Stories women tell: critics pick their fave female-made Canadian films

April 17, 2018

Canada has a rich history of female-made films, from documentaries to horror flicks. On this year’s National Canadian Film Day, we wanted to highlight the accomplishments of women in Canadian cinema and asked film critics and writers from coast-to-coast-to-coast to choose their favourite films. Here’s what they picked!


By far, the biggest winner was Sarah Polley’s personal documentary, STORIES WE TELL. The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz said the film “accomplishes the impossible, by remaking the form at the same time it critically dissects it.”

NOW Magazine’s Norm Wilner agreed, saying “[it] is both a complex and fascinating inquiry into the nature of truth and memory and an examination of its filmmaker, who lost her mom when she was just 11 and has spent decades trying to re-create her. Formally confident and personally daring, it takes the themes of fidelity and family that drove Polley’s dramatic features AWAY FROM HER and TAKE THIS WALTZ and reveals why she was drawn to those narratives: This is the movie she was trying to make all along.”

Carsten Knox (film writer and creator of Flaw In The Iris: Film Blog and Podcast) went one further, proclaiming Sarah Polley “is my favourite female filmmaker from any country.”


Documentaries are a place where female Canadian filmmakers have broken ground for decades. Adam Cook (film writer for the Globe and Mail, New York Times and more) highlighted KANEHSATAKE: 270 YEARS OF RESISTANCE, by legendary documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomosawin, and Kathleen Shannon’s work through Studio D at the National Film Board of Canada, saying, “WORKING MOTHERS in particular is such a remarkable accomplishment.” Norm Wilner highlighted another important Canadian documentarian, Jennifer Baichwal, and her seminal MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES.


Iconic names we all recognize made their well-deserved appearances. Karen Gordon (film reviewer for CBC Metro Morning) chose Deepa Mehta’s Elements Trilogy and Patricia Rozema’s MANSFIELD PARK. These women paved the way, and the new crop of female filmmakers that have followed have us super excited for the future of Canadian cinema.

Adam Cook said recent releases like Ashley McKenzie’s WEREWOLF and Sofia Bohdanowicz’s NEVER EAT ALONE “entered the pantheon of great Canadian films”, while Joyce Wong’s 2016 drama, WEXFORD PLAZA was chosen by both the National Post’s Chris Knight and Jason Gorber (film reviewer for CTV News Channel) as one of their favourites.

Meanwhile, Karen Gordon gave a shout-out to up-and-coming Lina Rodriguez, director of the features THIS TIME TOMORROW and SEÑORITAS: “[Rodriguez] is an independent Columbian-Canadian filmmaker who makes small, quiet movies that explore the lives of girls and women … There’s a thoughtfulness to her work. The movies, and her characters stick with me for a while, which I really love.”


Looking for something off the beaten path? Greg Klymkiw (film writer and executive director of the Winnipeg Film Group) chose horror film AMERICAN MARY, directed by the Soska sisters as his favourite feature and the experimental DROWNING IN FLAMES by Gariné Torossian as his favourite short.

We love films that show the best of Canada, especially the cities that need a little more affection. The Coast’s Tara Thorne highlighted Andrea Dorfman’s HEARTBEAT because it is “the best love letter to Halifax there is on film … It’s a gentle, funny, lovely film as charmingly scrappy as Halifax itself.”

Whew! As you can see, there’s plenty of great films to see and admire from our Canadian female filmmakers. If you want even more recommendations, check out our curated 2018 Spotlight Films and join us on April 18 for National Canadian Film Day!

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