Canada’s The Shoe Project makes leap from stage to screen
Catch short films by immigrant and refugee women on Multiculturalism Day
TORONTO (June 15, 2021) – No Canadian experience. Job-seeking immigrant and refugee women in Canada are often rejected by potential employers with those words, a systemic challenge The Shoe Project aims to change.
In June, alumnae of The Shoe Project – a women-led, non-profit writing and performance initiative founded by Canadian author Katherine Govier – will present short autobiographical films created in collaboration with filmmaker Gerda Cammaer, an associate professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University.
In 2017, Cammaer received popular acclaim for producing and directing Taxi Stories – a series of short mobile films about cab drivers, immigration and multiculturalism – in partnership with Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre and the city’s woman-led Beck taxi company, which is billed as North America’s largest fleet.
The film program for this edition of The Shoe Project, conceived and coordinated by Cammaer – who worked with former student Serene Husni – and financed with a grant from RBC Foundation, marks the first time since the project began 10 years ago that women newcomers, many of them highly skilled leaders, will present their stories on film instead of performing them for an audience.
Filmmaker Reem Morsi, a Shoe Project alumna, will host the online program, which will be broadcast on June 27 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT (6:00 to 7:30 p.m. GMT) on Canada’s Multiculturalism Day.
Morsi, who hails from Egypt, arriving in Vancouver by way of London before moving to Toronto, is one of many alumnae who have found a more comfortable footing in Canada through The Shoe Project, which helps groups of 12 women at a time develop confidence, communities and networks while honing their storytelling skills and gaining local experience in 10-week workshop cycles.
With a background in international relations and human rights at the United Nations, Morsi has also directed two feature-length films.
The Shoe Project helped break down Morsi’s feelings of isolation when she first moved to Canada, where, despite all of her professional experiences and her educational background, she felt she almost needed to start again from scratch.
“There’s a very big emphasis on whether you have Canadian experience or not, so The Shoe Project was a beautiful experience because there was a kind of unity and sisterhood – we had so much support,” she said. “Writing specifically about the immigration experience with other women and listening to their stories, and developing stories together was just a beautiful, magical experience for me.”
The short films feature stories about Western-style boots in Istanbul by Simten Osken, qib qabs slippers in Damascus by Maya Kabbani, bare feet and ophthalmology in Mali by Umut Duygu Uzunel, high heels as an act of defiance during interrogation in Turkey by Elif Derin and Valentino brand-name shoes as a symbol of love in Rome by Elizabeth Meneses Del Castillo.
Film can transport the viewer into the shoes of the storyteller in a different way than text, Morsi said.
“Rather than bringing our own baggage or our own experience into it and creating our own version of it – it helps you see more and connect more what really happened to them,” she added.
The Shoe Project attracts judges, psychologists, psychiatrists, scientists, athletes and other professional women newcomers as well as nannies and homemakers.
In addition to RBC Foundation, The Shoe Project Shorts are supported by the in-kind support of Trinity Square Video in Toronto. The Shoe Project is in partnership with PEN Canada, a non-profit group that advocates freedom of expression. Local partners include the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association and PIRS in Vancouver. The Shoe Project has been supported in part by the government of Canada through the federal Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program. It was incubated at The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
Sunday, June 27, 2021
2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT (6:00 to 7:30 p.m. GMT)
Tickets available online: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-shoe-project-shorts-film-screening-and-panel-discussion-tickets-156949615525?aff=PressRelease