Movies & Meaning

Storytelling • Healing • Art • Justice

This April 26-28, 2018, at the lovely Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, North Carolina, we will gather and hear from special guests Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color PurpleBrian McLaren, author and theologian; and Gareth Higgins, film critic and Irish peace activist. We’ll screen seven movies, hear seven stories, and participate in seven activities proven to nurture community, restore hope, and build a bridge to the kind of world so many of us seek. We’ll do it in the setting of one of the most beautiful and creative small cities in the world, in a lovely theatre, surrounded by fantastic restaurants, places to stay, and the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. We’ll make new friends, see astonishing big screen art, and pick up fuel for the journey of living more whole in uncertain times. 

March 17-20, 2016 | Albuquerque, New Mexico

Movies & Meaning is not a typical film festival. It's an experiment in something new.

We are dedicated to imagining a new way to interact with stories and image. There will be extraordinary films projected on a huge screen, but we’re building community, creating a gathering of people in which everyone is special. People who want to nurture ways of telling stories and reinventing images that push the boundaries of artistic innovation, get us laughing and crying in good measure, and make everyone’s lives better.

We're inviting everyone to enter with open minds and to engage at a deeper level as we screen some of the greatest films ever made, some lesser-known masterpieces, and some brand-new works of imagination, and explore their meaning in our lives. 

There are three kinds of films at Movies & Meaning:

  • Icons (transcendent works from the past that shimmer in big-screen outings)

  • Overlooked & Very Special (movies that we feel were not seen enough on their initial release, and which we’re delighted to bring to you now)

  • and New Films (including an exclusive preview screening).

A note on the screenings: we want to create an environment for cinema that allows for deeper personal experiences and honors the creativity on display. So we invite quiet in the theater as films begin, and the lights will not come up until after the credits are over. In this way, we hope you will experience films as they were meant to be seen: as complete works, with room to breathe.

We are building a schedule of magnificent films, stimulating conversations, interactive workshops, and surprises. The currently confirmed schedule is below, with more announcements to follow. As with all such gatherings and festivals, the schedule may be subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. Click here to see the schedule from last year's event to get more of an idea of the magic of Movies & Meaning.


We're offering beautiful movies, thoughtful conversation and workshops, and opportunities to connect with your fellow lovers of story, image, and transformation. Please note that you don't have to attend every screening, seminar, or activity to get the most out of Movies & Meaning. (Though we'd love to see you all there, we know that some folks require more time to rest and reflect.) Give yourself space to choose what you most want to see or participate in, and enjoy the weekend in whatever way works best for you.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

6:00 p.m.  |  Doors open

7:00 p.m.  |  The Dam Keeper (Tsutsumi, Kondo, 2014)

The Dam Keeper, a short film by feature animation artists Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, tells the tale of a young pig encumbered with an important job, and the meeting of a new classmate who changes everything. The short blends traditional hand-drawn animation with lush brushstrokes to bring Kondo and Tsutsumi's celebrated painting style to life like never before.

7:20 p.m.  |  Jessica Helen Lopez: Spoken-Word Poetry

Albuquerque Poet Laureate Jessica Helen Lopez speaks about the more beautiful world we're dreaming of, by way of introduction to a film that invites just such a dream.

7:30 p.m.  |  Gareth Higgins & Richard Rohr: Welcome

7:45 p.m.  | Overlooked & Very Special: Good Vibrations (D'sa & Leyburn, 2012)
+A Conversation with Gareth Higgins

Good Vibrations is something very special indeed—the story of Terri Hooley, now-legendary music maven who brought punk music to a divided, war-torn city, and made the kind of difference that will inspire you. Good Vibrations will make you laugh and cry and see something familiar with new eyes. Critic Ken Hanke says: "Yes, you're shaking your heads in wonder that there even was a Belfast punk rock scene, and possibly thinking, 'I don't like punk rock.' Well, there was one and it really doesn't matter if you like punk rock or not (and you do get some Small Faces and Bowie, too), since the film is about more than that. Think of it as something similar in tone to 2014's Pride—minus the LGBT activists and the coal miners, and without the big name cast. It has a similar vibe and structure—and, yes, that means it's also a feel-good film with a wistful, sad side.... This is a joyous movie. It throbs with the music of its soundtrack and the wayward optimism of our one-eyed hero. (His eye was shot out with an arrow—not because of the Troubles, but because his father was a communist politician.) It’s done in a style that often looks back on the Swinging London of the British Invasion that was defined by Richard Lester in the 1960s—only this is Rocking Belfast in the ’70s. It’s rougher, harsher, but just as full of life.... Put in the simplest possible terms—you need this movie in your life."

This screening will be followed by a conversation with northern Irish writer and Movies & Meaning founder Gareth Higgins—an opportunity to discuss lessons from conflict and peace in Belfast and beyond.

Friday, March 18, 2016

9:15 a.m.  |  Icons: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
(Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1929)

11:00 a.m.  |  New Film: Some Kind of Love (Tom Burstyn, 2015)
+A Conversation between Gareth Higgins and Some Kind of Love Director Tom Burstyn

Movies and Meaning founder Gareth Higgins and director Tom Burstyn have paired The Passion of Joan of Arc and Some Kind of Love to reflect on a new way of defining great cinemaand the "new canon" of films that help us live better.

