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Confronting horror on screen at Women in Film Festival

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs March 8 to 12
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers plays the role of Nikki Taylor in On the Farm, which chronicles the life of a woman who escaped the trappings of life on the Downtown Eastside. Photo Dan Toulgoet
Karen Lam’s monsters manifest themselves internally before getting released on a TV or film screen. 
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, on the other hand, speaks to resilience in the face of a monster etched into Canadian history as the worst serial killer the nation has seen. 
Both women will relay their own versions of horror this week as part of the 12th annual Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, which runs March 8 to 12. 
Tailfeathers stars in the film On the Farm, which serves as a dramatization of journalist Stevie Cameron’s book of the same name delving into the Robert Pickton murder case. 
The Vancouverite plays the role of Nikki Taylor, a fictionalized character who perseveres through forced sex work and addiction in the Downtown Eastside. Her story highlights both redemption and indictment.  
“She’s a truly resourceful, and incredible survivor and a resilient young woman,” Tailfeathers said. “But the film is essentially a huge indictment on the Vancouver Police Department, the RCMP and the justice system as a whole.” 
The film was released last year, garnering Tailfeathers a Leo nomination. This year’s awards cycle sees On the Farm up for three Canadian Screen Awards: Best TV Movie, Best Director for a Dramatic Program/Limited Series and Best Lead Actress. 
The winners will be announced March 12, but Tailfeathers will have already returned home to the Blood Reserve in southern Alberta to kick off her next project — a film about the deadly synthetic narcotic fentanyl and its impact on her people. 
“Our community was essentially ground zero for the fentanyl crisis,” she said, adding the film will be released next year. “It impacted us nearly three years ago and we’ve lost quite a few people to fentanyl-related overdoses. The film is meant to share the ongoing work of our community and how you deal with a crisis like this.” 
On the Farm will be screened at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 9 at Vancity Theatre. 
While Karen Lam’s role in the festival also centres around horror, hers is of the fictional variety.  
A writer, producer and director, Lam will lead a pair of workshops on March 9 that delve into the creative process and the optimum elements required to tackle the horror movie genre. 
“The stories that I’m drawn to are worlds that are fully realized,” Lam said. “When you watch something like Game of Thrones or you immerse yourself in a really good book, you have all the details really thought out. It’s a cohesive, real place.” 
Lam entered the TV world in the early 2000s after a career in law. She’s produced four feature films, eight short films and three television series, including horror titles Evangeline, Chiral and The Meeting. 
For Lam, horror is a safe place to examine real world issues. 
“It’s a way for me to discuss really hard issues and ideas, but in a more of a surrealist or symbolic ways. A lot of the anxieties, danger and fear that we have of the world around us, I can personify through the horror.” 
Lam’s first panel discussion, Creating the Universe, runs from 10 to 11:30 a.m., while Shooting the Horror Film is slated from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Both events take place at Vancity Theatre. 
For info, see