By: Stacey Axler
Over 50 student and faculty members arrived to the Hodson Auditorium last Tuesday to support a Hood alumna’s film “Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby.”
The event ran from 7p.m. to 9 p.m. and included a screening of the film and a discussion with former Hood student Heather Taylor, who wrote, directed, and produced the film.
“This film is an accomplishment because it is restoring scenarios that the public lost to history. I hope that the film shares my enthusiasm and passion for the subject matter with the audience members,” said Taylor.
“Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby” was completed in 2010. The movie follows the experiences and friendships of 20 female pilots on their nine-day journey across the country from California to Ohio.
Taylor spent more than 10 years working on the plot and the filming of “Breaking Through the Clouds.” The film features an in-depth look into the lives of female pilots who broke gender stereotypes for the era in which they lived, but remain overlooked by modern society.
The presentation was co-sponsored by Hood’s departments of English and history, the office of multicultural affairs, and the communication arts and women’s studies programs
“I came to see the film because my father and I are really interested in aviation. I hoped to see more facts about female aviators. I wanted to hear about the unsung heroes of aviation and the people who made a real difference in society,” said Hood senior Courtney Ward.
“Breaking Through The Clouds” features archival film from the derby, as well as interviews with such legendary female pilots as Elinor Smith Sullivan, Patty Wagstaff and Julie Clark. Others interviewed for the documentary include aviation historians and friends and family members of the participants.
The website www.breakingthroughtheclouds.com, features more information about the documentary and the subject of the first women’s national air derby.
Taylor’s film received numerous accolades since the 2010 premiere inFrederickduring the Women’s Air Race Classic. Awards include the Combs Gates Award from the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the David Ponce Award as best documentary of the festival at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, the Utopian Vision Award from the Utopia Film Festival, and Best Documentary DMV at the REEL Independent Film Extravaganza.
After the film, Taylor discussed her experiences as an independent filmmaker to the audiences and took questions from the attendees.
Senior Lindsay Cogdill said, “I enjoyed her film and presentation very much, it gave an interesting perspective into females involved with aviation, and the struggles of an independent filmmaker.”
Many students and faculty in attendance came to see a former Hood student discuss her experiences after college.
“I was delighted to be able to arrange Heather’s visit to campus. It is so rewarding to see a former student succeed, and to be able to invite her to speak to a class and share her experiences with current students. It is also wonderful that she was able to share a tangible example of her work with the Hood community,” said professor Donna Bertazzoni, Taylor’s former academic advisor and professor of journalism.
The event overall was very well-received by all who attended.
“Hood students have the drive and the ability to succeed at anything they put their mind to, and Heather is an outstanding example of that. She spent many years researching the stories of the women, tracking down their relatives and friends, and finding archival film of the event. The culmination of her persistence is this award-winning documentary. It’s gratifying to know that as her former teacher and adviser, I played a small role in helping shape her into the successful woman she is today,” Bertazonni said.