1:00 p.m.  |  Break for lunch (with optional Create Reel Change Discussion)

Step outside of the KiMo Theatre and there are lots of wonderful restaurants only steps away!

2:15 p.m.  |  Overlooked & Very Special: Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet (2015)

The Prophet, by celebrated Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran, is among the most popular volumes of poetry ever written. This breathtaking animated feature, produced and spearheaded by Salma Hayek, intersperses Gibran's poetry within stunning sequences by filmmakers Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea), Bill Plympton (Guide Dog), Joan Gratz (Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase), Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues), and a host of award-winning animators from around the world. Set in a Mediterranean seaside village, Kamila (Salma Hayek) cleans house for exiled artist and poet Mustafa (Liam Neeson), but the more difficult job is keeping her free-spirited young daughter, Almitra (Quvenzhané Wallis), out of trouble. The three embark on a journey meant to end with Mustafa’s return home—but first they must evade the authorities who fear that the truth in his words will incite rebellion. Featuring music from Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, Gabriel Yared, and Yo-Yo Ma.

4:30 p.m.  |  Choice of Seminars

Pick one of three seminar topics to dive into today. All three will be repeated tomorrow. Read more about the seminar topics here.

  • Teaching Film to Make a Better World led by Louis Pierotti
  • Writing Your Life: How to Heal through Storytelling led by Teresa Pasquale
  • Becoming a Creative Extremist for Love led by Micky ScottBey Jones

5:45 p.m.  |  Break for dinner

Want local restaurants serving up a variety of colorful food? You got it!

7:30 p.m.  |  Icons: Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
+A Q&A with Koyaanisqatsi Director Godfrey Reggio

One of the most visually extraordinary and spiritually awake films ever made, Koyaanisqatsi is a masterpiece and a wonder. From the Hopi word meaning "life out of balance," it's an icon through which we see the beauty of the earth and the brokenness of humanity. Seeing it in the magnificent surroundings of the KiMo Theatre will be a terrific cinematic experience. With director Godfrey Reggio in attendance for a conversation after the screening, this night of Movies and Meaning will be very special indeed.

10:00 p.m.  |  Overlooked & Very Special: The Congress
(Ari Folman, 2013)

A great film that was undervalued on its initial release, The Congress stars Robin Wright as an actor faced with the challenge of discovering what it really means to love someone. An astonishing, surreal flight into the life of the mind and the spiritual terrain of self, community, and activism.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

9:15 a.m.  |  Overlooked & Very Special: The Secret Life of Words (Coixet, 2005)
+Teresa Pasquale and Gareth Higgins on Transcending Trauma

The Secret Life of Words is a remarkable film—directed by the Spanish artist Isabel Coixet, whose work is both warmly poetic and unafraid to look deeply into the source of trauma and the possibility of recovery. Sarah Polley and Tim Robbins stand in for all us in exploring the power of how we tell our own stories, and to whom. Very much overlooked on its initial release, we're delighted to be screening this profound and beautiful film.

12:00 p.m.  |  Choice of Seminars

Today we repeat the seminars, giving you a chance to dive deeper into a second topic. Read more about seminar topics here.

  • Teaching Film to Make a Better World led by Louis Pierotti
  • Writing Your Life: How to Heal through Storytelling led by Teresa Pasquale
  • Becoming a Creative Extremist for Love led by Micky ScottBey Jones

1:15 p.m.  |  Break for lunch

Enjoy a variety of restaurants only steps away of the KiMo.

2:30 p.m.  |  New Films: Visitors (Godfrey Reggio, 2014)
+A Conversation with Director Godfrey Reggio

We'll follow Koyannisqatsi with the newest film by our special guest, director Godfrey Reggio's. While Koyaanisqatsi's vision is wide, Visitors goes deep into the reflection we see when looking in a mirror. A perfect companion piece to The Passion of Joan of Arc, we invite you to experience this film and see yourself in a new light.

4:45 p.m.  |  Richard Rohr: "The Spirituality of Faces"

Our dear friend Richard Rohr speaks about the spirituality of art and creativity in this talk specially crafted for Movies and Meaning.

5:45 p.m.  |  Break for dinner

Walk to one of many local restaurants!

7:30 p.m.  |  New Films: Surprise Film

Last year we hosted a preview screening of the fascinating Last Days in the Desert, in which Ewan McGregor plays Jesus between the desert and Jerusalem, and director Rodrigo Garcia joined us for a conversation. This year our surprise film promises to be visually compelling, emotionally striking, and, yes, a surprise

Sunday, March 20, 2016

9:15 a.m.  |  Overlooked & Very Special: This Way of Life (Tom Burstyn, 2009)
+A Few Surprise Short Films

Follow a family in Aotearoa New Zealand as they commune with the land, raise their children, and struggle to create a life beyond the reaches (and greed) of modern capitalism. Along the way we get to see what it means to take seriously the comment: "What do I do for a living? I live for a living." This Way of Life is a remarkable film, short-listed for an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary, and an inspirational way to close our gathering.

12:15 a.m.  |  Gareth Higgins & Jessica Helen Lopez on Making a Movies & Meaning Movement

12:45 p.m.  |  Richard Rohr: Bringing Things Home

1:00 p.m.  |  Festival ends

Your festival pass gets you access to all films, conversations, presentations and special events listed here. And there's only a $1 booking fee!

This schedule is subject to changes, surprises, and minor reinvention!

Want to see last year's schedule? Click here!

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