Nearly a month ago, actress Natalie Portman made waves at the 75th Golden Globes when she presented the award for best director, noting the list of “all-male nominees.” The moment, which may have seemed gauche to some, was a clear statement of disapproval of the fact that, while plenty of men and women alike direct a large portion of film and television media today, only a select handful will be recognized—and more than likely, those recognized are solely men.
While Hollywood figures out its own issues in honoring non-male filmmakers, independent cinema is about 400 percent more diverse with exceedingly more women, non-binary, LGBT and POC auteurs at work behind the camera. You can check a few of them out for yourself this Saturday at the ninth-annual LUNAFEST.
Sponsored by LUNA Bars, the fest stops in 175 cities throughout the country to screen a curated crop of nine short films made by women filmmakers. Co-presented by the Zonta Club of Newport Harbor, the films will be shown at Chapman University’s Marion Knott Studios, with a VIP reception preceding the screening and a question-and-answer discussion with filmmakers after. Not only does LUNAFEST support women filmmakers, but proceeds from the screenings go to a cause in each host city, as well. (Proceeds from this weekend’s fest will go toward scholarships for women student filmmakers.)
Here’s what’s on this year’s roster:
Toys. Amanda Quaid’s lively stop-motion-animation short, composed entirely of action stills, collage and voice-over narration and based on a poem by Peggy Pope, is the story of a father who tries to toughen up his young daughter with toys intended for boys. Humorously, the toys have more than the desired affect on the young girl.
Girls Level Up. Director Anne Edgar is a strong advocate for girls’ education in the science, math and technology fields; this short, part of the Artificial Originals project, follows a young woman brought up in a conservative Muslim household in the Middle East as she guides a team of U.S. middle-school girls building their own video game. Edgar will be present at the screening for a discussion after the showcase.
Yours Sincerely, Lois Weber. One of the forgotten pioneers of Hollywood cinema is Lois Weber, who wrote, directed and acted in more than 100 feature films throughout the early silent and talkie periods. Weber’s films were successful in their own right, but even more impressive, they included a fair amount of proto-feminist commentary and situations, such as discussions of abortion and birth control. Director Svetlana Cvetko’s tribute pays homage to Weber, an early example of a successful female director in Hollywood’s history.
Jesszilla. Jesselyn “Jesszilla” Silva is a 10-year-old training to be a professional boxer; her father struggles in supporting her dream while being perceived as an unfit parent for allowing her to train in such a brutal sport. Director Emily Sheskin produced Jesszilla as part of an ongoing seven-part series that follows the young Jesselyn through her maturity, Boyhood-style.
Joy Joy Nails. Writer/director Joey Ally’s drama pits Sarah, the manager of a nail salon, against a young trainee named Chinese Mia when Mia begins flirting with the boss’ son.
Waiting for Hassana. This captivating short by Ifunanya Maduka follows up on a young girl named Jessica who escaped captivity from the grasp of Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant group that kidnapped hundreds of village girls who were on their way to school in 2014. Jessica tells the horrors of the abduction, details her escape and expresses her worries for her close friend who’s still missing after the attack.
Buttercup. Megan Brotherton’s short narrative drama follows a young woman named Maggie who reconnects with an old friend in the wake of her mother’s death. Brotherton, who directed and acted in the film, will be in attendance after the showcase.
Fanny Pack. Uttera Singh’s comedy meditates on the generation gap between a fanny-pack-wearing Indian father and his Indian-American daughter. The two butt heads when the daughter tries to board a plane to follow her dreams, as her father has different ideas for her future. Fanny Pack follows the two through their madcap chase around the airport.
Last Summer, In the Garden. This four-minute animated short by Bekky O’Neil beautifully celebrates life despite the many curveballs it throws one’s way and parallels its cyclical nature to the changing seasons of the earth.
LUNAFESTat Marion Knott Studios at Chapman University, 283 N. Cypress St., Orange; www.lunafest.org. Sat., VIP reception, 1:30 p.m.; screenings, 2:30 p.m. $15-$40.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Don’t ask her what her favorite movie is unless you want to hear her lengthy defense of Showgirls.