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Ready to reel: Walker’s Women with Vision festival opens with ‘films that define our times’

Ever wonder what day-to-day life is like in Bosnia after its ethnic war or in today’s secretive Iran? Or, if all those protests over the Highway 55 reroute in Minneapolis made any kind of lasting impact?

Films to be shown at the Women with Vision 2009: Dimensions festival opening today will answer those questions and more about what’s happening in politics and policy across the globe — issues likely to be of interest to MinnPost’s news-intense readers.

“I’d say that the films at the Walker are films that define our times,” said Sheryl Mousley, the film and video curator for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

She points to this week’s news that President Obama met with Britain’s prime minister to discuss how to handle testy relations with Iran. “There’s so much interest in what is going on inside Iran, and it’s in the news in so many ways,” she says. Interestingly, Iran has a number of women directors whose films show “what daily life is like and the concerns of the people who live there.” One is Manijeh Hekmat and her “Three Women,” which will be screened in this year’s festival. 

Films about women — and by women — can take us deeper into the day-to-day life of our global neighbors, says Mousley, who has served as curator of the Women with Vision festival for 11 of its 16 years.

Every year, Mousley attends several film festivals to see what issues are on the minds of women filmmakers around the world to make her selections for the three-week event here. “This year it seems to be how the geo-political structures that have been so important for so long” aren’t as important as the “human dimension of what’s happening in the world and how to relate to people across borders because we’re so interconnected.”

The trailer for Astra Taylor’s “Examined Life.”

The women filmmakers’ approach shows “a lot of leadership in this kind of storytelling” as opposed to action films that capture nations going in and bombing, Mousley says. “Their films look at the impact [of war] on people and how it affects culture, families and living conditions.”

The Bosnian film “Snow,” by Aida Bejic, tells the story of village women who lost their men in the ethnic war in the 1990s and are trying to find an economic way to stay on the land. “But it means dealing with the former enemy, and how do they negotiate, and all the emotional healing involved,” she says.     

‘It wasn’t a lost cause’
Closer to home is Ann Follett’s “Stop the Re-Route: Taking a Stand on Sacred Land.” The documentary, 10 years in the making, follows the opposition to the state’s plan to route Highway 55 through Camp Coldwater between Minnehaha Park and Fort Snelling in Minneapolis. Remember all those folks refusing to come down from the trees? Follett has footage from the beginning to present day. A video clip is available on this site.

A scene from "Stop the Re-Route"
Courtesy of the Walker Art Center
A scene from “Stop the Re-Route.”

“It’s very interesting to see it, and though it’s all in the past and the highway has been built, some things did change” such as “making certain places sacred land,” says Mousley. “It wasn’t a lost cause.”

While the festival has drawn as many as 5,000 people some years because of special events, Mousley expects 3,000 to 4,000 this year in a weaker economy. The center is noticing that not as many filmmakers will make the trip this year as in years past, but plenty of women will discuss or introduce their work in ongoing events. The opening film in the festival, “Treeless Mountain,” will be introduced by So Yong Kim of South Korea.  

For viewers, the Walker offers a “cinephile” package of five films for the price of three. Ongoing funding for the festival has come from Elizabeth Redleaf as well as the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

Here’s a freebie: The documentary, “3D Sun,” runs every 20 minutes in the Walker’s Lecture Room. The film was directed by Melissa Butts of Minneapolis-based Melrae Pictures and Barry Kimm.

One film in the festival, Astra Taylor’s “Examined Life,” is already getting a lot of buzz in New York, Mousley says. Nine contemporary thinkers — from many walks of life — have 10 minutes to express their views.

Women with Vision 2009: Dimensions. March 6-21. Walker Art Center. Schedule of events. Tickets run $6 (members) to $8 (nonmembers). Cinephile package available (five shows for the cost of three). More ticket info.   

Casey Selix, a news editor and writer for MinnPost, can be reached at cselix[at]minnpost[dot]com.

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