Strong Leads: A Film Seminar for High School Girls is a free after-school program spotlighting films by women. It is designed for 10th, 11th and 12th girls of all identities including gender-nonconforming youth. A presentation of the Belcourt’s education and engagement program, Strong Leads explores gender representation in cinema, in the Hollywood establishment, and in film discourse.
Students will meet at the Belcourt Wednesdays, Apr 3–May 1, 4:00–7:30pm, to watch films and discuss with their peers. Strong Leads is facilitated by Allison Inman, the Belcourt’s education and engagement director, and Jessie Griffith, the Belcourt’s theatre operations director and education associate.
Participation in Strong Leads is by application only. This seminar is offered at no cost to participants, but capacity is limited, and students must apply and be selected to attend. It is designed for students only and is meant to be taken in its entirety (no single sessions). Please note that the seminar is for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students. No exceptions, please.
Strong Leads features high-quality films designed to spark conversation about important issues. Because of that, some films contain adult situations, profanity, drug/alcohol use, nudity, sexual situations, and violence.
Applications are due Wed, Mar 27. Students will be notified Thu, Mar 28.
Wed, Apr 3: DRYLONGSO
Wed, Apr 10: ORLANDO
Wed, Apr 17: NOVITIATE
Wed, Apr 24: KUESSIPAN
Wed, May 1: EL PLANETA
Dir. Cauleen Smith | USA | 1998 | 86 min. | NR
A lost treasure of 1990s DIY filmmaking, Cauleen Smith’s DRYLONGSO embeds an incisive look at racial injustice within a lovingly handmade buddy movie/murder mystery/romance. Alarmed by the rate at which the young Black men around her are dying — indeed, “becoming extinct,” as she sees it — brash Oakland art student Pica (Toby Smith) attempts to preserve their existence in Polaroid snapshots, along the way forging a friendship with a woman in an abusive relationship (April Barnett), experiencing love and loss, and being drawn into the search for a serial killer who is terrorizing the city. Capturing the vibrant community spirit of Oakland in the ‘90s, Smith crafts both a rare cinematic celebration of Black female creativity and a moving elegy for a generation of lost African American men.
Dir. Sally Potter | UK | 1992 | 92 min. | PG-13
Sally Potter’s ORLANDO is a story of the quest for love, and it is also an ironic dance through English history. Addressing contemporary concerns about gender and identity, the film is remarkably true to the spirit of Virginia Woolf, but it also skilfully adapts the original story to give it a striking, cinematic form. The screenplay is a standard text taught in film schools as a radical and successful adaptation of a classic work. ORLANDO is a bold, unsentimental re-working of Virginia Woolf’s classic novel in which an innocent aristocrat journeys through 400 years of English history first as a man, then as a woman.
Dir. Maggie Betts | USA | 123 min. | R
Spanning the early 1950s through the mid-’60s (and shot on location in and around Nashville with many local crew), this coming-of-age story is about a young girl’s first love. In this case, her first love is God. Raised by a deeply caring, non-religious mother, Cathleen is drawn to the heady mysticism of the lives of Catholic nuns and their undying romantic devotion to their chosen husband, Jesus Christ. She enrolls in a training program with the Sisters of Blessed Rose, a cloistered convent. As Cathleen progresses from the postulant to the novitiate levels of her tutelage, her faith is challenged by the harsh, often inhumane realities of being a nun, just as Pope John XXIII’s announcement of the Second Vatican Council threatens to alter the course of nuns’ lives forever. Propelled by exceptional performances from Margaret Qualley as Cathleen, Julianne Nicholson as her mother, and Melissa Leo as the Reverend Mother, director Maggie Betts has crafted an uncanny journey of a young woman in a rarefied world on the brink of extinction.
Dir. Myriam Verreault | Canada | 117 min. | G
Adapted from Naomi Fontaine’s acclaimed novel, KUESSIPAN is Myriam Verreault’s first narrative feature. In a Quebec Innu community, Mikuan (Sharon Fontaine-Ishpatao) and Shaniss (Yamie Grégoire) struggle to maintain their close friendship when they clash over their diverging ambitions. When Mikuan falls in love with a white boy and starts to consider a life beyond their tiny reserve, her bond with Shaniss and her family is put to the test. A coming-of-age story told with humor, tenderness and heartbreak, KUESSIPAN is a poignant exploration of evolving friendship and dreams, and the bonds that will forever root us in our culture. KUESSIPAN is told through an Indigenous lens yet remains relevant to us all as we discover the power of community — along with the individual strength it takes to follow our own path.
Dir. Amalia Ulman | Spain | 2021 | 80 min. | NR
After her father’s death, Leo leaves her life as a fashion student in London and returns to her hometown of Gijón in Spain — where her mother is on the verge of eviction. The two scheme their next meal by selling personal items online and running up tabs based on extensive lies. Their impending misfortune does not stop the pair from dressing up in their best fur coats, heading to the mall to sample makeup, and buying cute shoes (as long as they are returnable). The grifting is delicious, and their familial bond over common tragedy strengthens as evident doom nears. Multitalented writer/director Amalia Ulman’s charming feature-length directorial debut blurs the line between fact and fiction — Ulman plays Leo and her real-life mother, Ale Ulman, plays Leo’s undeniably lovable mother. Borrowing heavily from Ulman’s lived experiences and inspired by the Spanish picaresque genre, EL PLANETA elegantly crafts a glimpse into the life of a family striving to survive in the post-2009 economic crisis and questioning who is entitled to a better life.