Abortion access news brings In Her View back to the festival circuit.
I am taking a break from my nostalgic summer sojourns to remind you that abortion access is in the news again. Not only has it been brought up during the first week of the election campaign here in Canada (positioned as a conscience issue for health providers), but just as reproductive justice warriors in the U.S have been predicting since 2016, Roe v. Wade is on the chopping block at the Supreme Court after a Texas abortion law took effect today. And coincidentally (or not), In Her View has been invited to screen in yet another film festival. FlickFair has approached me to participate in their online festival screening In Her View for the month of October, with a potential reach of about 900,000 viewers. Of course, given the grim news, I have accepted the invitation. It doesn’t give me any joy however, knowing that 1000s of people with unplanned pregnancies will face continued persecution in Texas and across the U.S. as of today.
Stay tuned for further updates about the October screening. -Amy
The nostalgia kick continues it would seem. This summer, I’ve been re-living experiences from 30 years ago. My recent trip to the Island with my daughter was rife with memories of being there both 30 years ago and again in 2007 when Ayla was still a toddler. It’s a similar arc of time frames and flashbacks as I recently wrote about In the Haight.
My first visit to Vancouver Island was also the first time I met the woman who would become my mother, Mary. She and my father had decided to move into Mary’s Toronto home together, and I was living here in BC with my boyfriend of about a year, when they came to visit. I would meet Mary and my father would meet the man in my life. I was a just year out of high school then and had opted to move into Gord’s basement suite and take a full time job downtown Vancouver. Dad and Mary flew out to take Gord and I on a trip to Tofino and Victoria.
Gord’s anxiety got the better of him, feeling the pressure of meeting his much younger girlfriend’s father for the first time – he was feeling judged and nervous, I guess – so he got busy with work and stood us up for dinner their first night in town. I was embarrassed and disappointed. Dad and Mary were concerned and forgiving. But the die was cast, so to speak, and we left for the Island without Gord. He promised to connect with us in Port Alberni, where we were scheduled to depart on a supply freighter that would take us out to the coast… more interesting than just driving to Tofino, after all.
When my daughter and I drove through Port Alberni recently, the years slipped away and I choked up, remembering the unique trip my mom had planned for our first meeting. Most of the details of that vacation are now lost to time, but I remembered us laughing at the modest accommodations she had found for us in Port Alberni. Years later, she would book us into The Empress Hotel in Victoria when Ayla was just a toddler.
“Nothing but the best for Grandma Mary,” Ayla and I laugh as we walk past the stately manor hotel on the Inner Harbour, today.
But back in 1989, we stayed in a rustic little inn on the shores of the inlet that winds through Port Alberni and out to the coast. Gord was supposed to meet us there, but he didn’t. Once again: hurt and disappointment. I remember that. I remember the feeling of shame that washed over me, as my Dad and his new love made reassuring sounds trying to make the best of it. But they were getting worried too. So, the three of us boarded the supply freighter and made our way down the river, enjoying the spectacular beauty of the west coast in summer time: mountains rise above the sparkling water, modest homes dot the shores, and we watched as villagers come out to meet the ship, collecting their goods for the week. It was unlike anything I’d ever encountered, and Mary had planned it just for us.
I don’t remember much about Tofino; I was curious how much of the tourist town would be familiar to me when I returned this summer with Ayla. But the memories had disappeared into the mists of my life history, enveloped likely by the stress I was feeling about being stood up when Mary had planned this amazing trip for us to take together as a new family. The burden weighed heavy on me, knowing he had let them down, and how that would affect the first impressions of this woman who was so important to my father, and who would become so important to me in the years to come. It was a big moment in all our lives, one that would change the course of mine.
By the time the week was out, my parents had invited me to come live with them in Toronto and go to university, if I wanted to.
Gord eventually met up with us in Victoria. But by then the damage was done. He had revealed the weakness of our relationship. Perhaps I did need to consider other options.
