A new community series at Independent Picture House uses film as a platform to spark discussion, action.
by Michael J. Solender
In February, Charlotte’s Independent Picture House debuted the Community Impact Film Series, using movies as a catalyst for discussion, advocacy and action surrounding social issues impacting Charlotte and beyond.
The theater serves as home base for the Charlotte Film Society and screens mostly independent art-house and foreign films. IPH is the sole Charlotte-area theater focused exclusively on these films.
Yet the nonprofit hopes to engage its audience in more meaningful ways. In developing the quarterly Community Impact Series, it will focus on topical issues and bring together educators, nonprofit organizations, community groups, and local residents to spark dialogue through the power of film.
“Since our opening of the Independent Picture House last year, we’ve worked to expand what service to the community means for our organization,” says Rodney Stringfellow, CFS board member and chair of the collaboration and education committee. Stringfellow is a screenwriter and adjunct faculty member at UNC Charlotte, where he teaches in the film studies program. “In years past, the Film Society was known as a resource and supporter to local filmmakers. With a dedicated venue now, we have additional resources to serve the broader Charlotte community and address areas that are important to our neighbors.”
The first program in the series was the documentary, My Ascension, a challenging film about 16-year-old Emma Benoit’s suicide attempt that left her paralyzed but propelled her on a suicide-prevention mission.
“Mental health and suicide prevention are such timely and important issues to bring understanding and resources to,” Stringfellow says. “We hosted the filmmaker, community mental health professionals from Hopeway, CMS [mental health services], and Eastover Psychological & Psychiatric Group in a panel discussion and Q&A session after the film.”
Two additional installments are planned for 2023. Topics for upcoming programs include women’s health and families, children and parenting. Stringfellow says IPH wants to hear from the community about areas they’d like to see addressed and films they should have on their radar that could be good catalysts for discussion and community involvement.
Community partners supporting the series include the City of Charlotte, Charlotte Art League and The Duke Mansion/Lee Institute.
Programs in the film series are offered free of charge. “We don’t want to have obstacles or barriers to access,” Stringfellow says. “We love film and want to make the theater a community hub — not just to come and see fantastic films, but to use film to tie into issues and concerns within our community and identify resources we can all take advantage of.” SP
The next Community Impact Film Series event takes place on May 13 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and will be focused on women’s health. The day starts with a movement class, followed by a light brunch, a screening of award-winning short films, and conversation with filmmakers and community leaders. There will also be a market showcasing women-owned businesses. For more information, visit independentpicturehouse.org.
Lead photo: Courtesy Independent Picture House