Community-Based Resources for Film Studies in Western MA

Studies on Screen: Community-Based Resources for Film Studies

Booked with a full schedule of films for the second half of winter, the big (and small) screens of a handful of western Massachusetts venues are set to feature a host of great films in the coming weeks – from Oscar-nominated recent releases to original works by local youth.

Families can explore the art that is film-making through intergenerational film appreciation groups, kid-centric screenings of beloved classics, and multiple film series events catering to a variety of ages and interests – all community events that both encourage appreciation of the creative process behind the making of films and the use of film to support learning. 

Libraries often times host free film screenings open to the public. Throughout late January and early February, the Jones Library in Amherst will be offering screenings of films nominated for awards at last year’s Oscars. Screened on Tuesday nights beginning at 6:30pm, the series will take place for three more weeks. Families can choose from a January 26th screening of Into the Woods, a showing of Unbroken on February 2nd, or see Bilbo Baggins’ epic journey in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies on February 9th. — For a series of lesson guides to teach teens about the art and science of motion picture, the of Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has produced several activity guides. Guide topics include animation, art direction, costume design & makeup, screenwriting, documentaries, film editing, screenwriting, sound & music, visual effects

In addition to this upcoming series, film lovers can take advantage of one (or both!) of two different monthly film events. In the Hilltowns, Red Gate Farm’s Film Club in Buckland brings film appreciation to the northern hilltowns. Run by two self-identified “honchos” and open to anyone who’s out of diapers and can sit quietly through a film, Red Gate Farm’s monthly events bring together community members of all ages in appreciation of film watching, film discussing, and even film filming.  In the Pioneer Valley, Northampton Community Television (NCTV) offers Hocus Locus, a monthly series of independent work, locally made films, video open mics, and film-based discussions. Held at the Parlor Room on the second Tuesday of each month, and beginning at 7pm, Hocus Locus caters to self-directed teens and adults, offering a platform for film-based community-building.

During the week of public school vacation in February, kid-friendly locally-created films find their way to the big screen at Northampton’s Academy of Music. Youthfilm 2016 is part of the Northampton Arts Council’s Four Sundays in February – though it will be held on Friday, February 19, 2016. Preceded by KidsBestFest, a vacation-filling week-long event bringing screenings of classics like Alice in Wonderland and the Labyrinth alongside collections of short films – Youthfilm 2016 is made up entirely of work created by local youth. Filmed and submitted in 2015, these works highlight the impressive abilities and creative genius of many local budding filmmakers.

Further film studies can be done this winter – and all year round – by taking advantage of the unique offerings found at locally run cinemas. In the Pioneer Valley, Amherst Cinema offers films, performances, and film-based educational events. Families in the northern Berkshires can look to Images Cinema to learn about the art of the big screen, while film buffs in the southern Berkshires can find both blockbuster films and community events at Great Barrington’s Triplex.

After engaging in studies of film of all kinds and learning about the possibilities offered by film as a creative medium, families can begin to explore the art of film-making for themselves. Youthfilm 2017 lies ahead for young creators, and the annual Ashfield Film Festival brings the opportunity to create and share to the even nearer future. Created as a means of building creative community and commemorating Ashfield as the birthplace of early 20th century film great Cecil Demille, the festival is held in the fall and showcases everything from short pieces highlighting experienced film-makers’ technical expertise to music videos made by local teens.

[Photo credit: (cc) Pedro Ribeiro Simões; (cc) Christian

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