32 years ago today, White Room came out in theaters. White Room was the first film produced by Patricia Rozema, so we’re celebrating this talented writer, director and producer today.
Patricia Rozema was born and raised in Canada by Dutch Calvinist parents, which means that she actually did not have access to television or movies throughout her childhood. Despite this, she began her career as a television journalist at CBC’s The Journal.
Patricia made her transition into film when she directed the feature I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987), a comedic drama about a lonely art gallery secretary. The film won the Prix de la Jeunesse at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival and ranked ninth in the Top Ten Canadian Films of All Time by the Toronto International Film Festival, making Patricia the first female director to be ranked in that list.
Patricia has also directed for television; she received the Emmy for Outstanding Classical Music-Dance Program for the Six Gestures. The Six Gestures were a part of the Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach series, which featured skating sequences alongside images of Yo-Yo Ma performing.
Patricia has written and directed a few book and play adaptations, including Mansfield Park (1999), adapted from Jane Austen’s novel of the same name. In an analysis of Mansfield Park, FF2 Contributor Nicole Ackman states that Patricia “sharpened the narrative and made Austen’s social commentary more obvious.” Around this time, Patricia also directed a film adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days.
If an Austen novel and a Beckett play aren’t different enough, Patricia also directed and ghost-wrote Kit Kittredge…
If an Austen novel and a Beckett play aren’t different enough, Patricia also directed and ghost-wrote Kit Kittredge, an adaptation of a book from the American Girl book series for kids which FF2 Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner describes as a “Well-paced, gently-didactic story about life in Depression Era America.” The Kit Kittredge film has been a formative piece of so many young girls’ lives; in a discussion of the film with my sister, I said that Kit Kittredge and all of the American Girls are “very proactive and smart and it’s nice to see that and have the message that you can be that way too when you’re a young girl.”
In 2015, Patricia’s feature film Into the Forest premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Into the Forest, starring Elliot Page and Evan Rachel Wood, follows two siblings surviving an apocalypse. Into the Forest was a new take on the apocalypse film, or in the words of FF2 contributor Georgiana Presecky, “Most apocalyptic films focus on destruction – bad guys wiping out humanity as we know it. This raw film depicts the end of the world on a smaller scale, altering the lives of just two people and magnifying the small challenges they must face.”
Patricia founded her own production company, Crucial Things, in 2017. At Crucial Things, she co-produced and directed her latest feature, Mouthpiece (2018), another adaptation of a play which depicts the first 48 hours after a young woman loses her mother. In a review of Mouthpiece, FF2 contributor Hannah Mayo says, “Patricia Rozema does a superb job translating Mouthpiece’s story to the medium of film. It maintains a theatrical spirit, largely through its song and dance numbers, while communicating the deeply emotional story with grace and intention in all cinematic parts.”
As Nicole Ackman puts it, “Rozema always manages to make films that benefit from her fresh perspective regardless of which genre they belong to.” Patricia demonstrates an incredible ability to span a wide variety of genres. No matter the subject matter, her work is always both timely and timeless, both artfully cinematic and touchingly human.
© Julia Lasker (11/16/2022) FF2 Media
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Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of Kit Kittredge here.
Read Hannah Mayo’s review of Mouthpiece here.