The penultimate day of Dubuque’s annual film festival highlighted the work of women filmmakers, one of whom promoted her work with the help of a World War II reenactment.
The Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, which began April 18, will conclude with its final showings and events today. The festival returned as an in-person event this year after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a switch to a virtual format in 2020.
On Saturday, about 20 filmmakers and festival attendees listened to the “Women in Film” panel, which included Mary Owen, the youngest daughter of actress Donna Reed; Chen Drachman, writer of “The Book of Ruth,” which is playing at the festival this year; and other women whose work was featured at the festival.
The panelists discussed what it is like to be a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry and perceptions about women that sometimes stand in the way of making their art.
Heather Edwards, whose film “Sky West & Crooked” played at the festival, said she often feels she has to overcome ageism. Edwards directed her first short film after she turned 50.
“I do feel at times an ageism, that, due to my age, I don’t have anything cool to say,” she said. “…But everything I do can have a weight and gravitas that a 28-year-old film student will not have, and I can embrace that.”
Christian Taylor spoke about her struggles directing her first film, a documentary called “The Girl Who Wore Freedom.” The film follows the story of the D-Day invasion from the eyes of those living in German-occupied Normandy, France, during World War II.
Taylor said she could not find any other women making World War II films to connect with during the years she spent interviewing veterans and survivors for the film.
“No one took me seriously,” she said. “It wasn’t just men, it was everyone. It was like, ‘What can you do?’ I had never filmed a short film before, I had never filmed anything.”
But she said she needed to keep pushing against those obstacles because she believed the film needed to be made.
“Fail early and fail often,” she said when asked what advice she would give to women filmmakers. “When you just go for broke and fail, that’s when you learn.”
In conjunction with “The Girl Who Wore Freedom,” a World War II reenactment featuring U.S. and German “soldiers” was set up Saturday in Washington Square. The reenactors are staying in the park overnight and will remain there until 3 p.m. today.
Visitors to the reenactment could see tents filled with World War II memorabilia, including replica uniforms and real guns used in the 1940s. A replica German army vehicle also was on site.
Reenactor Rod Hammerand, of Dubuque, said Taylor had asked if he could find some reenactors who would be involved in the event.
Hammerand said he has participated in numerous display reenactments and scripted battles over the years. However, he said he hasn’t had much of a chance to take part in a display reenactment such as Saturday’s in his community before.
“They’re enjoying the fact that they get to learn a bit of history,” he said of those who checked out his tent.
Tim and Mary Kay Pancratz, of Dubuque, visited the reenactment site Saturday. The couple had seen and enjoyed “The Girl Who Wore Freedom” earlier in the week.
“I absolutely love history,” Tim Pancratz said. “(The reenactment) makes it real, and the films make it real.”