On November 5, 2012, I sent an email to a group of women with the subject line: “A semi-formed idea.” Would people be interested in starting a film journal, one centred on feminism? This was the ask. Everyone said yes. Over the next six years, that semi-formed idea would become cléo journal. It would become a home. Not just for me but, as I always hoped, for a roster of editors, writers, artists, Twitter followers and anyone else who felt left out in the cold in the film world. Looking back over the archives, I re-read the editor’s note from our “Home” issue, where I drew from Johnny Guitar (1954) to talk about how “homes don’t merely come into being, but are works of labour.” This has been a huge lesson in the last six years; more importantly, this work can’t be done alone. Luckily for me, it wasn’t.
Almost exactly six years later, it’s not easy to write what will be my last editor’s note at cléo. I don’t know how to summarize what starting and working on this publication has meant to me. How, in all honesty, it changed my life. I don’t trust in my own writing skills to fully articulate how much the friendships, films and writers I’ve been introduced to through the issues have brought to my life, both professionally and personally. As a person who’s occasionally prone to hyperbole, I find only trite clichés coming to mind, because how else can you thank so many people for making your life richer?
This is why stepping down as an editor is such a hard and frankly emotional choice. I really love what we’ve done at cléo, and I really love the editorial team, both current (Mallory Andrews, Chelsea Phillips-Carr, Kathleen Kampeas-Rittenhouse, Michelle Kay) and former (Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Julia Cooper, Eleni Deacon, Lydia Ogwang). The reason why I’m “leaving” is that, simply, after 17 issues, I’m really tired, and I would never want my own exhaustion to slow the momentum of cléo down.
Our readers know we operate on a shoestring budget and rely on grants (thank you to the Ontario Arts Council) and donations. It’s not a stable model, but I will say the donations have been a continued source of not just financial support but emotional, too. Be it a $2 a month donation on our Patreon or a major contribution, like Amar Wala giving us the prize money from his Doc Institute Vanguard Award, these contributions show we’re not just building a website but building a community. As I said on Twitter after Amar made the announcement: “Community is so hard to come by, build and maintain that acts like this really mean everything.” They do. Speaking in concrete terms: the aim at cléo was always to pay our writers. We got there, but I could never quite figure out how to pay ourselves. That’s my only real regret.
I want the community cléo is part of to continue to thrive and grow, and I know under the leadership of the current editorial board, it will continue to do so. I have nothing but faith and respect—and excitement—for what’s to come. Because while I might be leaving the home that we all built, I promise I’ll be back to visit, as a reader and contributor.
And now on to #CanCon. (Sorry for the diversion, eh.) In our 17th issue, we wanted to look inwards at what our national cinema has produced, while also, as is always the mandate at cléo, working to expand that cinematic canon to include those voices that have been historically and structurally sidelined. We have an interview with Canadian icon Patricia Rozema, conducted by our web editor (and newsletter genius) Cathleen Evans. Sylvia D. Hamilton reflects on the life and career of acclaimed Black Nova Scotian classical concert performer Portia White, the subject of Hamilton’s 2000 documentary Portia White: Think On Me. Sara Wylie pays tribute to the radical documentaries of Holly Dale and Janis Cole: P4W: Prison for Women (1981), an intimate look at Kingston’s notorious former federal prison for women; and Hookers on Davie (1984), a pro sex-worker portrait of Vancouver’s West End in the early 1980s.
We’re always pleased to have Justine Smith back writing for us, and here she examines female identity and the body beyond desirability through Quebec filmmaker Anne Émond’s films Nelly (2016) and Nuit #1 (2011). Madeleine Wall examines the mix of storytelling, cultural survival and genre subversion in Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu’s Before Tomorrow (2008) and our own Chelsea Philips-Carr writes on how Anne Claire Poirier subverts the “women alone” genre in Le temps de l’avant (1975). We also have Taylor Sanchez Guzman looking at the representation of Indigenous peoples and post-colonial reality in Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013).
I also profiled the under-screened and under-sung Michka Saäl, who sadly passed away last year. In this issue’s “Who We’re Watching” feature, Paloma Pacheco takes us through Joële Walinga’s artistic and cinematic career. In our roundtable (one of my favourite features of any cléo issue!), filmmakers Shasha Nakhai, Molly McGlynn and Ella Cooper reflect on their career paths and discuss what it would take for the Canadian film industry to become a truly equitable and inclusive space.
I don’t know how to sign off after all these years, other than to say thank you and see you soon. I can’t wait for cléo’s next chapter.
– Kiva Reardon
December 14, 2018