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All Roads Film Project Presents, “Women Hold Up Half the Sky”

Kicking off the year’s Women’s History Month, National Geographic, in conjunction with the All Roads Film Project hosted the 4th annual “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” Film Festival in Washington, D.C. on March 2nd and 3rd. All three films, strikingly different in their own right, provided illuminating, and often untold narratives. Although not every film addressed women’s issues, they were all directed, written, and sometimes even produced by women.

I had the opportunity to attend the All Roads Film Festival for what turned out to be an enjoyable, but also moving and thought-provoking experience.  Despite it being a particularly chilly weekend in D.C., the three-part series still attracted a sizable audience and a healthy mix of both men and women.

Three films, “Here I Am”, “A Small Act”, and “My Wedding and Other Secrets” were shown at National Geographic Headquarters, two of which made their D.C premiere. Following each film, the audience was joined by the director, or in the case of “My Wedding and Other Secrets”, the leading actress for a question and answer session.

 

 

“Here I Am”, written and directed by Beck Cole

Friday night’s film, “Here I Am” co-hosted by the Embassy of Australia presented a story told from the perceptive of Australia’s Aboriginal people. Only about four percent of the total population, these native Australians make up a large portion of prison inmates. Director Beck Cole, who joined the D.C. audience by Skype, commented, “I wanted to portray these women as individuals looking inwardly to explain their struggles without blaming society or external forces for their misfortune”.

Along with a beautiful score composed by Cliff Bradley and a cast of almost entirely local actors and actresses, the film a brought  refreshingly organic and honest flavor to the weekend’s film festival.

 

 

“A Small Act”, written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Arnold

A story serendipitously discovered by creator Jennifer Arnold, “A Small Act” follows the progression of two evolving narratives. The first centers on a Kenyan-born, Harvard Law School graduate and the women who sponsored him through middle school and high school. Inspired by her generosity, he starts a scholarship program of his own and names it after his former benefactor. The second story unfolds as the scholarship begins affecting the lives of other Kenyan children.

Jennifer, calling herself “a cynic by nature” admits that she was “forced to chance her mind” after completing the film and witnessing how the power of a small act can create an unanticipated ripple effect. Another example of this occurred when the film premiered at Sundance Film Festival, where over the course of 10 days, $90,000 were donated to the scholarship fund by people moved by “A Small Act”.

 

 

“My Wedding and Other Secrets”, co-written and directed by Roseanne Liang

In the romantic comedy, “My Wedding and Other Secrets” Emily Chu must keep her relationship with her kindred nerd, white boyfriend a secret. In what was the most lighthearted film of the festival, writer and director Roseanne Liang took her own life story and shaped it into to a quirky, fun-loving, feature-length production.

Joined after the film by leading actress, Michelle Ang, the young New Zealander expressed how she related to her character in several ways. First generation Malasyian Chinese herself, she recounts the cultural overlap she experienced as a child, but admits she was given many freedoms other children of foreign born parents were not.