The Shepherdstown Film Society reeled in about 200 movie buffs from Hagerstown to Woodstock, Va., on Friday, Jan. 21, for "Nowhere in Africa" (2002) - the first film in the organization's spring movie series.
"We were visiting Shepherdstown last week and we saw this wonderful offering of films - so we came back," said the Rev. Lance Braun of Woodstock, who traveled to Shepherdstown with his wife, Norma, to watch Caroline Link's critically acclaimed German film. "This is a terrific opportunity, and we're very grateful to Friends of the Shepherdstown Library and the Shepherdstown Film Society for making it possible."
Filling a film gap
Welch and fellow Shepherdstown resident Mina Goodrich founded the Shepherdstown Film Society in May 2004 after the Shepherds-town Opera House stopped showing movies. The facility began showing movies again in November. But in the interim, the Shepherdstown Film Society secured the support of Friends of the Shepherdstown Library - members of which have volunteered for such tasks as planning, public relations and graphic design for posters - and Shepherd University to bring digital films to the big screen at Reynolds Hall.
Mark Stern, vice president for academic affairs at Shepherd, said he met with Welch and several other individuals after hearing about a group of local residents who wanted to put together a foreign film series. It was decided at that meeting that Reynolds Hall could serve as the series' venue, and that Welch should contact new Shepherd faculty member Ritterbusch - who had expressed an interest in working with foreign films in the classroom, Stern said. He also sought advice from a New York University employee who had developed a publicly oriented foreign film series.
"Lisa and Rachel just took the ball and ran with it, with my office just providing some support," Stern said.
Welch said that Ritterbusch quickly "rose to the occasion," developing a spring 2005 credited course curriculum that includes a film slate with broad appeal. Students must watch the movies to earn their class credits; at the same time, others can view the films for fun at no cost. The university has committed to offering the film course - movies for which will change each semester - during the spring and fall semesters.
"They've also agreed to let us use Reynolds Hall to show films in between semesters," Welch said. "It's just been very exciting. All we wanted was to watch movies."
Nina and David Schwartz of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., were thrilled to catch "Nowhere in Africa" at Reynolds Hall.
"We've been film buffs for years and it's been hard to find good films around here," Nina Schwartz said.
Pat and Charlie Brown of Hagerstown planned to stay for the after-film discussion. They said they found the fall film series' post-movie talks intellectually stimulating due to the variety of views expressed by film connoisseurs. Charlie Brown, owner of Rest Haven Cemetery in Hagerstown, said he's been putting Shepherdstown Film Society posters up around Washington County to help promote interest in the group.
"We plan to come to every movie," said Pam Miller, who moved to the Shepherdstown area with her husband, Lex, in August 2004.
Welch is working with employees at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown to show first-run conservation-related films, and with the Charleston, W.Va.-based West Virginia International Film Festival to bring the event to Shepherdstown. The four-day festival features first-run independent films, Welch said.
"That would be a way to bring something big to Shepherdstown. We've got a lot of volunteers who are ready to mobilize and help run the festival if it happens," she said. "Things are looking positive."
Kevin Campbell and Walter Chalkley in July 2003 co-founded CinemArts in Frederick, Md. - online at www.cinemarts.org - to bring films to downtown Frederick on a regular basis and to foster appreciation for all kinds of movies.