Last week another unique local event took place in the Wood River Valley. The fifth annual Family of Woman Film Festival, which continually supports and celebrates the work of the United Nations Population Fund, returned with powerful emotions, education, award-winning films, Los Angeles Film Festival selections and an Oscar.
We recently had the chance to talk with festival founder and co-chairman, Peggy Goldwyn, about the importance of a film festival like this one, its broad, international, local and educational impact, its important five-year history and the festival's future growth and expansion.
Tell us a little bit about the Family of Woman Film Festival and what it supports.
The Family of Woman Film Festival is presented to support the work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which is the UN agency responsible for reproductive health and the rights of women and girls. UNFPA operates in over 150 countries in the developing world. It is the largest provider of this kind of assistance in the world, offering pre-natal care, family planning, HIV and AIDS education and prevention, surgical repair of birth injuries, etc. It also sees that women have "dignity kits" with such things as sanitary supplies. In addition, it works with governments and others to see that girls are educated, that gender-based violence is ended and that such practices as female circumcision are ended.
What is the mission of the Family of Woman Film Festival?
We show documentaries and dramas of women in the developing world where UNFPA operates to familiarize Americans with the status of women worldwide, the issues they face and their successes.
Left: Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin speaking at Sun Valley's Opera House. Right: "Saving Face" Director Daniel Junge addresses the audience with the subject of the film, Dr. Mohammad Jawad by his side. (Photos: Thia Konig.)
How did this film festival start?
I moved to Sun Valley shortly after joining the American Board of UNFPA (Film Festival co-chair, Stephanie Freid-Perenchio is joining me on the Board this May). Most Americans have no idea that the UN has an agency focusing on reproductive health. I thought that film would be a good vehicle to educate. I saw how truly international this community is, and how supportive it is of events and speakers that come here. I had moved here from Los Angeles, where it is very expensive to try to capture the public's attention – and also very difficult. The first year, we had documentaries from Pakistan and Afghanistan, along with dramas from India and Senegal. At each year’s festival, we have had a couple of filmmakers and also a speaker from UNFPA to explain more about their programs.
Why bring this film festival to Sun Valley specifically?
I think it has been important to have the festival here because, at very little cost and with the typical support this community offers, we have shown the American Board of UNFPA and the UNFPA staff how effective this kind of event can be. The proof of this is that the Executive Director of UNFPA and Under-Secretary-General of the UN, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, came to the festival this year and now wants to us to help take our festival "on the road" to other US cities.
How do you chose the films?
The scope of the films is restricted to portraying women in countries where UNFPA works. The films also have to focus on women's issues in some way. Finally, they have to be good film-making involving characters, real or fictional, with whom the audience can identify.
Left: Stephanie Perenchio, Dr. Mohammad Jawad from "Saving Face" and Oscar. Right: Oscar makes a visit to a Hemingway Elementary video class and video teacher Scott Slonim. (Photos courtesy of Peggy Goldwyn.)
Throughout the past five years, what has been your favorite film?
There has not been a film we have shown in the past five years that I didn't care about and feel was worthwhile. I think each film this year touched the audience. Of course there was a lot of excitement around "Saving Face," which won the Oscar for Best Short Documentary. If I have to say any film was a "discovery," it definitely was "Salaam Dunk." I had seen it before the festival on a computer, not with an audience. Last week, when it played before hundreds of people, there wasn't a dry eye in the house!