LUNAFEST Celebrates 15 Years
The Traveling Women’s Film Festival Launched By Luna Bar, the Nutrition Bar For Women, in 2000 Kicks-Off Its World Premiere in San Francisco
by Heather Cassell
LUNAFEST kicks-off its 15th year of its women’s film festival with the world premiere today in San Francisco, California with the screening of six short films and the release of a new study about the barriers women filmmakers face.
San Franciscan women and their friends will be the first to see the films made by, for, and about women hosted by representatives of Luna Bar on October 8 at the Herbst Theater (401 Van Ness Avenue; 415-392-4400; SFWMpac.org/Herbst-Theatre) in San Francisco, California at the festival’s opening event.
The festival will immediately hit the road across the US for the next nine months ending in Boulder, Colorado on July 9, 2016.
Many of the LUNAFEST events are hosted by Girls on the Run and women’s organizations and studies departments among other hosts.
LUNAFEST producers anticipate 25,000 women will attend the film festival that spotlights the work of a diverse array of talented women filmmakers with intelligent, funny and thought-provoking themes throughout the season.
The six films by women from around the world were selected for the less-than-two-hour festival out of 950 submissions. The films explore a wide range of issues: women finding new perspectives about themselves, finding a deeper understanding themselves, taking risks, and unconditional love in these stories that are sometimes lighthearted to serious.
Balsa Wood is a lighthearted story about biracial sisters’ luncheon with their family from the Philippines. Beach Flags is an animated film about an Iranian lifeguard’s challenges through a new team member and determination to compete in an international competition in Australia. Boxeadora is a story about Cuba’s only female boxer’s journey to turn her dream of boxing in the Olympics into reality. Finding June is the story of a deaf breast cancer patient. First World Problems is about how a housewife’s problems open a door to a whole new world for her. Raising Ryland is about one family’s unconditional love and story raising a transgender son.
The creators of Luna Bar, which produces the festival that doubles as a fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Fund and other women’s organizations, also released a study, Gender & Short Films: Emerging Female Filmmakers and the Barriers Surrounding Their Careers, that examines the barriers women filmmakers’ experience.
Women comprise only 32% of directors of short and mid-length films overall at 10 worldwide festivals. In comparison, women directed 18% of independent feature films at one festival across 13 years, and just four percent of top-grossing Hollywood movies in the same time frame, according to Luna Bar’s website.
Girls On Film
For 15 years LUNAFEST has inspired women filmmakers to tell their stories by giving them the stage and support to bring them to life in short films to movie theaters across the country.
“We started LUNAFEST 15 years ago to address the gender disparity in filmmaking,” says Suzy Starke German, program manager of LUNAFEST, who started the festival in 2000. She points out, that today in the “broader film industry … the challenges for women in film still remain.”
It is these challenges that inspired LUNAFEST producers to commission a study examining women filmmakers and the impact within the industry, Gender & Short Films: Emerging Female Filmmakers and the Barriers Surrounding Their Careers, she said in an October 6 news release from LUNAFEST announcing the release of the study.
“We’re trying to understand what we can do as a film festival to continue to be a strong ally to female filmmakers and help elevate the incredible work they are producing,” says Suzy.
The study found that 63% of the 744 speaking or named characters evaluated were female and only 37% were male in LUNAFEST films. The study also revealed that 81% of the festival’s films depicted a female lead/co-lead driving the plot of the story. Additionally, a full 37% of the short films’ leads or co-leads were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group.
It’s a stark contrast to the 100 top films in 2014, according to the report. Last year, 28% of the female speaking or named characters were female. Only 21 percent of leads or co-leads featured a girl or woman, according to the report. Furthermore, it deviates from mainstream content, as nearly 27% of characters and 17% of leads or co-leads in the 100 top films of 2014 were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, according to the report.
“Looking to the challenges these filmmakers face after graduating from short filmmaking to independent or mainstream fare sheds light on the importance of finding ways for female filmmakers to share their stories,” adds Stacy L. Smith, PhD, and USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative, who was the lead researcher and authored the report.
LUNAFEST producers and the researchers “are inspired by the work of these filmmakers and our hope is that all of these women garner the audience they deserve, and the caliber of their work is recognized by a broader, more mainstream audience,” says Suzy.
“Yet, in the broader film industry today, the challenges for women in film still remain,” says Suzy. “We’re trying to understand what we can do as a film festival to continue to be a strong ally to female filmmakers and help elevate the incredible work they are producing.”
Every year the producers receive 950 films for consideration to be shown in the film festival, according to LUNAFEST’s website. The final filmmakers selected are awarded $2,500.
Every season the festival has had more than 175 North American screenings each season. The festival has feature 127 filmmakers to-date, according to the festival’s website.
The film festival has also saved the lives of women in another way. For 15 years the festival has raised awareness and funds for the Breast Cancer Fund and other women’s organizations selected by producers in host cities.
Nearly $2.9 million dollars has been raised since the founding of the film festival to today and has supported 1,274 women’s organizations over the years, according to the festival’s website.
The world premiere of LUNAFEST opens tonight, October 8, at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception and the show begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, California. Tickets are $15 – $50. For more information, call 415-392-4400 or visit, www.lunafest.org/sanfrancisco.
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