Friday, September 28, 2007


My Other Mother
Diana Keam
Capetown, South Africa

Plot Synopsis: When her baby sister dies, Margo’s other mother shows her how to grieve.

SIDS, or cot death, has existed for thousands of years, and is currently a leading cause of infant mortality, preceded only by congenital anomalies.

This is a film full of contrast. It begins in a world so peaceful and lovely I want to be there and live in it too. It is full of trees, sun and breezes. There is a happy family that seems to be blended where a caregiver of another race, Eezie, is seen as another mother to the family’s children and her own children seem to have equal status within the household.

Chaos erupts in a nightmarish sequence when the new celebrated infant of the house is discovered dead from “cot death”, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. We are shown the entire blended family’s responses to the baby’s death, which are very distinct. The baby’s birth mother is more catatonic while Eezie leans toward hysteria. The responses continue throughout the house, and it seems no one knows how to make sense of the loss, or go on with life. Emotions build up inside, endangering the mental stability of the entire family until the funeral. In a beautiful sequence, Eezie bursts into a spontaneous song that celebrates the life of the child and provides the family a catharsis of release at last.

Sophie Ohara
Glendale, CA

Plot Synopsis: A pocket becomes an abstract metaphor for the journey of motherhood.

The average couple can now expect to live alone without their children for approximately 13 years after the last child leaves the home.

Set to “She’s a Rainbow” by the Rolling Stones, this is an animated kaleidoscopic vision of motherhood. Ohara’s soft colors and curved fluid motions blend throughout this dancing, whirling tribute to the multi-faceted strength that is the unarguable goodness of selflessness.

The Guarantee
Jesse Erica Epstein

Plot Synopsis: A dancer’s hilarious story about his prominent nose and the effect it has on his career.

Women represent 90% of all cosmetic surgery patients, and patient rates have increased 55% since 2000.

The Guarantee offered us an intriguing tale of gender role reversal. Ms. Epstein introduces us to a male member of a dance company who tells us his tale of pressures in a female-dominated field.

As a gender minority, he feels judged on his looks, despite his tangible talents. His female supervisors even go so far as to constantly and strongly suggest that he have plastic surgery to change his appearance.The plot grows before us visually through drawings that take on their own life as our man of many nicknames such as “Cyranose” and “Schnozolla” narrates his story.

Part of me wanted to keep asking him “how does it feel to be looked at like a piece of meat?”; women have been putting up with it since kindergarten. Part of me wanted to reach out to him empathetically… and part of me just wanted to laugh at how ludicrous this entire dance both males and females alike incessantly participate in our culture of judging one another based so heavily upon appearance first and substance a distant second.

Breaking Boundaries
Jennifer Grace
Bozeman, MT

Plot Synopsis: A documentary reflection on one female Olympic athlete’s determination and success.

Women were excluded from the original Olympic Games, so in 776 B.C. they formed their own games, The Games of Hera, honoring the Greek goddess of women and earth. Women were formally allowed to join Olympic competitions in 1900.

I was excited to see a film from a Montana filmmaker, having spent most of the ‘90s there and in the Pacific Northwest. It is a land where people of enormously diverse cultures and backgrounds coexist with mixed and always interesting results Breaking Boundaries, tells a fascinating tale of Olympian Sondra Van Ert from neighboring Idaho. This Pacific Northwest woman has been a pioneer for women, for sports, and for athletes, and did it all by simply being herself, by not letting anyone else’s concept of “that’s not normal for a woman” to enter her mind. She has continuously set her own high bar and surpassed it.

Jennifer Grace’s film is shot with live action interspersed with gorgeous still photography and keeps us intrigued about this remarkable woman’s story. Following the images and words as the story unraveled it was fascinating to think about the path that Ms. Van Ert has now blazed for female athletes (and snowboarding in general), that it is so significant, and that it was simply a natural progression for her life.

If success can be counted in any tangible manner, Sondra has it. She is the two-time U.S. Olympian in parallel giant slalom (1998, 2002), a Gold medalist at the Goodwill Games , she competed in the 1998 Olympics, the inaugural year of snowboarding in the Olympic Games, and she has 11 boxes of trophies in her garage.

As a child, Sondra missed more days of school than she attended, but this was what was normal to her, so she didn’t know that it would have been considered not “normal”.

In the world of contemporary U.S. society, “normal” humans are encouraged to retire at approximately age 64. Sondra was encouraged to retire at age 19. She is now 43 and has yet to slow down. God help us if she does.

She has made what now exists in her sport for women not only possible, but acceptable…normal.

One is the chosen one to break boundaries perhaps, when one has a refreshing perspective added to her incredible gifts due to society’s norms being a bit upside down from the beginning of life.

Daikon Ashi
Ru Kuwahata
Brooklyn, NY

Plot Synopsis: A young girl struggles with adolescent rebellion and the reality of family ties.

