LUNAFEST Film Notes


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About the Films   Selected from over 200 submissions, the LUNAFEST film festival winners are a collection of 8 award-winning short films by seven women and one man that focus on the intricate lives of women. They explore contemporary situations in frank, compassionate and sometimes daring ways, artfully conveying life experiences in a way that engages and inspires.

Parents Please Note: Some of these films have portions that may not be suitable for pre-teen children. One film has a few words of strong language and another film depicts brief nudity and very brief physical pain. One of the animated films has sequences showing a middle-aged woman in the buff, but in a totally wholesome way. These elements are appropriate within the context of the specific films and we do not consider any of the material to be offensive. Although none of these films are rated, our guess would be PG-13 for the few instances noted herein. If you are planning to bring young children and would like more information, please call 859.781.8151.



BACKSEAT BINGO    Director Liz Blazer, USA, 05:25

Backseat Bingo is an animated documentary about the romantic lives of Senior Citizens.

Awards/Screenings: Best of Fest - The Palm Springs Intl Festival of Short Films; Winner, Best College Film, HBO Comedy Arts Festival; Winner, Best Animation, Asheville Film Festival; First Prize - Animation Magazine, Student Short Film Awards; Film And Fiction Scholarship - Institute for Humane Studies; Best Animation - Temecula Valley Intl Film Festival; Winner, LunaFest Film Festival; Finalist - UCLA Short Takes Festival; Semi-Finalist - Moondance, Boulder, CO; Telluride Film Festival; Brooklyn Intl Film Festival, American Film Institute Documentary Festival, The Ottawa Intl Animation Festival, Seattle Intl Film Festival, IFP Los Angeles Film Festival, World Festival of Animated Film (Zagreb), Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Antelope Valley Independent, Tel Aviv Intl Student Film Festival, Humboldt Intl Short Film Festival, San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, First look Film Festival, Director's Guild of America Film Festival; Clermont-Ferrand Intl Film Festival.



ONE WEEKEND A MONTH    Director Eric Escobar, USA, 11:30

Meg McDermott (Renee O'Connor) is a busy single mom juggling time spent in the National Guard and time spent caring for her two young children. The film begins on a typical crazy Monday morning as Meg gets her children ready for school. She receives a phone call that changes her life. A friend informs her that her National Guard unit will be activated for duty in two weeks. This begins the ride that is the film. We witness Meg unravel as she struggles through a series of phone calls to figure out who will take care of her children. She cannot turn to her friends, the fathers of her children or her mother. What will she do?

Awards/Festival Screenings: Honorable Mention, Short Filmmaking, Sundance Film Festival; Winner, LunaFest Film Festival; Official Selection AFI Fest; Aspen Shorts Fest; Nashville Film Festival; Cine Latino Film Festival in San Francisco, Malta Underground Film Festival, and also at festivals in Ashland OR, Nashville, Mill Valley, Oxford MS and Harlem NYC.



TAHARA    Director Sara Rashad, Egypt/USA, 17:30

TAHARA is a universal story that will appeal to a broad audience, an archetypal story about generational conflict and the immense power mothers and daughters, fathers and sons exert on each other. It's a story of a family struggling to stay connected to their roots, a story about growing multiculturalism and what it means in the United States and abroad. It's a story about the tyranny of culture and family. TAHARA takes creative risks on issues not usually seen and will connect with a worldwide audience, as it tells the story of Amina, an Egyptian housewife living in Los Angeles, who must decide if she will follow tradition and circumcise her daughter, Suha, or if she will abandon this age old practice and save Suha from circumcision.

Amina's dilemma represents that of many women who live in denial of their own oppression and cultural abuse. They will see Amina's struggles as their own. The film will hopefully encourage them to find the courage to embrace truth in order to heal from their cultural wounds. TAHARA represents the voices of women and girls who are suffering silently, and this film breaks the silence.
Read the Director's comments about the making of TAHARA...

