Colorado Springs filmmaker Suzanne Lucas has had a few close calls in her life. One fit for the big screen came when she, a single mother, attempted to find love on the Internet after a messy divorce.
As Lucas primped herself for a romantic blind date one night, her ex-husband unexpectedly dropped off their 11-year-old son, citing a scheduling conflict. Once her ex left, the curious boy asked about a flower drawn on the back of Lucas' hand, which she and her date had agreed to wear, as a way of identifying each other.
Dad, the boy said, had a flower drawn on his hand, too.
Lucas re-created this near-miss with her ex in the six-minute film Close Call, which will screen with 27 other films as part of this weekend's 21st annual Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival.
"I have always wanted to make films," says Lucas, a first-time filmmaker. "When my mom passed away three years ago, I realized that if I didn't do it right now, I would never do it."
Festival organizers selected this year's films from more than 250 entries submitted from around the world. Topics span from one woman's battle with ovarian cancer to the story of the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Each was written, directed or filmed by a woman, or pertains to a primary topic directly linked to women's issues.
Cry and a laugh
"The majority of our films are documentaries," says director Linda Broker. "Women tend to make films about important issues."
Among them: Lisa Jackson's The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, a 2008 winner of the Sundance Special Jury Prize in Documentary.
"Why has the systematic rape and sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo escaped the world's attention? Is there something about sexual violence that makes us all turn away?" asks Jackson, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker. "Their stories need to be told and, more importantly, they need to be the ones doing the telling, which is another important goal of the film: to explore, witness and contribute to these women's healing through the empowerment of personal narrative."
As We Forgive, by Laura Waters Hinson, also focuses on tragic stories of women in a war-torn region. Her documentary, which won a Gold Medal Student Academy Award for Best Documentary from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2008, follows two women as they confront the men who murdered their families during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Some other heavy films come from male filmmakers. For instance, Anthony Gilmore's documentary Behind Forgotten Eyes tells the stories of Korean women forced into sexual slavery under the rule of Imperial Japan. Don King and his wife, Julianne Yamamoto King, collaborate on Beautiful Son to give viewers an inside look at their son's battle with autism spectrum disorder.
To balance the film roster's sobering content, festival organizers have included several short, humorous pieces. They include Close Call, of course, as well as Happily Ever After by Lidia Sheinin, a compelling look at the myth of the happy ending; Moment by Jill Carter, a film focusing on life's unexpected moments; and No Bikini by Claudia Morgado Escanilla, a glimpse into the life of a young girl who defies convention and discovers personal strength.
The Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival was the inspiration of co-founders Donna Guthrie and Jere Martin. After attending their first Telluride Film Festival, the duo decided to put on a film festival for women in Colorado Springs. Together, they created an organizing committee with the help of friends and co-workers Summer Kircher, Liz Youngquist, Leslie Bent and Rebecca Bauder. These enterprising women raised funds, solicited women filmmakers and eventually hosted the event.
At the initial gathering in 1988, 200 independent film fans met at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center to view 13 films. From Nov. 7 through 9 this year, more than 1,500 people are expected to flock to the FAC and Colorado College's Cornerstone Arts Center, for what's grown into the longest continuously running women's film festival in the world.
Kelli Scarborough, a close friend of Guthrie and Martin, remembers that first festival.
"I was fascinated right away," says Scarborough. "It is one of the best things that happened to Colorado Springs."
Scarborough has attended the festival every year since then, with the exception of one year when she was in Santa Fe working with Tibetan refugees. This year's film Women of Tibet: A Quiet Revolution, by Rosemary Rawcliffe, is of particular interest to her.
"The festival gives you the opportunity to be educated in a way that you don't get in any other venue," says Scarborough. "The films give a broad view of worldwide issues and a deeper perspective than you would get just by reading about them."
Scarborough's enthusiasm for and appreciation of the films and the festival is contagious; she has introduced many of her friends and family to the event over the years.
"It connects us, heart-to-heart, to a diverse world community," she says. "The films are astounding and get better every year. Some people only go for a day or two, but I am there for the whole thing. I am the first one there and the last one still sitting on the last day and I'm usually crying."