The Rapidian

Chiaroscuro Film Series Nearing Final Screenings

Scene from "Bluebeard"

Scene from "Bluebeard" /Strand Releasing

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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

If that’s the case, then the Toronto International Film Festival should feel rather proud as they’ve inspired one of the area's most talked about film series.

Now in its sixth year, the Chiaroscuro Film Series is nearing a close after one of the biggest years for the festival.

Taking place at the UICA, the Chiaroscuro Film Series is a free film series put together by a group of professors from local universities, as well as members of the local community, and looks to promote and aid diversity and awareness of the different cultures that encompass and make Grand Rapids truly Grand Rapids.

“This will be our sixth year now, and while we may not be as big as the Toronto International Film Festival, we are definitely growing,” said co-founder Gretchen Minhaar. “I took a trip to the festival and was so inspired by what I saw that I couldn’t help but try to bring it with me. It took a few years to get going, but it’s been such a wonderful experience.”

This year the series focuses on the feminine perspective on things such as love and life as seen through the medium that is film.

“This felt like a natural choice” said Minhaar.  “Kathryn Bigelow had just won the Academy Award [for “The Hurt Locker”], so it felt like our duty to help promote and support other female filmmakers and their films that had been released recently.”

This film series is much more than just a film series.  It is a way to promote and discuss the cultural diversity that makes Grand Rapids what it is.

“While cinema is not necessarily always an accurate depiction of how people live in other parts of the world, it can be a means of exposing oneself to other ways of thinking and communicating,” said Carol Wilson, member of the board of Chiaroscuro. “These are award-winning films in their original countries, but they are also thought provoking and challenging.  It’s important for us as individuals to elevate our own values and practices, and to known which are natural and which are not.”

On March 20th, the series screened Catherine Breillat’s beloved 2009 film, “Bluebeard.” This presentation also included a local short, produced by an animation workshop group, backed by the film series. 

Each screening is preceded by a locally produced short, a point of interest that has apparently been in place since day one.

“We have a truly creative group of people within this community,” said Minhaar. “However, there isn’t much of a place for these people to get their films seen by the local community.  This is our way of helping these great filmmakers get their films seen.”

One film remains in this year’s series. The series will conclude on April 17th, with a presentation of the Iranian film, “The Day I Became A Woman,” from director Marzeigh Meshkini.  Like its fellow films shown during the series, it will also feature a discussion of themes found within each film.

"Woman" looks at the roles of women in that society, and their efforts to maintain their dignity at different ages and stages of life,” said Wilson. “We bring in members of the community who focus on these issues, such as professors or other intellectual leaders of the community. It really makes it a well rounded experience for any and all involved.”

And that feeling isn’t just a pipedream for those behind the series.

“I’ve gone a few times over the past few years, and it’s been a wholly singular experience,” said Brandon Modrak. “It’s rare to find an experience quite like this anywhere; and for free, it’s one in a million.  You get to see a film you likely otherwise would not have had a chance to, with a great local short before, and a great discussion after.  This is one event I can’t wait to go to each year.”

With growing support from the community, things are only looking up for the series, with the hopes of one day even getting a chance to bring the filmmakers shown during the series to the Grand Rapids area.

“I know it’s a dream, but at this point, any seems possible,” said Minhaar.  “We’ve gotten such a great response from the community that while it may take some time to get the funding needed to bring these filmmakers here, it’s one goal we definitely have in mind.”

These screenings run once a month on Sunday, starting at 2:30 p.m.  All screenings take place at the UICA, and are free to the public.

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Gosh, i am so bummed to have missed this year. Thanks for reminding me!