The Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival will bring 42 movies to Colorado Springs from Nov. 9 to 11. It’s a 31-year tradition that supports women filmmakers.

Documentary, narrative short and animated films that celebrate the diversity of women will be screened throughout the weekend at Colorado College venues: the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Kathryn Mohrman Theatre at Armstrong Hall, and Cornerstone Arts Center’s Richard F. Celeste Theater and film screening room.

“It has really been extraordinary,” said executive director Linda Broker, who started with the festival as a volunteer in 1994. “When I first attended the festival 25 years ago, it was opening night at the Fine Arts Center and then films from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at just the one venue. Everyone saw the same films at the same time and had the same experience.

“Around year six or seven, we added a second venue, and some people got really unhappy because they had to make choices of which films to see. Gradually, everyone has come along to appreciate the format now.”

Several options are available every couple of hours, so festivalgoers can choose which films to see when. During lunchtime, they can choose from two “Behind the Lens” panel discussions with filmmakers. At some screenings, too, filmmakers will be available to chat.

The festival has sold out its Friday night opening gala and full festival passes. Military members can get a free pass for Sunday’s festival by choosing “military discount” at checkout at goo.gl/52M4PF. As of this writing, plenty of Saturday tickets still could be had. Broker said Sunday’s screenings are usually less crowded. Also, some of the films can be seen before the festival — for free — through the Festival in The Community.

Broker said while it’s impossible for her to pick a favorite or recommend any single film, “the surprise film this year is the Saturday night feature ‘This Mountain Life’ — a spectacular film about people who live in the highest, most remote parts of British Columbia. They’re mostly off the grid, but not in a freaky way. Throughout the film, there’s a story of a mother and daughter who are going to ski from Washington state to Alaska. They’re great stories, and it’s just cinematically a beautiful film to watch.”

Several films in this year’s festival have a connection to the Pikes Peak region. Two are “Transmilitary” and “Burning Angel Dust.”

‘Burning Angel Dust’

Jackie Stone, director of the short film “Burning Angel Dust,” is a Colorado Springs native and Sierra High School graduate who now splits her time between New York and Los Angeles. She will talk to the audience after the Sunday showing of her 15-minute 2017 film, a narrative on female genital mutilation.

The film follows a young American girl, Violet, whose mother, a Nigeriénne-American, must decide whether she wants her daughter to undergo her native country’s traditional rite of passage, female “circumcision.”

“One of my main goals with the film is just to let people know this practice is happening in this day and age and is similar to the practice in America where we cut little boys’ genitals and never think twice about it,” Stone said.

She said if her film can spur social change by educating even one person, who in turn could educate another and save even one girl from this procedure, she would “be a happy filmmaker.”

“I wanted to set it here in America because people bring their cultural practices here. If you live in a diverse environment, you will know someone who’s been cut, though we don’t talk about these things in public,” she said.

Stone said her intention with the film was to “show the brutality of the actual event mixed with beautiful images. I wanted pretty things to be uncomfortable to watch.”

‘TransMilitary’

Senior Airman Logan Ireland and his wife, Cpl. Laila Villanueva, of Colorado Springs, are two of four transgender U.S. military members whose stories are told in the 92-minute documentary “Transmilitary.”

The feature chronicles these service members’ experience coming out as transgender to top officials at the Pentagon in hopes of attaining equal status. After a ban on transgender troops was lifted in 2016, President Donald Trump proposed this year to reinstate the ban. An estimated 15,500 transgender service members in the U.S. military — the largest transgender employer in the country — would be affected.

“It turned into something much larger than we ever expected,” said producer Jamie Coughlin, who with her husband, Gabe Silverman, first explored the story for The New York Times in the Emmy-nominated short film “Transgender, at War and in Love” in 2014 and then expanded that project to become “Transmilitary.”

The film, co-directed by Silverman and Fiona Dawson, won the 2018 SXSW Film Festival Audience Award in the documentary feature competition.

Coughlin said, “We filmed for about two years, and when Trump tweeted about reinstating the ban last summer, went back into production (to update it). Now, with the ban possibly coming back in existence, we think it’s most important to get the film out there.”

Dawson visited Colorado Springs on Oct. 15 to screen the film at the Air Force Academy, where it was “very well received.” She said the cadets and leaders at the academy were extremely interested in learning more about how they can support transgender troops.

“It’s our hope as well that the film will inspire a change of heart” on reinstating the ban, Dawson said.

By early next year, “TransMilitary” should be available to view via typical streaming services, Coughlin said.

It also can be seen as part of Festival in the Community at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Pikes Peak Community College’s Rampart Range Campus.

View the full Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival schedule at rmwfilminstitute.org/festival/schedule. There’s also an app for that: Download the schedule app at rmwff.sched.com

Editor, Pikes Peak Newspapers

In June 2019, Michelle became editor of the four Pikes Peak Newspapers: Pikes Peak Courier; The Tribune; and the Cheyenne and Woodmen editions. A Penn State journalism graduate, she joined the Gazette staff in 2015.

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