Women In Film held its annual breakfast panel discussion at 350 Main on January 18, 2009.
“I breathe in the smells of the brunch: coffee, orange juice, estrogen. Outside a spa locker room, I don’t know that I’ve seen an event with such a high ratio of women over men - certainly not in the film world, still known as a good ole’ boys club where I’d been called 'doll.' But the women gathered here are making a change in those statistics,” wrote Rebecca Snavely, of the LA Times.
“Brilliant,” “moving,” “passionate,” “relevant” were just some of the words that were used to describe the 2009 breakfast and what many viewed as WIF’s “best year ever” at the Sundance Film Festival. “I am so thrilled that it’s getting to be an annual event. I look forward to it every year now,” commented attorney, and WIF Executive Board Member, Hillary Bibicoff. Maria Burton and her Five Sisters Productions discussed their recent trip to Africa, and how they enjoyed the morning and company.
The topic of discussion, led by WIF Sundance Chair, and Producer, Lucy Webb, was “A New Social Consciousness in Film.” Ms. Webb took a look at the importance of constructive imagery in filmmaking and how it affects the audience. “There is a soul shaking going on in our country,” she said, “a new way of thinking about film.”
The official Sundance Festival Panel featured original artists such as Director, Liz Garbus, with “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech.” Her father, famed civil rights attorney Martin Garbus attended and watched his daughter speak about free speech: you must “use it or lose it.” Sarah and Emily Kunstler, directors of “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe,” filmed a documentary on their father, notorious radical attorney William Kunstler, who defended the “Chicago Seven” and brought along client and defendant, Yousef Salamm to the discussion. Mary Ann Smothers Bruni, photographer/director of “Quest for Honor,” was escorted by friend and renowned politician and educator, Frances “Sissy” Farenthold. (Farenhold is the third woman whose name was put into nomination for the Vice President of the United States.) Bruni held the audience captive as she discussed recent honor killings in Iraq.
Nancy Schreiber, award-winning DP of “Motherhood,” spoke along with producer Beau St. Clair, of “The Greatest.” Rock violinist/vocalist/film composer Lili Haydn of “Over the Hills and Far Away,” broke into a delightful mid-morning song with lyrics of “Goodness brings a chain reaction, liberate me from inaction, stranger things have happened”.
Producer/actress Trudie Styler happily took her moment to tell attendees, “We need to be much more aware, to get deeper into the hearts of situations around the world.” Subjects from autism, free speech, civil rights, to Chevron’s irresponsible dumping of oil in the Ecuadorian rainforests, these women expressed the importance of a new meaning and social awareness in today’s filmmaking. Barbara Boyle, Chair of the UCLA Department of Film, Television and Digital Media and past president of both WIF and IFP/West welcomed all that attended. A sincere thank-you goes to Alisha Farmer and Isaac Joseph of MaxMara and L’Oreal for great sponsorship.
In 2009, WIF partnered with Tax Credits, LLC and The Incentives Office to give the first $5,000 film grant to a young, female filmmaker in the Sundance Shorts Program. Dama Claire and Bruce Diechl presented the grant alongside Webb. This year’s winner was Columbia Film School graduate and director, Madeleine Olnek. She accepted with her cast for their humorous film, “Countertransference.” Olnek was invited by Webb to ask her own questions to the illustrious panel, and question them as if she were in an elite film graduate program. Columbia Film Professor Jamal Joseph looked on with admiration.
Later in the week, WIF Senior Consultant of Membership, Candace Bowen, who could be seen driving the WIF Shuttle all week, represented the org at the Filmmakers Lodge with our Outreach Table. Students from film schools around the world came by to be introduced to Candace and to discuss how they could join the organization. Joanne Dean and Kim Ogletree came aboard to help.
Women and men could be seen at screenings throughout the ten days wearing WIF’s green buttons with the word “Aware” emblazoned on them, to remind us that it is vital to “look beyond ourselves and be watch dogs for our world and environment.”
Thanks to Robert Redford, Ken Brecher, Geoff Gilmore, Cara Mertes, Katie Kennedy, Michelle Satter, Jess Christensen, and the entire Sundance team. WIF would like to wish a very warm welcome to John Cooper as he enters his first year as director of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Hot chocolate is now brewing for 2010. Pack up your Blistex, film guide, and green re-usable water bottle, and we will see you next year at Sundance! Don’t miss these great films, and go independence!