INDUSTRY: Expression, Grace and Life — Film by Film

Cathlene Stubbs, founder of the first annual Zendegi Film Festival, on making a difference in her community… one film at a time.

A couple months ago we were contacted by a young woman in Nevada City, CA, who wanted to make a difference in her community. Her dream was to create a small festival that focused on the beauty of Middle Eastern and North African culture, rather than heavy political statements – and that idea has grown into the first annual Zendegi Film Festival (Zendegi means “life” in Farsi). We were very impressed with Cathlene’s project and her enthusiasm, and so we asked her to write a guest post about why she decided to put this festival together, and why she contacted GFI. Here’s what she had to say:

As Americans, we are primarily exposed to western media, giving ourselves a relatively limited cultural view of the world. Our news and popular entertainment, especially in times of political unrest, can sometimes further misunderstandings and contribute to fear-based decisions. Historically, the image of the Middle East and North Africa has been portrayed strictly as lower class, violent and oppressive. And very rarely are these regions represented as diverse and deeply rich in cultural tradition and vibrant lifestyles.

Artistic expression is the foundation of everyday life across the globe, and so I wanted to showcase in my community the voices of expression that exist throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The Zendegi Film Festival was born to inspire and glitter my community with curiosity about my homeland of Iran and its beautiful surrounding regions. Without this festival, my small town would see and hear only mainstream interpretations of these regions. Remaining separate from politics and policies, we are showing films that will warm your heart, films from the less-heard voices of these regions.

The Global Film Initiative is home to such voices, and a symphony for those of us who crave to hear. To me, they exist to give, and their giving is unmatched in our western world. When organizing the festival, I called GFI because I was unaware of any other film companies showcasing independent films from the Middle East and North Africa. Without them, it would have been much more difficult for me to access the kind of films that fit the focus of the Zendegi project – films that inspire, films full of grace.

My deepest gratitude to GFI for gifting my community with a new perspective, and for providing many of the world’s independent filmmakers with a stage on which to play. Out of their generosity, Nevada City gets to see a sweet, funny, and current Algerian film (MASQUERADES, screening at the Nevada County Madelyn Helling Library on Friday, August 24th). We look forward to seeing the Global Lens Collection continue to expand, and to a long, collaborative relationship between GFI and the Zendegi Film Festival… Adjusting the lens through which we view the world, film by film.

Cathlene Stubbs is an Iranian American student at UC Berkeley who believes in the powerful transformation of conventional ideologies between eastern and western cultures. She has organized free public showings of Global Lens films in order to showcase the sincerity of independent filmmakers and their impact on humanity.

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