LUNAFEST: Q&A with Kit Crawford and Suzy Starke German
Meet Kit Crawford (right), Co-Owner and Board Member of Clif Bar & Company and Board Member of Chicken & Egg Pictures, and Suzy Starke German, Program Director of LUNAFEST®. Kit and Suzy talk about the origins of LUNAFEST, its impact, and why films made by and about women are more relevant than ever.
Where did your love of film start?
Kit: When I was little, we went to the drive-ins—all five kids would pile into the station wagon in our pajamas, get popcorn, and watch through the windshield. My real love of film came in the early ’80s when I lived in San Francisco, with foreign films at the Red Vic in the Haight. Everybody was on couches. You could have espresso and chocolate chip cookies. There was a sense of community. That was a big part of LUNAFEST from the beginning, using film to bring people together—to talk to each other before and after.
In the ‘80s I was in that Laurie-Anderson-kind-of performance world and craving film with a more artistic eye. No one was talking about the disparity between women and men filmmakers yet—or nonbinary filmmakers. It just wasn’t a choice. Now we can go deeper. The filmmaker has become almost as important in my mind as watching the film—learning about their art, the shots that someone from a different country might see that we haven’t seen in the U.S. before. It expands what we’re aware of, what we notice.
Suzy: Independent film in our house was PBS, Masterpiece Theatre. That was the only time I saw something different. Our family only went to movie theaters that had blockbusters—that was the only thing that was playing in our suburban town. And we still find that exists in many communities across the U.S.
What do you see as LUNAFEST’s impact?
Kit: To peek into stories that need to be told, that haven’t been seen before. Something about short films, they get into your soul—filmmakers are forced to tell a story briefly, and it makes you want to learn more about it later. Some of LUNAFEST’s films have opened my mind, given me a different way of thinking about our community, globally and right in our hometowns. You start seeing patterns that show up in our social constructs that maybe need to be changed.
Suzy: We use the term “sparking conversations.” It’s not only about the films but also about the nonprofits that host these events and the people these nonprofits support. Every year, we give these nonprofits a vehicle to raise important funds. Statistically, the percentage of donations to groups that support women and girls is low. LUNAFEST is about grassroots impact for local organizations advocating for women and girls. So far, we’ve raised over $6 million and reached 600,000 viewers. In the next eight years, we want to increase that to $10 million and 1 million attendees.
Kit: It’s a beautiful model that reaches people in a personal way. It builds community around local groups that need a vehicle to make people aware. Because each nonprofit hosts their own event, they can put their own twist on it. They can raise money in a fun way to support a serious effort. We need more celebratory moments.
Suzy: It’s also about filmmakers finding resources. One thing I’m proud of is that we’re helping to open those doors for the filmmakers we’re working with.
What’s different about these films?
Kit: They’re on the cutting edge of many different topics: gender fluidity, prejudice against elders, women in some places still dying in childbirth. We have not been afraid to talk about uncomfortable topics. I’m so proud of that part of LUNAFEST. And there’s also the pure art of it. We try to include a variety of topics every year.
Suzy: If Kit hadn’t been a champion, some of these films probably would not have been shown, but each program is relevant. The films have staying power.
In 2021, for the first time, LUNAFEST co-produced a few films. How did you select them?
Suzy: We wanted three very different films. Sexual harassment is much more talked about since #MeToo, but The Scientists Versus Dartmouth was about harassment in academia—what happened to three grad students entering STEM fields at Dartmouth. Until She Is Free documents an artist making a powerful statement about women’s sexuality. Exposure spoke to adventure and athleticism, which the LUNA brand has supported from its first days. You can see all three here.