Eight filmmakers have been invited to participate in this year’s Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue, which uses the power of cinema to engage audiences in dialogue, increasing awareness of shared stories and values across generations, language, education and borders. Now in its third year, this successful cultural film exchange effort by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) and the Sundance Institute in cooperation with its federal cultural partners, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) plans to visit China, Taiwan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jordan and communities in Maine, Washington, Puerto Rico and California.
Rachel Goslins, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, said, “This program just gets better and better every year. The President’s Committee and the program's federal partners, NEA, NEH and IMLS, are thrilled to once again bring the Film Forward initiative to communities, both in the U.S. and around the world, who might not be otherwise exposed to these kinds of compelling stories and universal themes.”
Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “Film Forward highlights film as a powerful medium for storytelling that brings people of different cultures, viewpoints, and backgrounds together in a shared dialogue. The first two years of Film Forward connected films and filmmakers with audiences they might have never reached resulting in some remarkable and rich events; we look forward to building on these shared experiences in the third year of the program.”
The films that will tour selected communities the United States and abroad as part of the program are: Beasts of the Southern Wild, by Benh Zeitlin; Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, by Stacy Peralta; Chasing Ice, by Jeff Orlowski; La Misma Luna (Under The Same Moon), by Patricia Riggen; The Light in Her Eyes, by Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix; The Loving Story, by Nancy Buirski; Town of Runners, by Jerry Rothwell; and Valley of Saints, by Musa Syeed. All these films capture Film Forward’s breadth of curiosity and interest in other cultures and ideas from a The Light in Her Eyes that frames the aspirations and role of women in Islam through the experiences of female preacher in a Damascus mosque to the ice sheets and glaciers in Chasing Ice and one photographer’s quest to help the world visualize climate change.
Last year’s experiences with the Film Forward illustrated how effective this program is in creating connections through dialogue and engagement with audiences. Australian director Rachel Perkins said about her visit to Imperial Valley, California with her film Bran Nue Day, “On the US side of the border, we screened in small towns – in their libraries, council offices and school halls. Everywhere we were met with enthusiasm and gratitude that anyone would bother to bring films and filmmakers to engage with people in what locals know are perceived as ‘far flung’ locations. Most satisfying to me was the way the humor of our film crossed cultural boundaries – people got it and they laughed. It is fascinating that our film, which is layered with very specific Indigenous cultural meaning and social history, still speaks to international audiences. I was reminded that very personal stories are able to cross over because they portray our shared humanity. In our films story – the need to go home and where you can be yourself.” This encounter is typical of the Film Forward and its filmmakers, whose stories and voices are at the heart of the program.