Awards/Festival Screenings: Winner, Best Live Action Short Film, 2005 Pan-African Film Festival Los Angeles; Santa Barbara Intl Film Festival; Winner, Best Short, Victoria Independent Film Festival, Victoria BC; Winner, Winner, Best Short, Kawasaki Digital Short Film Festival, Japan; Best Live Action Short, Boulder Dam Short Film Festival; Winner, Best Female Director, LA Shorts Film Fest; Winner Best Short & Best Actress, Gotham City Film Festival New York; Winner, Best Human Rights Director, San Francisco Women's Film Festival; Winner, Best Experimental Short, Trenton Film Festival; Winner, LunaFest Film Festival; Finalist, Moondance Film Festival; DC Independent Film Festival; Padua Intl Film Festival; Turks and Caicos International Film Festival; 9th Annual Arab Film Festival San Francisco; Amnesty International Film Festival; Women of Color Film Festival New York; Manchester International Short Film Festival, Manchester England; Festival International de Films de Femmes, Creteil, France; Berlin International Film Festival.
Plus... the following prestigious grants based upon integrity of the script: The American Association of University Women community action grant for projects promoting equity and education for women and girls worldwide; The Entertainment Industry Foundation Grant for projects that promote health education and awareness for women and girls; The Paul Robeson Pre-Production Grant for films which promote aggressive social change through media activism; The Roy W. Dean Film Grant for film projects which are unique and benefit society; and the Caucus Foundation Grant Award for new directors specializing in diversity from the Caucus Foundation for Television Producers, Writers & Directors.




BLESSING    Director Suju Vijayan, USA, 14:00

BLESSING is a self-financed short film made on shoestring budget. Writer/director Suju Vijayan felt compelled to tell a story that breaks a common format - about a mother-daughter conflict in an Indian American family in which the mother wasn't stuck in tradition and the daughter wasn't trying to run away from her culture. Maya, home for her brother Neal's high school graduation, is forced to deal with their free-spirited, sometimes embarrassing mother, Asha. For as long as she can remember, Maya has been frustrated by what she sees as her mother's inability to listen to her or understand her. Asha, however, is seemingly oblivious to her daughter's feelings, and instead forces unwanted and sometimes misguided advice on Maya, from the spiritual to the romantic. But Asha is not without surprises, forcing Maya to rethink her opinion of her mother...

BLESSING takes place in an Indian American home in Southern California, and the characters and events are definitely influenced by Indian Ameican culture, but the film is ultimately about a mother-daughter relationship that could - and does - exist in families of diverse backgrounds all over the world.

Awards/Festival Screenings: Los Angeles International Short Film Festival; Los Angeles Film Festival; Canadian Film Centre's Worldwide Short Film Festival; St. John's Intl Women's Film Festival; Topanga Film Festival; Channel Islands Film Festival; International Festival of Cinema and Technology; Long on Shorts Intl Film Festival; Chicago Asian American Showcase; Hot Curry Film Festival; Marco Island Film Festival; Dallas South Asian Film Festival; Visual Communications Film Festival; West Valley Indie Fest; Santa Cruz Film Festival, Post Alley Film Festival, Seattle; Absolute Time Film Festival 2005, San Francisco; Los Angeles Asian-Pacific Film Festival; Winner, LunaFest Film Festival.



TWILIGHT   Director Victoria Gamburg, Russia/USA, 21:00

A story about loss, despair and the possibility of redemption, set in the Russian city of St. Petersburg during its White Nights, when darkness never falls. A distraught woman, Masha (Maria Voronina) searches fruitlessly, through morgues and down dark alleys, for her daughter who disappeared three years earlier. While dealing with the indifference and ineptitude of a destitute bureaucracy, doggedly scanning St. Petersburg's many discarded children, she focuses on her own task and tires to ignore their cries for help.

Director's commentary: "Twilight is set in post-communist Russia in St. Petersburg, a majestic imperial city, where one can still envision the towering figures of Russia's great literary history strolling along its crumbling aristocratic boulevards. St. Petersburg is beautiful, dangerous, and mysterious. Its enigmatic quality mirrors the spiritual half-light that shadows the film's protagonist, shattered by the disappearance of her daughter. What makes the story so intriguing is the mother's desire to make sense of her harsh world despite her overwhelming loss. For me, Twilight is a spiritual film.

"Making Twilight was a challenge. My budget was miniscule and the film took over a year and a half and three trips to Russia to complete. To get permission to shoot inside a police station and city morgue, I had to pretend I was shooting an episode of Criminal Russia, a popular Russian TV show. It was all worth it--Russians have told me that the film feels authentic and true."
Read the reviews, production notes and director bio...

