Documentaries, directors in focus at Cascadia International Women’s film festival

Since high school, Natalie Fedak has had stories she’s wanted to tell. She started off writing screenplays and for the last three years, she’s been producing, editing and directing documentaries.

Now one of her documentaries is going to be shown during the first year of one of Bellingham’s newest attractions, the Cascadia International Women’s film festival.

The film, called 3022ft., details the Mountain Marathon race, which takes place every year in Seward, Alaska. It’s a treacherous race, Fedak said, as racers run up and down a 3,000 foot mountain, avoiding cliffs and roots. While only one death has been reported during the race, injuries are not uncommon.

But it wasn’t just the danger and excitement that made Fedak passionate about documenting the race. It was the women who ran it.

“It turned into this competition between these people but [also] their individual stories of climbing the mountains and obstacles in their own lives, using the mountain as a metaphor,” she said.

Fedak moved to Bellingham in 2011 from Wheat Ridge, Colorado to attend Western Washington University. After graduating in 2014 and a brief stint working at Disney World in Florida, she began working full-time as a documentary filmmaker.

In addition to having her documentary submitted to Cascadia, Fedak is also a part of a young filmmakers advisory board for the festival. She was introduced to both by festival executive director Cheryl Crooks and her husband, Michael Petryni.

Crooks said giving female directors like Fedak a chance to present their work is the main purpose behind Cascadia.

“For us, it provides a platform for these women who aren’t recognized anywhere else for the work that they’re doing,” Crooks said.

Cascadia started as a concept in 2015 as a companion festival to Toronto’s Female Eye Film Festival and eventually grew into its own Bellingham-based project. In October 2016, the Cascadia team collaborated with Female Eye to present eight documentaries directed by women during Doctober, the documentary film festival at the Pickford Film Center.

This year, from April 23–25, the first full Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival will take place. It will host screenings of about 25 films at various theaters in addition to panel discussions and other special screenings at local colleges. With directors planning to visit the festival from as far away as Russia and Australia, Crooks hopes Cascadia’s first year will plant the seeds for bigger, better festivals to come.

Fedak said the festival will give a marginalized group a chance to excel and show what they’re made of.

“Having art, where art be the reason that people come together is one of the most precious gifts that you can give,” she said.

Although Fedak doesn’t have plans to take her filmmaking to Hollywood, telling stories will always be a part of her life in one form or another. Fans of her work can look forward to possibly seeing some of her future stories on the shelves, rather than in the theater.

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"Having art, where art be the reason that people come together is one of the most precious gifts that you can give. "