Back to Showtimes

Celluloid worlds

The Grand Cinema and Tacoma Community College create the Diversity Film Festival

DIVERSITY FILM FESTIVAL: The festival opens on just the right note with "Reel Injun" (April 6-7).

Independent cinema serves as a refuge for many, a means of expression for those marginalized groups that otherwise wouldn't have a voice (or willing listeners for that matter). Mainstream media cannot hope to cover all viewpoints of an issue; sometimes the only way the rest of us even know a certain perspective, experience or story exists is via film, either under the guise of fictional narrative or the eye-opening truth of documentary.

In recent years, The Grand Cinema has explored new methods for delivering greater numbers of unheard stories to this community. The theater welcomed 2010 by unveiling a fourth screen, and last summer opened its doors to independent artists all over America for its inaugural 25 New Faces Festival. Every step into unexplored territory involves risk, and now the Grand is gambling on another event with hope it will take root and flourish: the Diversity Film Festival, April 6-18.

Only six films compose this mini-fest, each one a meditation on the theme of cultural diversity. The concept began a few miles (and years) away from The Grand, at Tacoma Community College. Dr. Scott Earle, a TCC English and Humanities instructor since 1999, along with fellow teachers and staff, has hosted on-campus film screenings of this sort for some time. A suggestion was made to Earle and his colleagues in late 2010 to graduate their young program - let it leave the classroom and test its wings in the community.

But where to present the experiment? A member of the TCC committee had previously volunteered at the Grand, so that seemed a safe bet. The school approved, and has partnered with the enterprising theater for this first-ever endeavor.

"This is absolutely groundbreaking for all of us," says Earle. "None of us have done anything like this before, so we're all just feeling our way."

The Grand's executive director, Philip Cowan, has helped navigate Earle's team by advertising the festival and making recommendations on the lineup. Cowan sees the academic sector as one key to his theater's development: "We're always interested in partnering with universities. ... That's a big part of our mission," he notes.

A socially conscious gathering like this one has specific goals in mind: discovery, discourse and the drive to act. Earle refers to humans as "visual creatures" on whom the medium of cinema makes the most immediate impact. Stronger than words in a book, newspaper or blog, and louder than any song lyrics, motion pictures have a distinct advantage over the other arts, by implementing what Earle calls "the dramatization of an issue." But more than its storytelling abilities, films' visual nature strongly links the onscreen fantasy to our reality ... and the struggles in it.

The festival opens on just the right note with Reel Injun (April 6-7), a self-reflexive glimpse at Hollywood's depiction of Native Americans over the decades. This sobering - yet often humorous - documentary begs the question: Does contemporary cinema in this country celebrate or stifle diversity? I agree with Earle's assessment that "Hollywood ... is more conservative than we tend to think." Studio productions have mostly moved past embarrassingly inaccurate portrayals of non-white races, but the industry lives on profit, and conservatism seeks to uphold the ticket-buying public's ideology, which invariably includes some stereotyping and discrimination.

The other five films - Miracle at St. Anna (April 6-7), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (April 10), Under the Same Moon and Trouble the Water (April 13-14), and Undertow (April 17-18) - reveal the identities of various peoples, through their own eyes. The theater screen is sometimes our only way into those worlds, but with any luck, our way out of cultural blindness too.

TCC students pay $2 per showing with ID; normal ticket prices apply for Grand members and non-members. For all movie times call the box office at 253.593.4474.

Diversity Film Festival

April 6-18, TCC students pay $2 per showing with ID
normal ticket prices apply for Grand members and non-members
The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett, Tacoma

comments powered by Disqus