Festival highlights women’s films


For entrepreneurs, “Startup Generation” tells the story of six college grads who want to start businesses.

The Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, now in its 29th year, is the longest-running women’s film festival in North America.

It features documentaries, narrative shorts and animated films from female filmmakers who bring depth, passion and intelligence to their work.

About 40 films will be shown at the Colorado Springs festival, which will run Friday-Sunday, Nov. 11-13, at the Fine Arts Center and several venues at Colorado College. The festival is expected to attract more than 1,000 attendees, many from outside the Pikes Peak region.

Two of the films to be shown should be particularly interesting to local audiences.

“Growing Up Coy” is a feature-length documentary about a Fountain family who fought to get the Fountain-Fort Carson School District to allow their 6-year-old transgender daughter Coy Mathis to use the girls’ bathroom at school.

The lawsuit was the first in the U.S. to be decided in favor of a transgender child, allowing Coy to use the restroom that corresponds with her gender identity.

Coming at a time when transgender bathroom access is national news — and the subject of legislation in several states — this family-centered film provides an inside perspective on the debate.

The second film is of interest to business owners and the startup community.

“Generation Startup” is all about business. Directed by Cynthia Wade and filmmaker Cheryl Miller Houser, the show documents the travails of six recent college graduates who sought to build startup businesses in Detroit.

Wade and Houser rank among the most distinguished documentary directors and producers in America. Media titans Susan Margolin and Lauren Zalaznick, who serve as executive producers, joined them in the project.

Wade has twice been nominated for an Academy Award, winning in 2008 for her HBO documentary “Freeheld” about a dying policewoman fighting to leave her pension to her female life partner.

“Generation Startup” captures the struggles and triumphs of young Detroit entrepreneurs.

Houser is a longtime feature film developer and producer whose credits include David O. Russell’s first movie “Spanking the Monkey” and “Children of Darkness,” a film for PBS about children with mental illness that was nominated for an Academy Award.

What attracted these two powerhouses to such an unlikely subject, one that would take a year and a half to shoot?

“I wanted to make films,” said Wade on the film’s website. “Over time I built a production company, a brand and a body of work. Along the way, I’ve eaten ants and bats, shimmied into abandoned buildings, been chased by a pimp, flown a drone into a toxic mud volcano, caught the wire on an aircraft carrier, lived in an arsenic-filled village in Cambodia, and slept on the couch in the home of a dying police officer for weeks … What the entrepreneurs in ‘Generation Startup’ are doing might on the surface look different than what I did. But it stems from the same impulse: to risk something. To create something from nothing. To do.”

There will be a free screening of “Generation Startup” and a Q&A with Cynthia Wade at UCCS on Friday, Nov. 11, along with the screening on Saturday morning at the festival.

Houser took a different, more conventional route to “Generation Startup.”

“Several years ago I left a secure job to launch my own company,” she said. “I wanted to follow several of these young entrepreneurs to capture the immersive experience of what it’s like to build a company. But not in Silicon Valley or New York — in Detroit.”

“Despite the stereotype of 20-somethings as entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship among 18-34 year olds is at a 24-year low. So here were 20-somethings who were not just taking big risks, they were also bucking most of their peers, who cite fear of failing as one of the biggest impediments holding them back.” 

Other films being shown include a documentary about Edyth Boone, an artist who paints murals and delights in colors; a film about the internet’s Slenderman and the 12-year-old girls who committed murder and a movie that explores the gender gap in engineering and sciences. The weekend also features movies about the fledgling free press in Afghanistan, a homeless woman whose story unfolds after her death from starvation and tips for how to survive a breakup.

In addition to films starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, and 9:15 a.m. Sunday,  organizers are planning an opening gala Friday at 6 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center.

For a complete list of movies available during the film festival weekend, go to rmfilminstitute.org.

For ticket information, go to rmwfilminstitute.org/festival/attend/passes.