BY SCARLETT SALEM — On January 30, nearly 50 people gathered for the first installment of the Hyattsville library’s winter Independent Film Series, the documentary “Babies.” After the movie, local filmmaker and Hyattsville resident Andrew Millington facilitated a 30-minute discussion.
“The turnout was very encouraging,” said Millington, a former film professor. “I think we’re filling a need people have to critically reflect and discuss the issues presented in film and media, rather than just watching them in the private spaces of their homes.”
The audience munched on popcorn as they watched the stories of four newborns unfold in four very different environments, from San Francisco to rural Namibia. Afterwards, Millington highlighted some major themes and then audience members of all ages either expanded on them or shared their own insights. Pierre Walcott, who founded the Hyattsville-based organization Global Film and Humanities Project, is one of many collaborators on the series.
“Libraries attract a rich cross-section of our community,” he said. “This is our audience. They tend to be among the most curious, creative and passionate members of our community. They are hungry for knowledge and new experiences.”
The idea came about last spring, when library associate Susan Misleh spoke with Millington and Walcott about ways to use library space for both film promotion and community engagement. Once there was support from library administrators, they secured partnerships with the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation and the Prince George’s County Arts and Humanities Council. Ultimately, they decided on the independent film series as an opportunity to showcase some of the library’s little-known resources.
“There are about 1,000 documentary DVDs that we have [throughout the county library system] and almost 300 foreign-language films. And we have different collections within that that are independent filmmakers,” said Misleh.
Millington, an independent filmmaker himself, hopes that the series will spur a local filmmaker’s showcase later in the year. His latest project is “Zora’s Dream,” a film shot in and around West Hyattsville that is now in post-production.
Misleh takes recommendations from associates and patrons when selecting great films from around the world.
“I’m really excited that people are getting to see some of the audiovisual materials we have here at the library, ” she said. “These movies are the hidden gems in our system.”
The winter series will continue monthly. The next one is “The Boys of Baraka,” on February 27, which follows a dozen boys from a Baltimore ghetto to an experimental boarding school in rural Kenya. On March 26, there’s “Blossoms of Fire,” which depicts life in Oaxaca, Mexico. Screenings begin at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a 30-minute facilitated discussion with Millington.
“We see ourselves as part of this global community,” said Millington, “and hopefully people who come to see the movies will make this connection as well.”