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BIG ARTS Monday Night Film kicks off next month

By Staff | Sep 21, 2016


The BIG ARTS film program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, will feature 39 films throughout its season.

To celebrate the big anniversary, a special celebration will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, at Phillips Gallery, which will be catered by the Sanibel Catering Company.

“We are very excited about celebrating this,” BIG ARTS Executive Director Lee Ellen Harder said. “It all started with just a few films and then grew into Monday nights. Now we start in October and go all the way into April every Monday night.”

The film program was started by a former BIG ARTS board member, JR Pascall, who is still on the committee and very involved in the program. Harder said he did a great job in growing the program and getting it off the ground.

The series includes many films, typically indie, foreign and some big titled films that are hard to find. Lauren Huff, BIG ARTS staff support for the film program, spends time conducting research and working with distributors to obtain the rights to show the film.

The first Monday night film of the season, Oct. 17, will feature the American film “Grandma,” at 7 p.m. at BIG ARTS Schein Hall.

“The mission of this program is to be entertained and enjoy, but also to think about the movie,” Harder said.

After each movie is shown, a complimentary reception is held with wine, cheese, crackers and fruit, as well as a lively film discussion led by knowledgeable theater buffs. There are approximately 30 volunteers who study each film ahead of time, so they can provide an introduction about the film before being aired, as well as leading the discussion once it concludes.

Since the program began 20 years ago, BIG ARTS has shown films from 50 countries, some of which are from very small countries.

“The exciting thing about this program is the people that make it,” Harder said of the great committee that picks the content. “You have movie buffs and different people with all different input.”

The committee is led by Visnja Gembicki, who is a vital volunteer that outlines the Monday Night Film series. She is entering her sixth year of taking over the lead role of the program.

“I love movies. I grew up outside of the United States. I am just building on lifelong knowledge of films. I follow movies every day of the year. I have sort of a book where I write things (down). I am always trying to get the cutting edge and going for international views,” Gembicki said of the movies she selects because she enjoys exposing attendees to other cultures. “We live on a small island and we could get isolated if we don’t look out on the outside.”

Gembicki and her husband watch all of the films together, as well as attend film festivals, so they are prepared when the BIG ARTS season begins.

She said they found that there are movies worth seeing that may not be completely appreciated by the entire audience, which led to the addition of other programs. The program includes afternoon films at Island Cinema.

“We do a different audience because some cannot come out for evening performance,” Gembicki said.

The Wednesday afternoon films, shown in November and December, feature edgy or provocative movies that really make attendees think. The program also features a four week documentary series In March. Harder said they also decided to bring back the directors series for another four weeks in April.

“There is a volunteer that leads each of those programs. They really do a great job. Those programs we rent space at the Island Cinema. When needed we use both sides,” she said of the theater.

After the movie concludes, attendees gather on one side of theater to have a film discussion.

“They do a terrific Q and A afterwards,” Harder said of the volunteers and attendees.

BIG ARTS is planning on growing the film program by inviting directors, producers and writers to either visit in person if possible, or through Skyping them in after the film for part of the question and answer portion.

“It’s very popular, everyone loves movies,” Gembicki said. “The discussions are wonderful.”

Over the years the program has attracted both residents and visitors alike.

“We have found that there are people who live and winter here that come to all of the movies,” Harder said. “It’s a wide audience, which is great. It casts a wide net, which is always wonderful because we are offering things for the broader community.”

Tickets for the Monday night films are $10, and $5 for the Wednesday afternoon films. Tickets for the Monday Night Film series tickets can also be purchased at a discounted rate in a book of 10 for $90. Tickets can be obtained by visiting www.bigarts.org under the film section, by calling (239) 395-0900, or stopping by 900 Dunlop Road.

To celebrate the milestone, T-shirts are available for the BIG ARTS film program.

Visit www.bigarts.org for a complete schedule of the film series.