Why the Film Festival Matters

If you follow Hi-Hope's social media platforms, visit the website, or are on one of our major mailing lists, chances are you have heard about our upcoming film festival. The Sprout Film Festival Atlanta was an exploratory project for Hi-Hope last year and, despite some technical difficulties, it was well received. This convinced us that this was the type of thing that we wanted to continue. It's unique, allows us to touch new and different communities, and its genuinely entertaining. But, there is more to this film festival than the experience (which is very important) - there is the "artistry" behind it.

In case you don't know what I am talking about, Hi-Hope is hosting a film festival at Oglethorpe University's Conant Performing Arts Center on September 30th from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. We will be screening "12 entertaining and memorable short films featuring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities." What's more, this event is the only film festival in the entire state of Georgia that boasts a lineup of films featuring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). We added to the experience by including a moderated response panel of I/DD sector experts after the show.

Why call it "Sprout?" There is actually a little bit of a story to the name. See, a while back our CEO, Susan Boland Butts, was at a conference where the keynote speaker was a man named Anthony Di Salvo. Mr. Di Salvo is the founder and Executive Director of Sprout, a New York-based nonprofit that offers innovative programming related to the field of I/DD. In 2006 he created the Sprout Film Festival and in 2009 he launched Sproutflix - a distributor of these films. Sproutflix is now the mechanism by which several Sprout Film Festivals exist all over the country. Susan was inspired by the presentation and brought the idea to Hi-Hope and it took.

Last year we partnered with Emory University's Disability Studies Initiative to host the festival in the Harland Cinema at Emory. It was extremely important to find a real theater venue for the event to create a true, shared, theater experience for festival goers. It is a way of showing respect to the artists that created the films - they are well done pieces of art created to be experienced as films. By hosting the film festival, Hi-Hope can ensure that we feature each piece at a nice event with a genuine theater for the venue. Volunteer Coordinator Nick Reynolds had this to say about the festival: "I think people assume these are going to be like home movies or 'let's pity these folks' documentaries, but they really aren't. These films are very well done, they are real celebrations of art and creativity and vision. Anyone that attends the festival will experience these movies as movies and not some sort of intellectual exercise. That being said, they are very thought provoking and make for some really good dialogue after the fact."

The film festival is important as art. It is important as a form of advocacy for inclusion. It is important because it gives a historically "silenced" population a voice. Aside from the narrative films and music videos, many of the shorts are relatively unscripted giving the stars control over the direction of the films and the messaging. The audience gets a real honest look at the subject matter. The festival is important because it focuses on a significant part of our society that is regularly ignored.

So come to the festival this year and experience it in person. Come without expectation or objective. Come and enjoy the artistry and have a good time with your Hi-Hope family.