Reel Change Film Festival Looks to Educate and Inspire

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HARRISONBURG -- The second annual Reel Change Documentary Film Festival begins Tuesday night at Court Square Theater in downtown Harrisonburg.

Four films are showing in four nights.

Olivia Merrion, the student director of the festival, said each of the documentaries focuses on a different social issue from sustainability to climate change.

"You can't deny video. Despite what your specific stance is, you can't look at these images and not feel something," she said.

The first film, "Chasing Ice," uses time-lapse photography and video to show the effects of climate change. For Merrion, it's a great way to start the festival.

"It's something that at least everyone has heard something about."

The second film, "Eating Alabama," centers around one couple's challenge to eat only local food. It's a topic Merrion thinks will hit home for people in the Valley.

"It's just a reaffirmation that what they're doing is something other people are doing."

Merrion also said she and the other organizers wanted to make sure there was a something to offer everyone at this year's festival, like the story of Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei's controversial creations and activism in the documentary, "Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry." It's the final film showing this week.

"It's a little more edgy. It's more of a Friday night film as opposed to a Tuesday night film if you know what I mean."

On Thursday, "Birthday Story: Ina May Gaskin & the Farm Midwives" will show. It's the story of a group of women who teach themselves midwifery from the ground up.

That issue is something Merrion said needs to be talked about more.

"Maternal health rights is not always the first issue to be discussed."

The festival is sponsored by James Madison University's School of Media Arts and Design and goes from March 19 to March 22.

It is free and open to the public.