Stash Wislocki is best known for being the man behind the Telluride AIDS Benefit and the producer of the MountainFilm Festival. This weekend, Wislocki will bring a different sort of festival to the region, when he and his colleague, Justin Clifton, screen films from their latest collaboration. The two men know movies – Clifton, a MountainFilm alum, is executive director of the FivePoint film festival – and they also know adventure. Last summer, they had a celluloid adventure all their own, when they visited Northern Kenya on behalf of FilmAid, a charity which brings films to refugee communities in Asia, Africa and Haiti. On Saturday night at the Sherbino Theater in Ridgway, Wislocki and Clifton host a presentation on their trip, including two films made by students from the community they visited.
Why would an organization dedicated to international aid concentrate on bringing films to refugees, you may be wondering, instead of, say, food? The answer lies in FilmAid’s title: films do offer aid, Wislocki explained. “The boredom in a refugee camp is to the point of painful,” he said, “and films offer psychological relief.” They also offer public education and advice on topics such as disease, maternal health, gender-based violence and conflict resolution. Wislocki and Clifton visited Kakuma, a camp of 100,000 refugees. They drove around in an old German army vehicle, the side of which served as a screen for showing movies. At each stop, the routine was the same: the men played music to draw people in. Then they showed a cartoon for the kids, followed by an animated educational film on cholera – how to prevent it, why it’s important to wash your hands, and other information about the contagious, deadly disease so prevalent in refugee camps. Finally, they screened a Hollywood comedy, “kind of goofy and not offensive to anyone,” Wislocki said (50% of the population of the Kakuma camp is Muslim). Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black was just the ticket.
Part of FilmAid’s mission is also to help educate young filmmakers, and Wislocki and Clifton did that, too. “Our main task was to teach students how to throw a film festival,” Wislocki said. “It turns out we were weirdly perfect for this job.” The pair helped students screen their work in little schoolhouses or community centers, often on a TV with a single speaker. The equipment wasn’t the point: “Really, if you can just get people in to see and hear it,” Wislocki said, “you’re good, and people will have a good time.” He had never visited Africa before, but hopes to return this summer. “I feel tremendously lucky. I get to do a lot of activism and art for social change at home,” he said. It’s fulfilling work, but his time at Kakuma was more gratifying “than anything I’ve done. Nothing in my life has been as rewarding or just plain powerful as being in a refugee camp for a few weeks, getting a chance to make life better for people who don’t get a lot of joy or light in their own lives.” Showtime is at 7 p.m. To learn more about FilmAid, visit FilmAid.org.
Gallery 81435 in Telluride
Speaking of local residents and their travels to Africa, artist Amy Schilling will exhibit her work at an opening reception during Art Walk this evening at Gallery 81435. Schilling is inspired by petroglyphs, translating her renditions of those ancient forms, which she has travelled around the world to study – including to Africa – into jewelry and paintings. The jewelry is fashioned from hot metal, and the paintings are composed of hot wax applied to a wood panel. Schilling’s works – the colors she chooses, the textural contrasts – contrast nicely with the luminous paintings by Diana Woods, also on display. That’s because Schilling chose Woods to exhibit alongside her, said Telluride Arts’ Programs Director Britt Markey. The exhibit was “kind of last minute,” Markey explained. “We don’t own the gallery, and the building was recently sold. We weren’t even sure we’d be able to put a show on.” Luckily, they have been able to; the exhibit is up until the end of the month. After that, the fate of the space is, presumably, anybody’s guess. “We’re hoping we can continue to be here,” Markey said. The fact that they’ve been able to stay thus far “really means a lot, and we appreciate it.” The gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday from 12-6 p.m.
Puppetree in Montrose
Finally, two special shows for kids are on tap Friday at the Montrose Library. The local troupe Puppetree will present “Dusty’s Gold,” a puppet show with a Western theme, at 10 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. Puppetree is seven members strong; it was formed several years ago when the Library advertised a get-together in honor of The National Day of Puppetry (which this year is Saturday, April 13). “Several people showed up,” says Ann Sturgeon, who works at the library and pens Puppetree scripts. Puppet shows are popular events at library story times, but Sturgeon would like to see the puppet’s role expanded.
“In Europe, they do very serious puppet shows. Some are Shakespearean,” she noted.
“In our country, puppet shows are for kids, and are expected to be funny. I’d like to see that change.” Though most are adults, one of Puppetree’s puppeteers is a child: middle-schooler Sage Ryan.
“We’re trying to recruit new members,” Sturgeon said. “Anyone is welcome to submit an idea or a script.” Sturgeon and her colleagues can suggest puppetry books and web sites for those who would like to learn more about this historic art (puppetry in America is older than this country itself). She cautions parents to be careful about letting children web surf for puppet shows unsupervised, though. “Just because it’s ‘puppet,’” she pointed out, “doesn’t make it clean.” For more information about Friday’s show, call the library at 970/249-9656, or visit montroselibrary.org.