A consistent complaint, heard around office water coolers, at the bars, and on social media in recent months, is that it’s been a shitty year in Hollywood. Big movie after big move has disappointed. Even those of us who grew up on comic books and Saturday morning cartoons are sick of superheroes and giant robots. All the good writers have moved to premium cable. The cinemas play the same kinds of movies: the aforementioned cartoonish action flicks, along with cheap-laugh comedies and death-by-numbers gore fests. There might be an occasional “indie” movie, probably actually financed by a major media corporation, usually something wry about upper class narcissists in New York or, if they’re feeling really exotic, London.
But what about poor people? People in Beijing? Tehran? Cairo? Where are their cinematic stories?
The Great Basin Film Society is a nonprofit group that presents critically acclaimed classic, foreign and independent films to Northern Nevada audiences, often presenting films that wouldn’t be seen in the area otherwise. The GBFS merged a few years ago with Artemisia Moviehouse, and the combined organization uses both names. With a grant from Nevada Humanities, the organization is presenting the Global Lens film series, an annual series of 10 films curated by the Global Film Initative and featuring films made by curators from all around the world. The film series will be presented in two weekly screenings. Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. at the Good Luck Macbeth Theater and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. at the Nevada Museum of Art.
The series includes films from Egypt, Mexico and Chile, among other places.
“Part of why I thought it would be worthwhile and important to join this collaborative effort of Artemisia and Great Basin Film Society and Good Luck Macbeth is that there are not enough opportunities for people to have exposure to independent and particularly foreign films,” says Colin Robertson, the NMA’s curator of education. “This is a series of films that offers people the opportunity to see a variety of perspectives by artists and directors from around the world, whose voices are not well represented in an average American cinema complex.”
“The storylines that you come across are often very unique, and often inspiring and touching in very human ways,” says Robin Dechent, the president of GBFS. “They come from so many different angles. They’re very different than the Hollywood experience that tends to be very standard, and you know what to expect every time. Whereas in independent and foreign films, you get a glimpse of the world through so many different perspectives.”
The series started on Aug. 13 with a film called About 111 Girls.
“The film was excellent,” says Dechent. “It was beautifully done. It takes place in Iran. It was sort of a tragic story, but with some comic relief, amazing character development, beautiful scenery.”
The next film, Beijing Flickers, will be screened at the Nevada Museum of Art on Aug. 25.
“It’s basically a coming-of-age story for a young, Chinese out-of-work professional, a guy left in the eddy of China’s rapid growth,” says Robertson. “He lost his job and is coming to terms with the difficulties of modern life in China.”
Dechent says that one unusual feature of this film series is that the local organizers themselves are watching the films for the first time alongside the audiences.
“Normally we do prescreen the films before we show them, and in this particular case we agreed to show the series before we even knew what the films were going to be, purely on the reputation of the Global Film Initiative,” she says. “We put it in their hands, knowing that they choose films with the intention of connecting communities to different cultures around the world.”
She says that this provides an exciting dimension to the screenings for the organizers.
“It gives us a real opportunity to have real-time conversations with our audience about how we feel about the movie and how they feel about the movie.”