2010 Looks Bright for SJFS As “Neshoba” Draws Record Audience

While entering only its second season, it is already looking like 2010 is going to be a great year for the St. John Film Society (SJFS).

The group’s first free screening of year, which was on Tuesday night, January 5, at Sputnik’s in Coral Bay, drew a record number of attendees from across St. John and St. Thomas.

“We had at least 120 people and 20 of them came all the way over from St. Thomas,” said Martha Hills, one of the founding members of the non-profit SJFS. “Earle Thomas ran a shuttle for us from the ferry dock out to Sputnik’s for the St. Thomas guests. We also had a group from Maho Bay who came out.”

“It was such a great night,” said Hills.

The crowd was mesmerized by “Neshoba,” a chilling tale of racism and violence in the U.S. South in the 1960s, by filmmakers Tony Pagano and Micki Dickoff. After viewing the documentary, the crowd was able to discuss the film with Pagano himself.

“The discussion afterward was really enlightening,” said Hills. “There were a lot of questions and we were probably there for close to an hour after the film. Tony stayed as long as people wanted to talk.”

The fledgling group was formed last February by founding members Hills, Andrea Leland, Rea Roberts, Sigi Torinus and Felicia Torres, under the financial umbrella of the St. John Community Foundation.

SJFS’s mission is to “inspire a positive appreciation for the history, culture and environment of the US Virgin Islands by establishing a free monthly film series open to and for the benefit of our local community.”

If the January 5 screening is any indication, SJFS members and enthusiasts have gotten the word out about the group’s entertaining, educational and thought-provoking film series.

“After getting through our first year and figuring out what we were going to do, it felt really good to have so many people come out to our first screening of the year,” said Hills.

The next screening in the group’s winter 2010 film series is “Young @ Heart” a feel-good movie about a chorus of senior citizens, who give new meaning to James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”

The 90-minute documentary was filmed by Stephen Walker and Sally George and will be screened on Thursday, January 21, at The Marketplace at 7 p.m. in conjunction with ITVS Community Cinema, Independent Lens and WTJX.

Other upcoming films featured by SJFS include “Sugar,” about an aspiring major league pitcher from the Dominican Republic, and “The Agronomist,” a profile of the Haitian independent radio broadcaster Jean Dominique.

SJFS will also welcome two more filmmakers this season. Marta Bautis will be on hand on February 18 as the group screens her film “Sarayaku; Rios de Maiz,” an inspiring tale about the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Filmmaker Laurel Chiten will join the group on March 2 when her film “Touched,” about people who believe they’ve been contacted by aliens, is screened at Sputnik’s.

SJFS is an entirely volunteer run organization which relies mostly on donations and memberships to keep its programs running. SJFS is partially funded by the V.I. Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information about SJFS or to donate to the group, check out the website www.stjohnfilm.com.