Bookstore launches documentary film series

07/03/2014

In “A River Changes Course,” lawyer-turned-filmmaker Kalyanee Mam’s first feature-length documentary, Ms. Mam follows three Cambodian families in remote villages who find the modern world closing in on their traditional ways of life. One young woman, Khieu Mok, leaves her village so she can work in a garment factory; she sends the vast majority of her wages back home so her mother can pay off bank debts. Another teenage boy, Sari Math, goes to work on a cassava plantation far from home because his family can’t catch enough fish in the Tonle Sap River to make ends meet. The film, which won the Sundance Festival World Cinema Grand Jury Prize as well as numerous other accolades, will kick off Point Reyes Books’ Black Mountain Circle Film Series, a monthly program that will screen documentary films either currently on the festival circuit or that have a limited theatrical release. It’s one of the new projects under the bookstore’s new nonprofit arm, Black Mountain Circle; the entity, which aims “to explore the relationships between the arts, spirit, story, and place,” will also sponsor the store’s Geography of Hope Conference, the West Marin Review and more to-be-determined programs. The first few months of the film series will be a test run to gauge interest, but Emmanuel Vaughn-Lee, a filmmaker and one of the series’ two curators, expects it will be ongoing. The series will provide a venue for people in West Marin to see films they might not otherwise have a chance to watch. Mr. Vaughn-Lee said not to expect so-called talking head documentaries that heavily feature experts; instead, the series will focus on narrative films. “There has been a movement in past few years to use the tools and techniques of fictional filmmaking in [documentary] films. They create an experience in the same way a good narrative does…They’re a feast for the senses. They take you into a journey, into a world you otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience,” he said. The series will primarily screen the works of Bay Area filmmakers so that someone involved with the film’s production, typically the director, can always appear at the event. “You’re not just watching the film as a passive consumer…you’re there with a group of people in a wonderful space, and you’re there with the filmmaker to ask them questions,” he added. In addition to “A River Changes Course,” Point Reyes Books has scheduled screenings for “The Genius of Marian,” about a filmmaker’s mother and her struggles with Alzheimer’s, and “The Overnighters,” about men flocking to North Dakota to work in the state’s oil fields. “A River Changes Course” will be screened at the Point Reyes Presbyterian Church on Friday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and for sale at Point Reyes Books or at the door.