Arts & Leisure

Middlebury Community Classic Film Club kicks off fall series

Steve Gross is the Middlebury Classic Film Club Convener.

Maybe it’s because we live in Middlebury, but the first thing that hit me when I thought about this film series was Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall.” Frost’s neighbor insists, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Yet this seems hardly self evident to Frost who asks, “Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it where there are cows? But here there are no cows.” He wonders whom he is walling out and whom he is walling in. He further asks who he might be offending by building a wall in the first place.

Speaking about walls in our current climate, it’s natural to reflect on the walls coming up here and around the world between neighboring countries and regions. The same questions arise. Who are we walling out? Who are we offending? What purpose are these walls supposed to serve? What fears are they supposed to assuage? Far beyond the physical walls come the barriers we place between ourselves and our real and virtual neighbors. Yet on the other side of the equation is the chance to move beyond fear and mistrust into calming and nurturing relationships with our neighbors. That is the hope at any rate. As Frost taught us, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

Each of the four films selected for this series is meant to help us examine a facet of this question: What makes a good neighbor in the deeper sense and how do we get there? One film depicts an aging and lonely man who needs a caring neighbor to bring him out of an angry depression. Another takes us back to a small New England town at the dawn of the 20th century and the ties that kept those neighbors connected in life and death. The third transpires over two decades amidst the turbulent world of Afghanistan where two neighboring boys find friendship, tragedy and redemption. The fourth film pits two culinary traditions against one another in a heated competition until authentic neighborliness replaces intolerant proximity.

These films take place around the world in Sweden, the U.S., Afghanistan and France. Their meaning is just as universal. We hope that this series will help us all reflect a little deeper on our own sense of being good neighbors and help us find ways to mend fences rather than building ever-higher walls.

COVID PRECAUTIONS

Earlier this summer, before the Delta variant, the Middlebury Classic Film Club had hoped to resume in-person movie watching, but Zoom will be a tool we use if the COVID climate becomes unsafe.

We looked forward to sharing cookies, coffee, popcorn and other treats with one another and frankly just having the chance to catch up with other Middlebury Community Classic Film Club friends, new and old. All of this seemed reasonably possible in June. But we have learned to be flexible during the pandemic so, with the variant came some reflection… Rather than simply switching back to a completely virtual system, we are going to try something of a hybrid model, at least for the first film.

Here’s how it will work: As before viewers will watch the films whenever they like prior to the discussion dates. Then for the first film, “A Man Called Ove,” rather than move to Zoom, the group will meet in person at the Lion’s Club Picnic Pavilion, Middlebury Rec Park (close to the tennis courts). For the rest of the series, hopefully safety conditions improve so that the club can meet at the Ilsley. If not meetings will be held virtually over Zoom. For more info visit ilsleypubliclibrary.org/middlebury-community-classic-films-club.

 

Here are the four films in our spring 2021 series, “Neighbors:”

A Man Called Ove (2015) — available on Kanopy

Discussion Sept. 23, 3-4:30 p.m. in person.

Location: Lion’s Club Picnic Pavilion, Middlebury Rec Park (close to the tennis courts).

Ove is a 60-year-old man living in despair. He mourns the passing of his wife and seems bitterly alienated from the neighborhood he once helped to lead. All that changes with the intervention of a caring new neighbor and her family. This comedy-drama from Sweden is based on the 2012 novel and stars Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg and Ida Engvoll.

 

Our Town (2003) — available on Kanopy

Discussion Oct. 21.

Location: Zoom or Ilsley Library (Depending on COVID conditions) 6:30-7:30 p.m.

It’s been said that 365 days a year, Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town” is being performed somewhere in the United States. Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire is far from perfect, still it’s a place that we seem to long for. Maybe it’s the seeming simplicity of earlier days. The story of these neighbors is set in the early 20th century, but its message of community is timeless. In this film version, Paul Newman narrates as the Stage Manager. Co-stars include Jayne Atkinson, Jane Curtin, and Frank Converse.

 

Kite Runner (2007) — available on Kanopy

Discussion Nov. 18.

Location: Zoom or Ilsley Library (Depending on COVID conditions) 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Set in Kabul, this is the story of two friends living in a turbulent neighborhood and world. Amir is the son of a well-off family and Hassan is the child of a servant. All goes well until one day tragedy strikes. Hassan is attacked by neighborhood boys. The damage is doubled because Amir does not come to his aid. The Soviets invade Afghanistan and are replaced by the Taliban. Amir and his family emigrate to America where they prosper. Yet the burden of that old wrong persists. Amir must return to Afghanistan. This film, based on the 2003 novel stars Khalid Abdalla, Zekeria Ebrahimi, Ahmed Khan Mahmoodzada, and Homayoun Ershadi.

 

The Hundred Foot Journey (2014) — DVD available at the Ilsley Library

Discussion Dec. 9

Location: Zoom or Ilsley Library (Depending on COVID conditions) 6:30-7:30 p.m.

When two rich culinary cultures meet face-to-face what will happen? This is the story of one family’s Indian restaurant opening in the shadow of a famed restaurant in a small French town. These neighbors start out as angry rivals, yet time and circumstance bend the curve of that relationship into one of tolerance and finally acceptance. This story, from the 2010 novel, stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, and Charlotte Le Bon.

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