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Port Townsend Meaningful Movies – From The Heart – By Peg Hunter and Patrick Johnson

by March 28, 2022 0

Meaningful Movies Port Townsend (MMPT) has screened over 50 documentary films since its inception in August, 2017. Sponsored by the Green Sanctuary Environmental Action Team and the Social and Environmental Justice Council of the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, we began with in-person movies in the church sanctuary and, like the rest of the world, moved to virtual screenings in March of 2020.  Our attendance, averaging around 30 participants, has remained relatively stable; any fluctuation in numbers seems to be based on the movie topic rather than the format.  

MMPT shows a movie every second Monday of the month at 6:30 PM, and we encourage our audience to join in on other MMP venues as well.  In addition to the co-chairs, we have a brilliant tech person, Christina Tweed, and a great publicity guy, Matt Woodward, who gets the word out every month.  We have a listserv of 350 who receive notification of each movie, and we publicize our films through local environmental and social justice groups as well. 

Over the years, we have had panels of experts share their knowledge, lively Q&A sessions, and some surprises, like when a member of the audience, a former professor at the University of Montana, stood up and let us know that he was an expert on coral reefs (who knew?) and had worked with the scientists in the film.  

Most recently, we have experienced two of our most memorable community conversations.  The first, following the screening of “Mission: Joy,” included three people we knew from Montana: Tim Holmes, sculptor and musician/political satirist who knew Desmond Tutu personally; Jeff VanTine, photographer who met the Dalai Lama in India, and Karma Tensum, Executive Director of the Tibetan Educational Children’s Foundation who was forced to leave Tibet as a small child. 

Following our screening of “Mission: Joy,” we collaborated just this past week with the Gig Harbor venue to bring Tim and Karma back for another conversation, this one recorded (thanks to the Gig Harbor folks). 

The second very emotional community conversation followed the screening of “Since I Been Down,” a movie about the issue of young black men sentenced as youth to long prison terms. We were able to include the filmmaker Gilda Sheppard, and she connected us with Kimonti Carter, who is the “main character” in the film.  He is a member of the Black Prisoner Caucus and is still in prison. He founded TEACH (Taking Education and Creating History), an innovative program that empowers prisoners to continue their education within the walls of the prison.  In order to participate in the conversation, Kimonti had to use a pay phone and could only be on the call for 20 minutes at a time.  Gilda called him back time each time so he could remain in the conversation. His willingness to share his experience was genuinely heart warming.

The Meaning Movies Project is a beautiful thing.  It has connected us with other venues and opened up the opportunity to co-sponsor important films. It has helped us to network with social justice and environmental groups in Port Townsend, and it has brought people together to share a common experience, learn from knowledgeable panel members, and participate in respectful conversations about important issues.  There is great knowledge to be gained from meaningful movies, AND there is a huge amount of heart as well. 

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