The free UMass Boston Film Series returns this spring with a lineup of world-class documentaries and Oscar-nominated films—four of which are making their Boston debuts.
The series kicks off February 7 with the Boston premiere of Nisha Pahuda’s The World Before Her, a story that juxtaposes the Miss India pageant with a militant Hindu fundamentalist camp for young girls. The series continues on February 28 with Stevie, a film by Steve James, best known for directing 1994’s Hoop Dreams. A new film will be shown on the first and fourth Thursdays of every month through April.
“The guest filmmakers remain among the leading artists in this industry, from legendary directors like Steve James to indie mavericks such as Yung Chang (the April 4 showing China Heavyweight) ,” said Chico Colvard, film series curator and a lecturer in Africana Studies at UMass Boston.
“My goal is to create a dynamic programming lineup that’s smart, compelling and can engage a diverse audience – scholars, students, cinephiles, and folks who might be coming to the UMass Boston Film Series for the first time. Other Boston premieres include Laura Brownson and Beth Levison’s Lemon (March 7), which follows felon-turned-poet and Tony Award winner Lemon Andersen as he takes his street smarts to the stage, and Sasha Friedlander’s Where Heaven Meets Hell (March 28), which follows four of the nearly 500 sulfur miners working at an active volcano in Indonesia.
This spring Film Series will also feature an entry from the 2013 11th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston, a nationally recognized event held each April. IFF Boston organizers are still reviewing submissions; the film to be shown at UMass Boston will be announced in March.
This season’s films touch upon themes of diversity and inclusion. The screening of the IFFBoston 2013 selection will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker and UMass Boston’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
“Many documentaries today deal with some aspect of diversity and inclusion. That’s not in any way to say that the films in the UMass Boston Film Series can or should be solely reduced to those broad terms,” Colvard said. “These films are also eloquent observations about the human condition, poetic interpretations and insights into abstract concepts about memory and time.”
The Film Series, which debuted last fall, has also provided opportunities for UMass Boston students. Colvard says a number of faculty members are incorporating films from the series into their class materials. Students in Colvard’s film curating course this semester will have the opportunity to plan filmmakers’ travel and accommodations, prepare the exhibition space, and organize the IFFBoston screening and panel discussion. At the end of the semester, they will be asked to curate a film series of their own.
“The student involvement in the Film Series is vital to its success. In return, the Film Series and film curating course bring together student appreciation for the art form of showcasing films along with the strategies and practical considerations involved in film curating,” Colvard said.
All of the films will be shown in the Campus Center Ballroom, located on the third floor of the building. Start times are 7 p.m., except for the IFFBoston 2013 selection, which will be shown at 3 p.m. on April 25. Admission is free, and all films will be followed by Q&As with the filmmakers.
The complete schedule:
Thursday, February 7, 7 p.m.
Boston Premiere: The World Before Her – Moving between two extremes—the intimate vérité drama of the Miss India pageant’s rigorous beauty “bootcamp” and the intense regime of a militant Hindu fundamentalist camp for young girls—Nisha Pahuda’s The World Before Her delivers a provocative portrait of India and its current cultural conflicts during a key transitional era in the country's modern history. A discussion with Pahuda follows.
Thursday, February 28, 7 p.m.
Stevie – In 1995, director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) returned to rural southern Illinois to reconnect with Stevie Fielding, a troubled young boy he had been an ‘Advocate Big Brother’ to ten years earlier. Stevie is his story. A discussion with James follows.
Thursday, March 7, 7 p.m.
Boston Premiere: Lemon – Laura Brownson and Beth Levison’s film follows a three-time felon-turned-poet, Lemon Andersen, as he takes his street smarts to the stage with astounding success. Anderson will attend the screening. A discussion with Brownson and Levison follows.
Thursday, March 28, 7 p.m.
Boston Premiere: Where Heaven Meets Hell– Sasha Friedlander’s film follows four of the nearly 500 sulfur miners working at Kawah Ijen, an active volcano in Indonesia. This intimate portrait chronicles their attempts to escape the endemic poverty and lack of education that haunts their community. Drawing strength from their families and their Muslim faith, the miners search for meaning in their daily struggles and triumphs. A discussion with Friedlander follows.
Thursday, April 4, 7 p.m.
China Heavyweight – In Yung Chang’s film, a Chinese Master (what is this term?) boxing coach recruits poor rural teenagers, fills them with Olympic dreams, and turns them into amateur champions. Chinese and U.S. promoters see China as pro boxing’s last frontier, so the boxers must choose to fight for their nation or themselves. A discussion with Chang follows.
Thursday, April 25, 3 p.m.
Boston Premiere: IFFBoston 2013 selection – The film will be announced in March.
About UMass Boston
With a growing reputation for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s nine colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.