Tucson Film Forward: A Message of Thanks

Wow! What a whirlwind and incredible trip in the hot hot heat of Tucson, Arizona. Upon completion of the program I feel a strong sense of gratitude, as there are so many people and organizations in Tucson to thank for such an engaging and inspiring program.

We started off our quick trip with a lovely filmmaker meet-and-greet at the elegant Tucson Museum of Art. It was great to meet so many avid filmmakers and film lovers in the Tucson community. Special thanks to My Big Fat Greek Restaurant for providing delicious and authentic Greek food to all our guests at this kick-off event!

Brittany Ballard and Kate Dean taking questions from the audience after a screening of Winter’s Bone. Photo by Luanne Withee

Our first screening and Q&A was with the Director of Photography and Producer of A Small Act, Patti Lee, where there were many moving audience responses and the house was packed with emotion and energy. At the same time across town, we shared Afghan Star with the Tucson Jewish community at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, where the response was equally charged and engaged. Interesting dialogue emerged surrounding the choice to program this particular film at the JCC and this was a great opportunity for advancing cultural dialogue.

Both Patti Lee and Kate Dean, co-producer of Winter's Bone, held workshops and discussions at various venues throughout Tucson. Kate screened Winter's Bone and spoke with the members of Pan Left Productions about her experiences as a filmmaker, and this discussion was mainly geared towards indie filmmakers. Patti Lee held a workshop in an undergraduate film production class at the University of Arizona where the students were completely engaged and not afraid to ask any and all questions pertaining to filmmaking and Patti’s experience. Patti also held a workshop at the Joel D. Valdez Library for anyone interested in filmmaking, where she shared the trailer and clips of A Small Act with the group and held an intensive Q&A to follow.

A special screening of Freedom Riders was held at the historical Dunbar School Project, which is a historical landmark as well as a living museum. The incredible discussion that followed included personal stories of fighting for freedom and justice in the form of personal anecdotes, debate, and even a spoken word performance. This was a true example of utilizing cinema to promote dialogue, thought, and cross-cultural understanding. It was of particular interest to note that Arizona is on the front lines of education reform, and it was an often-drawn connection between the power of education in A Small Act and activism in Freedom Riders to mirror what is currently happening in this state.

Jeff Yanc (program director, Loft Cinema), Kate Dean (co-producer, Winter’s Bone), and Brittany Ballard (manager, Film Forward) at the Loft Cinema in Tucson. Photo by Luanne Withee.

Other screenings of all 10 films were very well-attended and the crowds were always diverse and lively. The screenings took place at numerous venues throughout the city, including a full house for Boy at The Loft, a packed house for Son of Babylon at the Joel Valdez Public Library, and packed screenings of Udaan, AmreekaLa Mission, and Last Train Home to round out the program.

Given my love of cinema, I am thankful that a place like The Loft exists in my lifetime. It is truly an oasis in the desert, where their spotlight on and support of independent international cinema is such an important part of our cultural fabric in this country.

Sending a very special thanks to Jeff, JJ, Zach, Peggy, Anthony, Luanne, Tim, Kyle, Steve, and everyone else on the staff and volunteer teams who made Film Forward Tucson such a cogent and successful experience for all involved.

Also sending a very warm and special thanks to Roberto Bedoya of Tucson Pima Arts Council; to Mary Charlotte and Jason at Pan Left Productions; to Bob and Bob at The Tucson Jewish Community Center; and to Vikki Dempsey and Lisanne Skyler of University of Arizona College of Theatre, Film and Television.

There is certainly a hunger and appreciation for indie cinema and we will be staying in close touch with our partners in Tucson as our programs develop. I thought hot weather meant bad business for cinemas, but in Tucson it seems its absolutely the other way around, and for this I am truly thankful.

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