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Twin Town High (vol. 8)
Events mix civics, rare films
Thursday 14 July @ 04:04:51
Political figures introduce little-seen shorts at Stevens Square
by Nancy Sartor
Beer and brats. Strawberries and shortcake. Cabins and lakes. Movies and parks. These consummate summer pairings are rescue remedies for many Minnesotans who spend countless days, weeks and months cooped up indoors, battling Seasonal Affective Disorder and riding out the long dark winter that earns us monikers like “stoic” and “resolute.”
With once prominent drive-ins nearly extinct, showing movies “Cinema Paradiso” style—free and public—has become a popular summer pastime. Sometimes paired with music—live bands or DJs—and other times selected around a particular theme, films are screened in numerous parks throughout the Twin Cities annually. This year the Walker Art Center is highlighting work by director Nicholas Ray in its Monday night movies and music series in Loring Park. St. Paul’s Music and Movies in District del Sol is also a weekly event with live music, featuring flicks like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” geared toward families and young audiences.
But one of the most unique and publicly engaging summer movie series is REEL
POLITICS: Cinema and Civics in Stevens Square Park, organized by the Stevens
Square Community Organization (SSOC) in collaboration with the Minnesota Film
Arts’ Search and Rescue program. Each Wednesday in July neighborhood residents,
citizens and cinemaphiles can gather at Stevens Square Park at 18th Street and
2nd Avenue South to enjoy food, music, films and community.
the movies that will screen in Stevens Square this month are shorts from Minnesota
Film Arts’ Search and Rescue program—a vast collection of 16mm films
donated by the University of Minnesota. Included among the more than 6,500 archives
(many yet to be identified) are a variety of animation, documentary, educational
and experimental films.
SSOC volunteer board member Liz Wawrzonek says the concept for this year’s
Stevens Square movie series is to bridge arts programming with civic engagement,
resulting from meetings with Matt Bakkom and Adam Sekuler who run the Search
and Rescue program for Minnesota Film Arts.
“In our discussions we touched on parallels between not only celebrating
and acknowledging 16mm format in the face of the digital age, but celebrating
and recognizing aspects of civic engagement and community that often get overlooked.
We saw the Search and Rescue program as perfect for what we hope to do in our
programming at Stevens Square, which is to have arts-based programming that
also brings in elements of community organizing and civic engagement.”
That civic engagement includes discussions with a variety of city politicians.
SSOC invited those running for city offices to participate in a public forum
that precedes the film screenings.
On July 6, the first night of the series, a number of politicos showed up, including
mayoral candidates Farheen
Hakeem and Peter
McLaughlin, City Council Member Dean
Zimmerman, Library Board candidate Samantha
Smart and Parks and Recreation Board candidate Tracy
All candidates arrived in the park by 8 p.m. and mingled with attendees over
hot dogs and potluck dishes before engaging in an hour-long question and answer
session. “We invited candidates for city office to come out and receive
questions from the community in order to open up a dialogue among residents
in the area, attendees of the event and candidates that are running for city
offices,” explained Wawrzonek, stressing that the potluck part of the
event was particularly successful.
“The potluck aspect of the program blossomed beautifully,” Wawrzonek
said. “It really gave this organic, homey feel to the event. You had candidates,
residents and event attendees sharing food and conversation in the atmosphere
of the park. It was a very relaxed and communal atmosphere.”
Much of the planning for this year’s movie series resulted from earlier
door-knocking campaigns in which SSOC polled residents on what kinds of activities
they participate in and what they’d like to see in their neighborhood.
According to Wawrzonek, the biggest issues facing Stevens Square residents are
neighborhood development and safety. “Hot button issues that come to the
[SSOC] board are the condos that are being developed and the corporate developers
that often get linked to condo development,” she said. “We have
everything from support of that and encouragement of that activity in hopes
that it will bring progress, economic stability and safety to our area, to disapproval
of corporate companies coming in and taking over space that could be owned by
local business people.”
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak will participate
in the public forum on July 13, and upcoming appearances by other library board
candidates have been confirmed for later in the month.
Movies begin at dusk and include an eclectic array of 16mm gems you’re
not likely to see anywhere else. Search and Rescue film curator Matt Bakkom
says he’s been busy, “harvesting things we think might be interesting
and important for a civic program.”
Bakkom talked about the synchronicity he experienced while weeding through the
thousands of unmarked reels for this project, and said the Stevens Square program
on July 20 is extra special. “It’s the anniversary of the moon landing
that day. It’s also supposed to be a full moon, and we’ve got a
documentary on the Apollo program,” he said enthusiastically. “We’ll
be able to sit in this very bucolic park and have the moon with us, and also
check out this period documentary about the whole process of the Apollo program
to the actual moon landing. That kind of synchronicity is the ideal situation
for the Search and Rescue program, when you’re able to connect the site
and the event with material from the archives.”
For information on REEL POLITICS: Cinema and Civics in Stevens Square Park,
go to the neighborhood’s website at sscoweb.org. For more information
on the films being screened or on the Minnesota Film Arts’ Search and
Rescue program, go to mnFilmArts.org.
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