Above all, be the heroine of your life. – Nora Ephron, American film director, producer, screenwriter, and novelist
Lunafest, presented by the East Bay Lunafest Committee this past Saturday, was a rousing success. The traveling film festival is now shown in approximately 150 cities across the U.S. and Canada, up from 125 cities last year. Here’s what makes this particular fundraiser for breast cancer awareness and prevention dear to my heart, given that there are many honorable organizations and events supporting breast cancer education, screening and diagnosis, access to treatment, and/or research. Established in 2000 By LUNA, makers of the Whole Nutrition Bar for Women, Lunafest simultaneously promotes women filmmakers, raises awareness for women’s issues, supports local nonprofit organizations, brings communities together, and celebrates women’s creative spirits. Not to mention getting to know and working with the wonderful group of women, with diverse experiences and talents, who make up the committee.
Our VIP reception, which was held before the screening, featured a pianist and bassist duo, wonderful catered food and wine, and a cadre of eager and polite students from the IT Academy at El Cerrito High School (ECHS) who checked guests in, served food with a smile, and lit the way from the home of our committee chair where the VIP reception was held to the ECHS Performing Arts Center the next block over. We raised money through our raffle drawing, which included a GoPro camera, Kindle, Donkey & Goat wine set, Nikon camera, and more. Jeanne Rizzo, RN, president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund, couldn’t make it to our event, but she sent a heart-felt thank you via a recorded video message before the nine short films began.
After drawing the winning tickets for the raffle prizes, attendees were treated to complimentary coffee (decaffeinated, of course) courtesy of Well Grounded Tea & Coffee Bar (6925 Stockton Avenue, El Cerrito, CA 94530, 510. 528.4709) and vegan, gluten-free ice cream sandwiches from Green Girl Bake Shop and cookies and cupcakes from Braxtons’ Boxes (510.708.7089). Two monitors in the lobby featured student films from the IT Academy, as well. It was great to see so many friends and acquaintances from the schools and community, and it was equally thrilling to see so many faces I didn’t know and to see the auditorium fill up. We ended up having nearly 300 people come to Lunafest this year.
And now for the movies: my mini reviews
The nine films chosen ranged from animation to documentary, from serious topics to lighthearted moments, to injecting lighthearted moments into serious subjects, from filmmakers from overseas – Norway, the Netherlands, Greece, and Australia – to the epicenter of filmmaking, New York. They also ranged in length from 21 minutes to under four minutes.
Here’s a brief summary of these award-winning films:
Granny’s Got Game by Angela Alford: “Seven fiercely competitive women in their 70s bond and play winning basketball, proving you are never too old to do what you love.” From the sound of the audience, this was a crowd favorite. How uplifting to cheer on these young-at-heart women who showed us how strong and spunky you can be when you don’t let barriers keep you on the sidelines, literally, and how that will to keep going feeds the fire.
Flying Anne by Catherine van Campen: “A young girl with Tourette’s syndrome takes ‘flight’ to navigate life with her tics.” This was the crowd favorite, according to our survey. I loved how the filmmaker put a face on Tourette’s syndrome. van Campen gave us all sides of Anne, making her multi-dimensional when many might only see the tics borne by this neurological disorder. I also appreciated watching her counselor play act with Anne to show her how to deal with people who don’t know about her condition. This led to her bravely explaining Tourette’s syndrome in an informal discussion with her classmates; she asked them to put their hands on their desks for several minutes and control their impulse to, for example, scratch their itchy heads. Hard, isn’t it, she asked them. I found two other scenes with her good friend Delano, who wanted to protect her and revealed soon afterward that he wanted to marry her, lovely and poignant – going in and out of industrial dumpsters in a field and holding one another as they went down a water slide in slow motion.
Sidewalk by Celia Bullwinkel: “A woman walks through life, confronts her changing body, and learns to love herself.” This fun animated short had many of my friends telling me after the screening that they were pegging where they were in their own lives in the depiction of a woman’s many stages of life as she walked down the sidewalk.
First Match by Olivia Newman: “A determined female wrestler prepares for her first coed high school match.” We got the chance to meet the young female wrestler, who now wrestles as a college student against young men, at the San Francisco premiere. She was impressive and her real-life determination was perfectly captured by filmmaker Olivia Newman.
Sound Shadows by Julie Engaas: “Enter a world where sound gives shape to space.” This short film creatively explored what sound looks like with the help of animation for a woman who is blind.
Maria of Many by Alexandra Liveris: “Meet Maria – Mexican immigrant, domestic worker, committed mom, and activist.” Liveris’ skill in this short film lies in being able to give us a glimpse of Maria’s multiple life roles in less than four minutes, but it’s a complete view, highlighted by scenes of her at work, with her two young children, and with the women’s cooperative that helped her to find her voice and courage in her adopted new country.
Running Dry by Dimitra Nikolopoulou: “A woman impacted by economic hardships journeys into contemporary Athens.” Although I had to run out for a few minutes and missed most of this short film, it was one of my favorites when I saw it at the San Francisco premiere because it revealed the largeness of the protagonist’s and community’s heart to forgive, to share, to bring laughter and joy amid trying times, and to persevere despite difficulties. And who didn’t have that zippy piano soundtrack running through their heads long after the film festival ended? In a good way, that is!
Date with Fate by Venetia Taylor: “When it comes to blind dating, some things are meant to be – whether you like it or not.” This short film, about a divorced couple who go to a matchmaking agency only to find out that they were matched to one another, had its laugh-out-loud moments.
Tiny Miny Magic by Danielle Lurie: “When Sam and her mailman exchange presents via her mailbox, an unexpected love connection blossoms.” I’m glad that the film festival ended with this selection because it was one of my favorites, if not my favorite. It captured Brooklyn so well, the premise was fun, and the actors – their facial expressions were spot on – were delightful. It is the type of ending to a film festival that leaves you buoyant, bouncing out of your seat and the theater – ready for your own tiny miny magic.