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Vol 39  No 4
Oct. 12, 2006



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Researcher’s work leads to drama in annual festival

by Leslie Vryenhoek

Dr. Barbara Neis

The 17th annual St. John’s Women’s Film Festival opens next week with an ambitious line-up of films, including a drama based on research conducted through Memorial University.

Dr. Noreen Golfman, associate dean of graduate studies and a professor of English, has been the driving force behind Canada’s oldest women’s film festival since its inception. At a recent press conference, she called this year’s festival “a perfect synergy” of filmmakers from the local community and 12 other countries. “We have worked very hard for 17 years to get to a moment like this.”

Dr. Golfman’s film reviewing skills ­ which she is sharing with students in a new English course this semester ­ got a good workout over the past few months as over 460 films came flooding into the women’s film festival office. All had to be viewed, and in the end 81 were selected for screening.

Among the films is a short drama called A Second Wind, directed by DELT’s Donna Downey and based on the research of Dr. Barbara Neis, co-director of SafetyNet, into the high incidence of asthma among snow crab processing workers in the province.

A Second Wind seeks to convey the issues and dilemmas crab asthma creates for workers, their families and employers,” Dr. Neis explained. “It is an educational and discussion tool that will be used in a project ... designed to pilot and test a community-based approach to policy innovation in shellfish processing occupational health.”

The film is based on a play written by Dr. Ian Feltham, a physician and co-investigator on the original crab asthma research project. In 2003, SafetyNet commissioned a shortened version for a workshop, and that became the basis for the film script, which was written by Lois Brown. Funding from the

Canadian Institutes for Health Research and in-kind support from DELT helped produce the 20-minute piece.

According to Dr. Neis, crab asthma can become chronic. “Once you’ve got it, you’re in trouble. Most people don’t have job options, so they keep working. That’s one of the things that keeps these issues invisible.”

A Second Wind will be shown at The Studio (272 Water Street) at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 22. This is the film’s first public screening. However, Dr. Neis has shown it to select audiences.

“When we pre-screened the drama with some plantworkers, I asked them who should see it. They thought it should definitely be shown to plantworkers. On reflection, they thought everyone needs to be aware of this issue and what it means for those people who are living with it.”

After its film festival debut, Ms. Downey and Dr. Neis hope their short drama will find its way into university and college classrooms, into a new high school course on occupational health, and even into the training of health care professionals.

The St. John’s Women’s Film Festival, which runs from Wednesday, Oct. 18, to Sunday, Oct. 22, will also offer lighter fare, as well as documentaries, artistic and experimental films. Opening and closing galas will be held at the Arts and Culture Centre. However, most shows happen at The Majestic, with special screenings at The Rooms and Petro-Canada Hall in the School of Music.

Aspiring and accomplished filmmakers can also take part in workshops offered during the festival.

Complete program information is available at


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