I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.
– Mary Wollstonecraft, 18th century British writer, philosopher, and feminist, from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
This past Thursday marked the start of the Lunafest 2014-2015 season, with the premiere being held at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and six members of our Lunafest East Bay Committee in attendance. LUNA, makers of the Whole Nutrition Bar for Women, established the film festival in 2001 to “simultaneously promote women filmmakers, raise awareness for women’s issues, and support women’s nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada.”
Kit Crawford, co-founder of Clif Bar & Company with her husband Gary Erickson, co-chief visionary officer of the company, president of the Clif Bar Family Foundation, and strategic advisor to Lunafest, welcomed a full house to the film festival, whose tagline is “a film festival by, for, about women.” Kit entreated us to “celebrate women in film and stories that connect us all” and called the collection of eight short films “intelligent, funny, and thought-provoking.”
As special guest, award-winning filmmaker and former Lunafest filmmaker Jen McGowan gave a spirited presentation. McGowan studied as an actor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and as a director at USC’s MFA program. She has won awards for her short films from Women in Film and the Caucus Foundation, and was a nominee for the Clint Eastwood Filmmakers Award. Her first feature-length film, Kelly & Cal, which stars Juliette Lewis and Cybil Shepherd, won the Gamechanger Award at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Conference and Festival. IFC Films released the movie in select theaters September 5th. We were treated to a trailer, and the film – with its tagline of “outcasts in life, allies in suburbia” – looks like a good one to catch when it expands to other markets.
As part of USC’s First Team Project, which fosters projects for their alumni, Jen had received positive response for her work. But it was an “out of the blue” phone call from two producers who were looking at indie film festivals and saw her short film from Lunafest 2011 that helped propel an already-rising career. Despite the accolades, Jen lamented these facts, reported by Indie Wire: independent films make up only 10 percent of films made today, and only 5 percent of indie films are directed by women. She called the low percentage of female indie directors, despite women being the majority in our population, “stereotypical.” “It’s bad for our culture, and it’s bad for women and men,” she declared.
“Expectations come from our stories,” she told the audience. Jen pointed out that we need to rewrite the narrative and change the story arc, and just as important, “we can all contribute in a unique way.” Women writers need to tell a good story, film directors need to seek out those stories, and producers need to fund those films and get them in front of audiences. And we, Jen emphasized, need to respond to women filmmakers’ work. “We need your support,” she said. “We filmmakers don’t work in a vacuum.” How we, the audience, responds, will help rewrite the narrative. Heed this call to action!
Jeanne Rizzo, RN, president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund, also spoke. The Breast Cancer Fund is the major recipient of Lunafest’s fundraising efforts. Jeanne, who is so full of energy, gave an uplifting presentation. “Have confidence that stories are legitimate,” she told us. She also inspired us to be proactive and to demand change, wisely noting that “you never get what you don’t ask for.” Jeanne pointed out that the word “no” is not negative but represents the status quo. “Keep searching for yeses,” she proclaimed, which will aid in rewriting the next pages of the story.
Jeanne encouraged all of us to be successful without sacrificing our values and be self-sustaining and be good for the people with what we do with our lives. “We all have the capacity to change the story that we live,” she insisted. “Your name is on this moment. Step up or walk away.”
Of the eight filmmakers, two are from the United Kingdom, one from Spain, and five from the U.S. (Los Angeles, Palo Alto, New York, Cambridge, and Kansas City). I’ll profile the eight short films when we host our East Bay Lunafest on Saturday, March 21st. Save the Date! Having seen five of the films during the screening and selection process in late spring, I noted that while the surprise factor – which is often accompanied by a sense of wonder and magic – had been erased, I caught little moments that I had missed the first time, which enriched my experience with the films.
This season’s Lunafest will be shown in 170 cities, with an anticipated 25,000 attendees witnessing and sharing stories by women storytellers. As our Lunafest program noted: “We all have a story. Film is an inspiring way to bring those stories to life – to connect and build community. Lunafest is a film festival by, for, and about women dedicated to building community through the power of film and through the power of story.”
Join us for our magical evening on March 21st!