Film for thought

The politics of the food industry today, civil liberties, the aftermath of 9/11, immigration, militarism in society and even the threat of fascism in the United States – these are just a few of the topics expected to be discussed as part of the upcoming Progressive Film Festival. These topics may be controversial, but that is the goal – to stir things up, said associate professor of cinema and moving-image culture studies Bob Nowlan.

The Progressive Film Festival will run April 28 through May 7. It is a first-time, nonprofit, independent film festival. The festival began with no budget and is free.

Nowlan said the goal of the festival is to raise awareness, and potentially spur activism, through bringing progressive films to campus.

“The films deal with important issues that significantly affect people in the world today,” Nowlan said.

Following the viewing of the films, discussion groups will be held in various locations on campus. The groups will talk about the topics viewed in the films and about possible ways students can get active against some of these issues in society.

Nowlan began the Progressive Film Festival last semester when he contacted a number of students who had been in his film studies classes.

“I chose students who had an interest in both film and progressive ideas,” he said.

Nowlan said students who were interested enrolled in English 395 and began the project in December.

“The students have been involved in every aspect of the production of this festival,” he said.

Students were responsible for finding movie titles, researching the movies and contacting distributors as well as designing a logo, T-shirts and buttons for fundraising. After the films have been shown, some students will lead discussions.

The class has been somewhat non-traditional, giving students control over which films they want shown.

“A lot of what we do goes on outside of meetings,” Nowlan said.

Freshman Jackie Rose, programming coordinator for the festival, said students in the class may not have seen all the movies, but the movies are well-researched and they are all knowledgeable about the topics in the films.

The films, Rose said, were chosen based on one main criteria: the films needed to have a progressive theme.

“Progressivism is something that raises awareness or activism, but it’s not strictly political,” she said.

The films were chosen based on whether or not they were progressive, with a wide range of topics presented at the festival.

“Variety allows the flexibility for different kinds of audiences to find something,” Nowlan said.

Since the film festival had no budget and is nonprofit, much of the funding came from donations and grants. To raise funds, students designed T-shirts and buttons.

These will be sold at the festival, Nowlan said.

In order to show a film at the festival, the rights had to be bought, which often posed an issue because of the lack of funding, Rose said.

Although students asked film distributors for speakers to come to the festival, students will lead a number of discussions.

An advantage to the festival is that the majority of the audience will be watching a movie they haven’t seen before, Nowlan said.

“The films will be new to a good proportion of the students in the class and the audience,” he said.

In the future, Nowlan hopes to find more funding or possibly do more fundraising.

“I’d like to increase the availability to pay for films,” he said.

The films are not readily available to the general public, Nowlan said. But they are unique in that the thought-provoking movies are by directors who are genuinely concerned about the topics.

Rose said she believes it’s important for students to attend the festival.

“Students should be informed,” she said. “Learn more about a topic and maybe do something. Know the issues that are out there.”