International Women in Film Festival – The feminist initiative

Still from She is the Ocean. | Photo courtesy of Vancouver International Women in Film Festival and Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival

On March 8, 2019 – International Women’s Day – the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (VIWFF) will celebrate their 30th year with free screenings at VanCity Theatre. She is the Ocean and the Canadian Premiere of The Feminist: A Swedish Inspiration are films portraying heroic women who relate to their passions through science, politics, dance and sport.

When you see this film, you will want to engage,” says Helene Granqvist, International Women in Film and Television (WIFTV) president and producer of The Feminist.

Hampus Linder, director of The Feminist, said the idea for the documentary was sparked while on paternity leave with his two children: he was motivated to better understand feminism. Meanwhile, Inna Blokhina, director and producer of She is the Ocean, became inspired by the story of a little girl named Cinta while surfing in Bali, Indonesia. Even though the films share a commonality, each movie has its own unique approach.


The Feminist is a film about one charismatic woman, Gudrun Schyman, who Granqvist feels has been one of the most influential politicians of the past decades. From humble beginnings in a blue-collar family, Schyman rose to lead the Leftist party to record election results. She was shamed for her struggles with addiction, but overcame her demons and founded Europe’s first feminist party, the Feminist Initiative (FI).

“Gudrun is like a rockstar in Sweden; she is so popular. Every time she talks with people you can see lights come on inside them,” says Granqvist.

Granqvist says the film, however, is not only about the woman as a politician but also as a person. The film follows Gudrun’s life as she transforms herself from a timid wallflower into a force of nature. The plot weaves her political life with her home life, creating a choreographed dance between two worlds. In the end, the FI party becomes bigger than her.


Blokhina’s passion for surfing started on the Black Sea. In Russia, she was pursuing a television career. While on a three-month hiatus to Indonesia to expand her surf horizons, she recognized this could be a way to combine her career with her hobby. After three years of shooting her first film, On the Wave, it opened in Indonesia. That was where she and Cinta met.

“I asked her, what is your goal? What do you want to do in life? She said, ‘I want to be a world champion.’ When she told me, I was almost crying – Cinta had the same determination as I had at her age; a very strong character,” says Blokhina.

This was how the second film began, with Blokhina’s filming of Cinta. From there, it blossomed.

“When I started travelling, I realized there were so many women who have beautiful stories and goals. I wanted to tell their stories; I wanted to tell as many stories as possible,” says Blokhina.

Each woman Blokhina met became her hero. She is the Ocean is about nine women from around the world – Indonesia, Chile, Russia, Germany, U.S – reflecting a cultural universe of stories. Starting with three women who engage in the thrill of ocean sports, then moving on to a famed scientist who plunges into the deepest depths on the edge of human survival, to a cliff diver who is hailed as ‘the bravest woman in Germany,’ the film captures the one thing they all share: a profound love for the sea. Blokhina feels these nine women, ranging from the ages of 12 to 83, create a portrait metaphor of a woman’s oceanic life through all her ages.

“The film is so much more than a film.” says Blokhina.

It’s another way to think about life, love, friendship, goals, dreams – everything.

The Canadian Premiere of She is the Ocean opens with the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF) on Feb. 24, 2019 at the Rio Theatre.

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