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Awareness Film Festival Supporting Efforts to Heal and Educate our Communities

By Karen Henry

Films that raise our consciousness related to healing, spirituality, the environment, veterans and humanitarian concerns, animal rights, and other pressing issues of today—these are the subjects filmmaker Skye Kelly is interested in conveying on screen. She does this through the Awareness Festival, now in its third year, which provides a platform for films that not only make us think, but stimulates us to learn, feel inspired, and take action.

The Festival grew out of Skye’s nonprofit volunteer-run initiative Heal One World, which offers donation-based community classes to diverse and underserved neighborhoods in LA. Heal One World was able to move into their own studio space on Pico and Arlington in Crenshaw in part from profits raised in the first Awareness Festival. Classes include: Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, awareness through movement, Pilates, and Zumba; many are taught in Spanish by bilingual instructors. Workshops covering such topics as Reiki, Feldenkrais, and craniosacral further fulfill the mission, as do outreach classes taught at Venice Community Housing Corporation, Venice Family Clinic, Veterans Administration in Westwood, and at the Family Vegan Club in Pico Union. In addition, Heal One World offers individualized care from volunteer holistic health practitioners and acupuncturists. LA YOGA caught up with Skye in the whirlwind of planning.

LA YOGA: What was your intention with the festival?

SK: I realized the only films I was interested in making are films that raise awareness of important issues and had spiritual, environmental, healing and/or humanitarian messages.

LA YOGA: What did it take to get started the first year?

SK: First finding films and reaching out to filmmakers and then recruiting volunteers and volunteer event organizers. In 2010, our first year, we had three venues (Regent Showcase Theatre in Hollywood, Marco Polo Studio in Santa Monica and Heaven on Earth Studio in LA) and we screened 80 films, sponsored a holistic health fair, and held three panels. We incorporated the music of Paul Freeman and Marty Dread and art from the artists at The Brewery.

LA YOGA: How did the festival grow?

SK: Last year, we utilized the Regent Showcase and our studio on Pico Boulevard. We showed 75 films including many Los Angeles film premieres with Q&A sessions, and added more art and after-hours celebrations. Our attendance exceeded 1,500 on Mother’s Day weekend and over 50 filmmakers traveled from Australia, Thailand, Norway, England, and Canada. We received thank-you letters from filmmakers and festival-goers, expressing the impact of the films we showed.

LA YOGA: How did you select this year’s theme and films?

SK: This year’s theme is something close to my heart as my father, who was a Vietnam vet suffering from mental disorders attributed to his war experiences, passed away in December, 2011. One of my short films, Saving Dad, was portrayal of my youthful confusion about my father’s erratic behavior and how I felt responsible to help him. It was a cathartic film for me to make, although I’m sure he never saw it. I want to honor him and all the veterans who suffer from PTSD and the effects of war. The festival opens with Hell and Back Again, a 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary that shows the reality of war as well as a veteran’s readjustment to civilian life. We are partnering with veterans’ organizations and are showcasing the world premiere of a first-time filmmaker/veteran’s film, A Brotherhood Reforged.

The Awareness Film Festival (awarenessfestival.org) in Los Angeles May 3 – 6 raises funds for the 501c3 Heal One World, dedicated to educating underprivileged community members about preventative healthcare, complementary modalities, natural non-invasive treatments, and self-help techniques for the body, mind, and soul: healoneworld.org. Films screening at this year’s festival include: Connected, Yoga Woman, Buffalo Girls, I Am, Finding Joe, Who Bombed Judi Bari, and Inspired by 8. Look for happy hour screenings, art, music and more. Information at: awarenessfestival.org.

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