6 years ago, skeptics argued that there was no audience for independent films in the South Side. Thanks to the dedication of a core group of volunteers, the festival was born regardless of closed minds and doubtful hearts, and we have been proving them wrong ever since.
The success of the South Side Film Festival is now a primary testament of the undeniable yearning for art, expression, and thriving here in Bethlehem. The festival films may lack the famous names and epic budgets of Hollywood blockbusters, but I have witnessed their power to enthrall and inspire the South Side community. Over the past few days, diverse people of Bethlehem have united to say; we are here. We appreciate these stories and their power to touch lives. We realize this art matters.
The sense of community in the air this week is undeniable, and I can’t help but think the diversity of the festival’s content has done a great deal to add to the cohesion… that maybe through the recognition and acceptance of the differences among us, can we appreciate each other and unite on a higher level. One of the cultural highlight films, Gypsy Caravan told the story of Rom people from all corners of the world, who were all culturally distinctive, but connected through their history of oppression. The film followed dozens of performers and their journey to share the beauty of gypsy music with the misinformed world that has long held negative perceptions of them.
Music provides an outlet for the gypsies to share their story and spread their talent- and the film went one step further to open my eyes to their personal experiences, struggles, and triumphs. By the end of the film I was not only saddened by the oppression that has burdened the Rom people, but I was also saddened by the realization that our world will never reach its potential because of our destructive habit of discounting valuable peoples. Esma, one of the premier performers of the tour, opened my mind when she pointed out that gypsies were one of the only nations that had never gone to war or invaded another country.
Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from the peaceful gypsies… and maybe other towns should look to South Bethlehem, as a symbol of unity through appreciation, diversity, and art.