A Global Festival Varsity World Film Week
Hosted by Ashland Independent Film Festival and Coming Attractions, Varsity World Film Week showcases films spanning not only the world, but genres as well.
Opening the festival Friday, October 5 is Moving Stories, a film by Cornelia Ravenal, Mikael Södersten, Wendy Sax, and Rob Fruchtman through Wilderness Films. The documentary follows six dancers from Battery Dance Company traveling the world to teach children how to dance. “Moving Stories is a product of Cornelia’s mission,” says Södersten.
As a journalist in the 90s, Ravenal was able to travel the world and experience how certain situations and cultures affected people.
“Dance is an art form that is really like nothing else,” she says. “It’s something that’s very visceral and enables people to express emotions and experiences without words. It is ideally suited to helping kids who are disadvantaged, kids who might’ve been abused.”
Södersten adds, “She met with the Battery Dance Company, understood the work they were doing globally, and said there should be a documentary film about them.”
Regardless of each child’s background or even what language the children speak, the teachers teach them a physical language to help them express themselves without having to use words. “It’s interesting to see such a powerful thing such as movement and dance as a powerful education,” Södersten says.
The film is for teachers, and those who have had a teacher. Södersten says, “It is as artists our ambition and hope when we make a film—to move people. It’s very basic, but we want people to feel for the characters in our film. Hopefully they get a bigger heart for having seen it.”
Closing the festival on Friday, October 12 is Worlds of Ursula Le Guin, directed by Arwen Curry. The documentary is a culmination of 10 years Curry spent with the famous author, who passed away in January of this year.
“I came into documentary films with this particular film in mind probably about 12 years ago,” says Curry. The idea pushed her to enroll in graduate school for journalism, where she also learned how to make documentaries. She first met Le Guin in 2008, but before she started filming her story, Curry went on to make a couple other documentaries. She was the associate producer for Eames: The Architect & the Painter and Regarding Susan Sontag.
Earning several grants helped make this film possible, but overall Curry says funding was the biggest challenge, as well as other developments in Curry’s own life, like becoming a mother. However, Curry doesn’t look back at those 10 years as wasted time.
“The silver lining is that because of that longer time span, the relationship I had with Ursula deepened and became nuanced over time,” she says. “Also, her own career by the end of the time. She had really become embraced into the cannon in a way she hadn’t before.”
What Curry means by “embraced” as an author is that generations from now will continue to read and be familiar with her work as a respected author.
“She was important to literature in large part because she opened up new spaces for other women writers, for writers of colors, for other marginalized writers in general. The quality of her work really elevated how people thought of science fiction and fantasy.”
Le Guin wrote several novels taking place in fantasy or science fiction genres. A Wizard of Earthsea and The Lefthand of Darkness are among her most popular works.
“When I started to feel like I was beginning to be accomplished enough as a storyteller to even approach such a thing, I thought it would be a wonderful story to tell,” Curry says about Le Guin. “And I thought it would be wonderful for it to be on film. I love the care with which writers speak. There’s something about the medium of film that can bring a person into the film. Ultimately it was Ursula’s decision after meeting me that she was going to take this chance. It might have been the right moment in her life to get in front of the camera.”
Curry hopes fans of Le Guin’s work and even those who aren’t familiar with it are touched by this documentary.
“I would love for my film to reach Ursula fans, and also to reach beyond them,” she says. “To give something to all those groups of those familiar and unfamiliar with her work. I hope it will bring people to her work.”
Varsity World Film Week
Friday, October 5 – Friday, October 12
Varsity Theatre, 166 E Main St, Ashland.
Tickets $9.25 – $150, depending on event
Schedule and ticket information at ashlandfilm.org