or truths.
“I think it’s important to know you’re not alone. For so long it was something, a conversation that people shied away from. For me and for the film it’s about survival, it’s about redemption and about moving forward and finding the forgiveness of yourself, to reach out. It takes a community to get through this world.”
On the opposite end of the film spectrum is Foley’s collaborative effort with five other Atlantic Canadian filmmakers, Hopeless Romantic. The anthology film weaves through the love lives of six women, charting their ups and downs in romance and rejection.
“I loved the spirit of it, the whole idea of creating a feature film with six female directors behind it and getting more women in front of and behind the camera,” Foley shared of the unique province set to close SJIWFF on October 21st.
“For me it was such a pleasure to work on Hopeless Romantic, coming from An Audience of Chairs which is such a challenging film to work on, however rewarding. Then going to Hopeless Romantic which has its own challenges of time and money and the typical pressures of filmmaking. It was such a pleasure to be on set with eight female actors. It was so incredible to create these scenes with all of these amazing women. I just absolutely had a ball.”
For more on An Audience of Chairs, Hopeless Romantic and the 29th annual St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival visit womensfilmfestival.com
Tors Cove is absolutely stunning. I think it has a reputation for being kind of grey or rainy. When we were filming the sun was literally splitting the rocks. It was like 30 degrees, there were whales breaching. The crew was literally distracted by the enormous amount of whales and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. It was important for me to find a beautiful, picturesque community with the Cirty house. Tors Cove really did the trick for us. As soon as I saw that location there was really nowhere else that I wanted to film. The house is such a character in the movie. I was really quite delighted with how it translated on screen.