SYNOPSIS Headstrong Ayan, a refugee from Somalia, has big dreams. New to Canada, she’ll show anyone she can provide for her family. Still, it’s difficult to keep it all together. On top of the soaring rent, her daughters, 16-year-old Nasrah and 13-year-old Leila, need braces. And even working two jobs as a cleaner, it’s tough to find enough money to send to her anxious husband and two sons still stuck in East Africa. Ayan’s confidence is shaken when she is unexpectedly evicted for late payment of rent. It is the beginning of the summer break from school, and the city faces a severe housing shortage. Ayan and her daughters are exiled to the city’s tattered hinterland among other homeless families, hookers and unsettled souls. Ayan knows all too well the grief that comes with losing a home. A true survivor, she tries to rebuild from within her lonely motel room. But what Ayan cannot tolerate is Nasrah’s increasing estrangement, especially during her mother’s greatest time of need. During the long days of summer, while Ayan is at work, Nasrah grudgingly does chores and looks after her doting sister. A handsome young motel neighbour, Rudy, surfaces offering Nasrah friendship and understanding. But he is not what he seems, and an innocuous cell phone sparks a new crisis. Ayan comes close to losing all she holds most dear. A vibrant and contemporary feature drama fired by a trio of remarkable debut performances, Family Motel charts one eventful summer in the lives of Ayan and her girls as they confront life on the edge. Directed by Helene Klodawsky and produced by Ina Fichman of Instinct Films and Ravida Din of the National Film Board of Canada, Family Motel employs an unusual improvisational approach to cinematic storytelling. Created in collaboration with Hodan Shafici Mohamed, the film introduces Nargis and her real-life daughters Asha and Sagal Jibril, who headline a lively cast of first-time performers. Drawing upon a vivid palette of atmospheres and emotions, Klodawsky and cinematographer Germán Gutiérrez craft a richly detailed urban drama. Somali-Canadian rap artist K’naan and composer Bertrand Chenier contribute a score rich in colour and rhythm. Finding inspiration in the alternative dramas pioneered at the National Film Board of Canada as nfb.ca/familymotel well as community-based storytelling, Klodawsky and her collaborators deftly fashion a fresh and authentic tale of falling through the cracks in a land of plenty and a stirring portrait of dignity under fire. Family Motel : An Alternative Drama history to be written, directed, produced and performed by an Inuit crew and cast, winning the Early in the production's history, the creative Caméra d'Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. team behind Family Motel decided to develop the film as an alternative drama. "It was the subject Founded in 1939, the NFB has in fact played a matter − the widespread phenomenon of central role in developing Canadian cinema since homeless families being housed in suburban its inception. As early as the 1940s, the NFB was motels − that dictated this choice," says director blurring the line between drama and documentary Helene Klodawsky. "A fictional approach allowed with Stanley Jackson's Shyness, paving the way for us to explore all the issues relating to the docu-dramas of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1963 homelessness in a fresh manner through an the NFB produced its first dramatic feature original narrative of one woman and her struggle Drylanders, followed closely by Le chat dans le sac to protect her family." and Nobody Waved Goodbye. In 1971 the NFB release Mon oncle Antoine placed Canadian In adopting this approach, Family Motel is part of a feature films squarely on the international map, and worldwide revival of alternative drama. From the subsequent years would see the emergence of Belgium to Iran, directors are looking to a genre new approach to making feature-length fiction film. pioneered twenty years ago at the National Film Board of Canada with a view to adapting it to current realities. Michael Winterbottom and the Dardenne brothers are just some of the filmmakers who are adapting the model to address critical social issues within modest-budget dramatic features. "Helene and I were both impressed by Michael Winterbottom's film In This World," says Ina Fichman, producer for Instinct Films. "We had a fruitful meeting with his team while we were in London. Working with novice actors and getting them to tell a story that reflected a reality that was familiar to them, Winterbottom succeeded in crafting a drama about the hot-button issue of asylum seekers in the UK. There were some obvious parallels with our own project, and the encounter provided invaluable food for thought." The development of Family Motel coincided with Working within the unique creative environment of the National Film Board's return to producing the NFB, filmmakers like John Smith, Giles Walker, fiction, following a 10-year period during which the Cynthia Scott and David Wilson forged a new genre agency had focused primarily on documentary and based on improvisation and the use of non- educational material. In 2001 Jacques Bensimon, professional actors. Their collective body of work newly appointed as Government Film Commissioner includes such titles as Train of Dreams, Sitting in and Chairperson of the NFB, announced his wish to Limbo and The Company of Strangers - films that see the NFB resume production of fiction film, and would define the new alternative drama genre. later that same year the NFB release Atanarjuat- In 2004 many of these same filmmakers answered The Fast Runner became the first feature film in the call when Tom Perlmutter, Director General of broadens our understanding of a critical social the NFB's English Program, convened a group of issue. Canada's public film producer has a film professionals at the NFB's Montreal mandate to support this type of work, and the NFB headquarters. At a time when the NFB was is proud to be a partner in the project." resuming production of dramatic features, the prospect of reviving alternative drama was under discussion. How could the model be adapted to a Family Motel is directed by Helene Klodawsky and new time and a new set of circumstances? Ina co-produced by Instinct Films (Ina Fichman, Fichman was among the participants in that event. producer) and the National Film Board of Canada (Ravida Din, producer). "Tom Perlmutter had recently arrived at the NFB and was keen to distinguish the NFB from the commercial sector," says Fichman. "The workshop brought all of this collective knowledge and experience into one room, and Helene and I seized the opportunity to meet John Smith, Cynthia Scott and David Wilson, all key figures in those early important NFB dramas. They were all interested in Family Motel and had great advice on working with non- professional actors and how to get them to tell a stor y that, although it's not their own necessarily, resonates with a reality they know." Family Motel is one of several titles that signals the NFB's return to feature films and its renewed interest in alternative drama. Director Joshua Dorsay successfully updated the genre in his 2006 release The Point, which featured a group of young people from Point St. Charles, a multicultural working-class district of Montreal, performing a script based on their own experiences and stories. In a similar vein, Toronto-based filmmaker Deepa Mehta is working with community-based partners to develop a drama on the complex question of domestic abuse. "It can be difficult for such experimental projects to secure funding through conventional channels," says Ravida Din, "and that's where the NFB has an important role to play. Family Motel is an ambitious project. It employs an innovative narrative approach, one that seeks to engage a wide audience, to explore the complex interplay between poverty and housing. It marries a dedication to film craft − a desire to devise new ways of telling stories with film − with relevant contemporary content that sing anytime, she tells me, but she wants to Inter view with Nargis become a doctor. As her mother, I'm thrilled with her decision. But when I told her about the movie, Nargis, who is making her acting debut in Family and that they were looking for families, she said, Motel, works as a case coordinator with the City "Great! Let's audition." of Ottawa's Community and Protective Services. In the course of working with her clients, she And Sagal, the younger one, is a born drama queen! responds to a range of needs relating to She's acting all the time. So it was a natural thing employment, housing, and financial relief. She for her to just walk in and do it. They're having fun. also works at an Ottawa Aboriginal shelter that They can go back to school and say, "Guess