Critically acclaimed Maureen Judge discusses early beginnings to her most recent film
By Clarrie Feinstein
In a documentary that premiered in May at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, Maureen Judge explores youth unemployment and underemployment. For My Millennial Life, the Annex filmmaker followed five recent graduates who are all well educated, yet unable to find employment or paid internships.
“With My Millennial Life, I wanted to show the shift that is happening in the current economic infrastructure”—Maureen Judge, documentary filmmaker
At the heart of the documentary are the personal accounts of five young, aspiring individuals, all of them pursuing their passions, even if it means having to work multiple jobs to support themselves. In telling these stories, Judge taps into what she views as a troubling part of the present economic climate.
“For me my documentaries are not earnest films,” explained Judge, who co-founded Makin’ Movies, a television production company that produces documentaries and television series. “The backdrop has a discussion of politics, it could be in terms of family politics, socio-political problems, the work environment, etc. With My Millennial Life, I wanted to show the shift that is happening in the current economic infrastructure.
“After I’ve established the backdrop I then ask, ‘How do people navigate their way within that system?’ Often from these personal accounts a lot of humour is found, which always offsets the pain that is being revealed. It allows the audience to feel something with depth; the human perspective and emotion is pivotal.”
As Judge sat in her dining room, discussing her career and film ventures, it was evident she had specific stories to tell and that documentaries allowed for the perfect synthesis of narrative and analytical research.
“I got to research. I could study, read, interview, and bring that all in with the creative aspect. After my first documentary — And We Knew How to Dance: Women and World War I (1994) — I fell in love with the medium.”
Judge’s initial studies at the University of Toronto were not in film but in science and philosophy. Only after studying French in Paris, where she attended weekly film screenings, did the spark ignite for her to pursue film as a viable career option. After attending graduate school at New York University in cinema studies, Judge realized she wanted to pursue the practical avenue of filmmaking: directing.
Over Judge’s career her films have garnered critical acclaim, making her a figurehead in the Canadian film industry. Her subject matter is varied, yet many works focus on certain distinct themes such as family relationships. As one of eight children Judge was always in a full household, experiencing multiple personalities and emotions.
“Every kind of joy, sorrow, and tragedy were all shared experiences.”
Her documentary trilogy, which she produced and directed in association with TVO, explored love and betrayal in parent-child relationships. The first in the trilogy, Unveiled: The Mother Daughter Relationship, was inspired by her own relationship with her mother, which Judge describes as “one of the most important relationships in your life. These family dynamics are universal and are worth exploring.”
Family is an integral component in her life.
Judge, who moved around many times in her childhood, says she would often respond to the question, “Where are you from?” with, “my family. They’ve been the one constant in my life.”
Often found cycling around the Annex, the filmmaker says she loves “the intimacy of documentary making. The small crew, the spontaneity that it allows, and hearing ordinary people’s stories.”
View My Millennial Life.