Awards/Festival Screenings: Golden Gate Award - Best Narrative Short, San Francisco Intl Film Festival; Best Student Live Action Over 15 Minutes, Palm Springs Intl Festival of Short Films; First Place Narrative Film, NextFrame Intl Student Film and Video Festival; Gold Award for Fiction, Australian Cinematographers' Association; Cary Grant Film Award, Princess Grace Foundation; Excellence in Filmmaking Grand Prize, The Angelus Awards; Outstanding Screenplay Award, Act One Hollywood; Winner, LunaFest Film Festival; Official Selection: Toronto Intl Film Festival; Telluride Film Festival; Creteil Intl Festival de Films de Femmes.




PERFECTION    Director Karen Lin, USA, 6:24

The Milton Bradley game of Perfection serves as a background metaphor for an Asian American woman, Ming-Na (ER, Joy Luck Club), striving to arrange all the pieces of her life precisely before the timer runs out. Set to an epic orchestral score, the montage of crisp black and white images builds to an oppressive pace, forcing the viewer to recognize familiar but devastating struggles to meet the expectations of family and society.

Im just trying to make you more perfect. - Mom.    The board game mirrors an Asian American woman's struggle, from infancy to adulthood, to achieve success and gain her parent's approval. Taught the game as an infant, she races into her teens winning competitions and getting straight A's, only to wonder whether or not her parents will love her even if she fails. Ultimately she must decide whether and when to end the game. Read more about the director and the production...

Awards/Festival Screenings: Winner, New Directors/New Visions Award, Visual Communications Film Festival; Winner, LunaFest Film Festival; LA Film Festival; San Francisco Intl Asian America Film Festival; Seattle Intl Film Festival; Vancouver Intl Film Festival; Taipei Film Festival; Los Angeles Visual Communications Film Fest; Asian American International Film Festival, NYC; Fall River Film Festival, RI; Silver Lake Film Festival; Tall Grass Film Festival; Northwest Asian American Film Festival; DC Asian American Film Festival; San Diego Asian American Film Festival; Hawaii International Film Festival; Vancouver Asian Film Festival; Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival; The Maine Women's Film Festival; Boston Independent Film Festival.



LAYING DOWN ARMS    Director Carol Schreder, USA, 13:45

This debut film by Carol Schreder, the least-heralded film in the collection, turns out to be one of the most powerful -- a moving tale of guilt, remorse, understanding and forgiveness. LAYING DOWN ARMS will stay in your mind a long time after the lights go up.

Schreder comes to filmmaking from a lengthy writing and producing career in television. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Outstanding Drama Emmy for THE BURNING BED, which she shared with legendary producers Jon Avnet and Steve Tisch.

And, it is the writing that makes LAYING DOWN ARMS so effective and remarkable. This is the story of two women who forge an unlikely bond through a mistaken phone call. Janet, a troubled young woman on the verge of suicide, and Esther, an elderly Holocaust survivor, engage in a conversation that transforms both of their lives.

It is said that strangers can afford to be totally honest when they converse, as they will never meet again and have nothing to lose. LAYING DOWN ARMS proves this point with poignancy and an uplifting conclusion. The understated, melancholy score by Wolfram deMarco and high production values courtesy of producer Susan Cohen work well with writer-director Schreder's intelligent use of lighting and camera angles. Nor does it hurt that the film was bankrolled and shepherded by executive producer Jon Avnet.

Awards/Festival Screenings: Winner, LunaFest Film Festival; Finalist, Best Short Film, Rome International Film Festival.




MABEL'S SAGA     Director JoDee Samuelson, USA/Canada, 15:03

Mabel is juggling the demands of work, teenagers and an elderly mother. Now, she is confronted with a new challenge: hot flashes and chin hairs! Before you can say "estrogen," purple-haired Mabel finds herself the unassuming heroine of her own adventure... the adventure of aging. MABEL'S SAGA is a touching, funny film without words that celebrates menopause as a natural transition, rather than a medical condition to be feared. The film blends animation with a lush musical landscape, offering a reassuring look at one of the most important passages in a woman's life.

Awards/Festival Screenings: Best Short Film, Atlanta Film Festival; FedEx Award for Best Canadian Short Film, Montreal World Film Festival; Jury Award for Short Film, Montreal World Film Festival; First Prize Short Film, Torino Women Film Festival; Silver Spike Award, Valladolid Intl Film Festival, Spain; Best Short Film Award, Atlantic Film Festival, Halifax Canada; Winner, LunaFest Film Festival.