He said he knew from the moment they announced their visit, that the writing was on the wall. But I think it was a self-fulfilling prophesy. He convinced himself that my parents were coming to take me back home, and he made sure of that outcome through his behaviour when they were here. So, I accepted their invitation, and moved back to Ontario to attend York University for the winter-summer session.
All of this came back to me while I wandered the streets of Tofino, and explored the ancient cedars of Cathedral Grove. I said to Ayla as we marveled at the centuries old mammoth trees, “I’m pretty sure this is where I became a tree hugger 32 years ago.”
I remember being absolutely transfixed by the size of those trees as an 18 year old girl. And I have stood transfixed before many a tree since then, but never the awe as for the ancient red cedars of the west coast.
It’s hard not to be a nature lover in British Columbia. But the memories that returned last week, and that have consumed me this summer, have me connecting to my nature, reminding me of where I’ve been, where I come from and reflecting on the journey I have taken to reach this time in my life.
Perhaps it’s because my latest work in progress has a nostalgic theme to it – it’s a memory work that came to me some years ago as a remembered image from my childhood and a narration by a young girl. Swaying on the branch of an old willow tree at the end of our street, I lean back and let the motion rush over me – three years old – the blue sky above me and the long, weeping willow branches creating a shredded curtain through which glimpses of the river peek.
Pieces of my life are coming back in vivid colour, and I’m writing them down, trying to find the through line for this latest project called The River… appropriately enough.
As a teenager and young adult, I became fascinated by the legacy of The Haight-Ashbury and the ideals of the 1960’s flower children. I can’t recall how I first heard about them or how the mythos of the hippies came to my attention, but I was shocked -shocked I tell you – recently when I made a passing reference to The Haight-Ashbury and my friend – a new age hippie if I’ve ever met one – had never heard of it. How could that be possible? How could someone reach adulthood in our culture – especially someone with as much interest in mysticism, natural living and spiritual transcendence as this friend has – without ever having heard of the Haight-Ashbury? I was mystified and determined to educate her.
The earliest I remember romanticizing the peace and love era was Halloween of my senior year of high school when I donned a pair of baggy jeans, an oversized shirt my mother had brought back from Jamaica, a headband and of course flowers in my hair. I spent the night flashing the two-fingered salute and muttering “Peace and Love” to everyone I met. I’m pretty sure I smoked a lot of grass that night, too, man… In years to come, I would realize that I had broken my own cardinal rule of Halloween – scary costumes only on All Hallow’s Eve. But back then, I was expressing my growing fascination with the previous generation’s quest for enlightenment and a better way of living.
When I arrived at university, I gravitated toward the genuine hippie who ran our college coffee shop, who took great (mock) offence when I repeated my Halloween costume that year.
“That’s not a costume, man,” said Les. “That’s just clothes… to some people, anyway.” And then he laughed the laugh that I would hear for years to come as our friendship grew, and Les introduced me to the music, musings and the Holy Land (as he called it) of The Haight .
I don’t remember much of what I learned in class that year, but I do remember many afternoons and evenings at the Grad Lounge listening to Les wax poetic about Timothy Leary, the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the Merry Pranksters, Ken Kesey and most of all, his beloved Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia. Was it the metaphysics of the counterculture I fell in love with, or Les? I don’t know, but I was hooked! I called him The Guru, and he called me The Party Hamster. When the Grateful Dead toured that summer, he refused to take me, concerned that I was too young and inexperienced for the scene – this was the early nineties, after all and the parking lot had degenerated somewhat from the peace and love of the ’60s. The drugs had taken hold and the trips weren’t quite so innocent anymore. There was a cynicism infecting the movement that would culminate by the end of the ’90s with the violence of Woodstock ’99. And I was romanticizing those Summer of Love vibes that I imagined still existed in that far off wonderland called The Haight-Ashbury, where hippies gathered that long ago summer of 1967 in San Francisco.
Pretty soon, the restlessness and nomadic pull that characterized my life during my 20s kicked in and I was off to the west coast, with Les and another of our hippie friends Mike, following shortly after.
