When LUNAFEST returns every year, it brings with it a new set of films from around the world to highlight strong women, powerful images and impactful language.
Founded in 2001 by the makers of Luna — a nutrition bar for women — the all-women traveling film festival celebrates these filmmakers while raising money for local women’s causes.
This year marks the sixth time the festival comes to Phoenix. Once again hosted virtually by Soroptimist International of Phoenix, it will feature seven short films by and about women at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 7. Phoenix’s first prime-time anchorwoman, Mary Jo West, and Phoenix Film Critics Society President and “RightThisMinute” host Gayle Bass will serve as co-emcees. Tickets cost $25 per household.
Though suggested for audiences ages 16 and older, the festival bills the shorts as being “Rated Equal.” This highlights the importance of creating “an opportunity for women to have an equal platform to men,” says Lisa Farrar, co-chair of LUNAFEST and president-elect of Soroptimist International of Phoenix.
“The films are typically always going to be with a subject matter that is of significance to women, perhaps something that’s really top of mind with things that are going on from a contemporary perspective, and then diverse — so the films there might be a dramatic film, there might be a comedy film, there might be one or two animated films,” Farrar explains.
The seven films this year are Holly Morris’ “Overexposed: Filming an Arctic Odyssey,” Meg Shutzer’s “Knocking Down the Fences,” Amy Bench’s “A Line Birds Cannot See,” Sharon Shattuck’s “The Scientists Versus Dartmouth,” Maria Finitzo’s “Until She is Free,” Tracy Nguyen-Chung and Ciara Lacy’s “Connection,” and Christine Turner’s “Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business.”
“I can honestly tell you this is my sixth year of viewing the films with LUNAFEST and I’m never disappointed,” Farrar says. “And I thought this year’s films were just particularly outstanding, so I’m really excited for people to have an opportunity to view them.”
Described by Farrar as “a collaboration of women who are passionate about women and passionate about elevating women,” LUNAFEST is a partnership between Luna and Chicken & Egg Pictures, a nonprofit that supports women nonfiction filmmakers.
Over the past 20 years, the touring festival has grown to being shown in more than 200 cities throughout the United States and Canada each season — and this year even co-produced three films with Chicken & Egg Pictures. Since its inception, LUNAFEST has spotlighted over 170 women filmmakers and hosted more than 2,500 screenings, while raising more than $6 million for women’s causes. Each stop on the tour is hosted by a local nonprofit organization; such is the case with Soroptimist International of Phoenix, which supports the educational objectives of women and girls.
“We’re all passionate about LUNAFEST, but it’s also about Soroptimist International of Phoenix,” Farrar says of the Phoenix event. “I mean, we’re raising money for women and girls. … We do educational grants, scholarships, and coaching and development for high school girls — so basically career coaching for high school girls — so we’re super passionate about that. We want to make sure that we’re … focused on raising those monies through this vehicle of LUNAFEST.”
As was the case last year, LUNAFEST is moving forward virtually due to current events. This time, however, organizers had time on their side.
Originally planned to be in person at a larger venue than in previous years, the 2020 Phoenix event had to make a quick pivot. Roughly five days before its scheduled date, the COVID-19 shutdowns hit, Farrar recalls. It was then pushed back a few months, but when things didn’t turn around, organizers postponed it again and began the shift to a virtual format.
“We were optimistic that we could really grow that event last year, and we were able to grow it, but we just ended up doing that virtually,” Farrar says.
She admits last year “was a little bit clunky,” as it incorporated a live Zoom intro with the short films streamed through Vimeo and ticketing handled by Eventbrite. This year, LUNAFEST is using the more streamlined Eventive. Films will be preceded by a prerecorded introduction.
A streaming link and password will be sent to ticket holders on the morning of the event, and films can be watched until 4 p.m. Monday, March 8.
“It’s a pretty special event and it’s pretty powerful, so I love everyone that’s helping us spread the word,” Farrar says. “Our desire is to really grow this film festival in our local market area and make it a signature fundraiser for us as well as elevate women’s issues and important things about women to our community.”
When: 4 p.m. Sunday, March 7
Cost: $25 per household
Soroptimist International of Phoenix
Chicken & Egg Pictures