More than 400 people attended Lunafest at the Lincoln Theater last Thursday night, hosted by Soroptimist of St. Helena Sunrise, and the event raised more than $14,000 for local women’s charities and the Breast Cancer Fund.
“Considering we started with about 20 attendees at the first couple of venues, it’s amazing what we’ve accomplished,” said Linzi Gay, general manager at Clif Family Winery and Farm and Velo Vino.
Lunafest is a traveling short-film festival, hosted by groups like the Soroptimists to raise money showing films by, for and about women. It was created in 2000 by Kit Crawford, co-owner of Clif Bar & Co., which makes Luna, the nutrition bar for women. With a background in the arts, she was looking for a way to support the arts.
“We wanted to build awareness and a platform for women in film and be able to give to the Breast Cancer Fund,” said Gay.
Crawford and her husband, Gary Erickson, also own Clif Family Winery at Velo Vino, in St. Helena.
The first couple of Lunafest events were sparsely attended, Gay said. But by the looks on people’s faces as they left the theater, the founders knew they were on to something. Lunafest has grown to almost 200 events hosted around the U.S. and Canada this past year, and to date, it has raised more than $656,000 for the Breast Cancer Fund and more than $1.25 million for other women’s nonprofit organizations.
Fifteen percent of the proceeds from each Lunafest event goes to the Breast Cancer Fund, and the remaining 85 percent goes to the local host’s charity of choice. Luna also donates 1 percent of its nutrition bar sales to a variety of women’s nonprofits and the Breast Cancer Fund.
This is the first year Soroptimist of St. Helena Sunrise rented the Lincoln Theater in Yountville for the festival, which was made possible by a $1,000 award from Lunafest, for doing an outstanding job hosting past events.
Last year, the event was held at the Cameo Cinema in St. Helena and the former Copia Theater in Napa, and raised close to $14,000. Proceeds from this year’s fundraiser will go to Napa Emergency Women’s Services and Girls on the Run.
Audience members this year enjoyed wine, appetizers, and laughed and commiserated with the moving subjects of this year’s films, including “Maria of Many,” about a Mexican immigrant and domestic worker trying to make a better life for her daughter. This was filmmaker Alexandra Liveris’ first film and her first entry into a film festival. She was also a guest speaker at the event, and said she could not speak highly enough about Lunafest.
“Going to these different communities has had a ripple effect that is extremely powerful,” she said. “It is all about empowerment of the filmmakers and their subjects and continuing to empower each other.”