by Jayleigh Lewis
On September 15, 2014, the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, marked two years since its world premiere. In that time, it has reached thousands of men and women all over the world and has had a significant impact on the lives of many. Not only does the film tell a powerful story, but inspiring stories continue to grow out of the screenings that are taking place every month, many of which are attended by Dr. Isadora, the filmmaker. As she reports her experiences, it is clear that the movie remains fresh and relevant, a catalyst for women’s encounters with their own most astonishingly beautiful selves.
Circle of Women International, a Vermont-based non-profit organization dedicated to bringing women together to teach and share traditional ceremonies, hosted its second screening and Red Tent in Montpelier, VT on August 15 (the first was in September 2012 and was only the second public screening attended by Dr. Isadora!). President and co-founder Katrina Coravos is also the owner of Liberty Chocolates, an organic chocolate company that donates a portion of the proceeds of every sale of its pomegranate and cherry-flavored Moon Time chocolate bar to the Red Tent movie.
Approximately 10 women participated in this intimate event, which included a pre-screening Red Tent and a post-screening community meal—and plenty of synchronicity and joy. Dr. Isadora reports that at the very moment the women joined hands, preparing to set their intentions at the beginning of the Red Tent’s opening circle, a grandfather clock in the room chimed. This unexpected affirmation led participants to wonder whether it was really a grandmother clock giving its blessing to the proceedings!
During the takedown of the Red Tent afterwards, the five or six women who were helping Dr. Isadora had a moment of pure childlike fun when they spontaneously began playing “parachute” with the roof of the Tent (which is actually a red parachute). The opportunity to play like little girls was so refreshing that Dr. Isadora is now going to encourage women to do this at every takedown!
From August 23-28, Dr. Isadora attended WomenCircles, a women’s spirituality camp that is held every year at Rowe Center in Rowe, Massachusetts. Currently directed by Marie Summerwood, this camp, in its many incarnations, has drawn women to these mountaintop woods in the Berkshires for nearly 40 years (and now runs concurrently with Woman Soul, a women’s spirituality camp with a focus on mysticism). Dr. Isadora already knew many of the women in attendance at both camps, but was still surprised at what a transformative and bonding experience the week was for her.
A Red Tent, created by Cherie Ackerson, priestess and WomenCircles staff member, stood for the duration of the camp. Dr. Isadora noted that it was large and beautiful and that she spent time in it every day, but was grateful that she hadn’t had to put it up herself!
The movie screening was held on Sunday night and featured some unique forms of audience participation. Many of the women in attendance were very familiar with the movie and those featured in it; some were in it themselves. Every time a woman known to the audience appeared, her name was shouted out. Mother Turtle, one of the week’s workshop leaders, wrote three songs that are part of the movie, including the theme song, “Red Tent Temple.” During her workshop earlier in the day, she had played two of these songs, teaching the words to the women who were present. Thus, they were able to sing along during the movie, something Dr. Isadora had never seen before! (Mother Turtle also, before the screening, told the story of how she had initially written a different theme song for the movie and had been told diplomatically by Dr. Isadora to try again.) The screening was followed by a long, informal Q + A session.
WomenCircles was a powerful experience for Dr. Isadora not only because of the enthusiasm of the women present but because, for her, it felt like a true retreat. She often works at women’s festivals but doesn’t often get to be a participant. Here, she was able to genuinely “check her title at the door” and become one sister among many. She even participated in the talent show at the end of the week, creatively showcasing her talents for filmmaking and card making!
In order to meet a challenge she had given herself—to shoot, edit, and show a mini-movie within one day—Dr. Isadora shot video of women dancing and playing “parachute” in the WomenCircles Red Tent (the latter activity inspired by Big Winters, WomenCircles staff member and co-founder of Circle of Women International, who told the group how much fun it had been in Vermont) and then spent the afternoon editing the footage. She described the final product, which she showed that evening at the talent show, as “pretty” and “joyous.” She also announced during the show that she would create a custom-made card in under seven minutes for one of the audience members; the songs “Everyday Goddess” by Celia and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” (from the famous movie “Dirty Dancing”) kept time while women danced around Dr. Isadora and her art supplies. The finished product went to Marie Summerwood, but Dr. Isadora promised to send cards to the rest of the women after camp.
Late August saw two more premieres of Things We Don’t Talk About (Colombia and the La Coruna region of Spain), while the beginning of September saw the launch of Red Tent TV. This free weekly online TV show features never-before-seen footage from the movie plus ideas from Dr. Isadora for things to do in a Red Tent. The global launch party took place within a jam-packed 48 hours on September 5 and 6. The statistics are mind-blowing:
During these 2 days, when the movie was available online for free, 6669 people from 42 countries watched it. Free screening licenses were also available during this time, and 35 public screenings took place in 10 countries, including 2 country premieres (New Zealand and Italy) and 4 state/city premieres (Madrid, Spain; Montreal, Canada; Manitoba, Canada; and Kansas, USA). Dr. Isadora participated in 35 15-minute Skype Q + A sessions, one for each screening, plus 3 live teleseminars that lasted for 30 minutes each (one solo; one with ALisa Starkweather, founder of the Red Tent movement; and one with DeAnna L’am, founder of Red Tents in Every Neighborhood). (That’s 38 Q + A sessions in 48 hours!)
50 episodes of Red Tent TV were available for these 48 hours, and 2779 people watched them. And, a live global Red Tent took place within a private Facebook group, in which 658 people generated 23,976 comments and likes. Dr. Isadora posted a new question every 15 minutes, in addition to the Red Tent TV episodes, and she moderated the whole thing for the entire 48 hours!
After this clear success (and getting some sleep), Dr. Isadora attended a September 19th Red Tent movie screening in Lucknow, Ontario, which marked her third time attending a screening in Canada. This one was hosted by the Grassroots Rural Retreat, a 100-acre family-owned farm near Lake Huron. Vicky and Roger, the current owners, raise cattle and horses as well as run a spa, a bed and breakfast, a retreat center, a hair salon, and a yoga studio on their land. When a Red Tent began meeting there less than a year ago, Linda, another staff member, became its facilitator. The women who attend display real dedication; since Lucknow is a small town in the middle of Amish/Mennonite country, many drive over an hour to get there each month.
A three-hour Red Tent preceded the screening. It was relaxed and spontaneous, with small groups of women engaging in different activities, including henna body painting and conversations about past lives. Towards the end, the entire group watched the new 2015 video from One Billion Rising, the worldwide campaign to end violence against women. Together, the women learned and practiced the dance to “Break the Chain,” which has become the anthem of the campaign. Dr. Isadora noted that this video is a huge inspiration to her; it motivates her to be a better filmmaker and to continue her work with women.
After two years, the message and heart of the Red Tent movie is still going strong. May the inspiration continue!