Filmmaker Maureen Judge is all about capturing the journeys that change people. It’s the perfect obsession for someone who found her own niche through trial and error. Judge (BA 1975 Innis) has made film and TV documentaries exploring everything from moms and daughters planning a wedding (Unveiled) to adult children who return home to live (In My Parents’ Basement).
Her latest, My Millennial Life, follows several 20-somethings struggling with launching a career and moving away from home. The film, which won a 2017 Canadian Screen Award, is presented wholly through the voices of the young protagonists. One of its subjects, Meron, has interned at MTV and is determined to become a broadcast journalist; she works as a chambermaid and has applied to 200 jobs hoping for her break. James, meanwhile, relies on loans from his parents while he develops his tech startup, Skywatch, which has already won the NASA Space Apps Challenge. “It’s fascinating to watch people come of age,” says Judge, who teaches film at Sheridan College. “It’s a transformative time.”
Judge’s own transformation began at U of T, where she started a degree in biology, but switched to philosophy halfway through. “I took a course in intellectual history, and loved it,” she says. “And I started to change.” After graduating, she spent a year in France, then, wanting to broaden her experience, earned an MA in cinema studies at New York University. (Innis College only offered one film course then.) “The process of critical thinking and research, which I engaged in while studying philosophy at U of T, has been an important foundation for me as a filmmaker,” she says.
Her next project (to be released in 2019), Girls on the Bus, explores how female high schoolers are coping with their own pressures in, as Judge puts it, “a male-centric society. We’re always talking about pay differentials and the glass ceiling in the context of working women,” she says, “so I thought it would be exciting to explore these issues with girls poised to go into university.”
For each film she makes, Judge interviews up to 100 people. “I listen,” she says, “and try to follow their stream of thought as opposed to making their ideas conform to my point of view. I want to make sure that what I am including in a documentary is not only resonant, but is real – because it’s their voices we’re hearing in the film.”
Films to fill your queue
Maureen Judge’s perfect Friday evening binge watch
Éric Rohmer is one of my favourite filmmakers, and The Green Ray , which is a love story, is a drama shot like a doc. It’s very beautiful, and it has a lovely sense of humour.
Richard Linklater’s trilogy – Before Sunrise , Before Sunset  and Before Midnight  – is a very naturalistic drama. It’s heartfelt, funny and sometimes painful.
French filmmaker Agnès Varda has made brilliant narrative and documentary films for more than 50 years and is still at it. I saw her latest, Faces Places, at TIFF.