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Newfoundland and Labrador films and directors take centre stage at the 30th St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. Local stories featured in a strong selection of six National Film Board of Canada works.


October 3, 2019 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada

St. John’s premieres of three Newfoundland and Labrador films lead off a strong selection of six works at the 30th St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF), which takes place October 16–20, 2019.

SJIWFF is presenting two homegrown feature-length documentaries, with Luben and Elena: The Love of Art and the Art of Love, directed by Ellie Yonova, and Becoming Labrador, co-directed by Rohan Fernando, Tamara Segura and Justin Simms.

There’s also Radical, a short profile of Mary Walsh, written by Walsh and directed by Deanne Foley—inspired by a classic short from yet another Newfoundland woman filmmaker, Mary Lewis.

Three other short works will be making their St. John’s premieres, too. From Nova Scotia, there’s Colin MacKenzie and Aparna Kapur’s doc Balakrishna. SJIWFF is also featuring two new animated shorts: Regina Pessoa’s award-winning Oncle Thomas – La comptabilité des jours (Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days, Ciclope Filmes/NFB/Les Armateurs) as well as Sans objets (No Objects), the first NFB work by Quebec artist and musician Moïa Jobin-Paré.

Luben and Elena: The Love of Art and the Art of Love (75 min.)

Luben and Elena is a modern-day love story about renowned artists Luben Boykov and Elena Popova, who escape repressive communist Bulgaria in the early 1990s. They find refuge in Newfoundland and, over time, their work comes to intimately interpret the culture of the place, underscoring in a very tangible way what the immigrant can offer. As they traverse social systems and borders, Luben and Elena actively challenge the current climate of nationalism. We see them encompass all the places they call home, showing there is no universal definition of any of these identities. The challenge is not to inhabit one or the other, but to appreciate the freedom to express all of them at the same time. Embracing the love of art and the art of love, the protagonists remind us that the greatest risk of all is to take either for granted.

A veteran director, cinematographer and photographer, Ellie Yonova emigrated to Newfoundland from Bulgaria in 1999. Luben and Elena is produced and executive-produced by Annette Clarke for the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio in St. John’s.

Becoming Labrador (70 min.)

In the stark Labrador interior, a growing number of Filipino workers have recently landed in the small regional hub of Happy Valley–Goose Bay, travelling halfway around the world for jobs they hope will offer their families new opportunities and a better life. Rohan Fernando, Tamara Segura and Justin Simms’

Becoming Labrador follows a handful of those women and men as they make a place for themselves in Labrador’s profoundly foreign climate and culture, and deal with the unexpected costs of living far from parents, partners and children. Combining documentary footage with interpretive animation, Becoming Labrador offers an intimate account of the radical mobility and displacement of the modern world, and of how tenaciously people hold to their roots in the midst of fundamental change.

Rohan Fernando is a Halifax-based filmmaker who now serves as a producer for the Quebec and Atlantic Studio. Based in Newfoundland since 2012, Tamara Segura was the 2013 recipient of the RBC Michelle Jackson Award from SJIWFF for her script Before the War. Justin Simms is especially focused on sharing the Newfoundland experience with a wide range of audiences; his previous NFB feature doc, Danny, was nominated for the Donald Brittain award at the 2015 Canadian Screen Awards. Recipient of a Jury’s Special Mention at its world premiere at Construir Cine International Labour Film Festival in Buenos Aires, Becoming Labrador is produced by Annette Clarke and Rohan Fernando, and executive-produced by Annette Clarke, for the Quebec and Atlantic Studio.

Radical (5 min.)

In Radical, Deanne Foley profiles fellow Newfoundlander Mary Walsh, the Great Warrior Queen of Canadian comedy, musing on time wasted as an object of desire and time well spent as the fearless agent of her own destiny. Written by Walsh and produced by Annette Clarke for the Quebec and Atlantic Studio in St. John’s, the film is inspired by Come into My Parlour by Mary Lewis, who joyously reclaims “spinsterhood” from its sexist implications in this animated homage to the undauntable great aunt who provided her first driving lesson. Deanne Foley’s credits include such engaging women-centred features as An Audience of Chairs, winner of multiple awards at the FIN Atlantic Film Festival. Radical was produced as part of Five Feminist Minutes 2019, a reboot of Studio D’s landmark 1990 short-film series Five Feminist Minutes.

Balakrishna (15 min.)

When an extraordinary new resident—Balakrishna, an Indian elephant—arrived in the town of East River, Nova Scotia, in 1967, no one was more in awe of the creature than young Winton Cook, who became inseparable from his mammoth new friend. Using painterly animation, photographs and home-movie treasures, Balakrishna transmits the wistfulness of childhood memories while evoking themes of friendship and loss and exploring the issues of immigration and elephant conservation. Colin MacKenzie is an award-winning storyteller working in a range of genres, from documentary films to music videos. Aparna Kapur is a Vancouver-based filmmaker who won the Best Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award at the 2008 CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival. Balakrishna is produced by Kat Baulu and executive-produced by Annette Clarke for the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio in Halifax.

No Objects (6 min. 30 s)

Combining hands-on techniques with digital and analogue technologies, Moïa Jobin-Paré’s No Objects transfigures forms of expression, turning photographs into etchings and sound into motion. An ode to touch in which every gesture is magnified and the image can be heard, the film offers both a bracing and contemplative meditation on the tactile world. Jobin-Paré’s first film, 4min15 au révélateur, received eight awards, including the “Off-Limits” Award at the prestigious Annecy International Animated Film Festival. No Objects is produced by Marc Bertrand and executive-produced by Julie Roy for the NFB’s French Program Animation Studio.

Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days (13 min.)

Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days is a film about the special relationship between Regina Pessoa and her uncle—and a testament to her love for this eccentric, who was an artistic inspiration and played a key role in her becoming a filmmaker. It received the Jury Award for a Short Film at Annecy as well as the Best Original Music Award for composer Normand Roger. This is Pessoa’s third film with the NFB, following her multi-award-winning Tragic Story with Happy Ending (2005) and Kali the Little Vampire (2012). Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days is produced by Abi Feijó (Ciclope Filmes), Julie Roy (NFB) and Reginald de Guillebon (Les Armateurs).


Related Products

Electronic Press Kit | Images, trailers, synopses: Balakrishna | Becoming Labrador | Five Feminist Minutes – Radical | No Objects | Luben and Elena | Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days

Associated Links

St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival
Ciclope Filmes
Les Armateurs
Studio D

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    Founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a one-of-a-kind producer, co-producer and distributor of distinctive, engaging, relevant and innovative documentary and animated films. As a talent incubator, it is one of the world’s leading creative centres. The NFB has enabled Canadians to tell and hear each other’s stories for over eight decades, and its films are a reliable and accessible educational resource. The NFB is also recognized around the world for its expertise in preservation and conservation, and for its rich and vibrant collection of works, which form a pillar of Canada’s cultural heritage. To date, the NFB has produced more than 14,000 works, 6,500 of which can be streamed free of charge at nfb.ca. The NFB and its productions and co-productions have earned over 7,000 awards, including 11 Oscars and an Honorary Academy Award for overall excellence in cinema.