Film Forward closed out 2013 and its third year in rural Maine, which also included visits to Taiwan, China, Colombia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Jordan, as well as Seattle Washington; Imperial Valley, CA; and Puerto Rico. Although not all the numbers are in yet, the impact of these visits is clear as they bring together multiple perspectives, challenging preconceptions, and illuminating commonalities, thus promoting greater understanding, which can lead to acceptance and social change. And these encounters are with audiences and places rarely visited by films and filmmakers.
During the year the filmmakers reflected on their experiences with Film Forward in a number of blog entries. Here are three such perspectives that encapsulate the Film Forward’s journey in 2013.
Brawley Skate Park In Imperial Valley California, where Stacy Peralta had a screening of his film Bones Brigade: An Autobiography with punk skater kids, emerging filmmakers and musicians, and whole families (parents and children). He said this about the experience: “We all want to believe that art bridges divides, crosses boundaries, and connects people—and in this wired digital age, with everything at our fingertips, this crazy street level idea called Film Forward, with a mandate to culturally hop fences and cross pollinate people with people ended up working. It was non- digital, totally analog, down and dirty and carried out on the most basic gut level; eye to eye, handshake to handshake and hug to hug and it worked. We connected and we shared and we all walked away feeling closer to the dream.”
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Musa Sayed, Valley of Saints, had a little trouble adjusting to the unpredictable nature of venues not set up for film like the Center for Healthy Aging or the Juvenile Detention Center. “Part of the program’s goals is to bring the film to underserved audiences. While there is debate about what that means, it was clear that most of the people we reached in Bosnia & Herzegovina would not otherwise have access to these films or know about them. And that made for some very engaged audiences, whose gratefulness for the experience made me realize how grateful I should also be to be with them. Whether I was screening for the gray-haired members of a retirement community, hip youth activists, or a rural women’s collective, the audiences in Bosnia & Herzegovina were some of the most vocal and appreciative.”
As much as these films and filmmakers engage audiences, these films also create another thread of conversation amongst themselves that enhances the experience of the audience. Director Jerry Rothwell summarized this best when he wrote in his blog about a visit to Slab City, a refuge in the California desert for people escaping to live off-grid on a the site of a former WW II base: “I can never shake the astonishment in screenings like this, that the story of a girl I met in a place that at the time seemed to me so remote, is projected half a world away, to a place perhaps equally unique, but totally different. It’s always a reminder of the extraordinary power of film, the Empathy Machine, as Mark Cousins calls it in ‘The First Movie’. The dialogue this creates is at the heart of these Film Forward screenings. It’s been fascinating to show Town Of Runners alongside Stacey Peralta’s Bones Brigade – two very different films, but both about young people who find something they love to do and follow it in ways that change their lives. One Mexican student I was talking to about this commented that not only were the films about dreams, but that watching them felt motivating, a kind of vicarious dreaming which might set you off on your own journey.”