Global Lens 2008
Recognizing that few Americans have the means or the will to travel outside the U.S.—especially beyond Europe—Susan Weeks Coulter has created a funding program that provides ways for Americans to experience other cultures—through cinema. Now in its fifth year, the Global Film Initiative supports filmmakers from developing nations, and the initiative’s public face, Global Lens, is one of the United States’ most lauded touring festivals of international film. Coulter, cofounding board chair of the Global Film Initiative, sees the program working in two separate but complementary directions: Filmmakers use the $10,000 production grant to complete their work and leverage those grants for more funding and distribution opportunities; and through Global Lens, Americans gain windows into worlds that are otherwise hidden. “We’re trying to create visibility and credibility for the filmmakers, but also support the industry within their own countries and provide a continuum for films to be made there,” Coulter says.
The filmmakers on four continents tapped for the 10 films in Global Lens 2008 were selected as much for their vivid portrayals of their home cultures, Coulter says, as for the potential of these stories to carry universal human appeal. In addition to screenings at the Walker, the festival travels this year to as many as 50 cities. Distribution in high schools is another program priority. Curriculum materials have been developed to help high school teachers discuss issues raised in the films with their students. In many cases, this may be the first opportunity students have had to see a foreign film, which can lead to a lifetime passion for exploring the world through cinema.