Film Forward series dives deeper into documentaries

Patrick Varine
| Monday, April 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Bringing people together through the power of film is an exciting prospect for Scott Almendinger of Oakmont.

Almendinger, 25, is part of Man and Camera, a filmmaking team based in the Pittsburgh area. He will also serve as one of several moderators at Film Forward, a series of movie screenings and discussions hosted by the Oakmont Carnegie Library.

“It's about the power of film to bring people together, rather than just showing films for the sake of entertainment,” Almendinger said.

Created through a partnership with the Sundance Film Institute and several federal cultural agencies, Film Forward will be taking place in several locations throughout the U.S. and the world, including eight in Pennsylvania.

The series is designed to foster understanding, collaboration and dialogue around the world by engaging audiences through film, workshops and conversations.

Library Director Beth Mellor wrote a proposal solicited by the State Library of Pennsylvania to have Oakmont designated as one of the host locations because of its affiliation with the regional film industry.

“We have a really strong partnership with the Oaks Theater here in Oakmont,” Mellor said. “Our librarians help with their ‘Cine-Brunch' series, where we discuss some of the movies the theater shows.”

The library also has a partnership with Point Park University, where Mellor's son is a film student. He and several classmates will moderate a discussion following “If You Build It,” a documentary about a year in the life of an innovative North Carolina high-school classroom.

Almendinger, who teaches ballroom dancing in his spare time, will moderate a discussion of “Dancing in Jaffa,” a documentary in which ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine teaches a group of Jewish and Palestinian Israelis ballroom dancing.

“It's about letting yourself go, trusting your dance partner and letting go of these (political, personal) feelings that those kids have really been raised with,” Almendinger said.

This will mark the fourth year for the Film Forward series, and Almendinger said he appreciates the goal of encouraging dialogue.

“It's really great to have this kind of select festival, that's international, coming here and to be a part of it,” he said.

In addition to the screenings and forums, library staff will also gather data about the folks coming to watch the movies.

“The data will go to the state and then back to Sundance,” Mellor said. “This partnership that Sundance has with Film Forward is basically trying to get people from all walks of life to see these documentaries — to make them less exclusive and more inclusive.”

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845.

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