HEART of Taos will celebrate International Women's Day with a free event: Lunafest. It showcases women's films Thursday (March 8), starting at 7 p.m. at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
At 5:15 p.m., prior to the main screening, a catered VIP event for sponsors will be held with a live performance by Taos musician Jennifer Peterson.
Only three years old, HEART (Hope, Empowerment, Advocacy, Respect and Transitional housing) is a non-profit organization that provides women with resources, such as emergency shelter and assistance as well as various programs for homelessness prevention, counseling and social services. The program has already served more than 500 Taos County women and children, along with their pets.
"Lunafest is a short film festival showcasing and championing women in film, and the festival is a fundraiser that's held by a host, and HEART of Taos is the official host for Lunafest for Northern New Mexico," said Robin Cunningham, community outreach liaison. "It's our second annual Lunafest film festival," she said.
Lunafest, part of the Luna bar franchise within the Clif Bar Co., collaborates with Chicken and Egg Pictures and provides financial support to several other organizations for women.
"Lunafest supports two dynamics of women and women-based supportive foundations," Cunningham said. "(It) support(s) women and films through this short film festival process and then the host -- when you qualify, and we were able to qualify last year to continue to be the host for Northern New Mexico -- our nonprofit HEART of Taos is the beneficiary of the other dynamics of the boots-on-the-ground support system through sponsorships."
Nine films will be shown by various women directors. Some have been awarded fellowships and received recognition.
"There's a short film called 'Buttercup' about two best friends that need each other today more than ever, but never actually expected that they'd show up for each other," Cunningham said. "The next one is 'Girls Level Up,' and it's about a young Pakistani woman who grows up in a conservative Muslim neighborhood and helps middle school girls in Silicon Valley realize their dreams of designing video games."
Award-winning Harvard graduate Megan Brotherton's 'Buttercup' and Anne Edgar's 'Girls Level Up' will be accompanied by a mix of other films, ranging from animation, comedy, documentaries and more.
• Amanda Quaid's "Toys" is an animated film set in the countryside during the '30s. A father, who believes that a girl baby is "undesirable," makes efforts to harden his daughter. She receives toys meant for boys before his efforts are turned on him, and his little girl demonstrates exceeding capability.
• Ryan Murphy Fellowship awardee Uttera Singh's "Fanny Pack" is a comedy in an airport about a fanny pack-carrying East Indian father who runs after his Indian-American daughter, who is set on pursuing her dreams instead of the dreams her father wishes for her.
• Joey Alley, a member of the 2017 class of the American Film Institute Directing Workshop for Women has "Joy Joy Nails" touring with Lunafest. Based in Connecticut, character and manager of a Korean nail salon, Sarah, crosses an aspiring Chinese manicurist, Mia, who is drawing the attention of the boss' son. Sarah will soon discover an unsettling secret hidden within the salon.
• Oscar winner in 2011 and documentarian Svetlana Cvetko's "Yours Sincerely, Lois Weber" pays tribute to the famous actress, silent film director and screenwriter of Universal Studios in 1916.
• One of Vimeo's "Ten Groundbreaking Women in Film to Watch In 2017," director Emily Sheskin tells the story of Jesselyn Silva: a 10-year-old girl whose ambition is to become a professional fighter. Pedro, the father, struggles between embracing his daughter's goals and training, and worrying about her future welfare in combat.
• Formerly a strategic advisor for Lady Gaga's foundation and "Obama for America," Ifunanya Maduka's debut as a director is "Waiting for Hassana," a first-person perspective of a girl's escape after being kidnapped by the extremist organization, Boko Haram. The film displays the heartbreaking grief the survivor experiences for her closest friend, Hassana, one of more than 200 girls still unaccounted for after the mass kidnapping.
• Short, illustrated documentary, "Last Summer, in the Garden," by co-founder of Cardboard Reality Farm and Studios, Bekky O'Neil. The film narrates one woman's emotional progress through death and renewal.
"It's an incredible body of work," said Cunningham as she discussed Lunafest.
Although no directors will be attending the event, HEART is enthusiastic that fundraising events, such as Lunafest will help pave the way toward a bright future for the organization. "All of the proceeds that we gain through sponsorships are going to be supporting the initiatives that we have at HEART of Taos to support homelessness prevention and transitional housing," Cunningham said.
HEART has made official plans to expand its services and will be moving to a new location nearly double its present size. The grand opening and ribbon-cutting is planned March 23, 4-6 p.m., for the new HEART of Taos Resource Center at 1353 Paseo del Pueblo Sur. This move will allow expansion of hours, support services and program offerings.
For more information visit heartoftaos.org.