If smiling made a sound, Thembi Ngubane's voice would be it.
The South African woman has one of those lilting voices that bring happiness even when she is telling us that at 19 years old, she learned she was HIV-positive.
She tells her story in one of the 10 films featured this year at 2010-11 Lunafest, a short-film festival featuring stories of, about and by women.
This year's 10th annual production, funded by LUNA, the makers of a nutrition bar for women, will benefit the fight against breast cancer nationally and the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program locally.
The short films feature women dealing with thoughts of suicide, the care of an Alzheimer's patient, and finding the will to start a new life. There is humor, sadness, surprise endings and joy among the acted and animated films.
In Thembi's Diary, we hear Ngubane recalling her morning ritual of confronting AIDS face-to-face in her mirror, daring the disease to cause her any problems. While her voice is real, the film features beautifully painted drawings of her and those she interacts with while she is living with the disease.
Ngubane traveled the world talking frankly about her situation, trying to get the leaders of her country and of the world to pull their heads from the sand and do something to help those who have contracted the disease, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that accounts for more than 65 percent of the HIV cases worldwide.
I'm torn between that film and Touch as to which is my favorite.
In the latter, we meet a middle-aged woman standing near the track of a subway train. She seems transfixed, staring at the tracks as a train speeds past.
As she stands there alone, a young woman approaches and starts a conversation, one we later learn is the older woman's first in that location in the three years she has taken that train.
We can quickly piece together what the older woman had been contemplating, and we feel relieved the younger woman is there to change her mind.
In many cases, we can see ourselves in the characters portrayed on the screen. We can be the snippy, but dedicated daughter who shows a world of patience toward her mother who has Alzheimer's disease. Or we can be the woman who takes the road that leads away from the woman she has become.
Or maybe we are the parents of a child driven to excel in a sport, or we have a hobby we thoroughly enjoy. We could also be the one who has waited for something for a very long time and then realized it wasn't worth waiting for after all.
By hosting Lunafest, through the support of Dr. Nick Kouns, BDVP will receive 85 percent of the proceeds from the showing. The other 15 percent will benefit the Breast Cancer Fund, which looks at the environmental causes of breast cancer. That organization says one in eight instances of breast cancer is genetic and the rest have environmental causes.
Lunafest nationally, which shows films between October and June, has raised $570,000 for non-profit organizations since it was established in 2000.
Diane Fleet, assistant director of BDVP, said proceeds from Lunafest in Lexington will help keep the 32-bed shelter afloat.
"It will pay for electric, water, food, bedding and of course, the holidays are coming up," Fleet said. "It will help us keep the shelter up and going."
Before the festival begins, Natasha's Bistro & Bar will donate a portion of the proceeds from dinner, between 5 and 7 p.m., to BDVP. Just mention Lunafest or BDVP.
After the showing, there will be a discussion of the films led by LeTonia Jones, producer of V-Day Until the Violence Stops: Kentucky, a two week festival in 2007 aimed at shining light on domestic violence in the state.
Pamela Knight, volunteer chairwoman of the Lunafest committee, said plans are under way to have the work of a Kentucky filmmaker shown during Lunafest next year. Filmmakers would submit their work in June 2011 for consideration for next year's event, she said. Details will be announced at the festival.
Lunafest is a laid back, casual affair that will benefit a very serious problem in this state. Plus an evening at the movie theater and popcorn are involved. How much better can it get?