what I offers services to abuse victims. In the past she did this summer? I made a movie!" has worked with the city-run system of family shelters and has been active in women's organizations and the Canadian social justice movement. She and her daughters, Asha Jibril and Sagal Jibril, have been cast in the central roles of Ayan and her children - an immigrant family that has been temporarily housed in a suburban motel. How did you get cast? I was first contacted by Hodan Mohamed, who had been hired by the production as an independent consultant. She was casting the Somali characters in the script. When she first proposed that I act in a film, I thought it was a joke. "Who's pulling this prank?" I thought. But then she gave me the history of the production and put me in touch with the director, Helene Klodawsky. And I thought, “Well, why not?” Family Motel is a movie that could bring some attention to a very serious social problem. I'm not an actress, Could you describe your working relationship with but because of the subject of this movie, I decided the director? to do it. Helene is awesome. She is a socially conscious We knew that the character of Ayan had kids, so we person − and that was a big factor for me in actually auditioned as a family. It went really well, deciding to do something I've never done in my life. and Helene and Ina told us later that they knew I saw her aura of calm and her care for the issues immediately that we were the right family. − not just the issues addressed in this movie but a whole range of questions relating to social justice. nfb.ca/familymotel My oldest daughter, Asha, went to Canterbury High School, which specializes in the arts, and she did When we first met, I told her, "You don't want me for the vocal arts program. More recently she realized this role, Helene! I'm not an actress." But she said, that she wanted to be a pediatrician and has "Don't worry. I will guide you." And she has. She transferred to a more academic school. She can truly guides me on a daily basis, showing me how to get where she wants me to be, how to portray had my input. Ayan's emotions. She has a way of calming people What kind of input have you had? and I'm having a great time working with her. And my children love her. She's an awesome human When we left the audition, my daughter asked, "Did being and great director. I'm glad to have met her, they say it was going to be improvisation? That we'd and I'm certainly going to keep in touch. be working without a script? How are we going to work like that?" What has been your experience of the film shoot? We don't get a script to learn and to recite. Helene The whole thing has been new to me. I had to learn puts the general outline of the scene in our hands what a grip does, what an assistant director does, − and then tells us what's happening at any given and so on. I only recently found out the difference moment in the script. She'll tell me, for example, between a producer and a director. I love movies, that Ayan is visiting the immigration office where, but I never really knew what all the credits meant at after a long wait, she tries to tell the immigration the end of the film, so it's been an education. officer how badly she needs to reunite her family. And then Helene lets us go from there. So I help to As for the location, well, this is one of most create Ayan's emotions and think of what exactly disgusting motels in the city of Ottawa. When I used she would say. to work with the city's system of shelters, I'm sad to say that we did occasionally place families here I also give Helene cultural details and offer when nothing else was available. Sometimes suggestions from my own cultural point of view. I there's little choice, but it does bother me to know can proudly say I put my wardrobe together, we actually put children and families in this kind of because I think the wardrobe people would find it situation. difficult to come up with Somali costumes. I've helped them with that. So I've been a consultant One day during the shoot two of my clients saw me and creative contributor in a number of ways, and sitting in front of a motel room, dressed in my I'm very proud of that. It gives me confidence that costume for the part. They were aghast. "What's one day I could write something or pursue a happened, Samsam? Are you living here now?" creative project. They wanted to help me, but when I explained the situation, we all laughed. I'm grateful to Helene for allowing me to be able to contribute in this way, for asking me for advice and On another day, we did this scene where the feedback. Even if we sometimes agree to disagree, children teach me how to do a hip-hop dance, and I love the exchange. We recently heard that her last that was pretty hilarious. There are lots of film is being nominated for a Gemini award, so I'm characters at this motel, and we see all kinds of working with a director of that calibre. And I'm not things going on during our breaks. even an actress, so it's a huge compliment. Working with this crew has been great. It's so What are the challenges of working in this interesting to work with such creative people. I'm improvisational way? used to a more structured work environment. Here it's different. You sometimes have to do things over It's hard. You have to really dig in. Don't forget, nfb.ca/familymotel and over again, but we can still laugh. I joke around I'm not an actress − I have never been in front a lot. I just hope they don't catch it on camera! And of a camera. It's very demanding − not be the first few days, I was thinking, "How many coffees conscious of the camera, with all the people have they all had!" It's a very quick pace. But I've around me, and to follow direction and provide what I'm supposed to deliver. But then Helene And homelessness does not affect immigrants and the others will say, "That's it! You've got it alone. Many Canadian families, from a whole right!" And that's rewarding. range of backgrounds, will find themselves in shelters at some point in their lives. At first I did not understand this idea of alternative drama. I kept asking how you work if you're not How does it feel to be playing this particular role? giving the actors a script. I hounded the director, and then she explained to me that the National Film I've been working for many years with people Board did this kind of film in the 1970s and 1980s. who've been displaced in different ways, and my So I've done little bit of research, and now I feel current job brings me into contact with homeless more comfortable. You really have to be able to families from many different backgrounds. And I focus on the moment and go into your character. also work specifically with the Aboriginal community, helping to find shelter for homeless How true to life is Ayan's story? women and children. So I've been working with people in transition for a long time. In the 1980s, I think that Family Motel presents a very accurate before coming to Canada, I worked for a while in picture of many women's lives, not just from refugee camps in Somalia, as one of CARE USA's Somalia, but from all over the world. With wars local employees. happening all over the globe, displacing entire populations, large numbers are seeking refuge in Plus, I myself have had to migrate, to relocate and Canada from many different places. to find a place in the world that I could call home and settle down. I finally did that here in Canada. It's common to see families who have been So going through those periods of dramatic separated by war and conflict in their country of transition myself has given me an understanding of origin. It takes a long time for either the husband or Ayan's story. That's largely why I chose to take part wife − whoever gets to Canada first − to tackle all in the project. the necessary paperwork and bureaucracy to get the remaining family members into the country. It Does the depiction in the script of the takes finances, it takes courage, and it takes mother/daughter relationship ring true? sacrifice. In my opinion, the laws that regulate family reunification need to be simplified. Many Well, working in shelters for many years, I've families suffer long periods of separation before witnessed first-hand how homelessness can be they are eventually reunited. hard on teenagers, how it can cause them real agony and pain. It's very embarrassing for a When you're in a refugee camp, fleeing violence, teenager to be classified as homeless and to have you have to draw upon all your resources to make to live in a shelter or motel. It's a crushing blow to it to a safe country. And sometimes you have to their pride and self-esteem. They're already at a choose. Can I take all my family? Or can I take delicate stage of their life, going through many just one or two members and come back later for changes, and