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LUNAFEST to showcase films for, by and about women

By Anna Sadovskaya, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 4, 2014

Only 18 percent of the writers, editors, cinematographers, producers and directors who worked on the top 250 grossing films in the U.S. in 2012 were women. LUNAFEST, a fundraising film festival aiming to combat gender inequality in the film industry, is coming to campus on Thursday, hoping to start a conversation about not only the film industries’ glass ceiling, but all women’s issues and equality concerns.

The proceeds of the film festival will go to the Breast Cancer Fund and Take Back the Night Ann Arbor, a local chapter of a national foundation that hosts events and marches in order to stand against sexual violence and discrimination.

Third-year Law School student Carlyn Williams, co-leader of Take Back the Night/University Students Against Rape, joined TBTN after her friend and co-leader, third-year Law School student Samantha Honea, introduced her.

“One of the most empowered things for me, too, was realizing how many people are survivors that I knew on a daily basis and had no idea, but who were involved with Take Back the Night,” Williams said. “Just the experience of learning from other people.”

Honea added: “The most rewarding moment is feeling that all these people in this room care about something we all care about.”

Consisting of nine short films created by women, for women, about women, LUNAFEST travels around the country to 150 cities, showing the films and sparking conversation within the communities.

“I feel that ‘LUNAFEST’ … brings together the trifecta of aspects that are not usually covered in today’s culture,” Williams said. “There are way more men directors than there are women directors, and not many films really highlight women’s issues, without being nationally known.”

Not limited to a female audience, LUNAFEST picks award-winning films that are animated, fictional, as well as personal, in order to connect with the audience’s diverse tastes and expectations. Honea described the challenges in starting the difficult discussions that usually follow the highlighting of women’s rights issues.

“I think specifically with sexual assault and other women’s issues, just being able to sit down and have an honest conversation about it, I think is a huge problem that we have,” Honea said.

The festival, started in 2000 by LUNA, the makers of a women’s nutritional bar, is a novel way to raise awareness and money, while helping organizations such as TBTN to excite their community.

“For the night, our focus is just to bring a wide variety of people together,” Williams said. “It doesn’t have to be feminist groups or people fighting for women’s issues, anyone would enjoy these films and see a perspective that they wouldn’t see in their daily lives.”

A continual problem, according to Honea, isn’t just the public’s lack of awareness about gender inequality, but the lack of interest in learning and understanding women’s issues at the root.

“Beyond the conversation about sexual assault and the public perception of equality, you can even see the disrespect when we say it’s ‘by women for women about women,’ and some people’s eyes glaze over, and you want to fight back and say ‘no, these are great films, and you want to attend, and it doesn’t have to be such a taboo thing.’ ”

By sharing empowering stories through film, LUNAFEST, along with TBTN, aims to counteract people’s projected misunderstandings about women’s issues, and shed light on what can be done within each community to combat the inequality and to take back the voice of those who have had their rights violated.