Last night the United States Department of State opened the American Film Showcase at Damodar Cinema in Suva as part of their film diplomacy programme which brings award-winning films and documentaries to audiences all around the world. Running from the 12th-16th of September the showcase has a dual purpose with the programme designed to help develop film makers in Fiji and The Pacific, but equally as important are the issues covered in the films and documentaries.
U.S. Ambassador Ms Judith Cefkin stated, “Films can entertain but they also transport us to worlds of new possibilities.” Nothing like this has ever been done in Fiji before as the film industry is very small in stature however the issues covered share values and concerns that are prevalent in nations around the world. Topics include suicide prevention, women entrepreneurs and climate change. Leading and amateur Fijian artists, academics and students will get the opportunity to work with Robert Hurst a Professor and filmmaker from the University of Kansas in workshops and masterclasses over the next four days.
The showcase was opened last night with a showing of The Listeners, a film about suicide hotlines and the training that student volunteers go through before being on call. The documentary was made by Hurst and was funded through private investment and crowd funding website kickstarter.
Not a cheerful topic to start with, the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Public Affairs Officer Dmitri Tarakhovsky said he struggled with picking The Listeners as the first film of the showcase. However, in choosing it he hoped to emphasise that suicide prevention is an extremely important topic. While not a “commercial blockbuster” the film highlights the power of storytelling using a creative medium that has the ability to start conversations that mater.
Story by: Rosalie Willis
Photo by: Mela Katonivualiku