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Rell Kapolioka’ehukai Sunn in an image from Heart of the Sea. Women’s Film Festival attendees named the film as the Best in Fest.

The Arts

‘Heart of the Sea’ takes Best in Fest award at Women’s Film Festival

BRATTLEBORO—The Women’s Film Festival goers voted Heart of the Sea: Kapolioka’ehukai as the Best in Fest favorite.

The Women’s Film Festival completed its 20th anniversary season March 20. This year’s ticket sales broke all previous records for the all-volunteer run fundraiser benefiting the Women’s Freedom Center.

The documentary, Heart of the Sea: Kapolioka’ehukai, profiles the life of Rell “Kapolioka’ehukai” Sunn. The Hawaiian icon is credited with pioneering women’s surfing and working with at-risk youth. According to Independent Television Service’s website, Sunn co-founded the International Surfing Association (WISA), collaborated on Women’s Pro Surfing (WPS) and in 1982 was ranked No. 1 in the world on longboard.

Sunn died in 1998 after a 15-year battle with breast cancer at age 47. Charlotte Lagarde produced and directed the film with Lisa Denker, director.

Winners of the festival and Center for Digital Arts’ High School MID-VID video contest were also honored at Saturday’s closing events. The contest challenged students in grades 9-12 to create a 120 second, or less, YouTube video response to the topic “women.”

“We launched this competition as part of the Women’s Film Festival’s 20th anniversary celebration, but we expect it to become an annual event,” festival steering committee member Marilyn Buhlmann said in a press release. “The contest allows us to explore what the concept of ‘woman’ symbolizes for teenagers today and increases our outreach to young people as audience members and festival volunteers.”

Clark Glennon and Isaiah Palmeri, both of Brattleboro Union High School, took first prize for their video Colin and Women .

Ryan Gagnon-Burch and Joey Sawyer Shaw, also of BUHS, won second prize for their video Violet Life .

Third prize went to Thomas Pentoney, of Leland & Gray Union High School, for Mothers: The Hardest Working People .

Viewers can find all three videos on YouTube. Winners also received cash prizes of $200, $100 and $50 respectively.

Buhlmann, a member of the Freedom Center’s board of directors, estimates the 10-day festival that showcases film by and about women raised $15,000 for the Women’s Freedom Center, formally known as the Women’s Crisis Center.

The organization founded in the late 1960s, The Women’s Freedom Center, mission is women’s freedom from men’s violence. The organization provides emotional support, safety planning, advocacy, a 24-hour crisis hotline, and shelter for women and children.

“We really live in an extraordinary community,” said Buhlmann.

Last Saturday, Buhlmann thanked volunteers and community members for sharing their time, “generous skill level,” resources and money to support the festival and Women’s Freedom Center.

Buhlmann said this year’s in-kind donations like lodging and services equaled $10,000. In past years, she said the festival as raised more money, but expenses have gone up and donors have cut back because of the sluggish economy.

The Women’s Film Festival is the oldest film festival in New England dedicated to women filmmakers and film.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #94 (Wednesday, March 30, 2011).

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