The three of us sat on Wreck Beach in Vancouver one afternoon – a curious sight, no doubt; a little blond woman sandwiched between two large men, completely naked… But these were my friends – two of the best friends I had made at university, and they stuck by me for years… supporting me through innumerable bad relationships with men who broke my heart. It seemed natural and fitting for us hippies to sit naked together on the beach, smoking a joint and regaling each other with stories. I still have the oversized purple tie-dyed tank top Mike bought on Wreck Beach that afternoon. I wear it to this day.
Les had finally made his pilgrimage to the Holy Land on his way to Vancouver that summer. I could picture him sitting at the famous intersection at Haight and Ashbury, playing his guitar with the case flipped open for the offerings of passersby. Busking in The Haight was a bucket list item for Les, and I was overjoyed hearing him talk about it. But inevitably summer came to an end, Les returned to Toronto, and life moved on.
As the years passed, our paths continued to cross – whenever I was back in Toronto, I would find Les and his own growing band of pranksters that he called the Caution Clowns, named for his newly formed band, Caution Jam.
Even when my nomadic life and creative dreams took me to New York, I still managed to find the hippies there, and finally saw my one and only Grateful Dead show, at Giants’ Stadium mere weeks before Garcia’s death in 1995.
For a few years in the mid-late 90s, I lived on the fringe of Les’ Caution Clan as I called it, reveling in the music of The Grateful Dead that Les and Caution Jam played for the hippies of Toronto’s underground club scene.
So the ’90s for me were like a ’60s flashback… I was only marginally aware of the grunge rock scene. Yes, I remember the death of Kurt Cobain, but it was Jerry’s death that made the greater impact on me. I was listening to Janis Joplin’s old band Big Brother and the Holding Company, reminiscing about the Doors, discovering the genius of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. When I heard Robert Plant sing Goin’ to California at Madison Square Garden, I thought I had died and gone to… California. I was more interested in The Mamas and The Papas then Maestro Fresh Wes.
As the ’90s came to a close, I was twirly-gigging on the dance floor with Caution Jam and attending concerts like Santana and Tom Petty with Les… until that is, a final heartbreak that sent me scurrying back to Vancouver for good. Like the good friend he was, Les gave me Rescue Remedy and lots of love, wishing me well as he waved good-bye one last time.
I returned to the west coast, a 30 year old hippie relic, dressed in a bright orange tie-dyed pantsuit, strolling the streets with my Sony discman blasting Grateful Dead tunes through the headphones… the last gasp of my nomadic youth.
With that last heartbreak, I said good-bye to my hippie era, got a stable job, became a mom and reignited the creative dreams of acting and writing that had been set aside for some time.
But the embers of The Haight-Ashbury weren’t completely extinguished; a tiny fire still burned on the mountains of the west coast, and when the Dead reunited for a few shows in San Francisco during the summer of 2009, I knew I had to go.
So, in the waning days of my 30s – ten long years after I’d left Toronto and my hippie days behind, I embarked on my own pilgrimage to the Holy Land to finally see and feel the neighbourhood I had mythologized most of my life. I hit the road down the coast with an old girlfriend from the Caution Clan and we stayed at the Red Victorian Inn – a Peace and Love cafe run by an old hippie by the name of Sami Sunchild… on Haight Street of course.
We saw it all… Golden Gate Park, the house at 710 Ashbury Street, Amoeba Music, Panhandle Park, a concert at the Fillmore and of course, the surviving members of The Dead playing at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View.
It was a glorious road trip, reminding me of the idealism of my roaring 20s and bringing me full circle, with a renewed appreciation for what a long, strange trip it had been.
The ages and stages of one’s life cannot be overlooked. They each bring us to a new sense of awareness of the world, and perhaps it’s only on re-visiting, remembering with the insight of experience and the passing of time that we can see the value of our youthful passions.
