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LUNAFEST film festival in Iowa City highlights women, raises money for Girls on the Run

Event Wednesday will include nine short films

Still image from “Jesszilla” by Emily Sheskin. This is one of nine films that will be part of the LUNAFEST film festival Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City. The event benefits Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa. (photo submitted by LUNAFEST.)
Still image from “Jesszilla” by Emily Sheskin. This is one of nine films that will be part of the LUNAFEST film festival Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City. The event benefits Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa. (photo submitted by LUNAFEST.)

IOWA CITY — Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa on Wednesday will host LUNAFEST, a traveling film festival featuring award-winning short films by, for and about women.

The event at Iowa City’s Englert Theatre will include nine films with diverse stories, including one about a young Pakistani woman who helps girls in Silicon Valley design video games and another about Lois Weber, the highest-paid silent film director at Universal Studios in 1916.

The festival, created by LUNA bar, will visit more than 175 cities this year to help local organizations raise money.

“It’s a great night to reflect on amplifying women’s and girl’s voices in all areas of life,” said Katie Molzen, LUNAFEST committee chair for Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa.

The festival, in its seventh year in Eastern Iowa, is the major fundraiser for Girls on the Run, a program for girls in grades 3 through 8 that combines training for a 5K race with lessons about difficult topics, including bullying, gossip, self esteem and making good choices.

About 200 people attended LUNAFEST last year in Coralville to raise more than $6,600, Molzen said. Each year, Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa provides more than $90,000 in scholarships and financial aid for girls whose families otherwise could not afford the program, which takes place in Johnson, Linn, Jefferson, Buchanan, Benton, Iowa and Washington counties.

Molzen, who has helped with LUNAFEST for two years, said this year’s festival happens as light has been cast on women’s roles in filmmaking.

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Frances McDormand called attention to women in film when, during her Best Actress acceptance speech during the Academy Awards, she mentioned inclusion riders allowing top celebrities to stipulate in movie contracts there be diversity among the film’s actors and crew.

FilmScene, Iowa City’s nonprofit movie theater, is having Women’s March, with every screening during the month of March being of films made by women.

“I think these films will resonate with Iowa City for championing women’s storytellers,” Molzen said of LUNAFEST.

2018 LUNAFEST films are:

“Buttercup” by Megan Brotherton

Maggie needs her best friend today more than ever, but never expected she’d actually show up.

“Girls Level Up” by Anne Edgar

A young Pakistani woman who grew up in a conservative Muslim neighborhood in the Middle East helps middle school girls in Silicon Valley realize their dream of designing their own video game.

“Toys” by Amanda Quaid

In 1930s farm country, a father wants a son, but he gets a little girl. He tries to toughen her up by giving her toys intended for boys. His efforts backfire when she proves a little too capable for comfort.

“Fanny Pack” by Uttera Singh

A comedy about a young Indian-American woman who wants to follow her dreams and a fanny pack-clad Indian father who chases his daughter through an airport hoping that she will follow his.

“Joy Joy Nails” by Joey Ally

In an upmarket Connecticut strip mall, Korean Sarah manages a Korean-owned nail salon with an ever cheerful, K-pop pumping, manicured iron fist. When Chinese Mia starts training as a manicurist, and looks to be stealing the boss’s son’s affections, Sarah gets her claws out — only to discover the terrible truth under the varnish at Joy Joy Nails.

“Yours Sincerely, Lois Weber” by Svetlana Cvetko

A tribute to the highest-paid silent film director at Universal Studios in 1916.

“Jesszilla” by Emily Sheskin

Jesselyn “Jesszilla” Silva is serious about boxing, and at 10 years old trains seriously with dreams of becoming a professional fighter. Her father, Pedro, finds himself caught in between supporting her dream and worrying about her future as she tries to master a combat sport.

“Waiting For Hassana” by Ifunanya Maduka

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In 2014, the extremist organization, Boko Haram, kidnapped 276 teenage girls from a town in northeastern Nigeria. “Waiting for Hassana” is a harrowing first-person account of one girl’s escape from captivity and a heart-wrenching lament for her closest friend Hassana — one of the many girls still unaccounted for.

“Last Summer, in the Garden” by Bekky O’Neil

A recounting of one woman’s journey through a joyful, fearful time of death and rebirth.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

If you go

The LUNAFEST film festival is Wednesday at Iowa City’s Englert Theatre.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and films will begin screening at 7 p.m. Enjoy appetizers, desserts, an online auction, raffle and a cash bar. Films are recommended for ages 16 and older.

Tickets are $45 or $20 for students and Girls on the Run coaches. Buy tickets online here.

Contact Girls on the Run at info@girlsontheruniowa.org with any questions.

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Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.