One film at a time

By Lawrence Bailey

The lineup was unbelievable. People were anxiously waiting in the halls, shuffling back and forth, jockeying for position. The dilemma at hand: how do you fit over 700 people into a 300-seat lecture theatre?

"We weren’t sure if anyone would show up," laughed CJSW Station Manager Chad Saunders of the first ever Movies That Matter screening, Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in our Times. "But we knew it was post-September 11, in the midst of the build-up to the Iraq war and people were looking for answers.

"When we had to spill into two theatres and add a second screening, I realized we were on to something and wondered why no one else was doing this."

And so it began. Movies That Matter, a monthly series of socially and politically conscious films and forums, sprang to life in January of 2003, while the aftershocks of September 11 were still being felt and the global future was uncertain, undefined. The brainchild of the Calgary International Film Festival and the University of Calgary Tri-Media Alliance (CJSW, NUTV and the Gauntlet), Movies That Matter has been gaining momentum ever since that first screening and is showing no signs of slowing down as it approaches its first anniversary.

With every film’s admission being by donation only, the series is an incredible opportunity for people who may not otherwise view such films, discussions and events of this nature. And Calagrians have responded to the accessible format with growing interest and support, evidenced in part by a mailing list of over 70 people.

Over the past year film and discussion topics have ranged from terrorism to genocide, from musical activism to Appalachian life. The lone constants when it comes to the selection process are the quality of the material, the social relevance of the issues and the opportunity to shed light on unique and unknown issues or perspectives in an informative manner.

To that end, the Movies That Matter First Anniversary is all about the current and future state of the music industry.

"The main reason [for selecting that topic for the first anniversary celebration] is that it’s a celebration, so you hope to have something a little more upbeat than strife, war, bombs and explosions," explained Saunders. "That said, what’s going on in the music industry right now is unbelievable, especially Stateside. The technology is on the musicians’ side, but the outlets for promotion are purely in the grips of the record companies.

"It’s definitely an important and timely issue."

The three day event will have an impressive agenda, beginning with a Wed., Jan. 28 screening of Just an American Boy, a film about musician Steve Earle, followed by a Thu., Jan. 29 lecture by musician/activist Jenny Toomey of the Future Music Coalition and legendary music producer Sandy Pearlman. Fri., Jan. 30 will feature a concert with a host of local musicians and groups.

So, with one year under its belt, what could the future possibly hold for the Movies That Matter series?

"I would simply like to see more people coming to the films, stumbling across Movies That Matter instead of going to Terminator 42," smiled Saunders. "I’d be happy if there was a realization of how moving and powerful film can be. I’d like to see people get more involved in the film process and take it to the point of further knowledge and participation."

No matter what direction the series takes, no matter where it ends up, the present is here for the taking, and it all starts Wed., Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. in mfh 162.

Hope to see you there!

The Movies That Matter First Anniversary runs Jan. 28–30, with film screenings, guest lectures and live music. For more information visit or e-mail

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