The 24th International Film Festival of Eastern Connecticut continues this weekend at our very own United Theater with a screening of the film Amen, a 2002 film directed by Costa-Gavras.
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The process of making the film fest take place is no small undertaking, and it begins with two committee members working with movie distributors to obtain copies of up to 50 films and the screening rights. Then every committee member is responsible for viewing those films over the course of the year. “It’s a lot of people coming together to make a difference, and we’re all volunteers,” committee member Harriet Grayson explained. They then meet and vote to narrow it down to a selection of approximately 8 films to show at different spots in the area.
This is Harriet’s second year as a committee member of the film fest; she got involved by attending previous screenings and events and found out that the organization was looking for volunteers. “It turned out to be a lot more work than I thought, but it’s work that I love. Getting involved with the film fest was such a natural part of what I’ve been doing for several years,” said Harriet, who lives in Westerly and hosts a public access TV show called Community Culture Showcase, which broadcasts in southeastern Connecticut and Westerly and helps to promote art and culture in the area. It also happens to be filmed in the same building as the United Theater.
“I really wanted to bring it home this year,” Harriet shared. “United has never done this before with us, and we’re so grateful to have them participate.”
On Saturday, May 12 at 7pm, Amen will be screened at the United Theater, with a reception hosted by Westerly’s local synagogue Congregation Sharah Zedek to follow. Finger food and other refreshments will be served, and Tapped Apple Winery will be providing free apple wine. “I wanted us to have a venue in town this year because there are so many wonderful restaurants,” Harriet explained. “It’s a great excuse to come downtown and make a night of it. It’s a long movie, so grab some dinner before hand then gather together after.”
The film to be screened on Saturday night is Costa-Gavras’s Amen, which examines the relationship between the Vatican and Nazi Germany during World War II. “It’s a tale of incredible moral courage and based on a true story of a Nazi officer, a chemist in training, assigned to develop a disinfectant, but he ends up developing the gas used in concentration camps, and he’s horrified by what’s happening,” Harriet recounted. “The officer goes to a well-connected priest, and this part may be slightly embellished, but together they travel to the the Vatican to bring attention to the cruelty and brutality against Jewish people taking place in Germany.”
The festival continues by screening other international films at Mystic Luxury Cinemas, the Olin Center at Connecticut College, and B.P. Learned Mission. Tickets are $10 for every movie, and visitors may pay at the door.