Maiko: Dancing Child 
It’s been around a week since our beloved Citizen Jane Film Festival, and I have mulled over many of the films since I left the Blue Note on Sunday night after Maiko: Dancing Child. The festival’s slogan is: “Independent Film by Independent Women,” but the women in the films are independent as well. Many of the films our lovely filmmakers bring to the festival shed light on incredible women all around the world - photojournalists, singers, teachers, students - even prima ballerinas. Take a deep breath, take a break from your Friday workload, take a sip of tea. It’s time to talk about Global Feminism.

The opening night film, Frame by Frame, a documentary brought to us by filmmaker Mo Scarpelli, follows four photojournalists through the dangerous media scene in Afghanistan. The journalist we spend the most time with is Farzana, a woman dedicated to revealing the experiences of women in Afghanistan in order to free them from oppression. She follows the story of a woman named Jamila who was the victim of bride-burning. Jamila opens herself up to Farzana and reveals her heartbreaking story of being lit on fire by her father-in-law and having her six-month-old daughter taken from her. During the interview, we do not see Jamila’s face - only the thick scars on her hands, arms, and chest. We see a shot of an empty cradle against one wall and can feel the tension in the room we see on screen. She explains in the film that she reports on women because she, unlike the male photojournalists, has a more intimate access to the Afghan women as a result of the culture in Kabul. Farzana feels it is her duty to report on women in a culture that is so focused on men. This passion she feels for women is incredibly inspiring. Farzana’s photos and stories are crucial for the local audience in Kabul to know and for the international audience to know. Why? Because women artists are important. Without Farzana’s dedication to her craft and Scarpelli’s & Bombach’s dedication to her craft, we in America, would have a difficult time gaining access to the stories of the women in Afghanistan.

Frame By Frame 

On Saturday I saw a film called Imba Means Sing. Another documentary, the film follows Choir 39 of the African Children’s Choir on their tour through Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The story I was most struck by was Nina’s. Nina is one of the older girls in the choir who hopes to be a teacher someday. We see Nina blossom before us as the power of music opens her up to the world around her. Overwhelmed by the love she receives on tour, Nina feels reluctant to go home, and back in Kenya we see a scene where she and her friend describe two older men on the street who voiced their desires to touch the young girls. Producer Erin Bernhardt, in a Q&A after the film, told us that Nina’s mother is a prostitute and that prostitution is not uncommon due to the poverty in Kenya. Moses, another child in the film says that in Kenya there are the very rich and the very poor; the middle class does not exist. Choir 39 and the African Children’s Choir made sure that Nina’s dream of becoming a teacher did not fall to the wayside. The power of music in Nina’s life has changed her forever. She may be the one to effect change in her village, the teacher of young Kenyan girls, a voice for the women of Kenya.


Unexpected, a feature-length film starring Cobie Smulders and Gail Bean, tells the story of an unlikely friendship that blossoms between a teacher Mrs. Abbott and her student Jasmine when they become pregnant at the same time. The film not only sheds a realistic light on pregnancy and motherhood but also on socioeconomic differences. Sam Abbott (Smulders) is a white, middle-class, science teacher at an inner-city school in Chicago where in the midst of a diverse student body, an African-American student Jasmine (Bean) attends. Throughout the film we see a beautiful sisterhood form and break down the socioeconomic barriers between the two women. Two thumbs up for women empowering women!

The closing night film was a documentary called Maiko: Dancing Child. Norwegian filmmaker Åse Svenheim Drivenes follows prima ballerina Maiko and her intensive lifestyle as a dancer. Maiko grew up in Japan but started attending a prestigious ballet school in London at age fifteen. The ballet scene in London is difficult to break into. As a result of her intensive training, Maiko is an incredibly focused and driven woman. Maiko becomes pregnant while on tour and comes to realize the struggle to balance her career, which involves incredible physical and mental stamina, and motherhood. This film poses an interesting question for all women artists: can you be an artist and a mother at the same time? Maiko certainly shows us that it’s possible. Four months after giving birth, she begins training to dance the lead in Swan Lake, and three months later, she graces the stage with a stunning performance. Drivenes agreed to give us a Skype Q&A because she herself is pregnant and could not fly from Norway to the States. A woman asked her if her experiences with Maiko have influenced her pregnancy amd Drivenes responded saying that Maiko’s drive and decision to be a mother and a prima ballerina has encouraged her both as a mother and a filmmaker.

