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Lights, camera, action: celebrating female film directors in Bellingham

The sixth annual Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival was held in person at the Pickford Film Center

Directors from a previous CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival answer audience questions at a Q&A panel.  Having the festival in person offers directors and audience members the opportunity to connect with one another more deeply. // Photo courtesy of Cheryl Crooks

The Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival returned for its first in-person festival in two years from May 12 to 15 at the Pickford Film Center in Bellingham.

This was the sixth annual festival honoring female directors put on by Cascadia. There were 33 films shown this year, featuring female directors from all over the world.

The festival is also taking place online this year from May 19 to 30.  

Cheryl Crooks, the executive director of Cascadia, said that having an online option to show the films expands the reach of the festival and provides a way for individuals who are not comfortable returning in person to still participate in the festival.

Crooks said that 12 directors attended the festival in person this year to participate in the showings, present panels and attend a special Directors’ Party, where they were able to take questions and interact with audience members.

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Directors from a previous festival chat at the Directors’ Party. The party is open to the public with the purchase of a ticket and offers directors a chance to network and build relationships with one another. // Photo courtesy of Cheryl Crooks

Cascadia is a great place for female directors to network and create relationships with one another, Crooks said.

“They need to be able to share experiences, resources and stories with each other,” Crooks said. “As women working in the film industry, it’s hard enough the way it is, and trying to do it on your own makes it even harder.”

The mission of the Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival is to promote female directors and to help them reach their goals by providing a venue and a support system for female directors to network and tell their stories through film.

Ashley Brim is a Los Angeles-based director and producer. Her second short film, “An Act of Terror,” was awarded a Special Jury Prize at the 2020 March on Washington Film Festival, and her third short film, “The Goldfish,” was shown at Cascadia this year.

Brim found out about Cascadia through her participation in an organization called the Alliance of Women Directors. She said smaller film festivals, such as Cascadia, are events where she has learned the most and made the most meaningful connections.

“They’re making an effort to create opportunities for us to connect and to spend time with each other as filmmakers,” Brim said. “It’s really important for all of us who are going down this road — which is expensive and difficult — to have other people who are also in that boat with us.”

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A frame from director Ashley Brim’s short film "The Goldfish." Brim was inspired by her own experiences with adoption when writing and directing this film. // Photo courtesy of Cheryl Crooks

Along with the showings of the 33 films, this year Cascadia hosted two panels and a Directors’ Party, which was open to the public if a ticket was purchased.  

Crooks said the festival is a great opportunity, especially for students, to connect with individuals in the film industry.

“One of the things our festival does is create access to people you otherwise would not have access to,” Crooks said. “It’s a very tough industry to break into, and by having access to people like that here, you can establish some rapport and network.”

Susan Purves, executive director of the Pickford Film Center, said that the festival is a great platform for female directors to share their work.

The mission of the Pickford is to strengthen the community through education and celebration of independent film, and Purves said that Cascadia does exactly that.

“It’s a festival that arises out of community, that connects us to a greater community, and is all about film,” Purves said. “It seems to fit our mission exactly.”

Brim said that her short film, “The Goldfish,” was shot the weekend before everything shut down due to COVID-19 in March 2020. It was finished in 2021, so its festival life has been largely online up until this point.

“Any chance you have to share your work in person with an audience is awesome,” Brim said.  “I don’t think movies are made to be watched in vacuums.”

Jordan Oliver

Jordan Oliver (she/her) is a city life reporter for The Front. She is majoring in sociology with a minor in journalism. When not working or studying, she enjoys photography, bouldering, drinking overpriced coffee and watching tv shows about pirates.  

You can reach her at

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