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This article was published 10/3/2018 (965 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Many people remember story time as one of the best parts of their childhood. Even later in life, storytelling is a powerful tool for learning and conveying truths.
Telling a story to raise important issues and get people thinking and discussing important themes with each other was part of the purpose of the Real to Reel Film Festival at the North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church, which ran Feb. 20-25.
Many different films and documentaries were part of the festival, featuring everything from lighthearted children’s stories to tragic accounts of human trafficking or the dangers that workers in Africa deal with every day in their quest for gold to satisfy western markets.
Facing Darkness was one of the more disturbing films at the festival, telling the story of a clinic in Liberia, where doctors working with Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse faced a mysterious enemy in the Ebola virus that devastated many regions in West Africa. The film traces the progress of the disease and the publicity it gained only after two of the western medical staff in Liberia also fell ill.
Despite its sombre theme and often tragic story, Facing Darkness is ultimately a hopeful story as it traces the retreat of the disease and the return of some degree of normal life in Africa. The documentary’s use of eyewitness accounts helps to give the story a very human and personal touch, even though that technique perhaps spoils some of the tension. Actual news footage also helps to place the story in its world context.
Same Kind of Different as Me tells a story of poverty and privilege through the eyes of three people seeking to understand each other and the challenges of negotiating the differences between street people and the affluent. The feature-length film relates the true story of what happened when wealthy art dealer Ron Hall and his wife, Deborah, come to know a violent homeless man, Denver Moore, at a Texas soup kitchen.
The friendship that develops endures through the struggles that the main characters face when an illness interferes with their plans for the future. The idea that all people, no matter what their income or social background, are on the same journey through life was only one of the themes that came out in the film. Change can happen even for those who seem to be beyond hope, living on the margins of society.
Each person’s ability to make a difference is a major theme in both films as they trace the moral and practical decisions that the people have to make. For example, when the Liberian hospital receives only one dose of the vaccine for two ill staff members, the decision of whom to treat is a moment of tension in the film. Although the final result is never really in question, the process of getting to that point is what makes the story compelling.
Some of the films at the festival were more entertaining than educational or inspiring, but all helped to serve their purpose of providing something for everyone. For attendees of a literary bent, for example, The Fantasy Makers is an insightful look at the influence of 19th-century Christian fantasy author George MacDonald on his more famous 20th-century counterparts J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
For some people, films might not seem like the best way of alerting people to issues that they or others around them might be facing, and a church might seem like an odd choice for a venue. Yet while some of the films were just fun sources of entertainment, many of the documentaries, short films and feature films dealt with serious issues such as inequality, greed and more, which have a profound effect on our society and all of the people in it.
Ever since the film festival first began in 2011, it has drawn people of various ages and backgrounds to come for all or part of the event. With snacks and small meals available for purchase, attendees could stay in the building all day if they wished. Although numbers of viewers in the venues varied throughout the festival, it was evident that coming to see the films was a popular activity for many Winnipeggers.
Sermons were once the standard means by which people communicated truth, but the age of mass media is changing that. While not all of the films at the Real to Reel festival had a religious focus, they represented a new way to reach people through story.
Susan Huebert is a Winnipeg writer.
Elmwood community correspondent
Susan Huebert is a community correspondent for Elmwood