JOLIET – Gun control. Fracking. Child immigration.
These are some of the topics the Universalist Unitarian Church in Joliet addresses as part of its “First Thursday Social Justice Film Nights.”
“I think some of the films we show are not going to be seen in movie theaters nor are you likely to see them on television,” said Warren Thom, a church member who co-hosts the film nights.
This month’s film, “Jumbo Wild,” focuses on Jumbo Valley, one of only two areas in North America where grizzly bears can freely roam between Canada and the United States, and highlights the tension between the development and protecting the wilderness, according to a news release from the church.
The goal is to inform viewers, spur discussion and inspire grassroots activism, said Paul Brumbaugh, a member of the church who leads the film nights and the discussions that follow.
Individuals from the community, as well as members of faith-based and secular organizations, are welcome to attend and – hopefully – initiate change.
“People can’t become activists in all the areas we cover,” Brumbaugh said. “But they need to pick their own topic and get out there and be active and do something good for the world.”
Brumbaugh said last month’s film “Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot” is G-rated and appropriate for students in grades six through 12. Brumbaugh said he contacted area schools to let them know the film is available to teachers to show for free in their classrooms.
The DVD ships in reasonable time from the distributor, Brumbaugh said.
“I got mine in about a week,” he added.
A former church member, Chuck Teeter, began the film nights in 2014, Brumbaugh said. Teeter had attended similar events at a church in University Park and felt the Joliet area could benefit from viewing these documentaries, too, Brumbaugh said.
When Teeter moved away Brumbaugh and Thom decided to keep the series going.
“We felt it was a very valuable service to the congregation and to the community,” Brumbaugh said.
Brumbaugh said many of the films come through a distributor that offers about 5,000 titles, which helps keep the topics wide and varied.
“They’re actually seen from many different points of view, so we can try to understand the problem,” Thom said.
When Teeter hosted the event, he often drew in people from other organizations. Since then, attendance has dropped to 25. Brumbaugh would like to double it.
Still, those who do participate appear to enjoy them.
“Most of them come back,” Brumbaugh said.
Attendees have another advantage: Screening these documentaries provides an opportunity for people to decide it they want to their church or organization members to view them, too, Brumbaugh said.
For instance, Thom said a film shown earlier in 2016 made him aware of the large number of people – veterans especially – who use handguns to commit suicide. Thom now supports a waiting period before one can purchase a handgun.
“If people waited two or three days they could, with support from their families, try to deal with the problems their dealing with,” Thom said.
However, whether or not one agrees with the views purported in these films, the issues presented in them affect everyone, whether they want to face those issues or not.
Brumbaugh uses fracking as an example.
“We’ve got to get off fossil fuels or our grandchildren will be feeling the effects of global warming in a way that we would not want them to feel or experience,” Brumbaugh said. “And if not our grandchildren, then our great-grandchildren. I believe the scientists, at this point, are saying that in about 200 years, this planet will be inhabitable.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Jumbo Wild”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Oct. 6
WHERE: Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet, 3401 W. Jefferson St., Joliet.
ETC: Documentary highlights the tension between the protection of wilderness and ever-increasing development interests in wild places.
Previous documentaries show at the “First Thursday Social Justice Film Night” include”
• “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices”
• “Merchants of Doubt” (public relations tactics used to cloud climate change issues)
• “Professors in Poverty” (the expanding use of part-time, adjunct faculty in college and universities)
• “A Day’s Work” (the expanding use of “temp workers” and related training and safety issues)