I recently reconnected with my old buddy, Les, still living in Toronto, and still playing with the Caution Jam, 30 years later. We struck up a correspondence, and it has been lovely re-visiting our friendship, though not without a tinge of nostalgia for the youth I’ve left behind. Looking at those years through the filter of my life today raises many feelings that have long since been buried with the heartbreak I left in Toronto. So it is a bittersweet reunion.
But the heart of the Haight-Ashbury still beats; you just gotta poke around.
Coming up for air finally after months of non-stop action. Reflecting on 2017 and the year since my first blog post that began with the election of Trump, followed by Inauguration Day when I resolved to fight the forces that put him in the White House. I may be Canadian but American attitudes infect our society too. And besides, border or not – we are all in this together. Today, I continue to be grateful for my more compassionate, feminist Canadian government, but as committed as ever to raising my voice to be heard in this society that remains dominated by male voices and men’s perspective.
The good news is, that though the election of Trump represented a huge step backwards for progressive women’s rights, as the pendulum swings, we’re now due for two steps forward… and I think we are seeing that begin with the explosion of women’s stories and #metoo, the exposing of Harvey Weinstein and other high profile degenerate men, and the determination of women who are standing up for themselves this year.
As promised in my earlier blog post, I am doing my part.
This year, I became a filmmaker. I am just about ready to debut the trailer of my film, In Her View, that tells a spectrum of women’s abortion stories, centring on the impact that our stories can have on each other, and how we view the issues that affect us the most. It has been a long and arduous journey to get this far and I have learned much along the way – inevitably. This past summer, I simultaneously directed the sizzle reel of my screenplay and co-directed a play. When I first agreed to direct it, I knew it would coincide with the film shoot, so rather than saying no, I invited a man I had only met briefly to co-direct with me. He was interested in our theatre company and he had a background of directing in tv. We shared some of the same ideas for incorporating multimedia elements, and I thought it would be a good complement of skills. Which it was.
At the same time, despite efforts to find a female director of photography to shoot In Her View with me, I found myself working with a 20-something man to shoot the sizzle reel.
The past few months have been an eye-opening lesson in gender dynamics.
Both projects highlight female sexuality. This is not an accident. This is why I’m doing them. It is a subject that has been under represented from the female perspective, beyond the fantasy of the male gaze. In both projects, I collided with the divergent ways both men and women view female sexuality. In some cases, it seemed that to flip the script meant simply to objectify men the same way women have been. One night, I found myself raging against the objectification of both sexes, by both sexes, because that’s not equality in my view. And I worried that having a male DOP was being unfaithful to a film titled In Her View, despite his obvious talent and instincts for the story.
Another day, I was fighting to justify why a female character should be portrayed as strong, despite a physical weakness, because she was fighting to demonstrate her sexuality.
Then an actor dropped out of playing a romantic lead because his love interest was being “too sexual”.
Coincidentally, some of the female actors were challenged by the physical, sexual nature of their characters, afraid to fully embody the sensuality of their roles. And I was baffled by this. These women have grown up in a post-Madonna culture. Where is the female empowerment that the biggest pop icon gave to my generation? I was slapped in the face by the realization that we had taken a step back, long before Trump took office. Somewhere along the line both women and men have come to fear their sexual natures.
Perhaps because it’s no longer merely for the enjoyment of men. And because the progress we had made served to feed women’s social-emotional power – gave them license to lead outside the bedroom too. And everyone is afraid of that. We saw that in last year’s election.
I have heard men say they are convinced that lesbians are going to take over the world. Lesbians! They are strong, and don’t need men after all… but there’s not nearly enough of them, I said. “It’s the bisexuals you have to worry about…”
(I’m looking at you, Wonder Woman).
The social order has been up-ended by race and gender, and nothing made that so clear as watching neo-Nazis chant, “We will not be replaced” in Charlottesville this year.
It was never so clear to me as when finally, after months of sensing the discomfort of my older, white male co-director, at relinquishing leadership to me, he erupted at my use of the “F-word”. What began as offence at the way I spoke to him, quickly degenerated into the reality that he felt emasculated for having bought me lunch a couple of times. It made him feel like a production assistant, he said. And I thought he was just being a nice guy.
