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Greater Farmington Film Festival seeks to elicit hope in viewers

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published March 11, 2020

 Greater Farmington Film Festival seeks to elicit hope in viewers

Greater Farmington Film Festival seeks to elicit hope in viewers

Images provided by Dwayne Hayes from the Greater Farmington Film Festival

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Popcorn lovers and cinephiles will soon fill local theater seats for the seventh annual Greater Farmington Film Festival March 19-22.

With this year’s festival title being “Good Films for a Better World,” KickstART Farmington Executive Director Dwayne Hayes — who organizes the festival — said he’s been able to zoom in, as the festival has grown, on the type of films festival-goers want to see.

The theme is hope.

“The festival always has a general theme of wanting to inspire people to live a little better lives; to be a better neighbor and friend,” he said. “We’re always looking for films that do that, and I think this year’s festival is one of the most hopeful collections of films we’ve put together.”

The festival will kick off with the premiere of director Katherin Hervey’s “The Prison Within” at 7:30 p.m. March 19 at Oakland Community College’s Smith Theatre. Hervey will be on-site after for a Q&A session.

Hervey’s film takes a deep cut look into the trauma felt by people incarcerated for murder in the San Quentin, California, prison and the survivors of the victims of those violent crimes. It gives viewers an inside look into the prison’s restorative justice program and how those parties communicate together to work past their traumas.

Hervey, a former public defender in Los Angeles and a volunteer prison college instructor in Washington state, said those previous experiences, alongside working with survivors outside of the prison walls, drove her to create the film with the hope that viewers would be able to look at the country’s criminal justice system differently.

“(The film) does go deep, and it is about responsibility and accountability,” she said, “but it’s also a film that has a lot of hope. … It doesn’t really take you to these dark places and leave you there. You come out with hope and a positive viewpoint about how we can fix things and about humanity in general.”

Also featured at this year’s festival will be Kurt Neale’s “Normie,” a documentary that follows Annemarie, who has Down syndrome, on her journey to overcome the barriers of her diagnosis and define what normal means to her; Andrew Ahn’s “Driveways,” a narrative tale of a single mother and her son, who discover unlikely friends in the midst of change and a new place to call home; and Mark Hayes’ “Skid Row Marathon,” which follows a Los Angeles criminal court judge who begins to change the lives of addicts and criminals living on Skid Row through a running club.

François Ozon’s “By the Grace of God” is a harrowing film based on the 2019 conviction of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, of Lyon, for concealing the abusive conduct of Father Bernard Preynat. Barbarin’s conviction was overturned by an appeals court in January. Réka Szabó’s “The Euphoria of Being” follows a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor as she connects with a young dancer and shares her story of survival through the arts.

Weaving through all six of these films are inspiring stories of justice, redemption, hope, and finding human connection and empathy where they are least expected.

Hayes joked that people may want to bring their own tissues.

While the featured films may not be appropriate for little ones, the festival will feature a catalog of family-friendly shorts that still touch on growth and transformation in more fun and clever ways. Kids Flicks One, as it’s called, will be presented in partnership with the New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Hayes said that, if you’re in need of a hopeful message, this film festival is for you.

“They’re all films that touch on some contemporary issue — things that we all experience or can relate to in life and can inspire us to be better.”

Hayes hopes the film festival may also encourage people to reach out and give back, whether that be through volunteer work with a nonprofit that ties in to one of the film’s issues or with a financial donation. He believes bettering the world is possible, “it just takes us to do something instead of waiting and depending on somebody else to do it.”

Admission to the festival, previews of each film and general information — including dates, locations and showtimes — can be found at gffilmfest.com. A preview party will be held 6-8 p.m. March 13 at the KickstART Gallery & Shop, 33304 Grand River Ave., where people can learn more about the featured films as well.

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