That’s more or less the first thing Barbara Boyle heard when the aspiring lawyer applied for a position as corporate council at American International Pictures in 1960. She was mistaken as an extra auditioning for a beach party movie, and although she eventually landed her intended job—Boyle is now a credited Hollywood producer and chair of UCLA’s Film and Television program—the story is indicative of how Hollywood has traditionally treated women.
Sex symbols, no problem. Executives in the boardroom or directors behind the camera? A steeper hill to climb. Consider that just five years ago the first American female was nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards (Sophia Coppola for Lost in Translation). In 80 years, no female director has ever won an Oscar.
With such a historically chauvinistic backdrop, events such as last week’s Many Faces of Women Film Festival and this week’s Lunafest Film Festival are welcome antidotes. The latter—which kicks off at the University Center Theater March 19, at 7 p.m.—showcases short films “by, for and about women.”
Lunafest’s lineup runs the gamut, from comical lesbian coming out stories to heart wrenching coming-of-age dramas, from whimsical animation to stark live action. The program begins, for instance, with Make a Wish, a 14-minute gem by Cherian Dabis about a young Palestinian girl desperate to purchase a birthday cake she can’t afford. Why she needs the cake isn’t clear until the end, but her struggle—shoplifting gum to sell on the street; using her sister to help beg for donations—manages to speak to larger issues through its simple construct. By contrast, the festival’s closer, Pockets, is similarly telling, but much more uplifting—literally. Animator Sophie Ohara uses colored pencil drawings to show a woman slowly collecting small children onto her back, forcing her to happily hunch over to accommodate the five wiggling, giggling kids and, eventually, a dog. Just as the woman starts to buckle—she looks like something out of Pilobolus Dance Theatre—the children become birds, flying from the nest, and the woman, older now, regains her posture and poise. In just three gorgeous minutes, Ohara pretty much sums up motherhood.
With each of the nine shorts—including Breaking Boundaries, a student film by Bozeman’s Jennifer Grace about competitive snowboarder Sondra Van Ert—Lunafest achieves its goal of raising hope and awareness of women. Hopefully, it’s just a first step for filmmakers like Dabis and Ohara.
Lunafest, sponsored by YWCA Missoula’s GUTS! program, screens Wednesday, March 19, at the University Center Theater at 7 PM. A silent auction begins at 6 PM and Jennifer Grace will speak after the films. $10/$8 advance.