Oakmont library documentary screenings provide cultural dialogues

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Onstage with some of the most popular rock acts of our time. Inside an innovative classroom in rural North Carolina. Through the lands of war-torn Laos.

These are just a few of the places the Oakmont Carnegie Library will take viewers at the Film Forward film series.

The program, in which several Carnegie libraries are participating, aims to bring to audiences exciting and engaging films. Pennsylvania is one of only eight locations selected to participate, according to organizers.

At Oakmont, five international and American films will be shown. Discussions on major themes of the documentary and narrative films will follow each screening, led by moderators from the local film and art community.

The first films, “Twenty Feet From Stardom” and “Valentine Road” were shown April 12. Audiences can catch the next films April 19 and one more, “The Rocket,” on April 24.

All films are free and open to the public.

Several films in the series are also being shown at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh branches. All can be seen at Shaler Carnegie Library.

In Oakmont, the upcoming “If You Build It,” playing at 11 a.m. April 19 tells the story of a North Carolina school where students built their own library, “Dancing in Jaffa,” which will be screened at 1:30 p.m. April 19 follows a ballroom dancer who works to build bridges between Palestinian and Israeli children through dance lessons.

Point Park film student Eric Mellor will moderate “If You Build It.” Scott Almendinger, of Man and Camera, will facilitate a discussion on “Dancing in Jaffa.”

“I always enjoy being a part of library programming that is unique and entertaining,” says Stephanie Zimble, a librarian at Oakmont Carnegie Library. “These are independent films that many people have not seen, and I'm sure they will enjoy them.”

Film Forward, she says, is an international program designed to enhance cultural understanding and dialogue.

Each film is followed by a moderator-led discussion on the important topics covered in the film.

“The whole reason for this film series is to engage the community,” says Julie Hanify, department head of Music, Film and Audio at the Carnegie Library's Oakland location.

“I just think Pennsylvania's really lucky to get to participate.”

Film Forward is a partnership of the President's Committee on Art and Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The program comes to the Carnegie through a grant awarded to the State Library of Pennsylvania.

“Libraries strengthen communities by bringing people together to a safe place where they can connect, exchange ideas and explore new worlds. They are a perfect venue for the thought-provoking films presented through Film Forward,” says Susan H. Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“We applaud the State Library of Pennsylvania for connecting 22 public libraries through ‘Film Forward.' ”

Zimble agrees.

“Film Forward is designed to use a film's ability to tell stories that explore universal themes to ignite meaningful conversations,” she says.

“The Film Forward series gives people an opportunity to attend free events that are entertaining, educational and allows them to engage with members of their community.”

Julie E. Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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