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Bonita & Estero Magazine

Finding Films: Art League Shows Hidden Gem Movies

Jan 13, 2023 04:00PM ● By Andrea Stetson

Every Monday night during season, people come to the Art League of Bonita Spring’s Moe Auditorium to enjoy foreign films and award winning documentaries. Photo by Andrea Stetson

Norma Westall had never heard of the movie "Lion" before stepping into the Moe Theater, but she loved it.

“That was a fabulous movie,” she gushed. “I liked it because it was a true story, and it was in our time so I could relate to that, and it had a happy ending.”

The films shown on Monday nights by the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs are movies that most people don’t know about. They are foreign films, documentaries and independent movies. The people filling the auditorium enjoy seeing something different, they like the intimate atmosphere and the discussions before and after the showing.

Frank Blocker looks at film festivals to see what movies are showing. He finds films by directors that he and the audience enjoy and he looks for films with a great storyline and beautiful cinematography.  

“We do have a treasure trove thanks to some of the umbrella licenses that we have,” Blocker said. “I just have certain criteria. They have to at least be critically acclaimed. They can be edgy. There is a preference for foreign films. We want a good film.”

Frank Blocker, who runs the film series, talks about the actors and the awards the film has won before the viewing and then leads a discussion with the audience about the film following the showing. Photo by Andrea Stetson

Blocker begins the evening by giving the audience information on the actors, the awards, its rating by Rotten Tomatoes and by the public and other facts. After the film he leads a discussion about everything from the acting and storyline to the plot and conclusion.

Blocker hopes the audience makes a connection with the film. He spoke about one film set in South America, where an audience member was able to enlighten everyone about the region's traditions.    

“I want them to have moments when they connect something in the discussion,” Blocker said.

Not everyone will like every film, but it’s more about getting a reaction and providing the audience with a new experience.

“'Tanna' was my favorite,” Blocker explained. “It had everything about movies that I like.”

That film, set in Tanna, was a Romeo and Juliet type story, only true about a couple that threw themselves into a volcano because their tribes went to war when the girl would not marry the man picked for her.

“They wanted their story to be told so they could help others,” Blocker said. “They used natives from the island as actors in the story and they were so connected with their roles.”

Dearskin was the worst one he showed. It was a French comedy that was a critical darling, but he said he didn’t know it was a slasher movie until it arrived the day of the showing.

“Every once in a while we have stinker, and I tell people that you have to passionately love to hate a film,” he said.

"Lion," which he showed last month, was a favorite among many of the guests and employees.

“It was just really interesting to see a kid go from losing his whole family and everything he knew, to having a new family and still feeling that sense that something was missing in his life,” said Callie Brown, house manager.

About 30 people usually show up and that small size appeals to the audience.

“There is something intimate about it and I like the ambiance,” said Deborah Fream whose favorite film was about a person who made up a fake language.

The audience also liked discovering movies they had never heard of.

“They are not films I would normally watch on my own time, but I have enjoyed them all so far,” Brown said.

Anne and James Forrer have been coming to the film nights for the past four years.

“I just like the variety of the films they show, and its stuff we never would really watch on our own,” James Forrer said.

“I enjoy different movies,” Anne Forrer added. “It is something that is unique and different. It is a good introduction to foreign films that I would not know enough on my own to look into.”

James Forrer said his favorite was "The Legend Of 1900," a film about a guy who spends his entire life on a ship.

“You hear it and it sounds like something you would never watch, but it was pretty fascinating,” he said.

Blocker loves watching the audience enjoy or even hate a movie.

“This is supposed to be films for film lovers,” Blocker said. “I want them to love movies the way I love movies.”

Andrea Stetson has been writing for magazines and newspapers in Southwest Florida since 1995. She and her family live in North Naples.