LUNAFEST shines a light on women’s lives around the world

Kathy Fischer, event organizer and associate director of the Women's Center, introduced the featured LUNAFEST films in Konover Auditorium on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. (Erming Gao/Daily Campus)

A deaf woman with breast cancer, Cuba’s first female boxer and a colorful cast of Iranian lifeguards graced the screen in Konover Auditorium Tuesday afternoon at the LUNAFEST Film Festival.

In the spirit of of the evening’s tagline, “by, for and about women”, LUNAFEST featured a series of six short films and documentaries about the lives of women around the world. The film series was conceived in 2000 to be a “fundraiser-in-a-box” for the Breast Cancer Fund and local non-profits, in this case the Women’s Center at the University of Connecticut.

Kathy Fischer, event organizer and associate director of the Women’s Center, said “Finding June,” a fictional account of how a deaf woman named June comes to terms with breast cancer, stood out as particularly powerful. In the film, June struggles to connect with the hearing women in her support group before finding strength in the presence of her brother.

“I think it helped people to visualize how many different ways people can be silenced,” Fischer said.

Another crowd favorite was “Boxeadora,” a documentary about Namibia, a fierce fighter who defies Cuba’s ongoing ban on female boxing. Anywhere else in the world, Namibia would have been a national champion, but she remained determined to carve out a path to the Olympics.

“For some people, church is a place where they relax and find peace in God. For me, church is my boxing gym,” Namibia said in the film.

Namibia, who was 38 when “Boxeadora” was filmed in 2014, had just two years of Olympic eligibility left when Chile denied her Visa application and destroyed what may have been her last shot at competing professionally. Even then, she didn’t give up - boxing was her life, whether she could take home the gold for her country or not.

“It was very interesting to see the ways that women are discouraged from participating,” Fischer said. “That’s what this is really all about, we all should have an opportunity to at least try.”

Castella Copeland, a sixth-semester political science, human rights and women’s studies major who helped organize LUNAFEST, said “Boxeadora” and “Beach Flags,” an animated film about a pair of Iranian lifeguards competing for the opportunity to race in Australia, spoke to her as a figure skater.

“I really enjoyed those two the most as an athlete,” Copeland said.

Copeland said LUNAFEST effectively demonstrated the connection between women’s rights and human rights through films like “Beach Flags” and “Raising Ryland,” a CNN documentary about a family's decision to raise their transgender child as a boy. In the film, Ryland’s mother makes it clear that, for her, it was a choice between having a dead daughter or a living son.

“People usually see human rights and women’s rights as separate studies,” Copeland said. “You don’t have to have this one passion.”

Wafa Simpore, an 8th-semester women’s studies major, said she appreciated CNN’s ability to expose a large audience to Ryland’s story. During her poetry reading at the beginning of LUNAFEST, Simpore spoke about the importance of visibility.

“Let our voices be showcased and pushed across the horizon,” Simpore read. “Do not let the erasure of the past become the present and the future, we shall not let silence overcome our presence.”

LUNAFEST 2016 also featured “Balsa Wood,” a slice of life flick about a mixed-race Filipino woman reconnecting with her grandmother’s culture, and “First World Problems,” a brief comedy about a housewife who loses her car in a parking garage.

Fischer said previous LUNAFESTs have included everything from puppetry to claymation, but the event always highlights a broad range of issues.

“As always the stories were diverse,” Fischer said. “They all have something we can relate to.”

 The LUNAFEST Film Festival was sponsored by the Mansfield Ob/Gyn, the UConn Alumni Association and the League of Women Voters of Northeastern Connecticut.


Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.