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No Man’s Land film festival empowers women to do what they love

In honor of Women’s History Month, five campus organizations came together to bring the “No Man’s Land” film festival to the University of Maine. On Friday, March 23, students and community members gathered in Neville Hall at 7 p.m. to watch over 120 minutes of footage which explores the lives of strong and powerful women.

The festival featured 12 films which, according to their website, attempt to “redefine feminine in adventure and sport through film.” No two films were alike, each introducing the audience to a diverse range of women participating in challenging activities and working toward personal goals.

The first film of the evening was from a Nike campaign titled “Unlimited” which gave paralympian Scout Bassett a platform to share her story of dedication to her dream. The first time Bassett attempted to make the U.S. Olympic track and field team, she finished dead last. That failure inspired her to give up everything and devote herself to full-time training. Only one year after finishing last, not only did she make the team, she won the 100-meter race at the U.S. trials.

“When you surrender, when you quit, you’re allowing something else to have power over you. No. The only person that’s going to have power over me, is me,” Bassett said in the final moments of the film.

Many films discussed the power of women in groups. Marawa’s Majorettes, a hula hooping troupe in London, find inspiration and empowerment in each other and in their art. A New York City female skating group, known as the Brujas, work together to encourage social advocacy and foster community between the city’s minority women. As well as the Moxi Skate Team, an all female roller-skating group from Long Beach, California who challenge the stigma surrounding what it takes to be a strong skater.

In “The Mirnavator”, a runner and blogger named Mirna Valerio challenges the way many people define “athlete.” While Valerio has faced and overcome many challenges in her training, the film focuses on the obstacle of negative and demeaning voices. Valerio discusses her fight to deconstruct societal expectations of what a runner should look like in the film.

“I’m not a feud. I run. I run slowly, and sometimes I walk, but I run. I’m a big girl, I know that. But that doesn’t have anything to do with anything,” Valerio said. “I still get out there, and I do what I need to do.”

Featuring rock climber and Ellsworth native Maureen Beck, one film discusses society’s problematic perception of disabled athletes. As she climbed a difficult route, the audience watched Beck persevere as a one-handed rock climber.

“If I can connect with someone that might not be aware of what they’re capable of and push them toward trying something new, maybe even a little outside of their comfort zone, then putting myself out there in the world as a resource and a motivator is entirely worth it,” Beck wrote on her website.

Through these films, the No Man’s Land film festival hopes to bring together people devoted to encouraging women’s voice in adventure, as well as celebrating nature and community. The Maine Bound Adventure Center, in conjunction with the festival, hosted a women’s climbing day on Saturday, March 24.

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