then on top of everything else, they the rest? It's an excruciating decision to have to become homeless. Some of them can cope and make, but many mothers and father have no nfb.ca/familymotel some can't. Some rebel. Some may just withdraw. choice. I've seen that situation time and again in It can drive a teenager into a dark place. Others will my work with newcomers. And coming from a act out in strange ways. It's not always easy for wartorn country myself, I know it for a fact. parents to understand. Also often there's a cultural aspect. For children I also hope that Family Motel bridges the gap who've grown up here, who have not known war and between the mainstream Canadians and displacement and all that − they're used to having newcomers. Immigrant and refugee communities a home here. And then all of a sudden they lose are often portrayed negatively in local and national their home and their neighbourhood and their media, so I hope Family Motel puts a real human school. It's a huge thing − their life as they know it face to who we are. I hope it can communicate the has just come to an end. For their mother, it's simple but essential message − "Look, we're just different. She has experienced relocation before. like everyone else. We're just trying to survive, to Yes it's hard but she can take it in stride. And raise our kids as best we can, and to get by. But sometimes children will blame the parents. They we've got obstacles to get over." That's what I'm will think it's their mother's fault. hoping. In the scenes where Ayan and her daughter are And on a personal note, it's been wonderful to having difficulties, it's not just teenage rebellion, share this experience with my daughters. They have it's also that cultural difference. Ayan's daughter helped me in my life to be a strong woman. They've has grown up in Canada and has become a have been at my side over the years in different teenager in Canada, but Ayan is still connected to marches and gatherings, whether it's protesting the old world. She's only been in Canada for five against poverty or celebrating International years and is more traditional. That cultural Women's Day. I try hard to educate them so that difference between mothers and daughters exists they become conscious adults, ready to contribute in many different communities. to resolving the world's problems. They know that their mother does justice work, that she has worked What particular obstacles does Ayan confront as in a shelter, that she does shift work with people a member of a visible minority? who are in poverty. They know that their mother was herself once living in poverty and transition. Taking Ayan is not just dealing with homelessness and part in Family Motel allows them to understand being a single parent, she is facing other barriers. homelessness in a new way, from another point of She's a person of colour, with a different religion. view. She looks different, she dresses different and speaks a different language. She is not only battling poverty and single parenthood, she is facing all kinds of systemic racism − all kinds of other obstacles. This compounds the problem of homelessness and the challenge of finding affordable housing. What is your hope for a film like Family Motel? My hope is that it's seen not as just a movie about an immigrant woman, but as a film with a broader nfb.ca/familymotel message about homelessness and poverty, the lack of affordable housing and decent-paying jobs. I hope those issues come to the forefront. against homelessness and poverty. compares to 20% of two-parent families. Women, Poverty and Homelessness: Some Facts on the Canadian Canadian women as a whole are poorer in 2006 than they have been in two decades. About 19% of Situation all women in Canada - approximately 1.5 million − were living in poverty in 2003. There is a critical shortage of affordable housing in Canada. This is the result in large part of Federal Single-parent families headed by women have the policy: between 1993 and 2001 the Federal lowest incomes of all family types. In 2003 they government provided no funding for new affordable earned less than 60% of the income of male- housing except for on-reserve Aboriginal housing. headed single-parent families. During this period Quebec and British Columbia were the only provinces to fund new affordable About 35% of all women who immigrated to Canada housing. between 1991 and 2000 are living in poverty. Thirty-seven percent of women from visible Equal access to home ownership by lower-income minorities and 36% of Aboriginal women live in women and single mothers is compromised by the poverty. discriminatory policies of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporations and private financial One in four people living on the street is a woman. institutions. Young women account for 41% of youth staying in shelters. The death rate for homeless women is ten Women are more likely than men to experience times that for women who have housing. housing insecurity. Women and children, particularly women of colour and Aboriginal women, Homelessness is expensive. The cost of providing are the fastest growing group using shelters in basic services to homeless people − shelters, Canada. health care, policing and so on − is estimated to be $1.4 billion a year, far more than the cost of The chronically homeless - the people we see living providing the homeless with access to housing. on the street − represent less than 20% of the total homeless population in Canada. The information on this sheet was provided by the following agencies: the National Working Group on Domestic abuse is an important contributing factor Women and Housing: the National Anti-Poverty to women's insecurity of tenure and Organization; the Federation of Canadian homelessness. Due to the lack of affordable Municipalities, and Raising the Roof. housing, women using shelters to escape violence are often compelled to return to abusive situations. Based on the calculation that people spending over 30% of their income on rent are not living in affordable housing, Statistics Canada reports that 42% of single mothers living in rented accommodation in 2003 were not living in affordable housing. This I immediately sensed that a conventional documentary would not do full justice to this complex subject. The creative challenge with Family Motel is to bring my documentary experience to a fictional film, to employ dramatic devices to explore the impact of homelessness on the lives of real people. a 2002 documentary featuring love stories of − Helene Klodawsky Holocaust survivors. The film won the 2003 Gemini Award for Best Television History Documentary, as Klodawsky is a Montreal-based filmmaker who is well as prizes at the Jerusalem and Columbus motivated by a desire to shed light on the experience International Film Festivals. of people and subjects that mainstream entertainment overlooks. A graduate of the Nova Among her other credits, Motherland (1994), a wry Scotia College of Art, she has been writing and assessment of post-war North American directing social, political and arts documentaries motherhood, won top honours on the festival for 20 years. The alternative drama Family Motel is circuit, as have a trio of titles highlighting various her first feature-length fiction film. aspects of women's lives: Painted Landscapes of the Times (1986), No Time to Stop (1991) and Klodawsky's films have been screened and televised What If (1999). around the world and have received more than 25 awards, including honours from the Chicago Klodawsky has experience working in conflict International Film Festival, the San Francisco zones. In 1988, immediately prior to the first International Film Festival, the Mannheim intifada, she spent time in Israel and the Occupied International Film Festival, Hot Docs and the Academy Territories, filming Shoot and Cry, an exploration of of Canadian Cinema. the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as seen through the eyes of two young men an Israeli conscript and a Her most recent credit is No More Tears Sister: Palestinian worker. Following its premiere on Anatomy of Hope and Betrayal, an award-winning Channel Four in the UK, it was televised around the feature documentary about Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, world. the courageous human rights activist who was assassinated in her native Sri Lanka. The film In developing Family Motel, Klodawsky worked circulated widely in the international festival circuit, closely with housing activists and representatives from London's Human Rights Watch Film Festival of Ottawa's Somali community. The feature-length and the Jerusalem International Film Festival to Hot alternative drama follows Ayan, a refugee from Docs, and opened PBS's signature documentary Somalia, and her two children after they