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. 



For a flavor of what we do, below is the schedule for last year’s MOVIES & MEANING EXPERIENCE!

Please also note that you don't have to attend every screening, gathering, or activity to get the most out of Movies & Meaning. (Though we'd love to see you all at everything, 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.

At Movies & Meaning, we experience story and light as the building blocks of community, pairing screenings of iconic, overlooked, and new films with special guest appearances, conversations, connecting with one another, and gaining tools for social change.

We believe this gathering is an experiment in what life can be like at its best—and this year’s program is an invitation to step into a better story.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Our opening night is not to be missed! Movies & Meaning founder and Irish storyteller Gareth Higgins opens the event with a keynote address on The Story We Need Now, followed by a screening of the joyous Queen of Katwe. Then our distinguished storytellers, Alice Walker and Mira Nair (director of Queen of Katwe) will take the stage in what is sure to be an extraordinary conversation and Question & Answer session.

6:15 p.m.  |  Doors Open, settle in! 

7:00 p.m.  |  Welcome and Keynote: The Story We Need Now, Gareth Higgins

Movies & Meaning Founder and Creative Director Gareth Higgins on embracing better stories for living well in the current political and cultural moment.

Followed by |  Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair, 2016)

Full of joy and heart, this movie is based on the vibrant true story of a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess.

Followed by  |  Alice Walker in Conversation with Mira Nair, director of Queen of Katwe

An extraordinary conversation and Q&A session between two of our most distinguished storytellers.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Highlights of Friday at the Movies & Meaning experience include writer-activist Brian McLaren on "The Seventh Story," new ideas on making a better world through the stories we tell;  before a meditation with Alice Walker and special screening of the powerful documentary The Work. That screening will be followed by a conversation with James McLeary, co-founder of The Work. Other screenings and group activities are to be announced later. Stay connected with us through our newsletter or social media for updates.

9:30 a.m.  | Doors open

10:00 a.m. | I am Belfast (Mark Cousins, 2015) + northern Irish writer Gareth Higgins & poet Adrian Rice (Film screened with subtitles.)

I am Belfast sees celebrated filmmaker, writer and curator Mark Cousins (The Story of Film) cast his painterly eye on his hometown, the port city of Belfast.  Beautifully shot by Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Rabbit-Proof Fence) and with a powerful soundtrack by the great Northern Irish composer David Holmes (Ocean's Eleven, Hunger), Cousins' film takes viewers on an emotional journey through the complex and sometimes tragic history of the northern Irish capital, embodied as a 10,000 year old woman, in a compelling portrayal by Helena Breen. A film of uncommon beauty and wisdom about how to love a place by remembering its misdeeds, I am Belfast is a love letter, a lament, and an invitation to change. The screening will be followed by poetry and a conversation between two Belfast storytellers, both now living in North Carolina, about how to reimagine our cities for the common good.


12:45 p.m.  |  Lunch Break

Step outside of the Diana Wortham Theatre and there are lots of wonderful restaurants nearby!

2:15 p.m.  |  Summer in the Forest (2017)

Described by The Guardian as “breathtakingly beautiful,” Summer in the Forest invites us to abandon the rat race and forge new friendships. Jean Vanier and the L’Arche community will show us what it means to be human, to be foolish, and to be happy. 

Followed by |  Brian McLaren on "The Seventh Story"

How do we move beyond living narratives that dominate, consume, divide, or destroy? There’s wisdom in the stories humans have been telling for thousands of years, and inspiration from unlikely places. Join writer-activist Brian McLaren for a presentation of new ideas on telling a better story, making a better world.

5:15 p.m.  |  Dinner Break
+Optional Group Activity

Asheville is home to some truly spectacular restaurants. If you want to try something new, now is the time!

7:00 p.m.  |  Meditation with Alice Walker

In preparation to view The Work, Alice Walker will guide us in a meditation.

Followed by |  The Work (2017)

Grand Jury Prize winner at South by Southwest, The Work will take you to places rarely seen or felt in the movies. Set inside Folsom prison, this documentary delves into the transformational work of rehabilitation.

Followed by  |   A Conversation with James McLeary, co-founder of The Work

Alice Walker calls The Work "medicine of the highest and most potent." Join us after the screening for this life-changing conversation on finding purpose and liberation from whatever prison we may find ourselves in, with the acclaimed leader of The Work.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The final day of the Movies & Meaning experience includes a special surprise screenings, a workshop on "How to Be An Ally,"  and optional group activities will fill the day. For special reasons, our morning and afternoon screenings on Saturday will be at the Fine Arts Theatre, 36 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville - just a few yards down the street from our main venue, the Diana Wortham Theatre.  Admission to the Fine Arts screenings will be strictly availably only to 3 day passholders wearing wristbands, and Saturday day pass holders with a printed ticket. We'll close Movies & Meaning on Saturday night with a special screening and celebration with Alice Walker. More details to be announced, so be sure to stay connected via our newsletter or social media for updates.

9:30 a.m. | Doors open at the Fine Arts Theatre, 36 Biltmore Avenue (please note the venue change for Saturday morning and afternoon screenings - just down the street from the Diana Wortham Theatre)

10:00 a.m.  | Morning screening - to be announced. Followed by How to be an Ally workshop, with Clarissa Harris & Brian Ammons

12:45 p.m.  | Lunch break   

1.45 p.m.  | Doors open at the Fine Arts Theatre, 36 Biltmore Avenue (please note the venue change for Saturday morning and afternoon screenings - just down the street from the Diana Wortham Theatre)

2:15 p.m |  Afternoon screening - to be announced. Followed by optional activity or a longer dinner break!

5:15pm | Dinner break

6: 30 p.m. | Doors open at Diana Wortham Theatre

7:00 p.m.  |  Closing Screening & Celebration Featuring a reading from Alice Walker



Tickets are available on a sliding scale!

Your festival pass gets you access to all films, conversations, presentations and special events listed here. What's more, there are local accommodations for all budgets and styles. Learn more about accommodation and transporation here.

Truly was a transformative experience at a real and soulful level for me.
— 2017 Movies & Meaning Attendee

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