So why did I give you the detailed synopses of these four films? Because the filmmakers at Citizen Jane this year brought us an array of films about women that helped me piece together the importance of Global Feminism in our society today. According to Google, Global Feminism is the forward movement of women’s rights on a global scale. The films that I mentioned to you support that definition. Hundreds of thousands of women in America are thinking about how to effect change in America, and that’s incredibly important. But after Citizen Jane I was left with the question that I will leave you with: 

How can I learn from and support the women of the world?

To support any of the films mentioned above, please follow the links below:

Unexpected does not have a website, but it is on Netflix. Go check it out!

Thank you for being a part of CJFF!

Written by Rachel Cooper

With Citizen Jane having ended this past week, we wanted to say thank you again for coming to our festival. We hope that you have enjoyed your time with us. For now, even though 2016 is a far off date, and we don't know what will happen next time, we hope that you'll stick with us in the months between.

While we kept a two post a day schedule leading up to the festival and during, our volunteer and guest writers need to have a bit of a break - but don't worry! We will only be falling back onto a two post a week schedule. There will be new posts every Monday and Friday, detailing what happened this past festival, interviews with filmmakers, and updates on our Film Series that will be starting up again within the coming months.

I hope that you will stay with us and come and visit and read the wonderful articles and interviews that will be available here. Follow us here, on twitter, and on Facebook for more updates and cool things to come.

- Nikki Gottschalk, Blog Coordinator

When I think about Citizen Jane, I think about many different things. I think about community, first and foremost, and how community doesn’t always mean the people you live by. Community can come from all over the nation, all over the world;  people who are brought together by a collective love of one thing: Citizen Jane.  It’s a celebration of film, of people, of stories: and it’s all something that we can all innately connect with. 

Filmmakers come from all over the world to our little town of Columbia, Missouri and get met with our midwestern charm, crunchy autumn leaves and unique programming. Students come to Citizen Jane to learn and to be inspired, to get an opportunity to have a conversation with award winning filmmakers. For four wonderful days, a community is grown and nurtured through karaoke, through movies, through Q&As and through dance. And though we may not be together now, the impact is significant.

I think about how Citizen Jane has struggled, has succeeded, and has grown over the eight years that she has been living. The eight years that she has reached out with open arms to women from all over the world, from students to professionals to people who just love movies. The eight years where we have seen people grow, climbing up the ladder to even greater heights, to where we can see them and say “We helped them get there.”

I think about our volunteers, who have worked so tirelessly for so many months, who have lovingly lost sleep to help us move closer to our goal. Their hands are what holds us up, and they grow stronger every year. We had over one hundred volunteers this year, who did all kinds of things, from helping choose our programming to putting up our signs. There are countless jobs that were done this past weekend and the months leading up to it, and the festival just could not succeed without their help.

This has been our eighth year. It’s been three days since the festival, but it always feels like such a far away dream once it's over. But, more importantly, it’s more memories that I can catalogue away. It’s something that I can simultaneously look back on, and look forward to. I feel like I could write pages about this weekend, about what Citizen Jane is, and about what it can do. But I think a sense of mystery can be good. If you haven’t come to our festival, watch our videos, look at our photos. See what has been, what can be, and mark your calendars, because next year will be even better-especially if you’re going to be there with us.

#CJFFinteract is signing off for now, but stay with us to read more about what we do outside those magical four days. I hope you’ll stay with us. 

We can’t wait to see you again.

