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Someone You Love Wins "Power of Film Award" from The Beloit International Film Festival!


From an intimate documentary

about five women, each with her own unique struggle with the human papilloma virus (HPV), to a dramatic love story in the age of texting and emotions laid out on a telephone, to the challenging story of a Latina whose skill must confront tradition as she seeks to become a sushi chef, the top films at the Beloit International Film Festival have been honored with the 2015 BIFFY awards.

Honoring features, documentaries and short films and recognizing the Audience Choice selections for best films from Illinois and Wisconsin, 15 BIFFYs were handed out at Friday evening’s BIFFY Awards Ceremony at La Casa Grande Restaurant in Beloit. Many of the more than 225 filmmakers attending BIFF were on hand to receive the awards.

In addition to the awards for merit in specific film genres, there were also four “feature” awards for overall achievement, designated by the selection committee that viewed all 800 submissions to BIFF this year.

The Power of Film Award, identifying a film that has shown the power of film to change the way we think, went to Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic. Narrated by Vanessa Williams, this poignant documentary takes a look into the lives of five women affected by HPV, the widely misunderstood and controversial virus that causes several types of cancer, including cervical.

Local health officials hope a documentary film about the most common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cancer will open viewers' eyes to the impact of HPV and have them consider regular cancer screenings and vaccination.

When a panel of film reviewers saw the documentary “Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic,” they agreed they hadn't known about 80 percent of they saw in the film.

“That alone shocked us,” said Kristin Peterson, marketing director for the Beloit International Film Festival.

They later invited doctors and nurses to another screening, and their agreement on the need the educate Rock County residents about HPV and cervical cancer led to the film being chosen as the BIFF Cares feature over the next two weekends.

HPV, or human papillomavirus, might be the most widespread, misunderstood and potentially dangerous epidemic that most people know little about, health officials say.

Cervical cancer is the most preventable type of female cancer, but about 12,000 women are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hearing the local statistics was frightening, Peterson said.

Of the nearly 43,000 Rock County residents between 12 and 26 in the Wisconsin Immunization Registry:

-- 16 percent of females have received all three of the HPV vaccinations before age 17, with an additional 12 percent finishing their vaccination series before age 28.

-- An additional 16 percent received at least one of the three HPV vaccine doses.

-- That leaves 15,504 young Rock County females not immunized or under immunized.

-- Among males, only 7 percent received all three HPV vaccinations before age 17, and 5 percent of males age 12 to 28 years old received all three.

-- An additional 7 percent received at least one of the three HPV vaccine doses.

-- That leaves 20,517 young Rock County males not immunized.

Janet Zoellner, nursing director at the Rock County Health Department, gathered the data and said she hopes people see through the film the human toll the disease can take. The documentary follows five women and their journey with HPV and cervical cancer.

More than 40 types of HPV can infect the genital areas, mouths and throats of males and females. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own. If it doesn't, it can cause health problems such as genital warts and cancer.

Almost every person who is sexually active will get some form of HPV in his or her lifetime, Zoellner said.

“That's one of the misconceptions—'I'm not going to get it.' But you probably are going to get it,” she said. “You can't know who is going to get cervical cancer from it and who is going to be able to fight it off.”

That's why three doses of the HPV vaccine over six months are recommended for boys and girls as early as age 11 to 12, she said. The vaccine should be given before a person is sexually active, which also is why it is encouraged at age 11 or 12, she said.

It's a vaccine parents might avoid because they don't want to encourage their children to have sex, she said. But one of the most practical reasons to give the vaccine so early is to increase the vaccine's protection because the young body's immune system can mount a good response, she said.

“If you wait, you're just not going to have the benefit of it,” she said.

Considering the vaccine is uncomfortable, she said, because it means thinking about an 11-year-old child getting cancer.

Whether a woman is vaccinated or not, she should be screened regularly through a Pap screen test to prevent cervical cancer. Pap screening should begin at age 21 with routine screening every three years for women 21 to 65 years old, according to Beloit Health System, which is sponsoring the documentary at BIFF.

Most insurance covers the vaccination and cancer screening, and other clinics, including the health department, help the uninsured.

“We have a lot of resources,” Zoellner said. “When people say, 'Why don't people get screened or get vaccinated?' it's not for a lack of resources because there isn't anyone living in Rock County that doesn't have access to screening and vaccination.”

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