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MASS MoCA Finds The Faith In Documentary Films

By Rachel Louchen

The Rural Intelligence region is flush with independent theaters that eschew the commercial box office smashes dominating the chain cinemas in order to highlight smaller fare like simulcasts and critics’ choice films. Documentary films are among the most popular, and MASS MoCA has long responded with a documentary film series of its own.

Starting next week, MASS MoCA will begin its 2014 film series highlighting a subject which man has been grappling with for centuries: “God is dead.” “God is love.” All five of the chosen films portray people struggling and accepting their relationship with God. Question-and-answer sessions with the filmmakers will follow each screening.

“We’ve been doing this film series for over a decade,” says MASS MoCA’s Curator of Performing Arts, Rachel Chanoff. “Documentary film is such a vibrant and crucial storytelling medium.” Basically, these are not the black-and-white stuffy films you were forced to stay awake for in elementary school.

Why the theme of faith and God? “We chose religion as the theme for this season because we were seeing a lot of great and really diverse films in the last year where God was an integral part of the main characters’ lives,” says Chanoff. The series kicks off with this year’s Academy Award nominee for best documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom, which examines the lives of backup singers who added a distinct stamp on great recordings but remained anonymous, a process that certainly requires a lot of faith.

When I Walk is the February offering, featuring filmmaker Jason DaSilva’s story of declining health and hope after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In March, we’ll see the story of devout Christian basketball player Jeremy Lin, who became an overnight sensation when he joined the New York Knicks, in Linsanity, which highlights Lin’s ability to maintain his strict religious views despite the mania surrounding him. April’s film, The Light In Her Eyes, touches on a Muslim preacher at an all-girls school, who manages to encourage the youth to live a full Muslim life, while still pursuing their dreams.

The series concludes in May with Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven from Williamstown native Holly Hardman. Hardman’s film, which she will discuss post screening, examines an evangelical Christian community and its considerable struggles over the last century.

Having the filmmaker participate is extremely important to Chanoff, who encourages the artist to take part either in person or by Skype for a discussion after each screening. But most important of all, she says, is to “give documentaries and their makers a platform. It matches the mission of the museum to bring new art to its audiences.”


MASS MoCA Film Series
January 30 – May 1 @ 7:30 p.m.
Club B-10 @ MASS MoCA
Williamstown, Massachusetts
$9/general; $5/students

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 01/20/14 at 12:41 PM • Permalink