Fresno Filmworks goes virtual with documentary screening of ‘John Lewis: Good Trouble’

Movie theaters have been hit hard by the pandemic, of course, and so have film-presenting organizations. At its annual meeting recently, the board of directors of Fresno Filmworks decided that it would remain dark in the 2020-21 season and use the time to “dream, plan and work on some things behind the scenes,” says Sirley Carballo, Filmworks communication director.

Then came an offer to present a virtual screening of the new film “John Lewis: Good Trouble.” The documentary looks at the Georgia congressman’s sixty-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform, and immigration.

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“John Lewis: Good Trouble” will be available starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 3, directly from the streaming service of Magnolia Pictures, which will split the proceeds of each $12 virtual ticket equally with Filmworks. Once rented, you will have access to the film for 30 days. Once you start to watch, you’ll have 72 hours to complete it.

This sounds like a great opportunity to 1) support FilmWorks rather than the Netflix Industrial Complex; 2) watch a highly regarded film that Time magazine calls “a stirring, joyous documentary”; and 3) learn more about a civil rights hero.

I caught up with Carballo to ask about the screening — including an update on the fact that Facebook wouldn’t allow Filmworks to advertise it because it was too political.

Q: Is Filmworks the only organization presenting a virtual screening of this particular film? Or was this an arrangement by the distributor?


A: The option to screen the film virtually is made possible by Virtual Cinema, a limited-time-only collaboration between independent film distributors and art-house theatre exhibitors across North America. Magnolia Pictures has taken the lead in supporting art-house theatres through the Virtual Cinema approach, and Filmworks is lucky to partner with them on this exciting new experiment. Locally, we do know that the State Theater of Modesto is also jumping on board with this virtual engagement.

Q: Why did Filmworks want to present this film?

A: When Magnolia presented this opportunity to us, it was a no brainer and we decided to jump on it. After 15 years of in-theatre collaboration with Magnolia, our Board couldn’t think of a better distributor to improvise with.

The film itself explores the iconic Georgia congressman John Lewis’ sixty-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform, and immigration — all relevant and timely issues that our country is facing today. We are proud to use whatever voice we have in the Valley to elevate the important social justice issues of our communities and give our patrons access to films they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see.

Q: Is there any plan for people to watch the film at the same time?

A: Filmworks doesn’t currently have any plans to host a watch party, but that’s something we would love to do if we decide to take on further virtual screenings!

We do know that on July 9, all ticket-buyers are welcome to stream a live panel discussion presented by the Freedom Rides Museum of Montgomery, Alabama, featuring Freedom Riders Dr. Bernard Lafayette and Dr. Rip Patton in conversation with director Dawn Porter. In partnership with the Capri Theater. The live panel begins at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time and will also be archived to watch afterward.

Q: Tell us about the Facebook issue.

A: We promote or boost our Facebook events and Instagram posts so that we can spread the word about all our film screenings. We were unable to do so for this film because of Facebook attempting to block “political ads” that may, in their words, “attempt to influence elections.” Unfortunately, our appeals on Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter were not accepted so we’ve been asking our followers to help us spread the word.

We understand the need for Facebook to keep a close watch on misinformation, but John Lewis is such a universally respected lawmaker, and allowing a Black man to tell his story in his own words through a documentary directed by a Black woman, is such an important thing considering how in Hollywood these stories are often told through the lens of white filmmakers and white subjects. The fact that this film, at this moment in time, would be blocked, even after an appeal, is very unfortunate.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: We know that movie lovers want to get back into actual theatres. So do we! But we have to do our part to help the community stay safe. Virtual cinema screenings is something we hope folks are willing to try with us!

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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