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Justice Film Festival trains eye on wider world

Cathy Dobson Thea deGroot believes an interesting social phenomenon has happened since spearheading the founding of the Sarnia Justice Film Festival in 2007.
Organizers of the Justice Film Festival at Sarnia Library are from left; Jessica Weening, Monica Shipley and Thea Degroot. Glenn Ogilvie

Cathy Dobson

Thea deGroot believes an interesting social phenomenon has happened since spearheading the founding of the Sarnia Justice Film Festival in 2007.

She’s can’t pinpoint why, but deGroot is convinced residents are more knowledgeable and more engaged with global issues.

“Sarnians have changed,” says the retired schoolteacher. “They know more about what is going on in the world.”

It’s likely social media played a part but it’s also possible the film festival had some influence.

The eighth annual Sarnia Justice Film Festival kicked off recently with a film about detainees in Canadian prisons. Usually between 80 and 300 people view the free films and take part in a Q & A that follows at the Sarnia Library Auditorium.

The numbers have increased over the years, says deGroot, who takes that as a sign of growing interest in world affairs.

The fact the Festival attracts enough sponsorship and donations to remain in the black is also encouraging.

“All our films are current and we bring in a good variety that reflects our changing world,” she said.  “I think we are very lucky to live at this time because so much is happening with our world.

“It’s scary but it’s exciting.”

She anticipates the next festival film night will be one of the most popular of the 2015/16 season.

Most Likely to Succeed, directed by American documentary maker Greg Whiteley, examines why the current education system is producing so many college grads who can’t find work.

Whiteley’s premise is that the existing system, with its emphasis on antiquated ideas like homework and standardized testing, needs to change with the times. He argues that while artificial intelligence has stolen many white-collar jobs, students need to learn time management, confidence and collaboration to adapt to the new work world.

Each year a committee of six, including deGroot, assembles a long list of possibilities for the film festival.  Last year they expanded to six film nights and will present six again this season.

Local librarian Jessica Weening whittles the lengthy list of potential films –all focusing on creating positive change - down to about 20.  Finally, the committee decides what will make the final cut, using guidelines from the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival in Calgary. From its earliest days, the Sarnia festival aligned itself with Marda Loop and frequently gets better pricing as a result, said deGroot.

Other films for this year’s Sarnia Justice Film Festival include:

Most Likely to Succeed: An examination of how our education system needs to adapt. Saturday, Nov. 21.

Alive Inside: An exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken the soul and combat memory loss. Saturday, Jan. 16.

The Clean Bin Project: A multi-award winner about waste reduction.  Saturday, Feb. 20.

Oil and Water: The true story of two boys’ experience with the world’s worst toxic disasters. Saturday, March 12.

Madina’s Dream:  The story of rebels and refugees fighting to survive in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. Saturday, April 23.

All films start at 7 p.m. at the Sarnia Library Theatre on Christina Street. For more, visit Facebook at Sarnia Justice Film Festival.

The Arts Journal features stories important to the cultural fabric of our community. If you have an idea, contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.

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