The annual High Falls Film Festival returned to Rochester Nov. 9 through 13 to celebrate women filmmakers. In the event, works from women involved in all parts of the creation of film were celebrated – from cinematographers to stunt women.

In its fifth year, the High Falls Film Festival mirrors the spirit of our city, home to both famed women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony and creator of the motion picture film, George Eastman. As a result of its focus on locality, the function takes its name from the High Falls waterfall located in downtown Rochester – the country’s largest waterfall in a city.

In previous years, the festival has awarded actresses Joan Allen and Nancy Cartwright and films including “Born into Brothels” and “Frida.” Individual artist prizes are given in two categories – the Susan B. Anthony Failure is Impossible Award, presented to a woman who has persevered in film to attain glory in the face of challenges, and the Faith Hubley Web of Life Award, presented to the woman who best exemplifies the power of film through a connection to the audience, as well as her interactions with society to create a positive impact.

The first of these awards derives its name from the famous Rochester figure to recognize similar characteristics in other women that she herself possessed. The latter award is named after its first honoree, animator Faith Hubley, to encourage a lasting effect on not only film but also society.

Films are also recognized in the Best Feature and Best Documentary categories as well as the runner-up in each.

The board for the festival includes honorary co-chairs, honorary board, international board and local board members. Notably, the honorary co-chairs consist of actress Anjelica Huston and Libby Pataki, the wife of New York governor George Pataki. Honorary board members include Taye Diggs, a native of Rochester, Robert Forster and the late Gregory Peck.

In addition to the awards, the festival also shows new and old films in such categories as documentaries, short films and feature-length films. After the viewing, attendants voted on their favorites in each category. Guests evaluate each film after its viewing, after which volunteers chose the films receiving the highest marks to honor with the Audience Choice Awards.

Also, the High Falls Film Festival is host to multiple speeches by successful women in the art. This year, special guests included Christine Lahti, Jane Alexander, Angela Bassett and Diane Ladd.

The collection of over 80 films shown at this year’s festival included Scott McGehee’s “Bee Season” with Richard Gere, Stuart Samuels’ documentary “Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream,” Duncan Tucker’s “Transamerica” with Felicity Huffman and Jamie Lynch’s “Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic.”

Of the many films shown, the audience chose “The World’s Fastest Indian” and Christa McAuliffe’s “Reach for the Stars” as the preferred feature-length films. “A Life to Live” was awarded the Favorite Short Film Award.

The festival was held in downtown Rochester, making use of the city’s many film facilities – the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film and the Little Theatre.

Schwartz can be reached at

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