At the beginning of the new documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, the Nobel laureate recalls a childhood memory. After accidentally using a certain four-letter-word in front of her parents, she learned a crucial life lesson: “words have power.” That fundamental truth can be hard to remember in this overstuffed age of “content,” where even the gas station pumps have little TVs with original programming. Day and night, we’re micro-targeted by invisible algorithms that pitch us inscrutable “recommendations,” besieged by hot takes and trending topics. But eight days a year, we can choose to tune in to something different, as a community.
In this guide are 153 individual works of art that are imbued with their own power. Each of these films has the power to inspire, entertain, or infuriate. What they don’t have are highly paid publicists trying to steer the cultural discourse and convince you which reaction is correct. This week, you decide for yourself what to see, and listen to yourself to discover what thoughts and feelings it stirs within you.
Get ready. Let’s focus. Put on your out-of-office reply. Climb off the news cycle. Don’t give social media corporations any free data for a week—you’ll catch the next round of vacation photos and political outrage. Better yet, just turn your phone off, bury it in the yard, and share one giant screen with your neighbors. Debate a film’s merits IRL, face-to-face in line with someone you’ve seen on the bus but have never spoken to. Douse your friends with an ice-cold take on a silent movie from 95 years ago. See a film that doesn’t have its edges sanded off, something impolite, from a country you’ve never visited in a language you don’t speak. See if you can get that pedometer down to double digits. Tear all 5 numbers on your Film Festival ballot.
These features and short films stand together against groupthink. Some of them just might change the way you see the world.
Jim Healy, Director of Programming
Mike King, Senior Programmer