A celebration of women over 40: Now screening at the Three Tomatoes film series

Over the last eight years, the Three Tomatoes lifestyle guide for women "who aren't kids" has grown from a newsletter to a popular website.

"Everybody in the media is focusing on twentysomethings," said New York-based founder Cheryl Benton. "We have clearly struck a chord."

And now the guide hopes to strike a chord with female moviegoers with the Three Tomatoes film series kicking off Saturday afternoon at the Downtown Independent with the West Coast premiere of the award-winning documentary "Women of '69, Unboxed." The screening will be followed by a panel discussion and wine reception.

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"I thought it would be great to have a [film] series where you are showing the power, the talent and interesting stories about women over 40," said Debbie Zipp, the Three Tomatoes West Coast editor and producer. "Either the film has to be directed, produced or written by a woman. We feel 'Women of '69' is a perfect choice for us."

Within two weeks of Zipp telling Benton her vision for the series, they received a screener of "Women of '69."

"I watched it immediately and called Debbie and said I think we have found the film we are going to launch with."

"Women of '69, Unboxed" utilizes the unorthodox, artistic yearbook photos of the 370 women who graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1969 juxtaposed with interviews with several of the women today.

(The graduating class of the then-women's college opted to think outside the box — or rather inside the box. Instead of putting their senior photos in a traditional yearbook, they opted to break the rules and put them in what they called a "yearbox.")

One of those women of '69 is Liz Roman Gallese, an award-winning Internet publisher, author and journalist who is executive producer-producer of the film. Her classmate, independent film and TV producer Jane Startz, is a producer, and Startz's husband, veteran documentary filmmaker Peter Barton, is the director-producer. (All three will be participating in the panel discussion after the screening.)

"One of the reasons myself, Peter and Jane wanted to do this was we wanted our movie to speak not only as an historical period piece to the boomer generation but to a younger generation and, in particular, young women who frankly have no idea that the world that they inhabited now and the opportunities that they can avail themselves didn't always exist," said Gallese.

In those days, options for women college students were few. "The most typical college woman in the '50s through '60s was [at college] to get a Mrs. degree," said Gallese.

Still, who could blame them, said Gallese, "when the opportunities were so limited. As one woman said in the movie, we were sort of pigeonholed. You could be a nurse, you could be a teacher, you could be an executive assistant. That was about it. You were not being admitted to the professional schools on the same basis as men.

The world changed radically during the four years they were at school with the Vietnam War protests, the women's and civil rights movement and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

"I remember arriving on campus in [in 1965] in my matching Villager sweater and skirt," said Judith Wilson, one of the graduates interviewed in the documentary, currently the director of development for the Pasadena Community Foundation. "Then we left in jeans."

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