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Apr 05

AUTHOR: Jasmine Bejar
CATEGORY: Stories of Impact

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Art & You: Jonah Crismore

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Everyone loves a good movie. We buckle down in our seats for two to three hours at a time to escape our own reality—but Jonah Crismore would argue that delves us deeper into our understanding of our own lives. Film exposes us to various topics, subjects, points of view, and lifestyles that we as an audience are not necessarily familiar with in northeast Indiana, and in this way film is very powerful. What makes it even more powerful is how accessible it is.

Film is deliberate. As an art form, every frame, every angle, every movement, every costume tells an integral part of a larger story. It provokes a feeling, an experience out of the audience. While it connects people with similar experiences and helps them understand their own angels and demons, it also connects people with experiences that are totally different to each other. The next time you go to see a movie, look around you and notice the diverse set of people you’re among. Being connected to a diverse set of people and experiences not only increases your ability to be empathetic toward others, it also brings new perspective to your own experiences. In this way, film empowers people.

jonahJonah, the Executive Director of Fort Wayne’s only nonprofit art house movie theater Cinema Center,  grew up watching movies relentlessly as a child, but really fell in love with them as an art form in high school. Today, he says “My life, in every way, is a cinema, and that is a very good life.”

His passion for foreign and independent film was truly born at Cinema Center, where he would attend movies as a teenager, and rightfully so as Cinema Center’s mission is to bring the best of independent, foreign, documentary, classic and specialty films that otherwise might not be shown in northeast Indiana through a variety of films, special events, educational programs and community outreach. “The kinds of films Cinema Center screens, and the stories that are told, allow the community to be with characters that are oftentimes very different from themselves, and even if it is just for a couple of hours, we hope that something is learned by everyone who has experienced the films shown in our theater.”

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Jonah shares this vision with northeast Indiana through his leadership at Cinema Center, but this year he wants film lovers to rub elbows with film makers. That’s the mission of the Hobnobben Film Festival, which Jonah founded to further Cinema Center’s mission in a more concentrated, intense format. Hobnobben is Fort Wayne’s first-ever, multi-day, multi-venue film festival. Hobnobben will screen several dozen films from June 16-19 all across downtown Fort Wayne. Locations include Cinema Center, Arts United Center, Parkview Physicans Group ArtsLab and University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center. In addition to the the film screenings, they are planning filmmaking workshops, panel discussions and question and answer sessions that will elevate the understanding of cinema, how a film is made and what can really be accomplished through a movie. “By the end of the festival, we want moviegoers to be both exhausted and exhilarated by the ecstatic joy of cinema. It also our hope that the community sees the art of film, and Cinema Center, as providing something more than just sitting in a dark theater for a few hours, but a true experience.”

This fall, Cinema Center will also host another silent film series, where they ask local musicians and bands write and perform 90 minutes or more of original music live alongside silent films. A formal announcement will be issued closer to the event, but it is projected that they will have one screening each month from September to December. This will be the second time Cinema Center has executed this event, the first two years ago being very successful.

You can also thank Cinema Center for the visit from Academy Award winning animation director Chris Buck, who is most famous for co-directing Frozen; the Women Make Movies Festival in partnership with the IPFW Women Studies Program; their partnership in the Living Fort Wayne Film Series and much more.

In looking toward the future, Jonah says a film production studio downtown would benefit Fort Wayne’s momentum, because as a state, Indiana is behind on enticing film productions, which help shape future filmmakers who already live here.

Another concept that Jonah says we are in need of in the area is an interactive museum dedicated to video games and video game storytelling. In the same way that Jonah has been influenced by film, he has also been influenced by video games. For those who grew up on video games, this type of museum would reflect video games as an art form, as “they changed the trajectory for narrative work after they took over the world.” Their influence is reflected in films, but also in books, science and education. Video games have often been undervalued and used as a scapegoat, rarely appreciated by the general public for the intensive talent, thought and framework used to design them. Just as much as film, video games tell stories that are important to culture in an immersive way and give the audience a segue to an experience they may never have otherwise, which is essential to a person’s growth.

“The arts allow the broader community to be inspired and see just what can be accomplished with imagination. It goes back to broadening perspectives; art allows people to see the world in a way that they didn’t when they woke up that morning. That is incredibly powerful.”

Jonah believes that improving access to the arts so that everyone can engage in diverse, relevant and compelling experiences is one of the most important imperatives in the community. “None of the improvements to the arts in northeast Indiana mean anything if the whole community is not involved. Unfortunately, I feel like there is still an impression from large portions of the community that the arts are not for them, and they don’t have any reason to become involved with the arts because of this. There have been some great and successful recent efforts by all of the arts organizations, but the momentum needs to continue and underrepresented groups need to not just be consulted about how changes are to be made, but be active participants on the ground floor of the evolution of that arts community…I am extremely excited by all the growth within the arts community here, and I hope it continues to expand, become more inclusive and truly represent this diverse city.”

Be sure to take advantage of all of the opportunities that Jonah and the Cinema Center continue to offer to in northeast Indiana, and mark your calendars for the Hobnobben Film Festival from June 16-19, 2016!