Singer and activist Holly Near, at left, speaks at a rally outside San Francisco City Hall circa 1971. Near’s documentary, “Singing for Our Lives,” screens Saturday during Port Townsend’s Women & Film festival. (Holly Near Archives)

Singer and activist Holly Near, at left, speaks at a rally outside San Francisco City Hall circa 1971. Near’s documentary, “Singing for Our Lives,” screens Saturday during Port Townsend’s Women & Film festival. (Holly Near Archives)

Women Film festival offers 17 documentaries, features

PORT TOWNSEND — This movie — and its heroines — are not what you think.

So promises Carra Greenberg, who brings the documentary “Daughters of the Sexual Revolution” to town for this weekend’s Women & Film festival.

The film is all about the early days of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and their den mother, Suzanne Mitchell, “a force to be reckoned with,” Greenberg said.

“It’s not every day you come across someone who lives their life with such fervor,” she added, “and so unapologetically.”

The Women & Film cup runs over with passion.

In this Port Townsend Film Festival event, female directors, stars and documentary subjects fill silver screens Saturday and Sunday after a filmmakers forum tonight, starting with “Daughters” on Saturday morning.

Also on tap are “Dawnland,” about a truth and reconciliation commission for Native Americans; “The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution,” starring seven female chefs; “The Elephant & the Butterfly,” about a single mother’s surprise visit, and “Singing for Our Lives,” a documentary about singer and activist Holly Near. That’s just a sampling from Saturday.

Near, who’s coming to Port Townsend to appear at the “Lives” screening Saturday night, looks forward to an onstage conversation with the festival’s executive director, Janette Force.

The performer, who stood up front during the women’s movement through the 1970s and ’80s, has had the time of her life connecting with people via her documentary.

“I love that although the film is about me, follows my life and work, a large part of the audience feels that the film is also about them. They were part of these historic events. The film is an acknowledgement of the activism of which they were a part,” Near told the Peninsula Daily News.

“I also like that so many people knew about one part of my work but not about another, so there is a lovely element of surprise throughout the screening.

“There is very moving archival material throughout the film. Some of the most emotional has to do with large crowds of people singing the song after [County Supervisor] Harvey Milk and Mayor [George] Moscone were killed in San Francisco. The song is ‘Singing For Our Lives,’ ” Near said.

For men and for women, she emphasized, “It is a very uplifting and hopeful film in these challenging times.”

The question for discussion at tonight’s forum: What do you wish you had known before you began your film project? Women in documentaries and features will converse, to shed light on the movies to be screened over the next two days.

“Women & Film is a great thing to do with a friend or a group of friends,” said Jan Halliday, the fest’s development director.

“Films are humanely spaced: There are just two a day,” with morning features starting at 10 a.m., a break for lunch and matinees screening from 1 p.m.

“There are about 12 options for lunch within a few steps from the theater, most of them run by women,” Halliday said, noting that “The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution” is an apropos screening considering this fact.

Pass holders are supporting Women & Film and the Port Townsend Film Festival’s big picture, which includes bringing filmmakers to town to work on new projects and give public school presentations.

This year’s Women & Film fest has awarded fellowships to two filmmakers: Catherine Ryan and Gary Weinberg, the Emmy winners behind “The Story of Mothers and Daughters,” which screens at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

In addition to showing “Mothers,” they are here for six weeks working on a musical — and aim to engage local songwriters.

This weekend is one for celebrating the voices of women, be they Near in “Singing for Our Lives” or Mitchell in “Daughters of the Sexual Revolution.”

That movie, like its sisters in the festival, “tells the story of a woman from her own perspective,” Greenberg said.

“It’s not often we hear stories about women from the women themselves. There are so many incredible women whose stories remain untold. I hope we are moving toward more inclusion on that front.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders tell their story in “Daughters of the Sexual Revolution,” to be shown this weekend during the Women & Film festival in Port Townsend.

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders tell their story in “Daughters of the Sexual Revolution,” to be shown this weekend during the Women & Film festival in Port Townsend.

Holly Near, left, Jane Fonda and an unidentified woman sang and spoke at an Indochina Peace Campaign event.

Holly Near, left, Jane Fonda and an unidentified woman sang and spoke at an Indochina Peace Campaign event.

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