Guest blogger Greg Brown is the managing director of AFI Dallas International Film Festival.
I’ve had the great opportunity twice in the last several weeks to participate in some fantastic conversations about movies. Coincidentally, both were organized by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.
The first was after a screening of Stop the Presses!, a wonderful locally-produced documentary on the plight of the “traditional” newspaper. The discussion afterwards was lively and insightful, covering everything from non-traditional business models to the Internet to generational shifts in how we get our news.
Then, a couple of days later, I joined the Dallas Institute’s Speaking of Movies group for a discussion of Woody Allen’s latest film, Vicki Cristina Barcelona. This group meets once a month to discuss a film that all have been assigned to view on their own. It’s a wonderful twist on a book club. And this is a SMART group that brings lots to the discussion. Put it this way … the first session I attended — on No Country for Old Men — included analysis of the Keats poem from which the title of the movie is taken and several references to Eudora Welty. So, despite the fact that several in the crowd thought VCB was a little “light” for serious discussion, we had great talk about Spanish culture, Woody Allen’s oeuvre, characterization and sexual liberation. Lots of fun.
It got me to thinking … we don’t give ourselves time to REALLY talk about movies. I mean more than the few minutes chit-chat on the drive home with friends or spouse. Conversation that analyzes, critiques and puts in context. We at AFI Dallas are always trying to think of ways to create those opportunities, but in the meantime, do your part. Create your own “film club” and start the process.
Might I suggest a topic for your first meeting? I had the chance to see Oliver Stone’s W. at the Austin Film Festival last week. Love it or hate it (and there will be plenty in both camps), it is definitely thought-provoking. And, while you’re at it, to get context and to better understand the political climate that we live in, mark your calendars for a screening of Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story at the Dallas Video Festival in a couple of weeks. This well-done documentary provides plenty of perspective on everything from Willie Horton to Karl Rove.