Taking pink ribbons and toxins to task.
Following on the heels of other issue-based film festivals like Planet in Focus and ImagineNATIVE, the fifth annual Breast Fest, devoted to breast cancer awareness and education, rolls into town this weekend. Its offerings include both fiction and documentary features.
The proceedings kick off on November 2 with Adam Bluming’s Jonna’s Body, Please Hold. Bluming adapts actress Jonna Tamases’ comedic live show about her recent experience with breast cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The film, a magic-realist chronicle of living with illness, sets up shop within Tamases’ body, following its constituent parts (personified as characters like her receptionist brain, Pearl) as they combat a pair of unruly intruders.
Those seeking something a bit more informational are also in luck. Among the higher profile offerings is Tony Hardmon and Rachel Libert’s documentary Semper Fi: Always Faithful. The film follows Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger as he mourns the death of his young daughter from leukemia, all while embarking on a mission to reveal a Marine Corps cover-up of one of the largest water-contamination incidents in American history.
No less incendiary, Léa Pool’s Pink Ribbons, Inc. sets out to expose the shady industrial dealings behind breast cancer fundraising. Pool focuses on the complicated web of issues surrounding disease and money, honing in on the curious process that sees carcinogen-producing companies backing pink products in the name of raising awareness for the illness they’ve helped create. Even more affecting than the corporate exposé is the powerful testimony of Pool’s subjects, women with breast cancer who resent the triumphalist narratives about “beating” illness pushed on people with the disease by a largely ignorant world.
Along with these newer offerings, the festival is also screening Agnes Varda’s terrific Cléo de 5 à 7, one of the most celebrated films of the French New Wave. Varda’s vibrant and existentialist real-time portrait hews to the titular pop singer as she roams the streets of Paris, awaiting the results of a medical exam.
To coincide with its screenings, Breast Fest is offering a number of illuminating panels with relevant guests, including discussions about everyday toxins and the marketing movement behind the pink-ribbon phenomenon.