Originating from Europe and Asia, most radishes belong to the mustard family, “Raphanus sativas”. Radishes contain Vitamin C and Phytochemicals, which may help cancer prevention.

In Daikon Ashi, a young girl has a few issues with her skinny legs that look like white radishes that she has inherited from her mother’s side of the family.

I think almost all of us have both cursed and blessed physical (and mental) characteristics that we have inherited from our maternal sides. They are the foundation of who we are -- our legacies. We have a choice, however of what we can do with them. We can accept them, care for them and do something with these gifts…or resign ourselves to stagnation. It isn’t what one is given necessarily, but what one does with it, after all.

Doňa Ana (Mrs. Ana)
Directors: Marlon Vasquez & David Sanchez
Animators: Laura Acevedo & Carolina Escobar
Medellin, Colombia

Plot Synopsis: A seller of medicinal plants shares the joys and hardships of her life along with her love of strawberries.

Strawberries cultivated in Ancient Rome were used as a medicinal herb for digestion and as a skin tonic.

In this two-minute animated piece, I found myself immediately compelled to take the advice of this woman, which was odd, as she was someone who had managed to reach an advanced age and skill level but somehow had also managed to lose her home. Nevertheless, the point of view was so well crafted in this film that we were immediately pulled in and respected her, giving credence to her words.

The style of animation was compelling, creating a world that seemed to be somewhere in between the live and fantasy, which interestingly, is a world one often enters when taking the correct or incorrect medicinal plant.

Gödir Gestir (Family Reunion)
Isold Uggadottir
New York, NY

Plot Synopsis: Katrin leaves New York to visit her native Iceland, in this whimsical tale of family secrets.

Iceland’s Gay Pride Parade draws 40,000 people annually, a third of the entire population.

Even in a liberal country, it can still be difficult to come out with a secret that is a bit contrary to the societal accepted norm.

Katrin seems so comfortable with her girlfriend in New York when we first meet her that she invites her to attend an important family gathering with her. Yet somehow the girlfriend doesn’t make the trip. What does that say about the relationship?

Back in liberal Iceland, her entire family and close-knit community seem oblivious to the fact that Katrin is in fact just not interested in men. Through Katrin’s perspective initially, they seem so unobservant and foreign, so backwoods.

We do start to see a few parallels between Katrin and this family that initially seem oblivious to her. We are shown a scene where she hastily blows off a loving grandfather on the phone. As this tale unwinds, tension builds in a fun way. Katrin reveals her sexual preference to an ex boyfriend and self consciously begins to fear it will spread around the family gathering before she will have a chance to possibly explain it herself.

In a beautifully written and filmed final scene, Katrin realizes that perhaps her family is much more capable of understanding and accepting her for whoever she chooses to be than she has been giving them credit all along.

Sophie Barthes

Plot Synopsis: Iwona buys a box of happiness at a strange discount store and has to decide what to do with it.

71% of women would buy more shoes if they could afford to, and 50% acknowledge they sacrifice comfort for style.

I love thought-provoking films, fabulous images, strong acting, and condoms! Happiness has it all! And in 11 minutes!

As soon as I got home, I looked up “happiness” on The entry reads, “the quality or state of being pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing.” With that in mind, I continued to reflect. So many of us go through life thinking that we want is to be happy. Often we think about it to the point where we are consumed by it. When asked to articulate exactly what would make us happy, however, we might be hard-pressed to come up with a specific answer. Many of us would say that it involves being with other people, or something that other people can do for us.

One thing that struck me as fascinating about Iwona was that although she recognized that she wanted happiness, she was going to go out and get it for herself! I loved her strength! The journey and search for happiness that we embarked upon with Iwona was witty and delightful, but at no point did she think she needed another human being to give it to her. She knew what intrigued her, what attracted her…we could read and feel her point of view about everything she looked at.

We ached with her to know what was in the unknown unspecific box of “Happiness” that she bought as a present for herself! And were thrilled with the choice she eventually made, seeing her quality and state of being pleased, glad, over a particular thing, even if for a moment.

Make a Wish
Cherien Dabis
Hollywood, CA, USA

Plot Synopsis: A young Palestinian girl will do whatever it takes to buy a birthday cake.

The custom of placing candles on a birthday cake originates from the Greeks, who believe lit candles send signals to the gods, increasing the likelihood their wish will be answered.

In this lovely film shot entirely on the West Bank, Palestine, we see the bonds of family persevere beyond even beyond war.

A girl is completely driven and to succeed in her goal. In my opinion, the honoree for which she so desperately wants to buy the birthday cake may as well have been along with us on the mission throughout the film. Despite the backdrop of the physical Palestinian conflict going on around her, all we focus on is what she focuses on: the happiness of the recipient of that birthday cake.

The end comes as a complete surprise, and we see that no matter what the circumstances, a loving daughter can come up with magical ingenuity to honor a parent on a birthday.


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