Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Documentary film festival to give women hope

Festival to raise funds for United Nations Population Fund

Express Staff Writer

Ayehu is an Ethiopian woman featured in the documentary film A Walk to Beautiful, a film about women who suffer from fistula. Photo by

The Family of Woman Film Festival 2 is a fundraising event presented by Americans for the United Nations Population Funds, which is an international non-profit organization for the health and dignity of women everywhere. This annual event screens documentary films from countries in which women have become the victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, forced migration and other extreme situations.

Films include "Lumo" from the Democratic Republic of Congo, "Pray the Devil Back to Hell" from Liberia, "My Home, Your War" from Iraq and "A Walk to Beautiful" from Ethiopia. Several filmmakers and festival supporters will be present to discuss their work and the subject matter of the films, which ranges from surviving rape in the Congo and ending civil war in Liberia to the effects of the Iraqi war and surviving incontinence in Africa.

Guest speaker Pamela DeLargy, chief of the Humanitarian Response Unit for the United Nations Population Fund, will be present for a free talk on gender violence at the Community Library in Ketchum on Wednesday, March 11, at 6 p.m. In addition, there will be a fundraising event with filmmakers, DeLargy and Christine R. Charbonneau, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.

A special guest at the festival will be Allison Shigo, co-producer of the award-winning documentary film "A Walk to Beautiful." The feature-length film is about five Ethiopian women who suffer from devastating childbirth injuries and who embark on a journey to reclaim their lost dignity. They have been rejected by their husbands and ostracized by their communities. These women are left to spend the rest of their lives in loneliness and shame, but they make a choice to take a long and arduous journey to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital to find a cure and new life.

"This film was five years in the making," Shigo said. "Each character has a unique story. Two of the women featured are 17 years old and had been married four times."

The film's success led to an outreach program, which Shigo said is not normally done for films her company produces. A screening series was created for schools and faith-based institutions as well as community clubs and humanitarian organizations.

"Fistula is preventable," Shigo said. "People who see the film get very upset. It is an issue difficult to turn away from. Our mothers never had to go through five days of labor or human rights issues."

Another film about survival and recovery is "Lumo" by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutter. It is also a feature-length documentary film. Perlmutter will attend the festival to present the story of a young Congolese woman on an uncertain road to recovery at a unique hospital for rape survivors.

Women in the eastern Congo must endure the agonies of war with their bodies. Vying militias, armies and bandits use rape as a weapon of terror. Twenty-year-old Lumo Sinai wanted to start a family, but when she crossed paths with marauding soldiers who brutally attacked her, she was left with fistula, which has made her incontinent and has also threatened her ability to give birth in the future. Rejected by her fiancé and cast aside by her family, Lumo found her way to a hospital for rape survivors located on the border with Rwanda.

"Pray the Devil Back to Hell" is a documentary film that chronicles the remarkable story of the courageous Liberian women who came together to end a bloody civil war. Thousands of women who are ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters, both Christian and Muslim, came together to pray for peace and then staged a silent protest outside of the Presidential Palace in Liberia. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, they demanded a resolution to the country's civil war. Their actions were a critical element in bringing about an agreement during the stalled peace talks.

Finally, "My Home, Your War" is a documentary film about the effect of the Iraq war through the eyes of an ordinary Iraqi woman. Shot in Baghdad over three years that span the time before, during and after the invasion of Iraq, this profoundly moving film brings a perspective rarely available to U.S. audiences. The film combines insightful interviews with Layla Hassan and her family as well as vibrant scenes of Baghdad and intimate footage shot by Hassan.

The film presents a compelling picture of how the war has affected average Iraqis. As Islamic fundamentalism takes hold in the chaos of Baghdad, her shy teenage son turns to militancy, her once-progressive sister dons the veil, and whatever freedom Layla once had under Saddam Hussein's secular rule is steadily eroded. The film shows how the war has stimulated the rise of fundamentalism, which has put women's rights at risk.

The Family of Woman Film Festival 2 will take place Friday March, 13, through Sunday, March 15, at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. Films are $15 and tickets can be purchased at Chapter One Bookstore or Iconoclast Books in Ketchum.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

Event schedule

Wednesday, March 11

· Bent-Jorgen Perlmutter, the maker of "Lumo," will talk at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum at 11:20 a.m.

· Free talk by Pamela DeLargy, chief of the United Nations Population Fund's Humanitarian Response Unit, at the Community Library in Ketchum at 6 p.m.

Thursday, March 12

· Pamela DeLargy will talk at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum at 9:15 a.m.

· Fundraising reception with Pamela DeLargy, Christine R. Charbonneau, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, and makers of the films "Lumo" and "A Walk to Beautiful." $200 per person includes priority tickets to film festival. For details, call 622-1554.

Friday, March 13

· Bent—Jorgen Perlmutter, Pamela DeLargy and Allison Shigo, co-producer of "A Walk to Beautiful," will talk at Wood River High School in Hailey at 11:20 a.m.

· "Lumo" at 7 p.m. Filmmaker will be present.

Saturday, March 14

· "Pray the Devil Back to Hell" at 7 p.m.

Sunday, March 15

· "My Home, Your War" at 3:30 p.m.

· "A Walk to Beautiful" at 7:30 p.m. Film's co-producer will be present.

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