Our Experience with Lunafest:Short Films By, For and About Women
Last night I spent a rare evening alone with my teenage daughter. The one that is about to turn that magical age, the birthday she becomes legal to drive a car by herself. I would worry I might never see her again, but despite her older siblings gaining access to their own cars on that auspicious day, the youngest will be forced by circumstance to share my car. I have the power. Okay, no I really don’t. I have a certain amount of control over when she drives and probably where she drives but that’s it. But if I learned one thing last night watching the 9 films in this beautiful traveling film festival, it is that we all have very little power or control and what we do have is precious.
Lunafest was established in 2000 by the makers of the Luna bar, part of the Clif bar company. The main beneficiary of funds raised by the festival has been the Breast Cancer Fund. According to the Lunafest website, since growing from a single showing to a traveling festival with 150 screenings in North America, $1.2 million has been raised. The other cool thing is that the majority of funds from each screening can be donated to a local non profit, they call this “fundraiser in a box”. 100% of the profit from a small silent auction held in conjunction with the screening here in Little Rock and 85% of the profit from the screening went to the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. The remaining 15% went to the Breast Cancer Fund. I hate to admit I didn’t know much about the Women’s Foundation. I will admit that after looking them up and reading some of their material, I am fascinated. How did I miss a program for girls built to encourage education in ESTEM: economics, science, technology, engineering and math? My daughter is too old for Girls of Promise, but anyone who has a daughter in 6th or 7 th grade right now, please look into this program!
I sat in that darkened theater and heard the lovely sound of my small one giggling, laughing, sighing, even the occasional sharp intake of breath. I shared those glances of confusion, surprise, anger, and sadness with her as we watched these stories unfold. And afterward, we talked about which were our favorites, how they made us feel and played that game of “what would you do if?”.
By far we agreed that our favorite was “I am a Girl!” One of two foreign language films, this one from The Netherlands. The brief synopsis in the program reads simply “Joppe has always known that he is a girl-and won’t let a little biology get in the way.” What I found most interesting and what we spent a lot of time talking about afterward, was that the focus of the film was not about the judgment of society we just expect to happen with transgendered people. In fact, everyone around her seemed to be able to accept her; the school allowed her to change with the girls, she had a large group of girlfriends who did what every 13 yr old girl does: talk about boys, put on makeup, share clothes, go out dancing. The moment in this film that took me aback was when Joppe was describing how she felt about the fact that she would never be able to have children. It was heartbreaking for me as a mother to watch that. In the end her response was that she hoped to find a sweet husband who would understand and then they could find a willing surrogate mother. Then she quietly added that the child would not be hers of course, but it would be her husbands, and that’s okay. She’s 13. I don’t know that I thought about much beyond what I was wearing to school the next day at 13. Here is this very self assured, completely self aware young woman and she is beautiful. I have trouble finding supportive words in the face of lackluster piano practice or a poor algebra test result. How amazing would it be if I could cocoon my daughter in acceptance and love? How would it change her?
I think the one that took us on the roller coaster ride of emotion was Missed Connections; accounts of people who met by chance or just saw each other across a room or restaurant then put an ad in Craigslist’s Missed Connections section to see if the other person would answer. There was laughter, the joy of a couple that didn’t miss their connection and the sadness of one who never found his again.
There were two that dealt with body image issues. The story of the nude life model in her 70s kind of grossed the small one out. Ageism. I thought it was great of course. The other was humorous, but funny in an uncomfortable way. For me it was like watching an episode of The Office, the heroine was too odd and neurotic, which is the word used to describe her in the synopsis of Worst Enemy. What woman doesn’t struggle with body image? I do, and I don’t hide it as well as I should. The teenager? OMG! There are days when all it takes is one word to set her off down a spiral into the abyss of self loathing. Seemingly innocent comments, or worse, the purposefully sarcastic which is oh so common in this family, can have her in knots. Odd that it’s more often a family member who manages to say something hurtful, meaning to or not. We’ve had many a day/vacation/outing ruined by the reaction to a comment about appearance. The horror is that it doesn’t end when we “grow up” does it?
I don’t know many moms who don’t sneak peeks at their daughters to watch their reactions to their surroundings, I do it. And I treasure having the opportunity to do it. So thank you Stoller Strides of Little Rock for sponsoring the evening, Lunafest for the outstanding program and especially to InArkansas and Karen Martin for advertising it and for the contest that let me win tickets, without you I wouldn’t have known about it and probably wouldn’t have gone. I owe you one.