Lunafest

Laughter and tears could be heard emanating from the crowded room 212 in the Education Building this past Friday. Not a seat was sparse in the entire room, as each person watched the emotional and inspirational short films play before their eyes projected on screen. Lunafest, a traveling film festival displaying short films for women, by women, brought six short films to The College of New Jersey campus this year thanks to Women In Learning and Leadership (WILL), for the 9th year in a row. The festival was established in 2000 by LUNA, the creators of the LUNA nutrition bar, in order to connect women, their stories, and their causes through film, according to their website.

The festival also doubles as a fundraiser, since 85% of the money goes to the host’s local charity of choice, while the remaining 15% goes to the Breast Cancer Fund. WILL even included a raffle with prizes ranging from Piccolo Pronto and movie ticket gift-cards to stress relief baskets, while She’s The First sold cupcakes nearby- donating all proceeds to this year’s charity pick, Isles Incorporated.  “I think it is important to have an event that focuses on promoting women for all the reasons mainstream media doesn’t now-adays,” says junior communications major and WILL member Madison Moran. “I feel like Hollywood is very patriarchal nowadays, and this is an important way to support female artists.”

Each film was directed by women and used women as their central characters. The beginning of the night consisted of watching the first three films:

Finding June

Directed by Anna Schumacher, this short film depicted a deaf, young woman who just found out she has breast cancer- and decides to undergo surgery. The role of communicating in dealing with tragedy, especially in support groups where everyone else can hear, is explored through this 18 minute film.

 

Balsa Wood

This funny, upbeat film focuses on two mixed- race siblings of Filipino and Caucausian descent, who travel to a family dinner where two cultures collide. The film ends with the siblings’ mother imagining her children embracing both cultures, as she smiles to herself.

 

Boxeadora

 

A budding, young female boxer in Cuba attempts to break the wall of boxing in her home country, and become the first female boxer to compete there. Director Meg Smaker takes the audience through an emotional journey to the Boxer’s final destination, allowing the audience to compare Cuban culture to their own at the same time.

 

Then there was intermission. A guest speaker from Isles Inc. rose out of her seat to speak to the crowd. With piercing eyes and a clarity that could pierce soundproof glass, the speaker told the crowd that “Education is the way if not the only way to bring people of color out of poverty. Just in New Jersey alone, a state considered one of the wealthiest in the nation by Forbes, has Hispanic or Latino citizens experiencing the highest poverty rate in the state at about 55 percent, while Black citizens came in second at about 47 percent, according to nj.com. This update brought the crowd back down to Earth, and ready to transition to the next three films:

 

Raising Ryland

 

Shocked by the lack of education and acceptance by those around them, the parents of Ryland decide to raise their transgender son the way he sees himself- as a boy. Director Sarah Feeley allows the audience to understand gender identity from a child’s uncomplicated viewpoint.

 

First World Problems

 

This 7 minute film called out why making assumptions about others is wrong, through a funny lens. The crowd in 212 broke out in laughter and nods as the main character breaks down in a parking garage and begins to eat ice-cream out of the container with hands (been there, done that).

 

Beach Flags

 

In America, stripping down to a bathing suit and jumping in to the crisp waves is not given a second thought by women. In Iran, female lifeguards have to remain fully clothed. In this 14 minute film by Sarah Saidan, the women lifeguards are competing in the sport “beach flags”, the only lifeguarding competition they can compete in. The film contrasts one young Iranian girls life with another, and how the competing strangers soon become one another’s greatest ally.

 

Women make up a little over half of the population of the United States, and yet for years women in the film industry have been speaking out about the lack of roles for women in television and film. In a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post, actress Jessica Chastain said “I think there is a huge problem in American cinema where stories about women aren’t nurtured and celebrated and brought to the screen as often as stories about men.”  In the director’s field women are even scarcer, with ladies having directed only 6 percent of theatrical films in 2013.

This is why events, like Lunafest, are important for colleges and people worldwide are important to commemorate, says sophomore finance major and WILL member Stephanie Ramirez. “It’s all about showcasing women empowerment. This is an event where women can appreciate women, and be proud of the woman that they are and embrace themselves.”