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Community Cinema brings award-winning films, discussion to Vashon
When Islander Jane Berg saw the documentary “For Once In My Life” on PBS earlier this year, she was blown away. Berg, 69, was not only moved by the story of the 28 physically and mentally disabled musicians who form the Spirit of Goodwill Band, but she was struck by its relevance to Welcome Vashon, a new initiative promoting inclusion on Vashon.
“I thought, ‘We need to bring this movie to Vashon,’” Berg said.
Little did Berg know that her efforts to share the film with the rest of Vashon would open the door for the Island to take part in a film program that is sweeping the nation.
This month, Vashon will join nearly 100 cities nationwide to participate in Community Cinema, a PBS-sponsored initiative that offers monthly screenings of films from Independent Lens, an Emmy Award-winning series that features movies and documentaries that tackle current social issues.
Following the screenings, each city holds a community discussion about the topics presented in the film and how they may apply on a local level.
Berg, who was already involved with Welcome Vashon, learned about Community Cinema from Patrick Baroch, the coordinator of the program who recently moved from Seattle to Vashon. While she originally hoped to show Islanders just one film from the series, “For Once In My Life,” Berg was thrilled at the idea of a monthly series that would spotlight different social issues.
As member of the Cool Community Company — an informal social group that seeks to bring together Islanders from all walks of life — Berg said diversity and inclusion have always been important to her.
“It’s been my vision to help to spread the spirit of inclusion, and these movies when they come (will do that),” she said. “All of the sudden something close to my heart has come to the surface here.”
Berg said she hopes Islanders will embrace Community Cinema.
“I feel like this is my legacy,” she said. “I’m 69; I’ve never done anything like this.”
The series will kick off on Saturday, April 30, with a showing of “For Once In My Life.” The film will be followed by a discussion led by Dan Kaufman of Welcome Vashon, Kathy Turner of the Cool Community Company and Lee Ockinga of Learn2Earn.
The week before the screening, Baroch will give an informal talk on Community Cinema at the Vashon Library and answer Islanders’ questions about the initiative.
Future Community Cinema films will include “Welcome to Shelbyville,” a documentary about a small, conservative town where those of different races and religions struggle to fit in, and “Two Spirits,” which tells the story of a transgender Navajo boy who falls victim to hate crime.
Kaufman, who founded the Welcome Vashon initiative, believes the films highlight themes that Welcome Vashon organizers would like to see Islanders ex-plore.
“The films are all high quality, and they all provide great opportunity for there to be discussion on issues that relate to Welcome Vashon — how to absorb another culture into our community and the like,” he said.
Berg is already looking to expand beyond the PBS series. Through a Welcome Vashon project she calls We All Belong, Berg hopes to organize screenings of other inspiring films and documentaries, perhaps selected by Island residents or organizations.
“We will be available to any other group that wants to bring a film and have it fall under the umbrella of We All Belong,” she said.
We All Belong is one of two dozen projects to emerge from Welcome Vashon, which drew 150 Islanders to its first meeting in January. Other groups and individuals have tasked themselves with a wide range of projects, from installing welcome signs at the ferry docks to increasing water conservation and expanding the local job market.
Kaufman said Welcome Vashon recently awarded $250 mini-grants to seven of the groups to help cover project expenses. Some groups are exploring additional sources of funding.
“It’s been far and above our wildest expectations when we started, and seems to continue,” he said.
Patrick Baroch, coordinator for Community Cinema, will give a talk and answer questions from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, at the Vashon Library.
The Community Cinema premiere on Vashon, “For Once In My Life,” followed by a community conversation, will take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Vashon Theatre.
Following the event, Welcome Vashon will hold a reception at the Vashon Presbyterian Church, where members of other projects will be on hand.
Future film and conversation events will be at 3 p.m. Sundays, May 22, June 5, July 24, Aug. 14 and Sept. 11, at the Vashon Park District performance room at Ober Park.
For more information on Community Cinema, see www.communitycinema.org or contact Jane Berg at 567-4532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Welcome Vashon project, visit http://welcomevashon.com.