International Women's Film Festival Starts Jan. 31

Release Date: January 23, 2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- "Body Counts," the 12th annual International Women's Film Festival presented by the Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender (IREWG) at the University at Buffalo, will open Jan. 31 and continue on Thursday evenings through March 6 in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre, 639 Main St.

This year's festival features a wide selection of film and documentary works, including a film by two UB faculty members that explores women and their relationship to military culture, plastic surgery, popular culture, poetry and dance, pregnancy, historical intrigue and cultural expectations. Several of the films are poignant, coming-of-age stories that illustrate how women balance the challenges they face as they enter adulthood.

All screenings begin at 7 p.m.

Opening the series on Jan. 31 is a documentary by Bernadette Wegenstein and Geoffrey Alan Rhodes, associate professor and adjunct instructor, respectively, in the Department of Media Study, UB College of Arts and Sciences. "Made Over in America" (2007), explores the perception of body image in an age of surgically enhanced beauty and reality television by combining the styles of reality television and experimental film to weave together the voices of producers, consumers, surgeons, patients, clinical psychologists, media theorists and youth coming of age in a culture where bodies seem customizable. The film forms a picture of how desire for a better self operates within a consumer culture and how this desire is fed by the media, makeover industry and culture at large.

The screening of "Made Over in America" will be preceded by Gail Noonan's charming and witty animated short, "Your Name in Cellulite" (16mm, 1995, U.S.), and Lisa Barnstone's short music video, "Rebel," which stars the Lower East Side Girls Club of New York City.

The remainder of the schedule:

• Feb. 7: "Close to Home/Karov La Bayit" (2005), Israel, directed by Vardit Bilu and Dalia Hagar. Two young women with conflicting personalities, Smadar and Mirit, are brought together by compulsory military service and forced to face the stark reality of their situation. Given the task of patrolling Jerusalem and stopping random Palestinians to ask for identification and information, Smadar and Mirit's partnership and youthful innocence are put to the test in an award-winning film based on the filmmakers' own experiences. In Hebrew with English subtitles.

• Feb. 14: "Dunia, Kiss Me Not On the Eyes," (2005) Egypt/Lebanon, directed by Jocelyne Saab. Dunia, a student of poetry and belly dancing, begins an all-consuming search for ecstasy in poetry, dance and music -- exploring the world of women in an Egyptian society that both fetishizes and oppresses female sexuality. The film's dramatic highpoint centers on female genital mutilation; ultimately, Dunia is forced to confront the traditions that have destroyed her capacity for pleasure before she can experience it.

• Feb. 21: "Amu" (2005), India, directed by Shonali Bose. Kaju, a 21-year-old Indian-American women returning to India to visit family, stumbles across a dark secret from her past when she learns a horrifying genocide from 20 years ago holds the key to her mysterious origins. "Amu" explores how what Kaju learns about her past changes everything she knows about herself and about India.

• Feb. 28: "Dam Street/Hong Yan" (2005), China, directed by Li Yu. Xiao Yun, a 16-year-old girl living in a small riverside town in rural China, is ostracized after becoming pregnant and forced to put her child up for adoption. Ten years later, she is reduced to working as a singer in a local song-and-dance troupe where her only real companion is Xiao Yong, a fiercely affectionate boy who protects her from the community until a marriage proposal tests the limits of their friendship and the depth of her unresolved past. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

• March 6: "A Night of Shorts." Western New York women filmmakers present original short films on the theme of the body.

Tickets to the festival's individual films are $8.50 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors. Free parking is available in the M&T Bank lot on Washington Street behind the theater. (Bring parking lot stubs to the box office.)

For more information, call the Gender Institute at 829-3451 or visit http://www.genderbuffalo.org.