Friday, October 30, 2009

Melding Mediums for Movement

A printable version of this article is available here:

Searching online for short films that are already posted on the Web and are freethought related has been a lot of fun for me. It certainly does not feel like work! Because there are so many different subject possibilities for this niche, the film links that I have so far selected to put on the Freethought Film Festival Foundation Discussion Forum are as diverse and unique as freethinkers themselves.

Promoting the core ideas of freethought such as reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry, has been primarily accomplished through print, lectures and debates. While many freethinkers enjoy reading and attending conferences, many—quite frankly—are uninterested in Ingersoll and ID debates. They are not necessarily any less cerebral than the aforementioned, but their brand of freethought may be entirely personal and reflected in their everyday choices…sans Darwin fish and Hitchens books. It is likely that many have never even heard the term “freethinker”.

As much as Academics may cringe, it must be acknowledged that freethought ideas will reach a much, much broader audience through arts and entertainment. Freethinkers who are currently active participants in the freethought movement should embrace a melding of the past and the present and support the creative and artistic expression of reason as well as the publications and seminars.

Visiting some of the links to the short films that have been posted in the FFFF Discussion Forum and the FFFF Facebook page, will result in a better understanding of the artistic expression to which I am referring. Often this expression can be subtle and symbolic, and for those who prefer their philosophy in black and white, this angle may not always be appreciated. Fortunately there are freethinkers of all sorts who can not only appreciate equations, atoms and primordial ooze; but also appreciate the more whimsical, artistic and diverse creativity of the human mind.

Andrea Steele

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's Just Knot Right

Last week I was granted the opportunity to shadow the Chairperson of Volunteers for the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. I was able to observe the management of the volunteers during the event, as well as help set up before film screenings and clean up after. The TIGLFF is in their 20th year, and has streamlined the process for managing their film festival. I observed a well-oiled machine. The screening events appeared to seamlessly run themselves; an obvious result of effective pre-planning on the part of the directors. I am extremely appreciative of TIGLFF for allowing me the opportunity to learn from them.

One day during the festival, I helped set up and weigh down tents, and moved chairs, tables and rope posts from the lobby to the sidewalk. I was the only female among the volunteers at the time. The group that helped out that particular afternoon was a gay men's softball team. We all worked together to make sure the front of the theatre was ready for the day’s festivities.

When setting up the event tents, weights were needed to ensure that the wind would not carry them through the streets of downtown Tampa. The lead volunteer instructed all of us to tie the weights to the tents with a quick-release knot. I knew exactly what he meant, as I frequently camp with my family. The looks on the rest of the volunteers’ faces quickly revealed that they had no idea what he was talking about. He recognized their confusion, and demonstrated how to make the knot.

We proceeded to thread the ropes of the weights through the frames of the tents. I tied on the weights with which I was working, and peripherally observed the confusion around me as the rest of the volunteers struggled with tying the knots for their own weights. Making my way to each distressed man, I offered my assistance and tied the remainder of the knots. I received much gratitude from them for helping.

When all of the outside equipment was completely set up, we all took a break inside the air-conditioned lobby of the Tampa Theatre. As I sat and enjoyed my bottled water and the cool air, it occurred to me that an obvious detail eluded me when I was assisting the other volunteers with their knots…These men could not tie a knot, because none of them were ever allowed in the Boy Scouts!

Andrea Steele
Executive Director
Freethought Film Festival Foundation

Thursday, October 8, 2009

For many years, the three most common questions raised by freethinkers have been: 1.) What can we do to encourage young adults to become more active in the Freethought movement? 2.) How can freethought ideas gain more exposure? and 3.) Why can’t all of the freethought organizations out there play together? Attendees at the 2009 AAI Convention raised these concerns—again. All of the aforementioned issues have a solution in the International Freethought Film Festival. Filmmakers are encouraged to reexamine views about freethought subject matter being taboo, and overcome this misconception by expressing these ideas through the art of filmmaking. Student filmmakers have an incentive to submit films that reflect the mission of the Freethought Film Festival Foundation through competition for scholarship awards, and a chance for their projects to be screened for a public audience. Film is more far-reaching and will result in exposure…more so than print, which generally leans toward a more academic audience rather than the general public. Finally, with at least ten different blocks of film screenings throughout the weekend-long International Freethought Film Festival event, freethought organizations, businesses and individuals have an opportunity to sponsor one or more of the screenings. (Or become a major sponsor of the event for more exclusive advertising benefits) The International Freethought Film Festival is common ground, despite variations in existing freethought institutions. Some freethinkers, with whom I have communicated, expressed disappointment that the International Freethought Film Festival will be taking place some distance from them. For most, travelling hundreds, or even thousands of miles for any event may be logistically impossible. This is perfectly understandable. However, we need to recall 2002 on a very cold November morning, when more than 2000 freethinkers participated in the Godless Americans March on Washington. I drove from Tampa to D.C. with my husband and three children to participate in this event. It was very important for us to be a part of an event that gave us visibility and encouraged solidarity among freethinkers. It was one specific event with a common goal. The International Freethought Film Festival encourages the same solidarity that freethinkers displayed at GAMOW. The event itself will, no doubt, increase visibility; but it goes far beyond the actual event. The films being produced will be around for posterity; paving the way for stigmas to dilute over time. Freethinkers around the globe, who know that they will not be able to attend the International Freethought Film Festival event in Tampa, Florida in November 2010, can still recognized its importance and lend their support by contributing to the efforts of the Freethought Film Festival Foundation. To all other freethinkers, the latter also applies; however, if more than 2000 freethinkers can flock to D.C. on a frigid November weekend for a march on the Mall, they can surely migrate to Tampa (where it is gorgeous in November) for a film festival that reflects their views, and answers the most important question of all: How can we promote the growth of the Freethought movement?

Andrea Steele
Executive Director/Chairperson
Freethought Film Festival Foundation