“It’s finally our time to tell our stories.” 5 Must-Watch CBC Docs By and About Women
“It’s finally our time to tell our stories.” 5 Must-Watch CBC Docs By and About Women

To mark International Women's Day on March 8, meet some Canadian female filmmakers who documented their own lives or told stories about women's issues for CBC Docs. 

Shelley Saywell

The War At Home
SCENE FROM THE FILM: Nneka MacGregor and other domestic abuse survivors document details into a database to expose patterns.

Emmy award-winning filmmaker Shelley Saywell spent nearly three decades documenting violence against women across the globe. In her film, The War at Home, she focuses on Canada and how prevalent domestic violence is at home. She highlights the stories of several survivors who are fighting what many women's advocates say is system rigged against them.

"The unique way in which [women] experience the world give the films we make a slightly different slant than those made by our male contemporaries. On everything from the way women witness war, to social change, love or despair, women have a unique experience. For too long women have been “missing in action” in recorded history. It’s finally our time to tell our stories.” - Shelley Saywell

Watch the full film: The War At Home


Heather Hatch

Jaat Sdiihltl’lxa: Woman Who Returns

Jaat Sdiihltl’lxa: Woman Who Returns follows filmmaker Heather Hatch as she navigates her ancestry. Hatch, adopted when she was young, didn’t discover she was Haida until she was 16. Thirty years after she left her homeland, she went back to try and join her clan. But, the process was more complicated than she thought. The film follows her journey to Haida Gwaii.

"Female voices in the documentary world offer a unique and enlightening perspective that spoke to me due to their inspiring themes. Seeing a story from the female point of view opens up communication to others about how we experience the world, which brings us closer together." - Heather Hatch

Watch the full film above.


Hannah Donegan

Sugar Sisters
SCENE FROM THE FILM: Hannah attends a sugar event in New York: a mixer that brings together sugar babies and potential sugar daddies.

Young filmmaker Hannah Donegan is at the centre of her documentary, Sugar Sisters. Along with her two younger sisters, she delves into the world of sugar dating: where young women or men date someone in exchange for cash or gifts. Through her own story, Donegan shows why sugar dating entices her cash-strapped generation and discovers the personal costs that can come with it.

"The film world is heavily dominated by men, and narratives about women fall into common tropes set by the dominating male gaze. Sex workers are often depicted as either victims or villains, and this has real life effects on the way we treat sex workers in society – we tell them they’re victims but treat them like criminals. Female voices in the documentary world help to challenge these viewing assumptions. I want to see women representing their own sexuality and agency through film, unapologetically." - Hannah Donegan

Watch the full film: Sugar Sisters


Roxann Karonhiarokwas Whitebean

SCENE FROM THE FILM: Roxann talks about what it will mean to lose her hair during chemotherapy.

Three days after shooting her first short film, Roxann Karonhiarokwas Whitebean was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a young mother of four and budding filmmaker, she documented her fight in a five-part series called, Thunder Blanket. The films follow Whitebean as she loses her hair and struggles to find a balance between modern medicine and traditional remedies.

"As a woman, I try to produce meaningful content that will strengthen our voices based on our needs. A female perspective is seldom captured because men dominate film and television, which is why it’s important to have female voices in key roles so that we’re not misrepresenting what a documentary is all about; real people and real stories." - Roxann Karonhiarokwas Whitebean

Watch part 2 of Thunder Blanket above. Additional episodes can be found here


Phyllis Ellis

Girls Night Out
SCENE FROM THE FILM: How destructive can binge drinking be? Adriana explains how her life has improved since quitting.

Girls Night Out, directed by Phyllis Ellis, looks at the world of binge drinking through the eyes of women who felt pressured to participate. The film offers an intimate and honest look at why some young, ambitious women drink themselves to oblivion. It brings together the voices of older women who’ve given up alcohol and younger women in the throes of binge drinking culture. It opens up a conversation about an issue that’s become the norm on campuses across North America.

"The voices of women are inextricable to the documentary world in Canada.  Not exclusively in issues relating to women but our perspective, unique visual language and lens in all aspects of filmmaking. Expertise, ability and experience are not gendered and it is exciting that our voices are valued and celebrated as we continue direct, write and produce award-winning and critically acclaimed documentary films.  We are integral to the success of our non-fiction industry in Canada." - Phyllis Ellis

Watch the full film: Girls' NIght Out

Also on CBC