On Friday in Rackham Amphitheatre, University Students Against Rape hosted Lunafest, an annual traveling film program sponsored by Luna Bars featuring “short films made by, for and about women.” 15 percent of event proceeds were donated to the Breast Cancer Fund. The rest are used to fund the annual Take Back the Night Rally and March against sexual assault, which takes place in the winter semester.
This year’s program featured nine short films spanning a wide variety of subjects and styles. For example, the documentary “Free to Laugh” (Lara Everly) followed a group of women using comedy to move on after their lives in prison, while “The Honeys and the Bears” (Veena Rao) gave oft-overlooked voice to the elderly, tracking how members of a synchronized swim team for the elderly find freedom and purpose in the water.
My companion and I agreed that “Partners” (Joey Alley) was one of the night’s standouts. A declined bedroom invitation escalates to a same-sex couple arguing over their future together (“I get the apartment!”), that is at once resolved by a piggyback ride outside to buy juice. Laughter bubbled out in the audience — everyone could relate to loving a person, and still hating things they do. “Partners” zeroed in on a moment that is refreshingly mundane, and resolved it without fanfare — a reminder of what everyday romance is like.
The program also featured films set outside of the US and in languages other than English. “Another Kind of Girl” was the product of 18 year old Khaldiya Jibawi’s first time using a camera. She reflects on the courage and new mindset she has gained since she left Syria for a refugee camp in Jordan. Her film’s inclusion in the program prioritized the importance of making one’s story heard, dismantling traditional media hierarchies that value years of experience and high-tech equipment.
With dialogue consisting mainly of untranslated Spanish, “Ninera” (Diane Weipert) showed the sad reality of a nanny spending the day taking care of other children, but not having enough time to spend with her own.
From Belgian filmmaker Frederike Migom came “Nkosi Coiffure,” a story of intercultural perspectives coming together for women to help other women. After a fight with her boyfriend, a white woman escapes into an African hair braiding salon, and the women working there give her advice and a makeover to help her take ownership of her life decisions.
Impressively, Lunafest was more than just a mindless parroting of feel-good, Westernized feminism — a mindset often used to boost corporate sponsors’ reputations. Rather, it took care to present nuanced, sometimes difficult perspectives that many activist groups lack. There is no universal experience of womanhood, and the program reflects that.
In all these films, Lunafest shone a much-needed spotlight on female filmmakers and teased out the multifaceted experiences that women live everyday. From laughter, to sorrow, to hope, to love, difference in perspective was appreciated, then stitched together to find universal emotions we all share.