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Thirty Years On, Film Festival Grows

By Brenda Gillen, photos by Jason Edelstein '18

The 30th Annual Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival (RMWFF) held Nov. 10-12 featured several films by CC alumni. It’s the longest-running women’s film festival in North America, and it showcases documentary, narrative shorts, and animated films. More than 60 films were screened throughout the weekend at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Armstrong Hall, and Cornerstone Arts Center. Approximately 1,600 people attended the event.

RMWFF honors films and filmmakers that present the world as women experience it and that inspire curiosity, educate, entertain, and stimulate conversation. Linda Broker, executive director of the festival, says RMWFF’s connections to the Fine Arts Center go back to the first festival held in 1988. Over the years as the festival has grown, it has added venues at Colorado College, and this year CC was a presenting sponsor of the festival.

“I don’t think anyone is more delighted than us with the construction of the Cornerstone Arts Center. For a city the size of Colorado Springs to offer such great venues all within walking distance of each other really contributes to the quality of this event,” says Broker. “Without Colorado College, our festival wouldn’t exist in the form that in exists with this partnership.”

Sixteen filmmakers attended this year’s festival, which featured several films about strong women. Among the women showcased were farm worker activist Dolores Huerta, restauranteur Ella Brennan, primatologist Jane Goodall, and open-water swimmer Kim Chambers. “Behind the Lens” panel discussions with attending filmmakers expanded to four sessions on various topics this year. In celebration of RMWFF’s 30th anniversary, programming also included a “Best of the Fest” series revisiting films from past festivals.

“We had films that were accompanied by a filmmaker who had a current film with the festival,” says Broker. For example, we had a film called ‘My Love Affair with the Brain’ and those two filmmakers were here. In our Best of the Fest track, we showed a film of theirs that we screened 20 years ago at the festival called ‘The Story of Mothers and Daughters.’ For our attendees it’s that much more interaction with filmmakers, which is why coming to a film festival is so different from going anywhere else to watch films.”

Colorado College alumni whose films were featured at the festival include Clara-Aya Blanco ’17, Judy Kreith ’83, Renan Ozturk ’02, Charlie Theobald ’17, Sophia Capp ’17, and Celestine Manno ’17. Mari Young ’18 served as a fellow for this year’s festival, and students in the CC Film and Media Studies program created two one-minute-long “bumper” films, that alternated preceding the feature films during the weekend. Additionally, several CC staff members were festival volunteers.

Capp and Manno wrote, directed, and produced the 10-minute film “Tendencies.” Capp says the film was the senior capstone project for the two Film and Media Studies majors. The project’s inspiration was the famous photo by Robert C. Wiles of the body of 23-year-old Evelyn McHale resting atop a crumpled limousine after she jumped from the Empire State Building observation platform to her death on May 1, 1947. In the haunting image, McHale appears to be resting peacefully. Capp was intrigued by the photo, which was displayed at Old School Bakery at Ivywild School, in Colorado Springs, where she once worked.

“We wrote a script about Evelyn McHale that had flashbacks of her living with her mother when she was little. In a lot of ways, women’s lives today connect with the past,” Capp says.

Capp served as a fellow for the festival last year, and since her graduation this year has worked as a paraprofessional for the Film and Media Studies program. She’s found that connecting with other filmmakers has positively influenced her view of the industry.

“It was absolutely wonderful to be in a community of women. In light of events in Hollywood this year, there’s been quite the movement for women to be seen as great filmmakers,” she says.

Other films by CC alumni screened at the festival included:

  • Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels: A Haven in Havana” directed by Judy Kreith ’83
  • “Denali’s Raven” directed by Renan Ozturk ’02
  • “May” directed by Charlie Theobald ’17
  • “Estamos” by Clara-Aya Blanco ’17

This year’s Madelyn’s Choice Award was presented to Serena Dykman for “NANA.” The award memorializes Madelyn Osur, who was an active member of the festival until her death in 2005.