Community Cinema Season Highlights

Posted on June 29, 2009

Community Cinema recently wrapped up yet another record-breaking season––with more than 40,000 people attending 400 events in 55 communities across the country. Working behind-the-scenes were Community Cinema’s Regional Outreach Coordinators and Producing Partners who organized the events and worked with over 1,000 local and national organizations, including American Legion Auxiliary, Disabled American Veterans, California Newsreel, Women Make Movies, The Green Belt Movement, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Read some of the highlights from last season:

Washington, DC: A particularly timely screening, Community Cinema showed CHICAGO 10 on the last night of the Republican National Convention, which concluded just prior to John McCain’s candidacy acceptance speech. Audience members gathered at Busboys & Poets where panelists Yael Flusburg of Split this Rock Poetry Festival and Sarah Jensen of CodePink provided contemporary perspectives on the culture of protest and on-the-ground experiences at the recent conventions. Aviva Kempner, a local filmmaker, and Maurice Jackson, assistant professor of history at Georgetown University, discussed their personal experiences at the 1968 convention and the environment of the time period. Small group discussions compared protest tactics of 1968 to current methods.

Chicago, IL: A large crowd, including many veterans, came together at the Chicago Cultural Center to watch the film and listen to a discussion about veteran’s benefits and the stigma surrounding mental health services. Panelists included: Melissa Holas, mental health technician at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center; Katherine Dong, ancillary services chief at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs; and Dr. Constance Edwards, associate professor of nursing at Governor’s State University. Each discussed which women in the film resonated with them as well as experiences with benefits and the military’s protocol for mental health. Networking opportunities through the partner organizations helped many veterans in the audience with locating information on resources for additional support. 

Oakland, CA: More than 200 people gathered for the screening, which included a performance by local rap quartet BRWN BFLO. Many of the young people in attendance commented on how well they could relate to the story of the three teens and the importance of community organizing. An audience member provided local context by bringing up the current discord between the residents of Richmond, CA, and the local Chevron oil refinery. Speakers Sherri Norris, director of the California Indian Environmental Alliance, and Marissa Weaselboy, a student from Fallon, NV, discussed their experiences organizing events around environmental justice issues. 

St. Louis, MO: Local public television station KETC organized this event as part of their ongoing “Facing the Mortgage Crisis” initiative. The screening was attended by 400 people and focused on bringing awareness to the mortgage crisis in the St. Louis community and showed the impact of foreclosures on local neighborhoods. The discussion centered on the mortgage crisis not as a personal problem but a community problem that affects everyone. KETC’s “Facing the Mortgage Crisis” partners shared information on free resources available to the community. 

Nashville, TN: Nashville Public Television hosted a wine and cheese reception and set up craft tables so the 125 audience members could make Helvetica-themed cards with Helvetica rubber stamps. Several local printmakers demonstrated different types of print methods. Jim Sherraden, owner of Hatch Show Print, discussed his appreciation for font and his fascination for the political interpretations of different fonts. Panelists included Henry Walker, attorney and freelance media writer, Kevin Endres, vice president and executive creative director for J&A Integrated Thinking, Cindy Marsh, professor of Visual Arts at Austin Peay State University and Michael Niblett, graphic design department chair at Watkins College of Art and Design. Audience and panel reactions to the font were strongly divided. One audience member, a dancer, drew parallels between the film’s treatment of font development and Helvetica’s respect to positive and negative space. 

West Hollywood, CA: Audience members came together at the Pacific Design Center to view the film and participate in conversation with panelists Stephen Gutwillig, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance Network, Kim McGill, organizer for the Youth Justice Coalition, Kevin Michael Key, organizer for Critical Resistance and filmmaker Cassandra Herrman. The conversation touched on the impact of the War on Drugs, ways people interpret police action and included individual reactions to the film. The discussion also turned to the gang wars plaguing Los Angeles and the prison industrial complex. In her Beyond the Box blog post, Cassandra Herrman reflected, “it was enlightening and rewarding for me to see the film reflected in this larger context.” 

Oakland, CA: The theatre was at capacity with 280 audience members enthusiastically reacting to the film. The panel included Shohreh Terman, director and founder of Farsi Without Tears, Fren Khadivian, president of the Iranian Student Alliance at UC-Berkeley, JilChristina Vest, co-director of iPride and filmmaker Marjan Tehrani. The discussion was thoughtful and centered on US-Iran relations. Several Iranian audience members were also able to speak about their personal relationship to the topics. People who had not been to Iran in years expressed the emotions tied to leaving the homeland they loved and the challenges associated with the conflicts between the United States and Iran. 

TAKING ROOT: The Vision of Wangari Maathai
Detroit, MI: The evening opened with a performance by a local dance troupe, Heritage Works. Nine young people played drums, danced and sang traditional African verses. The audience reacted positively to the film and participated in an hour-long conversation afterwards. The first speaker, Rebecca Saliman Witt from The Greening of Detroit, provided information about the organization and discussed the history of Detroit’s ecosystem. She answered questions about local ordinances and shared resources for those wishing to volunteer. David Gakure, the second speaker, is an Education Specialist at the Detroit Zoological Society. He discussed his experiences as a Kenyan native, including the fact that his mother was one of the women who worked with Wangari Maathai during the inception of the Green Belt Movement. 

CRIPS AND BLOODS: Made in America
Philadelphia, PA: CRIPS AND BLOODS: Made in America played to a full house at The Rotunda, an arts and culture space in West Philadelphia. The panel was comprised of Darryl Coates, executive director of the Philadelphia Anti-Drug Anti-Violence Network; Everett Gillison, deputy mayor of Public Safety; Dorothy Johnson-Speight, executive director of Mothers In Charge; and Jack Stollsteimer, PA Safe Schools advocate and former federal prosecutor of drug gangs in Philadelphia. Conversation focused on local experiences with Philadelphia’s gangs––from mothers whose children had been murdered to city officials charged with the task of assessing and changing the conditions. All agreed the challenges are great and that it is everyone's responsibility to get involved and ‘save a life.' Regional Outreach Coordinator Cindy Burstein mentioned, “The film was certainly a powerful catalyst for bringing the community together around a common and heartfelt concern.” 

Seattle, WA: The conversation featured panelist Jim Lobsenz, attorney with the ACLU of Washington. Lobsenz is representing former Air Force flight nurse Maj. Margaret Witt in her high-profile suit asserting that she was wrongly discharged after the service discovered her relationship with another woman. The audience brought the conversation to the current administration’s stance on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Lobsenz believes that the policy will be repealed this year. 

In addition, Audience members around the country participated in drawings for copies of Nathaniel Frank’s book Unfriendly Fire, which looks at the failed “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy. Entrants were asked to describe a veteran or a service member who inspires them and write a message of encouragement to veterans and/or those currently serving who are dealing with the ramifications of DADT. Kendra P., one of the winners, wrote someone very important to her “enlisted in the Vietnam era, fought overseas for years, became an army drill sergeant. He is now retired and supports my enlistment despite being discharged for ‘homosexual conduct.’” She also wrote to those dealing with DADT, “No matter what they tell you, you will always be ready and able to serve. Remember honor, courage, commitment to all!” We look forward to another Community Cinema season, please stay tuned when we announce the upcoming season’s films, with screenings starting in September.


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