“Stories driven by women and others who are often unheard or unseen have the power to spark new levels of empathy and understanding,” says Sarah Mishler, marketing director of Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival (RMWFF). That was the driving ethos of the groundbreaking film festival when it began 32 years ago, and it remains the driving force as the festival brings this years batch of 47 local, national and international films to Colorado Springs this month.
As always, the collection of documentaries, narratives, shorts and animation aim to inspire self-growth and global awareness through the drive, spirit and diversity of women through film. “We believe that experiencing this wider breadth of stories is important to a healthy and thriving culture for all people,” Mishler says.
The film festival takes place across the Colorado College campus during two full days, Saturday, Nov. 16 and Sunday, Nov. 17. The festival kicks off Friday, Nov. 15 with an opening night gala at the Cornerstone Arts Center.
Here’s are some of this year’s highlight films that you don’t want to miss:
Madelyn’s Choice Award Winner
Each year, a film is chosen that be demonstrates the spirit, “zest for life,” generosity and caring nature of Madelyn Osur, who was an active member of the festival for nearly two decades before her death in 2005. This documentary, directed by Janice Engel, tells the story of media firebrand Molly Ivins. The feature film highlights Ivins’ journalism career and ability to use her razor-sharp wit to tackle corruption.
Screenings: Saturday, Block 1 at 9 a.m. and Sunday, Block 4 at 2:30 p.m.
Director and producer Tom Shepard of Colorado Springs brings this documentary of the LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers who fled prosecution from their home countries. The film reveals the untold stories of four arrivals in the U.S and asks, “What are the costs persecuted immigrants pay for seeking refuge?”
Screenings: Saturday, Block 1 at 9 a.m. and Block 2 at 11:10 a.m.
This documentary, directed by Andrea Kalin, honors one mother’s heartbreak and shows the power of positive human connection. Hallie Twomey lost her son, CJ, to suicide, but wanted to give him one last adventure. Twomey put out a call on Facebook, asking others to honor her son’s love of travel by helping to scatter his ashes in as many places of beauty and meaning as possible. Twomey’s request resonated and galvanized a community that has carried CJ’s ashes to thousands of different destinations. Scattering CJ explores the devastating effects of suicide as well as the extraordinary generosity of strangers and one troubled family’s attempt to find peace.
Screenings: Saturday, Block 2 at 11:10 a.m. and Sunday, Block 2 at 11 a.m.
Directors Nancy Bentley and John Atkinson of Colorado Springs tell the story of the local living treasure, 103-year-old Eric Bransby. He is a respected artist known for dozens of murals in five states, including several at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Bransby is an authority on the history and technique of mural painting. Even as the tastes of the art world changed following World War II, Bransby stayed true to his own style. This film traces the artist’s lifelong love of art, as well as his 70+ year relationship with the love of his life, companion and fellow artist Mary Ann Bransby.
Screenings: Saturday, Block 2 at 11:10 a.m.
For more than 25 years, Wendy Woo, a Denver musical artist, has been one of Colorado’s most beloved singer, songwriter and musician. Denise Ferrari, director, was intrigued during a 2018 concert where Woo had her daughter on stage. In the documentary, Woo shares her experiences as a mother of three, a business woman and a musician. Uniquely, although Woo’s marriage didn’t last, she and her ex-husband still share the stage.
Screenings: Saturday, Block 3 at 1:15 p.m.
Two filmmakers, 18-year-old Andy Kwiatkowski and 14-year-old Samuel Faux find the resiliency necessary to eschew the label of the “kids with a disability.” In Lonely Highway, Kwiatkowski shares his experiences of growing up with autism. In Twice Exceptional, Faux enlightens the audience about dealing with the impacts of apraxia of speech that affect him and his brother. The two created their films during a summer program of the Youth Documentary Academy. These young filmmakers define themselves on their own terms.
Screenings: Saturday, Block 5 at 5 p.m.
Alex, a teenage girl, is in charge of her grandfather, John, while her parents are out of town. When she is invited out by her crush, she leaves John, who has Alzheimer’s. When John wakes up from his nap, he “realizes” he is late to pick up Alex from school and rushes off to get her. Alex returns home to find her grandfather missing. This poignant short film explores intergenerational relationships and the realizations of the bonds that run deeper than memory. This is a student film directed by Fengyi Xu, who graduated Colorado College in 2018.
Screenings: Sunday, Block 2 at 11 a.m.
Two new roommates —Sydney of Georgia and Deja of Detroit—are excited to start their freshman year of college together, until Sydney decorates her side of the room with an emblem of “Southern pride.” This short narrative, directed and narrated by Colorado College alumna Sophia Capp, delves into young people navigating difficult conversations about differing cultural backgrounds, allegiance, censorship and the price of honoring the past.
Screenings: Sunday, Block 4 at 2:30 p.m.
This documentary tells the story of hope, friendship and dignity as five runners rise from Los Angeles’ notorious skid row by running marathons. Fighting the pull of homelessness and addiction, the runners’ lives begin to change when a criminal court judge decides to train a motley group of addicts and criminals.
Screenings: Sunday, Block 1 at 9 a.m.
A group of adventurous women decide to crush the gender wall of the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989 as the first all-female crew. At 24-years-old, Tracey Edwards rallied her team against opposition on all sides. The women knew the challenge would be immense in the world’s most difficult sailing race, but the crippling doubts from potential sponsors, competitors, the media and the public proved to be worse. But Edwards and her crew shocked the sports world, rallied women around the world and proved that women are very much the equal of men. This inspiring feature tells their triumphant tale.
Screenings: Saturday, After Dark at 8 p.m.
Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival 2019
Fri.-Sun., various venues across the Colorado College campus, 825 N. Cascade Ave.
For tickets, schedule and more info: rmwfilm.org
Read more about the origins of the RMWFF in “30 Years of Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival.”