Written by Nikki Gottschalk
AYANDA, dir by Sara Blecher

Both Erin Bernhardt, producer of “Imba Means Sing” and Sara Blecher, director of “Ayanda” say they were motivated by their desire to show a different side of Africa from what we usually see in America.  “Imba Means Sing” is a hopeful (and heart wrenching) documentary film about the African Children’s Choir. I saw the movie with my friend Traci Wilson Kleekamp who cried throughout the entire movie.  Okay, so I cried also.  But it wasn’t because I felt sorry for these children.  It was because I felt proud of them and happy for their futures.  The story focuses on three members of the choir: Moses a precocious ten-year old who understands his performance means a better future for himself and his family; Angel, equally precocious but even more impressive because she is a girl; and Nina, who carries herself with the stature of a royalty.  During the Q&A following the show, Erin Bernhardt says that after years with the Peace Corp and working for CNN, she had come to believe that what we see in America is not actually accurate.  Her commitment to the African Children’s Choir was evident.  She has always believed in the power of music in social activism having written her thesis on the effect of music during the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.  Her thesis advisor was Julian Bond who told her if she really wanted to understand African American music she had to acquaint herself with African music. The music in “Imba Means Sing” is wonderful – with beautiful melodies, rhythms and syncopation.  It is soul music… music that heals: the children sing African songs and faith-based music.   

IMBA MEANS SING dir. by Danielle Bernstein

The children of the African Children’s Choir featured in “Imba Means Sing” are from a poor neighborhood in Uganda.   This is in and of itself is not a new story.  We know that there is poverty in some communities in Africa. What makes this film different is the joy – the exuberance and joy of these children who have become ambassadors of hope and who show the power of music and education to change lives. There is more to this story than I can write here. Go to their website for more information. Know this: 100% of the profits from the film will be used to build a secondary school in the Uganda community where Moses, Angel and Nina’s family and friends live. So far $23, 383 has been raised.

Still from AYANDA

“Ayanda,” is set in Yeoville, Johannesburg.  What makes this film so refreshing is that the protagonist is a woman – the story revolves around her concerns with family, friends, her sense of self, her dreams, her artistry, and her future. The structure of the film is very modern and includes animation sequences and an almost cinéma vérité style of storytelling: It includes interviews with and photos of Africans by The Expressionist playing himself, an actual local documentarian whose stated goal is to the show diversity of the modern African.  

Written by Monica Hand

Today I had the pleasure of seeing  Imba Means Sing, a documentary following Choir 39 of the African Children’s Choir and their tour through Canada, America, and the United Kingdom. The choir, out of Uganda, has been around for 31 years and gives children the opportunity to work for an education by spreading joy and African culture through music.

We follow three choir members in particular through the film: Moses, Angel, and Nina, who show us not only what it’s like to be a part of the vibrant, joyous and beautiful Choir 39 but also what it’s like to be a citizen of Uganda. Their stories are heartbreaking, victorious, joyful, and deeply spiritual.

In a Q&A session with Set Photographer Erin Bernhardt after the film, a woman a few rows behind me spoke up.

“I hope I can speak without bawling,” she said. She explained how touched she was by the film because it perfectly portrayed the beauty of African culture that America doesn’t see every day.

“That was our goal,” Bernhardt said. “After working in the Peace Corps and then going to work for CNN, I realized that the stories we were telling there [CNN] were not one-hundred percent accurate. Those things do happen in Africa, but there’s so much more.”

I was also deeply touched by the film. The children and their families were absolutely beautiful. I have never seen a more joyful group of children in my life. The power of music in their lives is evident, and I encourage you to see the film. It will be screening again today, Sunday October 25, at 5:15 PM in the Warehouse Theater.

If you’d like to learn more about the film or the African Children’s Choir, or you would like to support the African Children’s Choir visit

What films have inspired you so far? 
Tell us on Twitter with #CJFFinteract!

