Research Tools: “Triumph and Frustration: Database Documents the History of Canadian Women Film Directors”
Women filmmakers in Canada have often grappled with low budgets, employment scarcity and a lack of recognition. Yet they’ve also built a powerful canon of work and inspired an emerging group of artists who are now taking their rightful place on the world stage.
Until recently, few resources existed to tell the story of Canadian women who make movies – and those that did exist were hard to find. Margaret Fulford, a librarian at the University of Toronto’s University College, set out to correct that.
A lifelong film buff and feminist, Fulford was inspired to create such a resource after attending a 1980s festival showcasing women’s films. Much later, she decided to devote her first year-long research leave to create a database of Canadian women filmmakers.
She called up Kay Armatage, professor emerita at the Cinema Studies Institute and the Women & Gender Studies Institute and an acclaimed filmmaker herself. “I said, is there anything I’m overlapping with, and would this be useful?” Fulford recalls.
Armatage assured her that it most certainly would be – and that a year wouldn’t be nearly enough to capture all the information. “She said, it’s much bigger than you think,” Fulford says. “It’s only gotten bigger since,” Fulford adds.
Today, the Canadian Women Film Directors Database is a fully digital and bilingual resource with the names of 1,699 filmmakers – and counting – along with details of roughly 2,420 films they’ve made since 1920. Women represented in the collection range from Nell Shipman – the first Canadian woman to direct a film – to modern-day stars Patricia Rozema, Deepa Mehta, Alanis Obomsawin and many others.
The site is free and accessible to researchers, students and hobbyists alike. In addition to the names of directors and their movies, it also includes a wealth of bibliographic references, lists of awards won by filmmakers, and a “chronology of firsts” page, highlighting pioneers in the field.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.