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March 5: Film recounts first national women's air derby

Monday, March 5, 2012

FREDERICK, Md.—An award-winning documentary that tells the story of the 1929 women's air derby will be shown March 20 at 7 p.m. at Hood College to mark Women's History Month.

"Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby" follows 20 pilots on their nine-day flight across the country from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland, Ohio, and recounts some of the friendships and close bonds the women developed that belies their competitive spirit. It will be screened in Hodson Auditorium in Rosenstock Hall, followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmaker.

The documentary was written and produced by Hood alumna Heather A. Taylor, who spent more than 10 years researching and writing the story. It 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. More information about the documentary can be found at

The film premiered in Frederick in 2010 during the Women's Air Race Classic. Since then, it has received the prestigious Combs Gates Award from the National Aviation Hall of Fame. It also won 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.

The presentation is co-sponsored by Hood's communication arts and women's studies programs, the departments of English and history and the office of multicultural affairs.

For more information, contact Donna Bertazzoni, professor of journalism, at, or call (301) 696-3743.