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The traveling film festival LUNAFEST is slated to return to Jamestown this week. The festival, which presents award-winning short films by, for, and about women, will be hosted for the fourth year by the Zonta Club of Jamestown at the Robert H. Jackson Center. The event will run from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 11 and feature nine short movies that strive to connect women through film.
LUNAFEST was first established in 2000 by the makers of the LUNA whole nutrition bar for women. What began as a small event to raise money for charity and give women a creative platform soon became much more: within a few years, the festival had spread across the entire country, with screenings now hosted in over 150 cities and reaching nearly 25,000 audience members. To date, LUNAFEST has given 136 female filmmakers a spotlight and raised $3.6 million for charity.
It is this marriage of charity and female empowerment that drew interest from Jamestown’s own Zonta Club. Karen Dolce, the club’s president, said Zonta first began hosting LUNAFEST screenings in 2013.
“The LUNAFEST purpose is all about connecting women through film, and the Zonta Club is an organization that gives women a voice,” Dolce said. “So the festival seemed like a great fit for our mission. It’s a good way for us to raise money and raise awareness about important causes.”
This year’s films touch on several of those important causes. One film, “Another Kind of Girl” by Khaldiya Jibawi, centers around a Syrian refugee camp. Another, titled “Niñera” and created by Diane Weipert, studies the catch-22 of nannies who raise other people’s children and therefore cannot raise their own. The films are more than meditations on serious issues, however: they are also filled with wit, humor, and sincere sentiment.
“The films are all very, very different,” Dolce said. “There’s almost no describing them. They take place in locations all over the world, they feature filmmakers of diverse ages and ethnicities, and they address many different topics, from breast cancer to transgender rights. There are struggles in them that I think many women need to learn about and understand; need to see how brave the women are that go through these things.”
While LUNAFEST may be angled toward the female half of the population, Dolce is quick to mention that the event is not exclusively for women. The movies contain insight that is valuable to all demographics, and reinforce the message that female empowerment is not only the job of a woman; it is the responsibility of humankind.
“We have men that come to the festival, and I think the films put issues in a new light for them,” Dolce said. “They’re a new platform to see some of the issues that women face in today’s world that they might not understand completely. A lot of times, things in media or on the television are muffled or very censored. I can tell you that these movies aren’t either of those things. They almost have a shock value.”
One hundred percent of the ticket sales from LUNAFEST go towards charity. LUNAFEST is what its creators consider a “fundraiser-in-a-box,” helping its host organizations raise money for their own nonprofit purposes while also raising money for LUNA’s main beneficiary, the Breast Cancer Fund. The Breast Cancer Fund is a group that helps eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer through education, policy initiatives, and campaigning. While a portion of LUNAFEST proceeds goes directly to that fund, the rest of the money is left for the Zonta Club to distribute to charitable programs of their choice.
“This year, we’re using the funds for our local services,” Dolce said. “That does include our scholarships – at this time, we’re giving out four $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors.”
This year’s LUNAFEST proceeds will also go towards the Lily’s Hope program. Lily’s Hope is an initiative that was created by Zonta to support female cancer victims and rebuild their self-esteem. Specifically, the Zonta Club opened a room at Jones Memorial’s WCA Cancer Treatment Center where cancer victims can choose a wig to take home, free of charge.
“We found out that there was a need for local women who were losing their hair from cancer treatments,” Dolce said. “There was absolutely no place for them to get wigs, not to mention that the fact that they are very costly. So we developed Lily’s Hope to provide wigs for women in need.”
Fundraising money will also be used to provide sweatsuits to rape and abuse victims at local hospitals in Chautauqua County and surrounding areas.
“We found out that doctors have to take the clothes from rape and abuse victims,” Dolce said. “So now we supply sweatsuits in different sizes for these victims to wear home. We include a note telling them that they are not alone, and that we care.”
Finally, Dolce said that money raised from LUNAFEST will help cover the cost of assembling and creating birthing kits. Birthing kits – which include items such as soap, umbilical cord clamps, scalpels, and gauze – provide the tools to ensure safe, clean infant deliveries. The Zonta Club has sent over 2,000 birthing kits to in-need countries such as Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Afghanistan, and various African nations.
“The money we earn will go towards all of these projects,” Dolce said. “The festival is supporting such good causes, and it seems to be growing every year. We can only hope for even bigger audiences this year.”
Tickets for this year’s LUNAFEST cost $20, with a discounted ticket price of $12 for students and military members. They can be bought pre-sale from Zonta Club members or bought at the door. Tickets include viewing of nine short films as well as refreshments and a glass of wine, coffee, or water.
Major sponsors of this year’s Zonta Club of Jamestown’s LUNAFEST include the Media One Group, the Resource Center, ERA Team VP Real Estate, Brown Surveying, and Marcia Bliss, CPA.