Eugene Weekly : Movies : 9.8.11

Watch a Movie, Change the World
GoodWorks Film Festival brings urgency and action to Eugene theaters
by Brit McGinnis

Can a good documentary still nudge the collective conscience, sparking in its viewers a desire for direct action and social change? Cynthia Wooten and Linda Blackaby are putting money on the idea.

Granito: How to Nail a Dictator screens Oct. 7-8 at the Bijou as part of the GoodWorks Film Festival

Both Wooten and Blackaby, co-directors of the GoodWorks Film Festival playing Oct. 7-10 at various Eugene venues, say they long for the days when going to the movies inspired a feeling of community among viewers.

“We agreed that it was past time that you could go to a film and be passive,” said Blackaby, who founded the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema and has served as curator for several others. This mutual sentiment between the former Eugene residents motivated them to create a more hands-on film event.

The GoodWorks fest may be opening in Portland, but it was created with Eugene in mind. Six documentaries and one dramatic film will be shown over the course of four days at Bijou Arts Cinemas and the Hult Center. Each film brings a modern social issue into focus, with subjects ranging from LGBT rights to the exploitation of indigenous peoples.

And if you should feel like going out to fight the world’s evils after watching one of these films, all the better. At most screenings informational kiosks and petitioners will be positioned right outside the theater, offering filmgoers the opportunity to put their concern and outrage to the test. This is the goal of GoodWorks — to provide a cinematic experience that immediately incites discussion about social change.

Not that the films were chosen solely for their information value. “All of the films are extremely well done, technically and professionally,” Wooten explains. “Some of them are outright fun.” She says she’s confident the festival will fit right in with Eugene’s prevailing ethos — and Wooten knows about such things, being a co-founder of the Eugene Celebration as well as the Oregon Country Fair.

Local outreach groups will be present during the festival to moderate discussion of the social issues being addressed. For example, both screenings of Bag It — a documentary about recycling — will feature representatives from BRING Recycling, Oregon League of Conservation Voters and Surfrider Foundation, and filmmaker Suzan Beraza will hold a post-film Q&A with moviegoers. Such direct dialogue between creator and audience is part of the activist atmosphere Wooten and Blackaby are hoping to foster.

The co-directors say they are excited about the potential community engagement that could result. “The topics that (the films) touch on are just so incredible,” says Wooten. Neither she nor Blackaby claim any favorites, though Wooten does admit to finding the title performers of The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls “just darling.”

The GoodWorks Film Festival begins Oct. 6 with a kick-off screening of Granito: How to Nail a Dictator at the Northwest Film Center in Portland. The inaugural Eugene screenings will take place Oct. 7 at Bijou, with showings of Bag It at 6:30 pm, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator at 7:30 pm, and The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls at 9 pm.

For a full festival schedule and admission prices, visit