are evicted series POV in 2006. from their Ottawa apartment and end up in a motel for homeless families. There they are confronted Family Motel reunites her with producer Ina with people and situations that will change their Fichman, who produced Klodawsky's Undying Love, lives forever. INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR Where did you take it from there? HELENE KLODAWSKY Ina and I took to project to Sally Bochner and Adam How was this project conceived? Symansky at the National Film Board, and they gave us some funding to research whether the same The idea was born in 2002 while I was working on phenomenon was happening in Canada. The NFB A Score for Women's Voices, Sophie Bissonnette's has been supportive throughout the whole process, documentary about the World March of Women. I and not only in a material sense. Ravida Din, who was one of several filmmakers working on that has since taken on the project, has been a great project, which involved sending crews to different collaborator - very attentive and supportive. countries to look at issues relating to poverty and violence. I was given the assignment of the USA, Ina and I did this initial research in and around and while in Boston I met an interesting group of Toronto, where there had been a great influx of anti-poverty activists called Survival Inc. Through refugees and immigrants at a time when rents were them I met one particular woman who had been skyrocketing and social services, particularly placed in a motel, having had to flee domestic welfare allotments, were being cut. There was a violence. The people with Survival Inc told me that critical shortage of affordable housing, and this had become common − that more and more homelessness was on the rise. I found this area, homeless people, mostly women with children, along Kingston Road in Scarborough, where about were being placed in these suburban motels. So we 22 motels were being called upon to house families visited this woman - it was a motel a lot like the one in this way. where we shot in Ottawa − and we discovered a At the same time, Ina and I were consulting with situation where families had been placed in this some of the directors who had helped pioneer impoverished environment, alongside prostitutes alternative drama at the National Film Board − and petty criminals. It was strange to see this in David Wilson, Cynthia Scott, John Smith and others. one of the world's richest countries − twenty-one We also met with Pat Dillon, who starred in Sitting families, some of them refugees, living like this on in Limbo. I had always admired this work − films the edge of the city. like Train of Dreams and The Company of Strangers, all made at a special moment in the At the same time Ina Fichman gave me a copy of NFB's history. They all spoke so passionately about Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich's book about alternative drama − a process that on one hand being working class in the U.S. − living in trailers was complete insanity, and on the other was one of and motels, getting stuck in minimum wage jobs, the most exciting film adventures they had all had. and so on. Ina and I had worked together on And they were all very encouraging of this project. Undying Love, and we were looking for another project to do together. So the idea was planted to What are the advantages of alternative drama? make a film about homeless families living in a motel. But we knew from the start that it would not With Family Motel, I really feel it was the subject make a good documentary. There's so much fear that dictated our choice to go with alternative and shame on the part of homeless people in going drama. In using fictional devices we're able to public with their stories. So we thought about the explore a social reality in a fresh and engaging way. alternative dramas that had been made at the It's challenging − on one hand you have more National Film Board of Canada in the 1980s. And I control than in a documentary, but you need to be thought, why not? flexible and open to different directions as you go along. And this might sound unscientific, but you need a kind of faith that everyone will come together. I was looking for a community that would have input The idea of alternative drama seemed to make into film, a social reality that we could mirror on sense to everybody. Housing workers would say to film, but because homeless people are so often us, "Thank God, it's not a documentary. We're so isolated, I had trouble finding that community. tired of having to supply ready-made eloquent homeless people for documentary projects." When Ina and I were first developing the idea, we Alternative drama allows us to create composite were thinking of featuring a regular Canadian family characters, informed by lots of different stories. I − working class or lower-middle class − that had wrote the script with input from many people and fallen on hard times. But the first scripts were not communities, and in the end, it was the Somali convincing, and readers were not responding well. community that really brought it all to life. To get to The sympathy wasn't there in the main character, that point, after several years of writing and and readers weren't prepared to embark on a research, was a difficult but fruitful process. journey with her. I worked for three of four years on the project. It was difficult, but Ina was supportive There is a range of different approaches to making and encouraging all along. alternative drama and I drew upon a number of influences. I was able to refer back to all the NFB Finally I discussed my frustration with my sister films that I admired - Sitting in Limbo, Train of Fran, an activist and social scientist who teaches at Dreams, The Company of Strangers are three that Carleton University and has done extensive I particularly like. And there are some great Iranian research on housing issues. She suggested that I films that used similar devices − non-professional contact the Somali community in Ottawa. Immigrant actors, simple but elegant plot lines informed by women with kids are one of the fastest growing current social reality. The work of Michael homeless populations in Canada, and Fran said Winterbottom and the Dardenne brothers has also that Ottawa's Somali community had particularly inspired me. valuable insights, and that there were some great activists working within the community. The While shooting Family Motel I scripted scenes community would provide an essential spark. carefully in terms of how they moved the story forward. I would draw out the scenes storyboard Hamdi Mohamed was our first contact in the style before the shoot, planning the camera community. She's a brilliant woman and her positions and moves. But I also left the process contribution has been vital. Hamdi posed a number open in some ways. You have to be willing to let of key questions. Who owns this story? she wanted scenes evolve in new directions, while staying to know. And I really appreciated that discussion. It aware of how one scene relates to one another. So helped to focus the story. She also insisted that our the working script established what happened in a protagonist not be presented as victim, that she be scene without fixing final dialogue. It required a a resilient and resourceful character. certain amount of discipline − maintaining an overall integrity to the story, being as prepared as Although Family Motel is not a film about Somali possible while leaving room for spontaneity and refugees per se − families from a whole range of evolution. backgrounds end up in motels - the Somali community has really helped to focus and shape How did you finally decide on the scenario of a the project. Once we had decided on the scenario homeless immigrant family in Ottawa? of a homeless immigrant woman in Ottawa, everything came together very quickly. I wrote and It was a really long process, and I have filing researched the current script in May and June. Ina cabinets full of scripts and ideas that did not work. convinced the NFB to move into production, and we were filming in August. What themes do you want to explore with this How did you proceed with casting? film? We hired Hodan Mohamed to act as a creative On one hand, I would like to draw attention to the consultant on the project, and she took care of critical shortage of affordable housing and the way casting the Somali characters. Her contribution has it affects vulnerable communities. Ottawa is a also been invaluable. She warned us that it would wealthy city, but the gap between rich and poor has be difficult. Somali immigrants have been so been widening. As high-tech industry moves into misrepresented in the mainstream media, and they the city, poor people and families with low incomes have little experience working in film, little sense of