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‘If women’s ideas aren’t being tapped, it’s a loss to everyone’

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

Writer and director Patricia Rozema shared words of inspiration at the Enbridge Famous Five Speaker Series on Sept. 29. Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Network

Writer and director Patricia Rozema shared words of inspiration at the Enbridge Famous Five Speaker Series on Sept. 29. Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Network

Patricia Rozema returned to her hometown roots as a keynote speaker at the Enbridge Famous Five Speaker Series on Sept. 29.

The award-winning writer and director had her start in Sarnia; some of her first jobs included painting the pool at the Guildwood Inn, and landscaping at Trillium Villa and Trillium Park.

At age 17, Rozema had a summer job at the Sarnia Observer. From there her dream of becoming a journalist and storyteller evolved into what she is today – an internationally acclaimed filmmaker.

Rozema, who recently directed the film Into the Forest, starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood, shared her story with the aim of inspiring others, particularly women and girls.

“With young women and girls, there’s so much emphasis on appearance, how you present yourself,” she said of the industry. “But you need to keep your eyes on the prize, focus on what you want to make.”

Rozema knew she liked stories, both writing her own and reading others, but growing up, the idea of making a living as an artist was very foreign to her, she said. Indeed, it wasn’t until she was 16 that she attended a movie theatre.

Now the former Sarnia resident is working to raise $2.2 million towards her next project – Mouthpiece – a play written by two young women in Toronto, and she’s about $250,000 shy from reaching her goal.

The play follows two women dealing with the death of their mother, and Rozema said she brings her own layers of being a mother, as well as losing a mother, to the production. She said the energy surrounding it is both political and urgent; it’s been called a Millennial Feminist Manifesto and an ode to mothers.

“I have real faith in this one,” she said of the project.

Rozema said it was her parents who made her who she is today; their positive influence and feminist principles is what made her ambitious early on and gave her a leg up in life.

“I had great parents… they were models of success,” she said. “My dad had a real respect for women and their ability to make change in the world.”

For her, the goal of filmmaking is to catch life, Rozema said. She wants people watching her films to feel their spirit. And she wants to leave behind a record of beauty, no matter what it takes.

“These images will still be there when my bones are dust,” she said.

This ambition to share her vision has led Rozema to direct parts of her film Mansfield Park from a bed with a walkie-talkie. At the time, she had been diagnosed with meningitis.

As a female director, she said she’s always noticed a bias against women. With less access to education and human rights historically, it’s been a slow change. She noted that in North

America, only four per cent of films are directed by women, and while the landscape is changing, there’s still a lot of work to be done, she said.

And now, more than ever, women are rising up to claim what is rightfully theirs, she said.

“All [feminism] means to me is equality,” she said. “It has to change, and it is changing… and men will benefit too. If women’s ideas aren’t being tapped, it’s a loss to everyone.”


mschilz@postmedia.com