Connect at the Fresno Film Festival

Going to the movies has often been associated with escape. We go to the movies to “escape” our realities for 90 or so minutes, to bear witness to lives and experiences different from our own. Film, however, has fulfilled another function that isn’t entirely separate from the idea of escape: film connects us.

Like other forms of art, film can act as a sort of mirror that’s held up to us and in which we see, if we care to look closely, ourselves, our lives, our failures and successes. Sometimes this mirror shows us in a different period, in a different land, in a different world. It may be the that actors and characters on screen, as well as the worlds they inhabit, seem foreign to us, but do we recognize in their experiences our experiences?

This year’s Fresno Film Festival invites you to see film as something other than escape, to experience film as an opportunity to connect.

As Fresno Filmworks considered the through-lines between the eight films we’ve programmed for the Festival, we considered how these might come together to communicate a theme. Various options emerged, none of which seemed to fully capture what we saw working through each of these films. We invite you, though, to join us in viewing these films and to engage us in a discussion of what these films show us about ourselves, about each other.

This year we invite you look on as one of jazz’s most celebrated performers is able to make music despite the constant and urgent threat of capture by Nazis on account of his ethnicity;to bear witness as a police department, Oakland’s, engages in difficult conversations about how it polices, and how it interfaces with communities of color‒-all in the context of Ferguson; to identify with an unassuming citizen whose ethical and moral commitments put her at the forefront of the fight to grant women the right to vote.

Other films explore the loss of language and the importance of communication; the importance of space to the maintenance of tradition and personal freedom.

The eight films comprising this year’s Fresno Film Festival may hail from nine different countries, but they work together to represent a common humanity. In a time when escape seems so attractive to so many, we ask you to engage, to connect, to join us and each other.

Film brings us closer to others, near and far, through the medium itself and by putting us physically next to neighbors we may not even know we have. In coming together with others through the action on the screen and by virtue of sitting with others to watch this action unfold on the screen, we hope you will find the commonalities that bind us together, that makes us neighbors, a community, a city: Fresno.

James Baldwin, writing about the artist, penned words that apply just as well to what Fresno Filmworks seeks to do through film and, especially, by presenting the annual Fresno Film Festival. Film’s role in this and all communities is to “illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through vast forests, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more humane dwelling place.”

We at Fresno Filmworks invite you to join us and to connect at the 2017 Fresno Film Festival.

Rubén Casas is an assistant professor of English at Fresno State, and he serves on the Filmworks board as a member of the marketing committee.