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Getting a visit from Aunt Flo, that time of the month, riding the crimson wave: you’d think that something experienced monthly by 53% of the world population would be something that’s more openly talked about. Unfortunately, menstruation–the experience of it, the tools related to it and stories that happen as a result of it–continue to be a bit of a taboo subject in the mainstream media. Hell, there may actually be a whole segment of the population who believe women excrete blue liquid each month thanks to the way maxi pad commercials depict it. Luckily for ladies everywhere, three Canadian women are trying to change the way that people talk about periods.

Actresses Liane Balaban and Vanessa Matsui and Costume Designer Jenna Wright founded Crankytown in 2011 with the idea that they would create an online space where girls could go to talk about, commiserate over, ask questions and get more information about this thing that happens to them every month. It evens features videos, stories and poems from celebs like Feist, Emma Thompson, and Jessica Paré in addition to supporting HURU International which aims to help young women in places like Nairobi afford to purchase reusable sanitary products so that they can continue to go to school and carry on with their daily lives even while on their period.

As if that’s not enough, the trio have also launched an online video contest called Crankyfest that encourages anyone with something to say about menstruation to submit a film under 3 minutes in whichever genre they choose. The films will be judged by a panel of industry experts (Meaghan Rath from Being Human , Jane Grenier from Teen Vogue and Rachelle Lefevre from Twilight ) and all proceeds from the festival will go to further support HURU International.

At the fest’s launch party this past January Balaban explained, “It’s an exciting time for women in the world right now – and Crankyfest is part of the wave of men and women saying ‘enough.’ Enough objectification. Enough violence. Enough of this limited portrayal of the female experience in mass media. Women are people, and they have stories. And there happen to be a ton of incredible ones about periods.”

The next deadline for film submissions is March 31, 2013. Check out the Crankyfest website for more information.

Names: Liane Balaban, Jenna Wright and Vanessa Matsui

Occupations: Actor, Costume Designer, Actor

Describe Crankyfest in 10 words or less: Crankyfest is an on-line film festival inspired by menstruation.

Describe what led you to create the Festival: We have so much fun making our videos that we wanted other people to experience that too. Menstruation is such a great topic because it’s so dramatic: Blood comes out of your vagina! It’s pretty crazy when you think about it. We also have a bigger vision of wanting to create a cultural shift in the way that women view their bodies and the way society does or stigmatizes menstruation. By telling our own stories there is a certain ownership you have over your experiences. It’s not being dictated to you. You are the story teller. That can be pretty empowering.

Describe a “typical” day in planning a film fest: We meet with our fantastic producers at Ithentic (usually on a bi-coastal Skype conversation cause we’re always all over the place) and discuss how to do outreach and any updates we have for the site.

What do you like best about the job? I really love working with Jenna and Liane. I feel like we have great chemistry and compliment each other’s work styles very well. They are also hilarious and our emails always end with an xo.

What’s the most challenging part of the job? It’s sometimes hard when people tell you what you are doing is disgusting. That menstruation shouldn’t be talked about. I feel a bit ashamed and bad for, like, a second but then get over it because that is exactly why we are doing this!!

Is there some aspect of the job that might surprise people if they knew about it? Women and men LOVE talking about periods. You would be surprised at how many people tell me very intimate stories about either their period or their girlfriend’s period. I’m also always surprised at how many men are interested in supporting Crankytown and how many questions they’ll ask about menstruation in general.

Advice for filmmakers who might want to submit a film? Just do it! Don’t be shy and don’t procrastinate. I had an acting teacher once who said the hardest part is just showing up. So just show up! Make something on your iphone.

Why do you think it’s important for a fest like this to exist? Crankyfest is a step toward normalizing periods in our culture, & normalizing women’s stories and experiences in general. The more we use media to celebrate this natural and wondrous event, the more we deepen our understanding of women’s lives and see them as multi dimensional people, not just sexualized objects.

Name your favourite movie genre and why you like it: I love comedy because comedy makes you feel good when you’re down, when you’re sick you reach for a comedy.

Favourite Canadian film or filmmaker? New Waterford Girl of course!!

What aspect of Toronto would you immortalize on film and why? This might sound cliche but I would immortalize the multi-cultural aspect of Toronto. And I don’t just mean it’s diversity but how much different cultures mix in Toronto. Hanging out in LA makes me realize how unique it is that I have friends from all different cultures and that we all grew up together and got along. I remember being 14 before I even realized I was 1/2 japanese. It just wasn’t a thing. My best friends were white, armenian, chinese, 1/2 nigerian, 1/2 philipino, korean etc…

Favourite aspect of the film scene in Toronto and why? I’m pretty new to the Toronto film scene (was in Montreal for years) but Liane took me to TIFF last year and I had a blast. At Montreal film festivals you have to pay for your own booze.

Movie snack: sweet or savoury? SAVOURY

Photo credit: Kourosh Keshiri Photography

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