Noreen Golfman, founder of flagship N.L. film festival, retiring after 3 decades

After 30 years at the helm, the chair of the province's largest film festival is saying goodbye.

After 30 years, the chair of the province's largest film festival is saying goodbye

Noreen Golfman, the founding director and chair of the St. John's International Women's Film Festival, is retiring after 30 years. (Bailey White/CBC)

The founder of Newfoundland's flagship film festival is retiring as chair after three decades at the helm.

When Noreen Golfman started the St. John's International Women's Film Festival, it was just a single screening, spanning only a few hours.

Today, it's ballooned into a five-day big-budget event, with multiple screenings rounded out by workshops and socials.

"The festival is in such good hands now. I can walk away," Golfman said. "I don't like calling it quits."

Given her key role in forging the festival, Golfman says it took her a few years to mull over stepping down. "It's a process. You have to start imagining yourself not there. You have to have confidence in the team that's going to continue. It doesn't happen overnight."

Golfman recalled the early days, when she and a handful of film fanatics pulled in a bit of cash from the National Film Board.

A couple years after that, she said, the festival board had enough support to design a few posters and add more screenings. At that point, she said, they never looked back.

CBC producer and radio host Angela Antle will take over from Golfman as chair. (Tom Cochrane)

Golfman said her role as a film studies professor at Memorial University left her deeply embedded in the arts scene and helped her grow the festival. After half a decade, "we had a little bit of a teeny infrastructure," she said. "I was motivated."

Today, the festival calls to filmmakers around the world and exposes homegrown movie buffs to the wider arts community.

"We're known as a kind of engine of creativity, generating new talent here," Golfman said. 

"So it's not just about the screenings, but it's about the activity in the industry as well. I think that's been a really important part of our growth."

The CBC's Angela Antle, who's been with the festival for a decade and will be taking over as chair, nodded to Golfman's achievements, calling her new role both daunting and humbling.

"They're big shoes to fill," Antle said.

The new position may be aided, however, by a recent culture shift within the film industry. Antle recalled an opportunity boom about five years ago, when female show runners were suddenly more norm than novelty.

"There is real change," she said.

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