Written by Rachel Cooper

There were many inspirational and evocative moments during the film “Frame by Frame,” co-directed by Mo Scarpelli (CoMo local and graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism) and Alexandria Bombach.  Last night, the cinematically beautifully and sometimes disturbing film set in Afghanistan opened the Citizen Jane Film Festival (CJFF) to a packed audience at the Missouri Theatre in Columbia, Missouri. According to promotional material, this year’s CJFF theme is “Interact.”  Festival organizers are encouraging film goers to “make connections: personal connections, wide-spread connections through social media, connection to [the] films and [the] filmmakers. And connections to each other!”  In the spirit of this call to action, I invite you to comment here on which frame of “Frame by Frame” is your most memorable and why?  The frame that stands out for me is when Najibullah Musafer, one of four photojournalists featured in the film says, “A country without photographs is a country without identity.” The background to this quote is that during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan personal photographs were destroyed and photography was forbidden.  “Frame by Frame” documents the stories of four photojournalists who are “reframing” Afghanistan today.

 The day before the CJFF I attended the University of Missouri’s Black Studies Fall conference, another forum for interaction and exchange.  One of the speakers during this conference was Berkley Hudson also of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.  For his presentation, Hudson showed photographs taken in rural Mississippi during the Jim Crow era of American history.  At the time, if I am honest, I didn’t appreciate viewing these photographs: they were a painful reminder of racism in this country then and today.  What I failed to see at the time was the healing properties of those photographs.  But while viewing “Frame to Frame,” I realized how a photograph is not just a living document of a country and its people, it also does not allow for the erasure of a people’s experiences in that country.  A photograph can also serve as a catalyst for community building and survival.  In the words of Citizen Jane Film Festival organizers, “If we are to change the ways of the world we live in, to make a place that values women’s voices [all voices] we have to do it together.”

Farzana Wahidy, another of the four photographers, said during the film that she uses “photography to not be voiceless.” It was at that moment, I felt both uplifted and vindicated (as in the original meaning of the word to deliver, to rescue.)  I realized the intrinsic value of the photograph, film and the communion of ideas.  Quoting, Wakil Kohsar, another of the four Afghanistan photographers, “I’m certain a photo can lead to change.” This is true especially if we interact – peacefully and purposefully, with respect for each other and ourselves. 

Please interact with me here by sharing which frame is your most memorable, and why.  


Written by Monica Hand

Citizen Jane Film Festival is finally here! It’s time for Columbia to be abuzz with excitement for new films made by some of our favorite ladies. As a student at Stephens College and a volunteer for the festival, I am looking forward to seeing film-lovers from around the world on campus supporting women and their art.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephens College senior Sara Barnett who is a first-time volunteer. I asked her about her expectations for this year’s festival. Check out what she had to say.

Rachel: What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Sara: I honestly love meeting fellow filmmakers and film lovers, especially those who support women in the industry. It's such a neat community, and it's a tight-knit group of dedicated individuals. I'm really honored to be a part of it.

R: What are your expectations for the festival?

S: I expect a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about women in film. Women in film, as we know, don't receive as much support within the industry. It's refreshing to be in an environment that's 100% committed to women filmmakers.

R: What films are you seeing this weekend? Why?

S: I'm really excited to see the shorts programs, especially the Ms.Ouri Made shorts program. It will be inspiring to see films made right in our own backyard.

Barnett made some important points during the interview. In 2014 only 1.9% of 700 top grossing films were directed by women. That’s why we here in Columbia and across the globe love CJFF so much: because all of the filmmakers are women. This year we even have some short films made by women from Missouri in the Ms.Ouri Made shorts program that Barnett mentioned. This shorts program is on Sunday at 2:30 PM at the Blue Note and will include a Q&A with some of the filmmakers.

Some films I am looking forward to this weekend are Imba Means Sing, Brand: A Second Coming, and Four Way Stop. However there is something for everyone this weekend, so come out and support CJFF! (And stop by the merchandise table in Columbia Foyer to say hello to Sara Barnett.) Tickets are available through our box office or online at 

What are you looking forward to this weekend? 
Tell us on Twitter with #CJFFinteract.