This is a no-shit story: Last week, a friend was in New York City's Chinatown to enjoy some of the soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai. As she waited she was chatting with the guy sitting next to her. When he found that she's from the Springs, he said, "Colorado Springs? My wife and some of her friends are flying out there in a few days to go to the Women's Film Festival. They go every year!"
Coincidence? Of course it is, but it's the kind of coincidence that can only happen when something is creating some buzz, which the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival is definitely doing. Though it may be the longest-running women's film fest in North America, with 26 years under its belt (and an average 1,000 guests annually), this year may finally signal it's making the big time.
The fest has attracted Miriam Bale, film critic for The New York Times and other publications.
"I don't have any connection to the RMWFF," says Bale. "It came highly recommended. Then I took a quick look at the stellar lineup and the beautiful views in Colorado Springs, and was quick to say yes."
The festival will showcase more than 30 new feature films and shorts, and welcome more than a half-dozen of the filmmakers, beginning Friday and running through the weekend. This year it's added a Saturday Night Bash to its list of happenings, which culminate in a screening of The Punk Singer, a biopic on Riot Grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna.
A veteran of planning festivals herself, Bale says "the biggest challenge is always getting audiences to see something they know nothing about, without any context except the brief description and the trust [in] the programmers." As an attendee, she looks for something different. "The most exciting [thing], and why I seek out the smaller regional film festivals," she writes, "is the context of the community that films are playing in."
Context can have a couple of meanings, like the physical location of a festival or how the event is promoted. She also takes note of the atmosphere of the event. "I mean, the festival-goers, the theaters, even the food and scenery. It's wonderful to see how these films play to different audiences. Women's festivals can be especially exciting then, because they form a — brief! — utopian moment, an all-women director community that will hopefully form a foundation of support."
Whether you call it coincidence, or some sort of divine intervention, the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival's rep seems to be growing.
Short takes: Three reviews of films coming to the festival
The Punk Singer
8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, Cornerstone Arts Center
Reclusive punk icon Kathleen Hanna changed the world for women, one rock show at a time. The Punk Singer takes an intimate look at this frontwoman of legendary punk outfits Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, and her sudden step out of the spotlight in 2005. With no narrator to tie the story together, the documentary deftly crafts a timeline of Hanna's career and her development into a leader of third-wave feminism. Through interviews and rare archival footage of shows, we watch her transform a male-dominated music scene into the perfect medium for her to open up about rape, objectification and abuse to an audience desperate to hear voices like hers. We also get to see how Hanna influenced some of the '90s' biggest stars, including Kurt Cobain and the Beastie Boys. At a concise hour and 20 minutes, it's surprising that the feature manages to feel a bit long. Chalk it up to the strange tonal shift in the third act, which feels more like a drawn-out epilogue than part of the broader story being told. — Jeff Koch
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?
10:45 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, Cornerstone Arts Center
Director Selma Vilhunen creates a fun Finnish short about Mother Sini, a woman who's maxed out her organizational abilities. Within the almost slapstick story of a family preparing to attend a wedding to which they're already late, Vilhunen's film explores what happens when gender roles have to change under pressure. The punch line might strike some as a little predictable, but the setup and journey to it comprise a fun, exhausting, and sometimes-painful romp to get to the church on time. — Bret Wright
The Globe Collector
3:50 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 3, Cornerstone Arts Center
Andrew Pullen has one of the largest electric lamp collections in the world. "Americans like to call them light bulbs," he says, "which we tend to avoid like the plague." The globes catalyze this film's exploration of the effects that Asperger's syndrome have had on Pullen's life. Given Pullen's degree in chemistry, one would think he would have a place in modern society. Instead, he collects globes, and spends time researching and archiving them. "I could be a great asset to my country," Pullen says. While leaving some viewers profoundly moved over Pullen's situation, this short documentary treats the subject openly, realistically, and with a touch of humor. Pullen does not come across as a man to pity, but as a man seeking his niche in the world. — Bret Wright