Greenwich Film Fest: Beauty, Dazzle, and the Power of Film
By Michelle Moskowitz
The second annual Greenwich International Film Festival enjoyed much success over the weekend with enthusiastic crowds and screenings of more than 53 films, compared to last year’s 31 films. It also more than doubled its charitable donations.
The opening party, held at the Boys and Girls Club, drew a high-energy, packed audience with a live concert by Blues Traveler frontman John Popper and singer-songwriter Dar Williams.
The next evening was the festival’s signature red carpet event, “The Changemaker Honoree Gala,” which recognized film artists Trudie Styler, Abigail Breslin and Freida Pinto for their significant contributions to human rights initiatives.
The evening was moderated by the upbeat TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford, a Greenwich resident and board member of the festival.
For one magical evening, Richard’s fine clothing store was transformed into an opulent dinner hall where approximately 300 guests donned tuxedos, evening gowns and sparkling gems.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal came to honor the changemakers of the night, while guests dined on Tuscan kale salad, oven-roasted filet mignon, and mushroom-quinoa salad.
Styler, an actress, film producer and human rights activist, has raised more than $30 million for the Rainforest Fund, an organization she and her husband, Sting, formed in 1989 in order to protect the rainforests and indigenous peoples of South America, Africa and Asia.
“Filmmaking is a way to make issues deeply personal and touch our hearts,” says Styler. “The changemakers never grow immune to suffering—as we are all equal.”
Freida Pinto, an Indian-born actress who achieved stardom in the Best Picture-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” from 2008, spoke passionately about her mission to give young girls a voice with “Girls Rising,” a documentary in which she stars, showcasing nine girls from around the globe who overcame tremendous obstacles in order to obtain an education.
“There are 62 million girls in the world who are denied an education,” she said. “Awareness is the gift that we all have as we experience life.”
In addition to the parties and film screenings were a plethora of informative and engaging panels and workshops, including the Children’s Acting Workshop and Spotlight On: John Turturro.
Garnering an impressive turnout was the free panel discussion, “Women at the Top: Female Empowerment in Media” held at Greenwich Library’s Cole Auditorium.
Top media panelists included Gretchen Carlson (Fox News), Reena Ninan (CBS), Nancy Armstrong (makers.com) and Hannah Storm (ESPN). The objective was to bring awareness to the fact that despite the great strides in gender equity, the top decision making roles in media are still largely held by men. Each of these powerful women discussed their individual paths to success in the media world, but they noted that their thread was that their achievements came from fierce determination, innate tenacity, and much sacrifice.
Hannah Storm, an award-winning journalist, producer and director, is a pioneer in the field of sports broadcasting for women as the first female host on CNN’s Sports Tonight and then became the first woman in television history to serve as a solo host for a network sports package (NBC Major League Baseball).
Storm inspired the crowd by saying, “You can get a thousand ‘no’s,’ but you only need one ‘yes’ for a breakthrough!”
Gretchen Carlson, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, currently the anchor of Fox’s The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, said that while women continue to bolster one another in the workforce, there needs to be an awareness among men that the gender gap is in fact closing. “We have to raise our sons to respect women’s leadership roles in the workplace and let them see how natural and effective that is,” Carlson observed.
While each of the panelists discussed the challenges that women continue to face while balancing the work/family issue, they proved how their choices ultimately paved the way to stellar careers while simultaneously serving as valuable life lessons to those around them. “You are an example to your kids, your peers and your colleagues,” said Storm. “If you’re not willing to take a risk, you won’t be able to break through the barriers.”