are forced out. And as poverty moves to the owning the medium. But she was positive and took periphery of the city, homelessness becomes a her time looking around, and her hard work really hidden issue. I'd like to shed light on that situation. paid off. But going beyond the material aspects, I am Lois Siegel, who's a filmmaker in her own right, did fascinated by the concept of home. My own mother all the non-Somali casting, and she did a came to Canada as a refugee, and I'm interested in tremendous job, putting the word out in a wide questions relating to migration and rupture, what it range of communities in the city, from food banks means to experience loss and to have to start to professional organizations. again in a new country, what it means to create a sense of home from scratch. So there are echoes We had some intense days during the casting of my own life in Ayan's story. process, where Lois would bring in countless people from different walks of life − social workers, What did your DOP Germán Gutiérrez bring to the housing activists, landlords and public servants. project? We were looking for people who could draw upon their real life experience. And Lois also put out a Germán was perfect for this film. Not only is he very general call for people interested in a film about a talented, but he's also quick and spontaneous and homeless family. We videotaped lots of people. flexible. He has shot all around the world, in all Lois had a great sense of who would be right for kinds of conditions, and he knows how to pull a each role, and we were usually on the same page. scene together with scarce resources. How did you decide on Nargis and her daughters At the same time, we share a common aesthetic for the key roles? language. I wanted to make a film that people will enjoy watching − a beautiful film. Not aesthetic in Hodan had heard of Nargis's kids through her the Hollywood sense, but in a way that frames the contacts in the Somali community, that they were natural beauty of the actors. Germán understood interested in performing. She later realized that that. she'd already met Nargis through community work. And he helped create a great chemistry on set. He One of the things that Cynthia Scott and David loved Nargis and her kids and helped to create an Wilson talk about, with regards to alternative environment where we felt free to play and drama, is inviting mystery and destiny to happen. experiment. Resources may have been scarce, but And that's what happened with Nargis and her it costs nothing to be kind and respectful of each daughters. They were the first people we auditioned other. for the main roles − and Ina and I immediately agreed that they were right for the parts. and documentary. My last two documentaries, Nargis is a very different person from Ayan in many Undying Love and No More Tears Sister, both ways, but as a single mother, she has an incorporated fictional elements to evoke memory understanding of what it means to fight for your and emotion − aspects of reality that are hard to kids. And in her professional life, as Case document. Coordinator with the City of Ottawa's Community and Protective Services, she's familiar with the In Family Motel I've reversed the weight of things, housing shortage in the city and how people are but it is an extension of this earlier work. placed in motels. Some years back, she herself has I've let the subject dictate the form of the film, and had to place clients in motels. And she has this that's something I would like to do with future remarkable personal charisma. The whole family is projects. My next project, which is also with Instinct so talented − we started calling them the Films, is called Til We Drop and is about the history Redgraves on set! and evolution of shopping malls. That one will be a documentary, but I'd definitely like to direct more How has your working relationship with her fiction of different types. It's like painting with your evolved? brain. I've come to adore Nargis and respect her All my films are political in some way, in that they enormously. She's so insightful and knows so show how personal stories are shaped by social much about the lives of immigrant and refugee realities. My focus with Family Motel has always families. She has informed the film every step of been to make the best film I can with what the fates the way, and I'm astounded by her abilities as an have given me − to tell the story of one woman and actress. I knew from the start that her natural force the journey she takes. I'm hoping that it will be would be an asset, but had no idea of how well appreciated by both general audiences and specific she'd relate to the camera. Her face is very constituencies, that people will be stimulated and expressive and she quickly understood how to work entertained. And I hope that the film contributes to with a camera, how to be understated, making use a fuller understanding of how people struggle of silences and paring down dialogue. Our growth has been parallel. Just as I've been learning as I go, so have Nargis and the girls. It's a very instinctual process but at the same time it requires lots of preparation. In many ways, I know little about Nargis's actual life, but I've come to know her through the character of Ayan. And at same time we've benefited from her expertise as someone who's worked with immigrant and homeless people. It's been a really curious process, but the right constellation of factors has fallen into place. How do you situate Family Motel in the context of your other work? I'm very interested in the borderland between fiction an NGO in Lima, Peru. Prior to joining the NFB, she worked with several national organizations, including the Canadian Council for Multicultural and Intercultural Education and the National Organization for Immigrant and Visible Minority Family Motel adopts a fresh and innovative Women. narrative approach to exploring the complex interplay between poverty, housing and In her new position as the NFB's Quebec Executive immigration, revisiting classic themes in Producer, her mandate is to envision and manage a a vivid and contemporary manner. varied program of documentaries, children's films, – Ravida Din interactive projects and community-based initiatives in line with the NFB's mission to reflect the diverse Ravida Din comes to Family Motel with 15 years' and ever-evolving nature of Canadian society. experience at the National Film Board of Canada, along with a background in community-based activism and an ongoing commitment to social justice and feminism. Since joining the National Film Board in 1991, Din has worked in a range of capacities relating to both production and marketing. As the National Marketing Coordinator for the Women's ˜ Development Group and later in other marketing positions, she helped develop the NFB's unique approach to social marketing and coordinated Reel Diversity and other initiatives designed to promote cultural diversity in production and distribution. As associate producer with the Quebec Production Centre, her credits include 645 Wellington, a comic study of urban gentrification; and The Tree That Remembers, an award-winning and powerful reflection on the betrayal of the 1979 Iranian revolution. More recently she played a central role in the position of assistant director general for the English Program, where her managerial skills and intellectual rigour were instrumental to the production of close to 100 films. She also has a long history of community-based activism; social justice and feminism have always been integral to her work. In 1995, she worked as a community economic management educator with Interview with Ravida Din, How does Family Motel fit with the NFB's Producer for the National Film Board mandate? How did the NFB get involved? As a publicly supported film producer, one of the NFB's key mandates is to address contemporary Helene first brought the proposal to the National social issues that concern Canadians − to reflect Film Board over four years ago, at a time when Canada to Canadians and the world, as we say. The there was renewed interest at the Board in challenge always is how to be as inclusive and producing fiction. Sally Bochner, who was the creative as possible - how to use the resources at executive producer at the Quebec Centre at the our disposal at any given moment to make films that time, had been involved in a number of the NFB's speak to as many Canadians as possible in a seminal alternative dramas − Train of Dreams and thought-provoking and original way. Who are we The Company of Strangers. Sally and Adam talking to? How are we addressing them? What kind Symansky were intrigued by Helene's proposal − to of stories are we telling? And how can we devise new create a drama about homeless families housed in ways of telling stories on film? a motel - and provided support for research and development. The NFB's commitment to making films in the public interest goes back a long way, so it's important to In the interim Helene took on a separate job here see Family Motel in this historic context. Challenge at the NFB, directing No More Tears Sister, a For Change, for example, was an initiative that documentary about the assassination of the Sri emerged from the specific circumstances and spirit Lankan human rights activist Dr. Rajani of the sixties, soliciting community participation in Thiranagama. But she and Ina Fichman kept the whole process of filmmaking. Later the NFB working on Family Motel, developing the concept created Studio D as a way of formally dedicating and conducting in-depth research in various resources to women filmmakers telling women's communities that were dealing with the critical stories, and we have ongoing programs that support shortage of affordable housing. When Sally retired, production within First Nations and other I assumed the task of producing the project. I have communities that historically have been either under- a background in community work myself, along with represented or misrepresented in the world of film a longstanding interest in feminist concerns, so the production. As a public producer, we have project had immediate appeal. responsibility to tell the stories that otherwise would not get told − to respond to a wide range of It was a long process, and in the end it was communities and concerns. Helene's contacts in Ottawa − and in particular with Hamdi Mohamed, the executive director of Ottawa's With Family Motel, Helene is pursuing a unique Community Immigrant Services − that brought the approach to a critical current social issue − one that story to life. Hamdi put them in touch with people is off the radar for most Canadians. Homelessness in Ottawa's Somali community, one of the many strikes people from many different communities right groups affected by homelessness, and the project across the country, yet it remains somehow invisible. took off from there. It's a story that needs telling. By inviting input from a community where homelessness is part of daily life, Helene can bring the issue into fresh relief, talk about it within an original and lively narrative structure. It fulfils our mandate on several levels, and the NFB is happy to help bring the film to fruition. What are the advantages of alternative drama? How would you situate Family Motel within current NFB production? Alternative drama allows you to address documentary-type content within a fictional format Family Motel is part of a new body of work at the − and to do so within a modest budget. It's a genre NFB, one that's informed by a new spirit of that was pioneered in large part here at the NFB, experimentation - whether it involves redefining old and it's being revisited by filmmakers here and genres or working with interactive technologies. around the world. Helene is one of several directors who's been re- With Family Motel, alternative drama provides visiting alternative drama with interesting results. In Helene with a useful working model. She can look The Point, a recent co-production with Silo Films, at the complex interplay between housing, poverty Joshua Dorsey solicited the participation of a group and immigration within the context of an innovative of young people from Point St. Charles, a narrative. The genre provides her with the means to multicultural working-class district of Montreal, to revisit classic themes relating to dislocation, create a fictional film based on their experience, poverty and family dynamics in a fresh way. The their stories. It's another case of film professionals NFB's early work in this area provides her with a working within communities to create narratives frame of reference, and from there she can that can resonate throughout the wider culture. innovate to make her story meaningful for today's Deepa Mehta is working in a similar vein, audience. developing a feature drama on domestic abuse in collaboration with community partners in Toronto. Accountability is a key concept in alternative drama. At the same time, Gary Burns, whose background is Helene has worked hard to develop a relationship primarily in fiction, blurs the lines between genres of trust with the community in which she has set in his latest release, Radiant City, a co-production the story. She has taken direction from them, and with the NFB that explores the question of the final film will reflect that. This has paid off in all suburban sprawl. So there's a new willingness to kinds of ways. We're fortunate to have Nargis and revisit and redefine established genres. her daughters cast in the central roles of Ayan and her family. Nargis brings a wealth of her own On the documentary front, Brett Gaylor is in professional and life experience to the role and a production on Basement Tapes, which reflects on new level of authenticity and specificity to the the filmmaking process itself and how it's been narrative. evolving in the Internet age. His subject is the shifting power balance between musicians and the The characters of Ayan and her daughters are not recording industry, and he has conceived the alone in experiencing homelessness, but their project as an open-source film, one that invites situation is compounded by issues of gender, race collaboration from online contributors. It's a great and class. In developing the film as she has, with opportunity for the NFB to engage with interactive collaboration from a specific immigrant community, technology while exploring the contested notion of Helene can rework a common scenario from a intellectual property. specific point of view. She can shed light on the nation-wide critical shortage of affordable housing With other projects in development and while telling a unique and richly detailed story. production, we continue to do what we do best − making in-depth social-issue docs − but with the same drive to devise new ways of telling stories and a similar sense of community accountability. We're nearing completion right now on Yung risks, and in the case of Family Motel, she's Chang's feature-length doc Up the Yangtze − a demonstrated remarkable perseverance in good case in point. Yung has found a fascinating pursuing a project that was long in coming to point of entry into a film about the Three Gorges fruition. And in the tradition of good creative Dam and its impact on local communities: he's partnerships, Ina and Helene grasp how true examining the strange tourist industry that's collaboration goes beyond sharing costs. There's catering to travellers anxious to see a region been a real sense of working with common that's about to be altered forever. In contrast to purpose. the reality-TV style of documentaries, he's invested serious time into building relationships This whole project has been characterized by a with local residents and has developed a spirit of collaboration. It could not have been made considered perspective on the whole range of if Helene and Ina had not taken the time to build a issues related to construction of the dam. relationship of trust with our community partners. Helene had already demonstrated this capacity in Other filmmakers are working within more classic No More Tears Sister, a film that demanded a high formats − exploring critical current issues from level of sensitivity to the people whose lives were their own unique perspectives. Tracey Deer, who being represented in the film. She brings a similar made a such powerful impression with her first film, integrity to Family Motel, where her openness to Mohawk Girls, is back to direct Club Native − a taking direction from a community-based advisory documentary on the contentious issue of Native group has helped give the project its special status as defined by the Indian Act and related character. laws. Over the decades the NFB has set out to build a relationship with Canada's First Nations. We've In a more general way, co-productions are part of a provided a base for Alanis Obomsawin, for example, broader NFB effort to build new working and her lifelong project to document the complex relationships, reach new audiences and make position of Aboriginal Peoples within Canadian things happen in the wider culture. Creative society. She herself has just released a very collaboration can take many forms − support for special film, Waben-aki, in which she turns her gaze special events and festivals, partnerships with for the first time on her own culture and community. community-based production initiatives. Recently, As the NFB moves forwards and adapts to a new for example, we joined forces with Film Pop, a small environment, it's filmmakers like Alanis who keep independent film festival in Montreal, to produce a our work anchored in certain