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Style Magazine

Folsom Film Society

May 31, 2013 05:11AM ● By Style

Photo by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.

Films, movies, the show…

regardless of what you call them, they are an iconographic part of American culture. Whether we enjoy the mirroring of ourselves in contemporary mainstream films, the what-ifs of wild futuristic science fiction, or the intrigue of independent films and their commentary on the world around us, one thing’s for sure—it’s a mission impossible to find someone who doesn’t partake in the silver screen.

In November of 2012, local film lovers Najma Merchant, Fidel Salas and Colleen Tamaru founded the Folsom Film Society (FFS). As their mission statement eloquently explains, the nonprofit’s goal is to provide “an exposure to the art of film through responsible programming and vision to broaden viewpoints and start meaningful conversations” for the residents of Folsom and the surrounding communities. Merchant, the executive director, says there’s so much cinema and film happening around us that goes unnoticed by mainstream viewers. With this notion in mind, she and her partners decided it was time to “bring it local.”

“We were a little bit naive but ambitious,” Merchant says of the blind faith in their efforts. They jumped into establishing the organization without giving much thought to funding, not seeking any assistance in the beginning. Instead, the group pooled their personal resources to get it off the ground—an emotionally charged endeavor to say the least. “It’s a very personal venture for all of us,” Merchant explains. Each of them brings their own skills and passions to the table in an effort to bring independent films to a wider audience.

Finding out what the community wants has been an ongoing experiment. Merchant herself has been surprised by the different responses the FFS has received on various topics covered by the films shown thus far, noting sometimes the films with the fewest attendees have the most passionate viewers. “A lot of times, people who come to [see] these independent films want to discuss them.” Because of these impassioned film enthusiasts, the organization hosts informal discussion groups after the viewings. Whether one wishes to converse about the cinematography or the subject matter, all are encouraged to join the discussions sharing their thoughts and opinions.  


The lack of a small theater in the local area creates challenges for the FFS, as the larger mainstream theaters have gone to digital big screens. They are grateful, however, to work with Three Stages at Folsom Lake College, where they’ve hosted screenings on the second Thursday of the month since their inception in November. What’s more, the FFS is now collaborating with the Folsom Public Library to provide a summer series of films shown on Sunday afternoons through August, after which they have plans to resume the Thursday screenings at Three Stages. Merchant says they are also working on a partnership with Folsom Lake College to create a media and film course, as well as an internship program.

The films chosen by the FFS span a wide variety of topics and issues, some more controversial than others. Merchant notes the more serious topics may have less patronage but often have a deeper impact on those who do attend. By perusing their Web site, one can find a catalogue of the films they’ve screened in the past months, from the fun and whimsical The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore—an allegory about the curative powers of books done in a hybrid style of animation, including miniatures, computer animation and 2D animation—to The Invisible War, a documentary dealing with the heavy and often polarizing topic of sexual assault within the military.

The FFS offers annual memberships to film aficionados like themselves. By making this tax-deductible donation, members are entitled to advanced notice of events, private member receptions and discounted tickets to screenings. There are also various ticket discounts available to students and seniors. As their membership grows and they begin to acquire grants and funding from various sources, plans are in place to expand their reach to large-scale events, such as guest lectures by filmmakers and industry professionals.

Merchant says all of her hard work is worthwhile, as people regularly come to her expressing their interest and intrigue in the films chosen. “For all of us, it’s been a really good experience because we see it’s not just us,” she says. By bringing lesser-known yet groundbreaking and thought-provoking independent films to smaller communities like Folsom, Merchant hopes to inspire a new generation of filmmakers and film lovers. In all, Merchant says her and her fellow founders know following their passion was the right decision. “We know we’re doing something worthwhile.”

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