Arts & Entertainment, Film, and Travel & Tourism

Lunafest kicks off Gazelle Girl Weekend

Festival features short films by, for and about women, and also acts as fundraiser.

March 18, 2016
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Lunafest
Kent County Girls on the Run and Gazelle Girl Half Marathon are promoting female filmmakers and film talent as part of Lunafest during Gazelle Girl Weekend. Courtesy Kent County Girls on the Run

A film festival dedicated to all-female talent is returning to Grand Rapids.

Lunafest, a national travelling festival of short films by women, about women and for women, is coming to Grand Rapids next month. The fundraising film festival, which was created in 2000 by the makers of nutrition bar Luna, is being hosted by Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5K, and Kent County Girls on the Run.

The festival, which highlights women’s issues while promoting female filmmakers and film talent, will take place April 15 at Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids. The event will have 6 and 8:15 p.m. showings. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased on the Kent County Girls on the Run website, kcgotr.org, or at lunafest.org.

“This is our second year (hosting the event). Last year it was solely Kent County Girls on the Run, and this year we’re sharing it with the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon as a charity partner. Last year it was at the GRAM (Grand Rapids Art Museum),” said Lori Burgess, director of Kent County Girls on the Run.

“Last year we had a little shy of 100 people, and this year we have much more capacity because there are two showings. We’d love to double it and have about 200 guests this year,” she said, adding last year’s event raised approximately $3,000.

Lunafest also will serve to kick off Gazelle Girl Weekend 2016. All proceeds from the film festival will benefit the Breast Cancer Fund, which works to prevent breast cancer through elimination of exposure to cancer-related radiation and toxic chemical exposure, and the four charity partners of the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5K: Kent County Girls on the Run, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, YWCA of West Central Michigan and Gazelle Sports Foundation.

Burgess said 15 percent of the proceeds go to Breast Cancer Fund and the rest goes to the four charity partners.

Lunafest’s Grand Rapids presence has a three-fold purpose, she said.

The first goal is “to provide another opportunity for the women who are gathering for the weekend for the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon to learn about issues for women.” The second goal is to raise additional funds for the charities. The third goal is to build a sense of community.

“It’s an opportunity for the charities to interact with the people that come. And here’s the other thing: It’s an opportunity for people who aren’t even participating in the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon to participate in the weekend,” she said.

“It’s just to have an opportunity for people to gather and see the films, interact with the issues, start conversions, develop new relationships and just have fun.”

Nationally since its inception, Lunafest has raised more than $857,000 for Breast Cancer Fund and more than $2.1 million for other nonprofit organizations focused on women’s needs and issues. This is the festival’s 15th season, during which it has plans to screen at 175 events nationwide.

Although the festival will feature films that “are not for kids,” Burgess stressed an all-women’s film festival is especially relevant to a city like Grand Rapids.

“I think we’re a growing art community that loves all kinds of art and is nurturing all kinds of art. It’s that fit — and then (there’s) the content of the films. Even the style is all over the board,” she said.

“Last year’s films were so good, I don’t know how to imagine them being better.”

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