By Michael Klam
The San Diego Women Film Festival, now in its fourth year, will showcase nearly a hundred short and full-length films in two locations in Balboa Park, the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) and the Centro Cultural de la Raza.
This year’s festival runs from Oct. 5 to Oct. 8 and features the cutting edge film work of diverse women writers, producers and directors.
The San Diego Women Film Foundation (SDWFF) recognizes and supports women through positive media. The annual film festival and SDWFF’s Film Screening Program expose the public to these artists who are often underrepresented.
The foundation also aids the next generation of women filmmakers through Divas Direct, an education program for high school girls to learn the nuts and bolts, creative and technical aspects of filmmaking.
This year’s festival will see 500 middle and high school students coming to MOPA on Thursday, Oct. 5 to view films and to participate in Q&A with young directors.
The festival has grown every year, due in part to the diversity of the writers, the directors and their subjects.
“We’ll be showing films from all over the world, including five films from Latino filmmakers,” says Festival Director, Jennifer Hsu.
Hsu points to last year’s successes as an indication of this year’s possibilities. Over 1,000 audience members saw 65 U.S. and international films in 2005. There were 40 filmmakers in attendance and an audience from all walks of life, ranging in age from 13 to 65 years old. According to the SDWFF Web site, “17 percent were African American, 13 percent Asian and 24 percent Hispanic.”
This year’s festival is even bigger in scope, and perhaps with the support of the Centro and SDWFF’s grassroots campaign to bring a larger Hispanic audience (through e-mail blasts, word-of-mouth, Spanish-speaking media), the festival will surpass expectations.
Herrell, former director and the driving force behind the SDWFF, is self-effacing. She commends the people behind the scenes who make the foundation’s programs so successful. Herrell says that the film festival is now in the very capable hands of Hsu, its new director.
For this year’s festival, Hsu aided in bringing “films by Latino filmmakers that focus on issues important to Latinos, including the border,” she says.
The films include Mariposa by Elvira Carrizal, which tells the story of a young Chicana photographer who as described on the SDWFF Web site “crosses the Mexican border, gets kidnapped, and is prepared for her murder.”
Audience members will also see Contemplando la cuidad, a short film by Angela Reginato that presents a young girl who sings along, “unaffected, to a popular song, and in doing so launches herself through space and time to Mexico City around the year 1978.” The song, Porque te vas by Jeanette, “permeates you,” says Reginato, the film’s director. “In the ‘70s, it was the most popular song in Latin America and Spain,” she says. “José Luis Perales wrote it, and it became the soundtrack to our lives in Latin America.”
Curley’s Diner by Daniel Meisel is described in the festival program as a place owned by Latino immigrants “where 50 cents will buy you a cup of coffee and a home away from home.”
Un Azard Habanero: Voci Da Un’isola (Voices from an Island) by Chiara Bellini is a documentary that explores “the new Cuban approaches to art… and unravels Cuba’s new artistic languages.”
3:52 Face Your Demons by Shawna Baca is about a young woman named Kate who is recovering from alcoholism and has to face her inner demons.
“I’m the type of filmmaker who believes in making good stories with the best cast I can get for my roles,” says Baca, the director. America Fererra (ABC’s Ugly Betty, Real Women Have Curves) stars in the film, which has a predominately Latino cast and Native American actors.
“Through my upbringing, background and experiences, my voice carries through from a Latino and Native American perspective,” says Baca. “Latinos are very spiritual people by culture and I think that anyone that has a great sense of a spiritual background will relate to this film,” she says.
Baca’s film was awarded Panavision’s New Filmmakers Grant. The San Diego Women Film Festival marks its San Diego premiere.
Baca says she is honored to be part of the festival. “I don’t always get a chance to meet and know other women’s work,” she says. “I really believe that we have great stories to tell in ways and different perspectives than male filmmakers. It’s time to tell our stories.”
Herrell and her team have worked hard to make this possible for many women, finding spaces and creating support systems.
When it comes to building an audience, Herrell’s outlook is positive and progressive. “Watching independent films is a cool and hip thing for the cool and hip crowd to do,” she says. And hipsters tend to be a diverse bunch.
And yet, the screen and the theater are accessible to everybody, whether you’re a hep cat or a hardcore feminist.
“We’re lucky because the arts, especially film, naturally bring in a diverse audience,” Herrell says.
Check the SDWFF Web site for general festival info and schedules. Don’t miss the Thursday, Oct. 5 Festival Kick-off Party in the Back Room at Luna Lounge, 639 J St., San Diego. There will be free beer from Karl Strauss, and free festival tickets. You cannot go to Friday’s advanced screening unless you attend the party or buy an All Access Pass.
On Friday, Oct. 6 at 6:45 p.m. there will be a special advanced screening of Come Early Morning starring Ashley Judd at MOPA. The after-party at the Casa del Prado includes food by Pick Up Stix. Visit http://sdwff.org/2006festschedule.html to buy an All-Access Pass to attend (or go to the party on Thursday night to get your free passes).
General Admission for one program costs $10 (student discount $7); an All-Day Pass is $30 (student discount $20); and an All-Access Pass costs $50 (student discount $35).
The San Diego Women Film Festival is presented by Cox Communications. And the “Our Take” Youth-made Program for students was underwritten by Sony Electronics.