"Boise was the birthplace of community cinema," explains Boisean Lynn Allen. Four years ago, Allen was hosting an informal screening of documentary films from what became the Independent Lens series on PBS when a friend suggested she build it into a regular community gig. "So the next year, I pitched the idea to the Independent Television Service (ITVS) office in San Francisco, and they agreed to let me try a pilot program."
Three years into what's now known as the Diverse Perspectives: Community Cinema series, Allen serves as the regional outreach coordinator for Idaho, which includes events in Lewiston, Pocatello, Nampa and Boise. Community Cinema, however, is now hosted in more than 40 cities nationwide in a season that coincides with the university calendar year. Each month, Community Cinema chooses a film from Independent Lens, screens an hour-long preview of the film and then hosts a discussion, often led by university professors, students and Allen herself.
"One of the things we really strive for in this series," says Allen "is a conjunction of community and campus. And we've been very successful in attracting a 50/50 crowd of community and students." Last month's preview of Miss Navajo (which airs on PBS November 13) was followed by a presentation from three students who'd traveled to the Navajo Nation. This month's featured documentary, An Unreasonable Man, about former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, will be followed by a short lecture from Ross Burkhart, Boise State professor and chair of the Political Science department.
"The title of An Unreasonable Man comes from a George Bernard Shaw quote," says Allen. "'A reasonable man adapts himself to the world. An unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself, therefore, all progress depends on unreasonable men.'"
Burkhart will discuss America's two-party political system and address why it works and why it doesn't, especially to the disadvantage of candidates like Nader, before opening up the discussion to the audience.
Remaining films this season include January's selection, Banished, the story of African-America families who were banished from three counties more than 100 years go; Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita, about one doctor's very personal quest to further stem cell research, is featured in February; and in March, Community Cinema screens Iron Ladies of Liberia, a behind-the-scenes look at the first freely elected female head of Liberia. In April, the final film of the series, A Dream in Doubt, is about post-9/11 hate crimes against Muslims in America that Allen says she feels is one of the most important films in the series.
Three of the documentaries shown in this year's season, including An Unreasonable Man, Iron Ladies of Liberia and September's Please Vote for Me, are selections that support Community Cinema's Vote for Democracy project, which examines democracy around the world and is augmented educationally with lesson plans and an outreach project.
Democracy, says Allen, is the underpinning theme of the Community Cinema series, with the Independent Lens series as the over arching sponsor. The ultimate goal, says Allen, is simple: to create social dialogue.
An Unreasonable Man previews at the Boise State SUB Nov. 13 at 5:30 p.m. and in Room 102E at the Boise State West in Nampa on Nov. 17 at 10:30 a.m. It premieres on IPTV, Channel 4, Dec. 18, 9 p.m. For more information on this film or the upcoming season, visit ITVS.org.