Film Series in the South Okanagan


Marcel Marx (André Wilms) and Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) in Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre, the next offering from the Kitchen Stove Film Series.

In these days of YouTube, instant movie downloads, 500-channel satellite and cable services, it’s easier than ever to find rare films and documentaries that were once the province of art film theatres, film festivals and series.

But in South Okanagan communities, the concept of the film series is still going strong. This month promises to be a great one for film lovers, with offerings from the Kitchen Stove Film Series, the Naramata Environmental Film Series as well as the Penticton Social Justice Film and Discussion series.

Since 2006, the Naramata series has brought 20 films about environmental matters to the small community. Craig Henderson​, who selects the films and manages the series, attributes its success to people’s desire to share experiences.

“For a place like Naramata, it’s a great community builder. We can view videos online now, but I think people in our community love to get together,” said Henderson. They gave up having formal discussions about the film early on, he said, after finding that they seemed forced. “Now we just have a cup of tea and a cookie and if people want to sit around and talk about it, they can or we have related displays at times.”

Proceeds from the film nights, which are sponsored by the Naramata Citizens Association and the Naramata Community Church have supported environmental and community projects. Likewise the Kitchen Stove Film Series generates funds to support its sponsor, the Penticton Art Gallery. It’s now in its 13th season and organizer Rosemarie Fulbrook said that they also enjoy strong community support.

“We started in the fall of 1999. It’s been going for a while. You always feel so thankful that everyone continues to support it. It’s actually a pretty nifty thing,” said Fulbrook, adding that she often gets film-goers telling her how much they miss the series when it takes a summer break.

Kitchen Stove doesn’t exclusively show documentaries, but even though they include international comedies and dramas, Fulbrook said they also want to challenge people to look at how they see the world around them, and their community’s place in it.

“From my perspective, one of the most important things about doing this film series is bringing the world to us,” said Fulbrook.

That’s a sentiment shared by the Summerland Film Club, which has been in operation since 2009. Their mission statement gives their purpose as being to “provide the public with a combination of documentaries, foreign films, and full-length movies of the kind that provide some sustenance to the mind and soul.”

Summerland doesn’t have a film on offer for January, but the Social Justice Film series sponsored by the Penticton and Area Women’s Centre does. They are showing a Canadian documentary, Poor No More, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 12 in the Ashnola Theatre at Okanagan College.

The film, which is narrated by Mary Walsh of This Hour has 22 Minutes, examines the lives of Canadians stuck in low-paying jobs with no security and no future. Walsh takes three Canadians to see how poverty has been reduced in Europe and how it might be reduced at home. Visiting Ireland and Sweden, they are shown countries with low poverty that have affordable housing, strong unions, free university and childcare — and seem to enjoy successful economies.

The Chocolate Farmer, which is planned for Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Naramata Community Church hall, is the offering of the Naramata Environmental Film Series.

“It’s an interesting study of a gentleman who is seeing his livelihood changing,” said Henderson. “I always look for something current. We need a mix, so we are not having all food related environmental films in one season.”

The documentary revolves around Eladio Pop, a cacao farmer and father of 15 in a remote corner of southern Belize, where Pop manually works his chocolate plantation in the tradition of his Mayan ancestors. Pop dreams of his children inheriting his land and the traditions of their ancestors, but the children feel their father’s views don’t fit with a modern global economy.

Director Rohan Fernando examines this generational shift, contrasting images of Pop’s lush rain forest with the urban scenes that are drawing his children away.

In contrast, the Kitchen Stove’s January film, Le Havre, looks at life, work and relationships in the urban environment. The Finnish film,  directed by Aki Kaurismäki, centres on young African refugee Idrissa, who arrives by cargo ship in the port city of Le Havre, where Marcel Marx, a well-spoken bohemian who works as a shoeshiner, takes pity on the child and welcomes him into his home.

There will be two showings of Le Havre at the Pen-Mar Theatre at 4 and 7 p.m. on Jan. 19.

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