FilmScene Raffles Private Sundance Screenings to Community

Haileigh Steffen, Video Editor

FilmScene, an Iowa City non-profit movie theatre, announced earlier this year that they would be hosting 2021 Sundance films to the general public. Due to public safety concerns, the theatre quickly moved their showings online but publicized private Sundance screenings for raffle winners for Sundance films such as Mayday, Cusp, and Judas and the Black Messiah.

The Harris family won a screening of the film “Cusp,” a documentary following the lives of three teenagers through a turbulent summer in small-town Texas. 

“I thought the documentary did a really great job of capturing the teenage feeling of thinking you have everything figured out, even though you actually have no clue what you’re doing,” Jack Harris ’22 at West High School said. “The documentary as a whole just does a great job with that theme of placelessness, with the teens slowly figuring out over the course of the documentary just how big and complicated the world is, and how unsure of their future they are. Cusp is extremely entertaining and powerful, and I wouldn’t mind if it was three hours long instead of its 90-minute runtime.”

Jack Harris thinks while the collaboration is cool, he’s a lot more excited about what this could mean for the future of FilmScene. 

“This is the first time they’ve partnered with a film festival but it definitely won’t be the last,” Jack Harris said. “Iowa City may never be able to host a major film festival or anything, but because FilmScene has four or five theaters now, it would be really easy for them to do festival screenings.”

Jess Harris, a teacher at Northwest Junior High, reports that watching the Sundance Film Festival screening of Cusp reminded her that she loves going to the movies, citing that “even when there are only seven people in the theater, it is a shared experience, and something I do not get sitting on the couch.”

“Cusp was a beautiful documentary. The artistic element of the filming seemed unlike most documentaries I have seen,” Jess Harris said. “I appreciated the trust the directors clearly built with the young women and the openness with which the young women let us into their lives for a summer. As a person who works with teens (and has two teenage kids), I am grateful for any opportunity to learn from young people. When I left the movie, I had a sense of heartbreak and hope for these young women…and all young people wrestling with the world.”

Jess Harris and her husband, Chris Harris, are long-time members of FilmScene. Their son Jack participates in FilmScene’s youth film club, Scenesters. 

“FilmScene has had a very personal impact on me and my family,” Jess Harris said. “I feel it has started discussions that might not have otherwise happened. I guess that’s what I feel FilmScene offers to the entire community. We need to listen and learn from all voices.  FilmScene provides that opportunity for eastern Iowa. Rudine Bishop says books need to be windows, mirrors, or sliding glass doors. Film is the same. People need to look into others’ lives, see themselves represented, and be offered a door into another world.”