principles of series of shorts about music called Making Music filmmaking and accountability. And it's that same with the National Film Board. It was a way of broad set of values that guide Helene in Family forging links between musicians and filmmakers Motel. and connecting with a new audience − a youthful demographic that may not be familiar with the NFB What are the benefits of collaborating with and its work. Instinct Films? So Family Motel has been a great collaboration, Ina Fichman and Helene Klodawsky are a great not only in terms of our relationship with Instinct team. They're dynamic and creative, and together Films, a dynamic independent production company they bring an impressive set of skills to the project. − but it has also engaged us in a unique community Ina has experience in a wide range of formats, and process that has resulted in a lively and thought- she has never shied away from producing films on provoking film that speaks to a wide range of controversial social questions. She's willing to take Canadians. the International Documentary Association; Longshots, winner of a Chris Award at the Columbus International Film & Video Festival and the Best Editing Award at Hot Docs; The Last Trip, winner of a Hot Docs Certificate of Merit and a Chris Award and a nominee for Gemini and Chalmers awards; and the history series Towards a Promised Land, winner of a Silver Award from New York Festivals and a nominee at Hot Docs and the Banff TV Festival. Ina also co- executive produced the docu-soap Firestation for Discovery Canada. Among her recent documentary credits, the three-part series Black Coffee was seen by some 2 million viewers in Canada and makes it U.S. television debut in 2007 on National Geographic. In 2004-2005, she produced three seasons of the Gémeaux Award- winning youth-oriented series My Brand New Life/Je Vis ta vie. Her fiction credits include the feature film I'm interested in making a film that succeeds both The Return of Tommy Tricker; the historical series as a reflection on immigration and housing and as Terre d'espoir; the teen series Vampire High; Mow la a lively entertainment. Developing the project as Force de l'âge, and the short film Moise. an alternative drama fulfills both goals and allows us to work in both a "real" and "imagined" She is currently in production on the family history context. series La Quête; the documentary Short and Male for − Ina Fichman CTV; That's Poker, a Canada/France co-production with CBC, Canal D and Arte; and Six Days in June, a Ina Fichman comes to Family Motel with over 20 feature documentary co-produced with PDJ (France) years' experience in film and television production. and Alma Films (Israel). Projects in pre-production Through her company, the Montreal-based Instinct include the documentary Til We Drop: Shopping and Films, she has worked with leading writers and the Malling of Our Planet, co-produced with PDJ; It's a directors from Canada and abroad. Ranging from Boy!, with director Danae Elon; and Jews and Money: feature films to documentary series, her award- A History, a co-production with PDJ. Projects in winning productions have been seen around the development include two feature films - Two Worlds, world. written by Gerald Wexler (Margaret's Museum) and directed by Paolo Barzman, and Danny King of the With the alternative feature drama Family Motel, Basement, directed by Tim Southam. Fichman resumes a fruitful partnership with director Helene Klodawsky. In 2002, Fichman produced and Fichman is past president of Montreal Women in Film, Klodawsky directed Undying Love, a moving account has served as chair for Women in Film and Television of relationships between Holocaust survivors, which International and has served on the boards of DOC earned a Gemini Award for Best History Program. and the Hot Docs Documentary Festival. She recently founded the Devorah Foundation, which allocates Her many accomplishments include The Okanada; funding to emerging women in film communities the feature documentary Being Dorothy, nominated by worldwide. Interview with Ina Fichman Producer, Family Motel It was a very long process. Helene discovered early on that the Kingston Road area in Toronto was very How did Family Motel get started? similar to what Ehrenreich described in her book. There were all these motels in the area that were Helene and I had collaborated successfully on housing homeless families. And this was something Undying Love, and we'd been looking for another that was happening in cities across North America, project to do together. She'd learned how homeless where economic booms had generated tremendous people were being housed in motels while working affluence but has made life too expensive for many on another project in the U.S. She was struck by average people. the whole situation and began to think of addressing the issue on film. So we hired a researcher, Mara Ravens, to look into the situation there. She spent six weeks in the area, Helene is one of those directors who really staying at one of the motels for a while, and she understands the role of a producer, and she's open introduced us to some motel residents. In the end we to all kinds of suggestions − not just from the didn't shoot there, but a lot of elements from that producer but from everyone on the team. When we initial research made it into the final film − the range first started on Undying Love, I suggested that we of characters who end up in these motels, the integrate some fully fledged fiction into the film, interaction in communal kitchens and the role of the and Helene was very receptive and willing to go to motel owner − a guy who's running a business but another level with the material. Between the two of who still has a compassionate side. us, we decided that Family Motel wouldn't work as a documentary − we'd never get access to the At a certain point, we realized that shooting in Toronto people most affected. We needed to take another would be too costly, and we tried bringing the project approach in order to do the story justice. back to Montreal. But our research revealed that the situation was not the same in Quebec. The social At the same time I'd picked up a copy of Barbara services were different, and homeless families were Ehrenreich's book Nickel and Dimed and passed it not being housed in motels. on to Helene. It was good timing. Ehrenreich In addition to all this, our attempts at producing a examines how more and more ordinary people script were proving difficult. There'd been a lot of across the continent are falling into poverty and back-and-forth with Sally Bochner at the NFB, and how homelessness was becoming a bigger issue − she's been very supportive, but after numerous draft not limited to the stereotype of panhandlers on scripts, we said to each other, "This is just not street corners. working." Sally Bochner at the National Film Board was We came to the conclusion that certain films cannot interested in our proposal and gave us some money be made in the conventional way, where you present to investigate whether the same phenomenon was potential funders with a final script. This project happening in Canada. Were Canadian families demanded another, more experimental, approach. Its falling through the cracks, losing their homes and success relied on other factors − finding the right ending up in these suburban motels? So I entered situation, the right people − and establishing the into a co-production with the NFB at that stage, and conditions where the right cast in the right we embarked on the initial research. environment could bring an authentic story to life. How did you decide on the story of Ayan? In the end, it was Helene's sister Fran, a university professor in Ottawa, who helped us find the story. at the NFB and was keen to distinguish the NFB from Fran has extensive background in the whole issue of the commercial sector. He organized a workshop on affordable housing, and she suggested that we look alternative drama, where about 20 of us got together at what was happening in Ottawa. You've got an to screen a number of key films, and to discuss how affluent city, with a large civil service and a booming low-budget drama could be updated for the current high-tech sector, but you've also got a working-class point in time. So Family Motel was part of that population and an immigrant population. And not initiative. everyone is doing well. There's a real disparity there. Helene and I took the time to meet with some of the So Helene focused her research in Ottawa and made key directors behind the important NFB dramas − some great contacts in the Somali community in John Smith, Cynthia Scott and David Wilson. They particular. She came back very excited, saying that were all interested in our project and had some great she'd found a story in the Somali community. At