My generation of white male cannot allow themselves to be perceived as serving a woman, unless she is helpless, or in bed.
Yet, by the same token, we women have to face our own anger too – while justified. It does us no good if it’s not channeled productively. I felt that truth poignantly in both projects; in my anger, I alienated people I respect and am grateful for, and I saw the impact it has had on the younger generation. Our anger at the injustices and abuse that has been heaped upon us for centuries has taught younger men and women to fear their sexual impulses, lest it get out of control and be misdirected. We are at a cross-roads, it seems. Or maybe it’s just me. But the world certainly seems to be exploding with anger, frustration and accusations. And amid all the drama playing out over these two projects that I was helming… I was astonished by the brave and understated response of one young actress, who ever so calmly reported to me, a case of a non-consensual kiss by another actor. He was reprimanded, the behaviour was never repeated and we moved on without further incident. Later, when #metoo was highlighting the inaction of so many people, I wondered if I should have fired him… and I still wonder. But I checked in with the actress and she was satisfied with my response and its result, so I guess that will have to be good enough for me too.
And as I wish to portray with In Her View, we could all use a little less blame, we can slow down and listen to each other’s stories.
I woke this morning with one thought: stupid electoral college. So much boils down to just that thought. All the philosophy and reflection of the past two months – the questioning why? How? How could America vote for Donald J. Trump? Yet, they didn’t. Hillary Clinton won 2.9 million more votes than he did. But for the electoral college, we would have watched Hillary Clinton take the oath of office this morning in Washington D.C. Instead, it’s President Donald J. Trump, and it makes me sick even to think those words, let alone type them. Yes, I have felt physically ill every time I think of his inauguration. Just as in the days following the election, I have spent today in a Trump Slump. It is unspeakable to me that this man now holds the most powerful office in the world. I will attend the Women’s March tomorrow along with my sisters who resist the presidency that represents regression and stolen, illegitimate power. I am most cynical about this election – no, this authoritarian coup. Because that’s what I believe it to be. Between the electoral college and the gerrymandering of districts, voter suppression and Russian hacking claims, there is little doubt left in my mind that the Republican party and the Russian government have installed a President that they didn’t even want. He’s just agreeing to all their white, male supremacist policies, so that’s all that matters to them.
Today, I commit to fighting the powers that seek to destroy women’s equality, minority rights and lgbtq freedom. I will do my part. And my part is to make my film, Through Her Eyes. I commit to crowd-funding and independently producing my script that tells stories of abortion in all their unflinching detail, without catering to what anyone else thinks those stories should be. I will tell the stories of Liz and Grace to illuminate the power of female autonomy and self-expression. And to assert that we live our choices every day in every way and we decide what defines us… or doesn’t.
When I wrote this script, it was from the safety of the bubble of Canadian confidence, in which women’s reproductive freedom and health care is universal… at least for now. Our Conservative government at the time stated that it was not interested in challenging women’s right to choose – Trump sure makes Stephen Harper look tame in comparison, doesn’t he? But soon after I finished the first draft, I began hearing news reports out of the US, of states passing obstructionist laws, making abortion more difficult to obtain. Waiting periods and mandatory ultrasounds were imposed on women seeking abortions in certain states. And within only a few years, the political climate was transformed, even during President Obama’s tenure. Suddenly Roe v. Wade was under threat and abortion clinics were closing all over the country, due to so-called TRAP laws that targeted clinics with unconstitutional restrictions, forcing them to close their doors and fight all the way to the Supreme Court. And now, while in Canada, we have a feminist Prime Minister, our neighbours to the south are ruled by a government of misogynist right wing Republicans who have promised to take away their right to choose. I cannot stay silent any longer. The time has come to make my film Through Her Eyes, and in so doing support the women of America in their quest to maintain their hard won rights.
