Ferndale’s Sarah Menzies was just 25 when she quit her job in environmental nonprofits to become a filmmaker. She finagled her way onto a sailboat traveling from Namibia to Uruguay that was studying plastic pollution. The project didn’t pan out for her, but it confirmed that filmmaking was her calling.
The eight years since haven’t been easy, yet Menzies, now 34, has come away with a vast portfolio of films sponsored by the likes of REI, Osprey, and Patagonia. From a child filled with wonder and excitement to a filmmaker with empathy and drive, Menzies has made a name for herself through her ability to document real human stories with both beauty and impact.
Since her next big project, a 10-minute film called “Catch It” on up-and-coming surfer Léa Brassy, hit the scene in 2013, Menzies has worked her way up through the film festival circuit with compelling stories of the world’s movers and shakers. Her first feature film “Afghan Cycles” was a remarkable success, having premiered at North America’s largest film festival HotDocs in Toronto in the spring of 2018. The film is centered around a group of female cyclists in Kabul, Afghanistan, who ride despite rampant discrimination and abuse. The project spanned nearly five years, furthered by crowdfunding and Menzies’ unyielding passion and drive. “She’s a very courageous young woman,” says Cheryl Crooks, executive director of Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival, set for April 11–14. “To pursue the stories that she did under the circumstances that she did and make it as a stunningly beautiful, well-told film was just a powerful, powerful thing.”
Coming off a year of travel, Menzies, who grew up in Ferndale but now lives in Seattle, is settling back into her normal routine. She will travel for a week or so, working on some project or other, and return home for a month to edit and recover. Production days are long, editing days longer. But when finally revealed to the world, each of Menzies’ projects spread powerful messages of inspiration. “It all started with wanting to experience the world and be able to share stories,” Menzies says by phone from Seattle. “I’ll feel completely drained after production, but it’s so exhilarating.” As a female filmmaker telling stories about mostly female subjects, Menzies says she has found herself an unlikely leader in local women’s filmmaking. As such, she recognizes that there is still a lot to do. “We’re at a really exciting time right now as women,” Menzies says. “There’s a lot of progress and change that needs to happen. The fight’s not over.”
Sarah Menzies, LET MEDIA
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