Lunafest casts spotlight on women in film

Students help facilitate the feminist film festival. (Meagan McDowell / Photo Editor)
Students help facilitate the feminist film festival. (Meagan McDowell / Photo Editor)

By Kaitlyn Njoroge
Staff Writer

The diversity of the crowd in the Library Auditorium mirrored the diversity of the mediums, voices and visual techniques seen on screen on Friday, March 23 when Lunafest came to the College. The traveling film festival showcased award-winning short films created by and for women.

Hosted by Women In Learning and Leadership, the film festival made the College one of its stops for approximately a decade. Nine films were screened, in addition to a showcase of artwork created by girls at Maple Shade High School in Maple Shade, New Jersey. Multiple pieces depicting visuals of women, girls or just whatever the student was imagining when conceptualizing the artwork were hung for all to see.

“We want to show women in a multitude of ways — not just film, but also different forms of art,” said Jenna MacDonald, a sophomore history and secondary education major and member of WILL. “We’re just showing what is out there, and that there’s more than what is in the actual movie theatres. And there are amazing, talented young girls in high school whose art may not have been seen by many people if it wasn’t shown here.”

The festival featured films with a wide range of storytelling methods and genres from documentary to fiction. Three of the films used animation techniques to tell their tale.

Bekky O’Neil’s film, “Last Summer, In the Garden,” was shown in a style reminiscent of watercolor painting to express one woman’s journey of almost losing a friend or lover.

Meanwhile, “Girls Level Up” by Anne Edgar incorporated Pokémon-style animation into her documentary about a summer camp geared toward young girls who want to learn how to make video games.

Audience members could not help but laugh when the film “Fannypack” by Uttera Singh was shown. This fiction film depicts a young Indian-American woman who wants to follow her dreams to become a photographer, and was surprised to find her father waiting for her in the trunk of her car as she journeys to the airport to fulfill her dreams.

As the film’s name suggests, the father is sporting a fanny pack, but with a thread of floss hanging out that he forgot to tuck away when he zipped it. The director cleverly uses that as a vehicle later in the film to describe the tension between the Transportation Security Administration and Indian-Americans, when the TSA mistakes the fanny pack as a bomb.

Switching to a darker tone, “Waiting for Hassana” by Nigerian-American filmmaker Ifunanya Maduka brought the kidnapping of 276 teenage girls in 2014 by the extremist organization Boko Haram to the forefront of people’s minds.

The plot revolves around one of the girls who managed to escape the first night, and her best friendship with a girl named Hassana, who is still in the arms of Boko Haram.

The director made viewers feel what it was like to be present the night of the kidnappings, from staging the fire that burned down the girls’ school, to their footsteps walking through the forest at night and the headlights of the extremist organization’s cars as they sped toward the girls.

Elizabeth Nemec, a freshman biology major who spearheaded the event for WILL, believed the event was successful in both showcasing and focusing on voices not typically heard in Hollywood, and bringing the campus community together for a common cause.

Next to Maple Shade High School’s artwork section were two tables with 11 raffle bags, each with a theme ranging from “Spa Day” to “Bookworm Starter Pack.” Festivalgoers could purchase tickets to win one of the raffle bags, which were all donated by either by a local business or campus organization.

Nemec was happily surprised by the positive responses from businesses and organizations, considering all proceeds from the event — from admission to the raffle tickets — were to be donated to Chicken & Egg Pictures and a local beneficiary, Womenspace.

“I didn’t know what to expect, or how people, especially businesses, would respond to something like this,” Nemec said. “I was absolutely blown away by the generosity of our community.”

This event helped bring the College and the surrounding community together over a common cause — helping women.

“We’re here by Trenton, and we’re part of a community that we don’t always reach out to, and I think that this was one of the ways to make those steps,” Nemec said.

This event was co-sponsored by Student Government, Student Nurses Association, Amnesty International, She’s the First, Alpha Kappa Alpha and Sigma Sigma Rho.

More information about the films featured at this event can be found at lunafest.org. Information about Chicken & Egg Pictures can be found at chickeneggpics.org.

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