Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival: cults, technical difficulties and Rock n’ Roll

Taylor Burnfield

tburnfie@uccs.edu 

     I have been looking forward to attending the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival (RMWFF) since I first learned about it last year. RMWFF is the longest-running women’s film festival in the United States and began in Colorado Springs during the 1980s.  

     According to the RMWFF website, the festival, “builds community around film by elevating the stories of women and others who are often unheard or unseen. As a women-led organization, [they] seek to discover, support, connect and inspire filmmakers while cultivating connection and conversation around their work.” 

     The festival was held virtually for the first time this year. 

     RMWFF ran from Nov. 13-21 and was accessible through the streaming platform Eventive. Several tickets were available at varying price points, depending on the day you decided to attend and how many films you wanted to watch.   

     I purchased a $33 pass to access the opening night gala that included the film “Jimmy Carter: Rock n’ Roll President.” I also purchased a $10 ticket to watch the film “My Darling Vivian” and a $10 ticket to watch the film “Blessed Child.”  

     I was eager to attend the gala because I wanted to learn more about the women who created the festival. The gala was accessible through a Zoom link and began at 5:45 p.m. on Nov. 13. 

     Unfortunately, when I clicked the Zoom link that was supposed to direct me to the virtual gala, I got an error message that read, “This meeting has reached 100 participants. Please try again later.” 

     I tried to access the Zoom meeting several times and kept getting the same error message. I eventually gave up. About half an hour later, RMWFF sent another Zoom link for the people who could not access the first link.  

     By the time the second link was sent, I had stepped away from my laptop, so I did not see the message until it was too late.  

     After the gala had ended, the film “Jimmy Carter: Rock n’ Roll President” began at 7 p.m. and was available to watch until Nov. 16.     

     When I pressed play on the film, I was automatically charged an additional $33 even though I had already paid the $33 required to access this film. I emailed the festival’s tech support about getting charged twice for “Rock n’ Roll President” and within minutes of sending my email, I was given a refund.  

     After knowing that I was refunded, I was able to relax and enjoy the film.  

     “Jimmy Carter: Rock n’ Roll President,” directed by Mary Wharton, sheds a new light on America’s oldest-living president. The documentary focuses on Carter’s love of music and features interviews from some of Carter’s closest friends who include Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon and more.  

     The musicians interviewed in the film have nothing but kind words and funny anecdotes to say about America’s 39th president.  

     The film is a light-hearted and entertaining view of Carter’s presidency. I liked this film, although you should not go into it expecting it be a political documentary; it has more of a music focus.  

     On Nov. 14, I watched “My Darling Vivian,” directed by Matt Riddlehoover, which is a documentary about Johnny Cash’s first and lesser-known wife, Vivian Liberto. Although they were married for 12 years, Liberto’s role in Cash’s life is often overshadowed by Cash’s second celebrity wife, June Carter.  

     The film pays long-overdue respect to Liberto and presents her as a complex human being who was much more than just Mrs. Johnny Cash. “My Darling Vivian” is heartbreaking at times and definitely a tearjerker, but it is a beautifully told story about an incredible woman.  

     Out of the three films I watched during RMWFF, “My Darling Vivian” was by far my favorite.  

Vivian Liberto (left) and Johnny Cash (right).
Photo courtesy of kxl.com

     On Nov. 16, I watched “Blessed Child,” directed by Cara Jones, which is about Jones’ experiences growing up in the Unification Church, more commonly known as “The Moonies.” The Moonies are a Christian cult that promote arranged marriages.  

     Jones was forced into an arranged marriage when she was 20 years old, and the unraveling of her marriage was what caused her to question the cult’s teachings. Jones and her siblings have since left the cult. However, their parents are still active members. 

     This film was difficult to watch at times due to the sexist and homophobic beliefs of The Moonies. I was expecting the film to feature more interviews from other ex-members, but the film was mostly about the Jones family.  

     “Blessed Child” was interesting, but I would not recommend it unless you have a fascination with cults.  

     Despite the initial technical difficulties, I enjoyed RMWFF. I felt that the festival did an excellent job handling the challenges of a virtual film festival. It offered tech support via email, phone and live chat every day of the festival. 

     My only real complaint about RMWFF is that I wished that they offered discounted tickets for college students. They should be trying their best to introduce great filmmaking to the next generation of filmmakers.  

     When I mentioned to my classmates that I was attending RMWFF, none of them had ever heard of this festival, even though it has existed for over 30 years. 

     Since the festival is based in Colorado Springs, I am sure that there are many students from UCCS, PPCC and Colorado College who would be interested in attending the festival if a student discount was provided. 

     I would love to attend RMWFF in-person someday, but I think that there are some benefits to virtual film festivals. I was able to enjoy these unreleased films on my own time, in the comfort of my home, with my favorite snacks and my cat by my side.  

     Although RMWFF has ended, there are still many virtual film festivals available for streaming that can be accessed through Eventive.