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. 

presented by The Porch


Movies & Meaning was founded in 2015 as a gathering of people around art and activism—those who desire to heal our personal and cultural wounds as a diverse community, laugh and cry around the “campfire experience” of great movies, and gain tools for constructive, respectful, and thoughtful dialogue across boundaries of religion, class, race, and age.

Registration will open soon!

This was a profound experience of joy and depth that came to life in the shared communal nature of the weekend. The films were the waves ( full of art, beauty, poetry, drama), and we were the tidal pools as we were simply present to each other in light of what we had seen and experienced and its impact on our lives.
— 2017 Movies & Meaning Attendee

About Movies & Meaning

These days the noise of bad, fake, and hurtful stories is loud, harsh, and sometimes overwhelming. The task of creating our better world seems large and difficult to hold. And many people we’ve talked to just seem, for lack of a better word, tired.

Our fourth annual Movies & Meaning experience in April 2018 was designed for this moment.

Folks were invited to this healing, joyful, challenging, and life-giving experience, which lifted your heart without asking people to switch off their brains. The Movies & Meaning experience is an experimental community where we practice being the way we want the world to be. It's a gathering undertaken in hope.

Over three days, over 300 participants were inspired and challenged by artists and activists who work at the intersection of creativity, peace, spirituality, and social change. Participants told us that they departed with a renewed spirit for social justice and tools for community healing.

Seven movies were paired with seven activities, serving as touchstones, inviting us to wonder, dream, and reflect on our world and our active place in making it. Unlike typical film festivals, instead of passive viewing, Movies & Meaning creates a space for engagement and transformation. We wove art throughout our time together as a means of reflection and change-making, learning how to make the world better through substantive action.

The Speaker Lineup

In 2018, our storytellers spanned the worlds of spirituality, storytelling, and activism. Through lecture and Q&A, they guided us to engage more fully in the world, honor the brilliant diversity of human stories and experiences, and work to undo suffering and oppression in all its forms—both inside and out.

Alice Walker, internationally celebrated Pulitzer Prize-winning author of  The Color Purple  and many other award-winning books ,  poet, and human rights activist

Alice Walker, internationally celebrated Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple and many other award-winning books, poet, and human rights activist

Mira Nair, director of  Queen of Katwe , Academy Award nominated, Golden Globe & BAFTA winning filmmaker.

Mira Nair, director of Queen of Katwe, Academy Award nominated, Golden Globe & BAFTA winning filmmaker.

Brian McLaren, author, activist, speaker and public theologian

Brian McLaren, author, activist, speaker and public theologian

Gareth Higgins, film critic, author, and festival founder

Gareth Higgins, film critic, author, and festival founder

James McLeary, CEO of Inside Circle Foundation, Executive Producer of the film  The Work

James McLeary, CEO of Inside Circle Foundation, Executive Producer of the film The Work

Jasmin Morrell, writer, editor and festival producer

Jasmin Morrell, writer, editor and festival producer

2018 Event Schedule

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’ll be announcing the 2019 event soon, but if you’d like to know more of what we’ve done before, check out the 2018 schedule below. (Click here for the year before, if you want to go back in time...)

Our 2018 Theme: Step Into the Better Story

These days, things may seem bleak, and some of us may feel disempowered. But despair is not a strategy for the future. Telling hopeful stories and building hopeful community will help us get where we need to go. What better time than now to assemble in community, to experience life-affirming, world-changing, heart-expanding creativity in each other's company?


Budget-Friendly Accommodations

You don't have to rent a car to get the most out of this event.

There are several hotel and motel options within walking distance from our venue, and loads of restaurant options downtown. Local accommodations range from budget friendly hostels to treat-yourself B&Bs. Make your weekend your own!

Festival registration is for the full three day event and gets you admission to the entire experience, from Thursday evening to late Saturday night. We offer a sliding scale to make the experience accessible, and we're serious when we say we don't money to be a barrier for anyone who wants to attend. If the minimum sliding scale amount us beyond your reach, contact us and we'll let you know how to spread the cost of attending for as little as $15 a month. Click here to contact us.

Ethical Commitment

We are committed to Movies & Meaning being good for the earth, for the people who attend and participate, and for those who share in its ownership. We seek the common good, we prioritize historically marginalized voices (women, people of color, indigenous people, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ people), and are committed to ecologically sustainable, fair trade, and living wage and/or fair exchange policies for contractors, employees and volunteers.

Movies & Meaning is more than a film festival, a conference, or a retreat. It’s a dream space, a laboratory for a more beautiful world. More reasons to join in? Here are three:

1: With a strong focus on using film to transform communities, Movies & Meaning can amplify your ongoing work as a teacher, leader, and student.

2: Movies & Meaning offers a humane vision of the world and helps you actually walk the talk throughout the weekend, and throughout the rest of your year.

3: We'll be gathering in a beautiful theatre, which will show off the films at their best.


Trust us—this is a gorgeous place to watch films.

Tickets are on sale! Join our newsletter list to stay updated.

You can also join the conversation at our Facebook page!

Our Partners