Jasmin Mozaffari, winner of TIFF Canada’s Top Ten films of 2018, shared her passion for positive representation of gender, sexuality, and race in media.
We had the opportunity to go to the TIFF Canada’s Top Ten event to honour the best Canadian films of 2018. In the media release about the event, Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of TIFF, said, “These films expertly examine heritage, family, the fragility of friendships, and the importance of challenging the current state of our world and are testament to the fact that our Canadian filmmakers are among the most daring and innovative. TIFF is incredibly proud to celebrate their tremendous achievements in 2018.”
The night was filled with a very celebratory Canadian atmosphere complete with a lumberjack-red carpet, fresh maple candy kept cold by snow, a log fire, pine trees, and some delicious Canada-inspired cocktails.
During the event, we were able to talk to Jasmin Mozaffari, one of the winners of the TIFF Top Ten award for her first feature film, Firecrackers, which she wrote and directed. This film was showcased at TIFF in September. It centres around two teenage girls, Lou and Chantal, who plan to leave their small, isolated town for New York City. Before they leave, Chantal’s ex-boyfriend assaults her which leads the girls to change their plans and seek revenge instead. The consequence of their actions threatens the girls’ chance of ever leaving their town. The more Lou fights to save her friendship and follow her dreams, the more her life spins out of control as she begins to realize that freedom comes at a high cost.
The film was based on a short that Jasmin and her friend (and producer), Caitlin Grabham, made together at Ryerson University. Caitlin and Jasmin have continued to work together to start a production company, Prowler Film. Jasmin told us, “the ethos of Prowler Film is to explore issues of intersexuality and intersexual feminism but also help other filmmakers get their films made or their stories told.”
These two young women are very passionate about their role in the Canadian film industry, both as Canadians and as women in film, and the impact of their voice.
Jasmin and Caitlin are using the platform of art and filmmaking to make a difference in the world and the lives of young women. Their mission is to “empower women, hopefully also empower conversations around gender, sexuality, and race and make the world a more open-minded place…and using art to do that.”
When we asked Jasmin how she was able to use her voice and films to spread this message, she opened up about her film Firecrackers, which she used as her platform. “…Firecrackers specifically speaks to a struggle that a lot of women have….The film looks at how both men and women are affected by patriarchal oppression….The lead characters are girls that a lot of young women can see themselves in.” She went on to talk about the way the world looks at young women and how that needs to change and be more realistic, “I like to think [Firecrackers is] a more honest portrayal of the way that teenage women can be. Sometimes in the past, it’s been romanticized, or women are made to be very fragile. These women are very outspoken, they’re proud of their sexuality, but they’re vulnerable too and they’re discovering sort of what it’s like to be met with misogyny. And that limits their freedom. I think a lot of…young women can relate to that.”
The key crew on this film was mostly women, but Jasmin told us, “it wasn’t intentional….Women responded to the script when they read it. The reaction of getting crew on was, ‘I need to be a part of this project because this is telling a story that I want to be out in the world.’” Not only are Jasmin and Caitlin inspiring people who view the film, but through the realness and truth of the story they wanted to tell, they also inspired the crew who worked hard to create such an amazing story.
Jasmin also mentioned that beyond using her films to help young women, she also looks to help them in a much more personal, tangible way by being a mentor. “I’m always willing to meet with [women] and have a coffee with them and help them through their projects. Hopefully one day I can help get them through my company to fund their projects. That’s my dream—to give back.” Though the work that she and Caitlin are doing has just begun, great things have already come from it and the message they are passionate about has started spreading.
When asked about the choice to set the film in Canada, as opposed to the industry norm of setting films in a recognizable U.S. city, Jasmin said, “Let’s embrace the Canadian identity…There’s a diverse, multitude of ways to portray Canadian identity, so let’s just start embracing that. In Canada…there is a respect and love for a more arthouse film, arthouse story.” Jasmin had a lot of good things to say about L.A. as well, like their ability to take risks with films, but she saw Canada starting to move in that direction. “I think there’s a whole new wave of new filmmakers coming up that say, ‘No, I want to do stuff differently, I want new stories, stories that take risks…’ So, I think that will change but it’s a slow process.”
Jasmin not only shares her passionate message through her films, but also uses them as a platform to share parts of her life: what she has gone through and what she has learned. She told us, “[The girls are] very isolated and feel trapped, not only geographically but also in the ideology of that community—it’s very limiting…I have grown up in small towns…There are a lot of themes in the film that came from my own life—a feeling like, ‘I’m isolated here, and I need to leave.’” She mentioned that another reason she decided to set the film in Canada was the authenticity she was able to bring forth by setting it in a place she knew and understood. “I think you want to be authentic to your truthful experience. I try not to imagine what stuff will feel like. I try to draw upon things I know because that will make it more authentic and you’re not assuming things.”
There is a realness that this creates in her stories and films because she is able to tell the truth and connect on an emotional level with the people who watch her films. Her life echoes the stories and films she creates, and her genuine kindness is very apparent.
We loved having the opportunity to talk to Jasmin as she shared her passions and goals. It was not hard to see what made her film stand out to the TIFF’s team of programmers and film experts across the country as they chose it as one of Canada’s Top Ten. Jasmin told a story that women were desperate to tell alongside her, and women are longing to hear and to have be heard. It’s a film that inspires people to think differently about women, especially teenagers, and Canadians. We’re proud to have people like Jasmin creating a more truthful identity for women and Canadians that challenges stereotypes and starts conversations that channel change.