When I raise funds for my film that seeks to show the power of women’s choice and bodily autonomy, I will ensure that 5% of all funds raised go to Planned Parenthood, which is under direct threat by the new authoritarian regime. I will commit a further 5% to Exhale, a pro-voice organization that provides a talk-line for women who have had an abortion. And finally, another 5% will benefit the Single Mothers Alliance, an advocacy group that seeks to improve the lives of single mothers and empower women who make that choice, as have I.
Stay tuned for my crowdfunding campaign, and support Through Her Eyes. Stand up for women’s rights, inclusion, diversity and make us stronger together.
I am reeling. I thought it would just last a day or two, and then I would bounce back and get on with it… but I can’t bounce back. I am devastated by Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump
Remembrance Day 2016
I am reeling. I thought it would just last a day or two, and then I would bounce back and get on with it… but I can’t bounce back. I am devastated by Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump (Why is he putting the J in there anyway? His father wasn’t President before him…). I have moved from the shock and denial, and the rage, into full on depression. And because I am unemployed right now and my daughter is on a 4 day weekend from school, I have nothing to distract me from the endless news cycle of conversation about Hillary’s resounding defeat.
Over the past 8 years of Obama’s administration, I had grown ever more hopeful. I cried with elation at the election of America’s first African-American President. I cheered for the social progress I saw happening to the south of Canada’s border: marriage equality, racial tolerance, steady leadership and a new wave of feminism. There was backlash to be sure, but it only seemed to reinforce the march forward. Suddenly we were hearing about equal pay, affordable day care, campus rape and reproductive freedom. A Latina was appointed to the Supreme Court! The tide was turning! Hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #shoutyourabortion were going viral and Bill Cosby is actually facing a rape charge! People were paying attention to women’s issues. When Justin Trudeau defeated Stephen Harper here in Canada, we had, for the first time, a gender equal Cabinet in Ottawa. And Joe Biden showed up at the Oscars to introduce Lady Gaga’s powerful anthem for campus rape, Till It Happens to You, speaking eloquently and passionately about an epidemic that had been ignored for decades. Then Whole Women’s Health won their Supreme Court battle against Texas state laws restricting abortion clinics. That was a huge win for women’s rights it reminded us all how critical the Supreme Court nomination would be after Justice Scalia’s death.
But then Jian Ghomeshi was exonerated. And Trump won the Republican nomination for President.
Yet, I remained hopeful. This time, Hillary would win. How could she not? With every passing week of the campaign, as it descended into chaos – madness – every time Donald Trump opened his mouth or tweeted, and I found myself complacent in the notion that Hillary would become the first female President of the United States. All the social progress of the past 8 years suggested it was impossible that a racist misogynist could take the highest office. Girls run the world now don’t they? Queen Bey said so.
Donald Trump’s win threatens to turn back all that social progress. His appointment of a Supreme Court justice and his VP-elect’s dangerous views on LGBTQ people, with plans to reverse Roe vs. Wade, will turn the clock back on human rights for the foreseeable future.
For a long time, I sat on the little abortion film I had written, thinking there wasn’t a market for it and even if there was, I have never made a film before, so how could I get it made now? And besides, I’m Canadian. Our rights here are secure. Even when Harper was in office, he said that he wasn’t opening that subject. And now we have a feminist leader, so thank God I am Canadian. I try to remain detached from American politics for this reason.
I can no longer.
American politics affect us. We share their culture. It has always been more sensationalist and gawdy than Canada’s reasoned and polite culture, but now it is downright toxic. And it threatens to seep across our border, giving permission to alt-right extremist bigotry.
I am depressed and in mourning for North America right now. We are not immune to the political divide that has rent our neighbours to the south.
I have been working in the past year, to get my abortion film made. I have been reading and sharing about women’s issues exhaustively, especially about the representation of women and the sexism that still excludes us from the cultural conversation. This election result has me feeling deeply disheartened for the moment, but I feel the tide rising within me. I will no longer wait for permission to make my art. I will speak up and be heard, because it is more important now, than ever before.