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Film Forward: Furthering Cultural Understanding

December 3, 2013

By Christopher Reich
Senior Advisor, Office of Museum Services

I recently had an opportunity meet the filmmakers who will be featured as part of Film Forward this year and learn more about their films. What an amazing experience to meet these talented artists, to hear the stories behind the filmmaking, and to delve more deeply into the universal themes of communities in conflict, overcoming adversity, and the transformative power of art.

Film Forward staff and federal partners after a panel discussion. © 2013 Sundance Institute | Photo by Jill Orschel. All Rights Reserved

Film Forward is an international touring program designed to enhance greater cultural understanding, collaboration, and dialogue around the globe by engaging audiences through screening films, coupled with workshops and conversations with filmmakers. The program is an initiative of the Sundance Institute and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Each year, the Film Forward partners select eight independent films to show in four domestic and four international locations. Using film’s unique ability to tell stories that explore universal themes, the presentations offer audiences an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with the filmmakers, listen to the perspectives of others, and deepen their understanding of different cultures and lifestyles.

Christopher Reich of the Institute of Museum and Library Services with filmmakers Kim Mordaunt and Marta Cunningham. © 2013 Sundance Institute | Photo by Jill Orschel. All Rights Reserved

Hilla Medalia shared the story of Pierre Dulaine and his inspiring efforts to bring Israeli and Palestinian children together through dance in “Dancing in Jaffa.” In “If You Build It,” Patrick Creadon shared the stories of young people motivated by an innovative approach to learning and the tireless work of dedicated educators who could not gain the approval of traditional school boards. Srdan Golubovic thoughtfully explored how one brave act can make a difference in the lives of others in the film “Circles.” We talked about the human wreckage of young lives that end in tragedy and the amazing ability of the human spirit to overcome adversity. We explored the conflict of tradition over modernity and its impact on parents and children from all cultures around the globe.

IMLS is particularly excited that a museum and two libraries will be the lead collaborators in three domestic host locations this year: the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego; the University of Michigan Library; and the State Library of Pennsylvania. The Film Forward program directly supports our agency’s efforts to help museums and libraries engage learners in experiences that prepare them to be full participants in their local communities and our global society and to position museums and libraries as community anchors—safe and trusted places that contribute in important ways to the cultural vitality of their communities and help to build bridges of understanding among our increasingly diverse populations.

Learn more about Film Forward at, and, if you’re lucky enough to see these films, take the time to reflect on the messages they deliver and the things that matter in this ever-changing world we all share together.