this advice on working with non-professional actors and point, instead of trying to write another draft script, how to get them to tell a story that, although it's not we produced a detailed outline based on a woman their own necessarily, resonates with a reality they called Aryan and her family, that would serve as a know. It's a very delicate process. basis for the shoot. How did you proceed with casting and assembling So I spoke to Tom Perlmutter and Sally Bochner at a crew? the NFB and told them that I was willing to take the risk and proceed with production. It was a risk, but I It was vital to find the right community − where the felt that we had the key elements in place. They took story could come to life and feel real − and the a leap of faith and gave their commitment to the casting followed from there. We hired Hodan project. Mohamed, an Ottawa-based researcher, to direct the casting of the Somali roles, and she did a fabulous Why alternative drama? job. She didn't bring in lots of people, but she had a real sense for who would be right for the role. We started thinking about alternative drama early on. We'd both been very impressed by Michael As soon as we met Nargis and her daughters, we Winterbottom's In This World, a superb example of knew they were right for the roles. Their natural how alternative drama can offer a new take on a presence and their depth of character shone through current issue − in this case, the situation of asylum on film. Nargis can bring so much knowledge and seekers in the UK. Winterbottom had novice actors professional experience to the role. She's smart and work with a loosely structured script, and he funny, and she's able to communicate emotion. And succeeded in giving a fresh new twist to reality. it's been a wonderful experience for her too, I think. Of course, this was not new. The NFB had done this Lois Siegel cast the other roles. I've known Lois for 20 years ago, and both Helene and I loved The years, and all along I knew that she was the only Company of Strangers, Trains of Dreams and the person who does it. And in Germán Gutiérrez, we had other NFB dramas. And the NFB was ready to re- the perfect director of photography. He's not just a embark on this type of work. We were seeing a great technician; he's also socially conscious and revival of the genre, with some daring and interesting had the right sensibility for this project. work emerging. Tom Perlmutter had recently arrived As for the crew, we knew at the outset that this shoot would not have worked with a full feature-style crew. a position to expand on its tradition of excellence Aside from the question of cost, it's a shoot that and innovation and to take that tradition into new demanded a level of intimacy on set. We found directions. People at the NFB know they must take experienced people in Ottawa, and they formed a risks if the organization is to remain relevant. They're great team. Although it's not a straightforward fiction producing for different platforms, and they've shown film, you still need to think about continuity, wardrobe they're willing to take risks. The NFB's future is in and art direction − all those things. So there was a making work like Family Motel − films that certain amount of doubling up in the crew's roles on experiment with genre and content. There's a new set, but they really rose to the occasion. In the end, openness there right now, and it's one of the few all the elements came together − the story, the places, if not the only place, in Canada where it's community, the casting, the locations, the crew. We possible to make a film like Family Motel. were really fortunate. Ravida Din, who took over from Sally when she How was it working with Helene on her first retired, immediately grasped the intent of the film dramatic feature drama? and its importance. She got it right away − the particular creative process and the nature of the When we were doing Undying Love, I told her, "You've content − and she has defended the project really got to do fiction some day!" Not all tirelessly. I could not ask for a better partner. documentary directors can do fiction. It demands a whole other level of teamwork, someone who can Where does Family Motel fit with your other work? engage with a crew. Helene has those skills. She's got exceptional communication skills, she's I've done a wide range of work in my career. I got my collaborative, and she's extremely hard-working. start producing dance films and low budget video She's willing to set her ego aside and take input from clips, and I went on to produce everything from an art director, DOP and everyone else. And she's special-issue drama and documentaries to kids' able to translate her vision to the crew and cast. films and comedy series like Vampire High. I like to Most importantly, she has a deep respect for the push the boundaries of genres, like we did in Undying process and for her cast and crew. We've already got Love, and I'm interested in taking real issues and another film in the works − a documentary about the taking them somewhere else. So Family Motel culture of shopping malls called Til We Drop. follows logically from my other work. What are the benefits of co-producing with the I consider myself a feminist, and the fact that Family NFB? Motel featured a strong female character in the pivotal role appealed to me. And beyond my personal Unlike a lot of Montreal filmmakers, I did not get my projects, I'm interested in supporting other women start at the Board. I'd admired the work of Studio D who work in film. I served for a period as the and the NFB in general, but I got started at another president of Montreal Women in Film, and I was one time, working mostly with French-language films in the of the founders of Women in Film and Television independent sector. But when I brought them My International (WIFTI) − organizations that encourage Brand New Life a couple of years ago, they were women to get involved in filmmaking and to produce immediately supportive. It was a TV series in teen women-centred films. issues, and the NFB brought a wealth of experience in educational production and distribution to the table. It was clear that they were open to doing something different, and they came on as co-producers. The NFB is unique in the world, and right now it's in More recently I created the Devorah Foundation, which I named after my grandmother, an important figure in my life. She embodied the spirit of compassion. She was someone who got a lot out of life and who gave a lot in return - a very generous person. So after she died, I created the foundation − it's still small but I'm hoping it will grow − as a way of assisting emerging women filmmakers around the world. We recently provided a grant to a community of women filmmakers in Poland. So I situate Family Motel within these broader interests and goals. Gutiérrez has worked on several television series, including Technopolis (Pixcom, 2001), Surviving the Wild (Pixcom/Marathon, 1999) and America 500, Germán Gutiérrez comes to Family Motel with winner of the Gémeaux for best documentary extensive experience as cameraman and director, series. He directed the series Insectia I and Insectia II, as well as a commitment to documenting issues of which won the Gémeaux for Best Documentary social concern. Series, a Gemini for Best Photography Direction, as well as a Merit Award for Best Photography from the He was born in Colombia, studied drama in Paris International Wildlife Film Festival. and has made his home in Montreal for almost 30 years. Following film studies in Ottawa, he worked as a cameraman with Radio-Canada and later at the National Film Board of Canada, as well as for various private producers and foreign television networks. His interest in social and political issues was key in his move to directing his own films. His most recent directorial effort, the 2005 release Who Shot My Brother?, documented Gutiérrez's personal investigation into the attempted assassination of his brother Oscar, a left-wing member of Colombia's parliament. The film has won widespread acclaim on the international festival circuit, winning numerous awards, including Radio-Canada People's Choice Award at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma de Montréal. In all, Gutiérrez has over 20 director credits, including Martin's Inferno (Triplex, 2002), Societies Under the Influence (NFB, 1997), Le système D (Argus Films, 1989), Café (1984) and La familia latina (NFB, 1986), which won a Golden Sheaf at the Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival. His work frequently takes him abroad, and he has filmed in Cambodia, Sarajevo, South Africa, Rwanda and El Salvador, as well as in remote areas of Amazonia, Nepal, Venezuela and Canada's Far North.
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