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Sherborn Film Club gets fantastic results

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

With movie theaters across the country closed, it is becoming increasingly difficult for even the most critically lauded film to break into the cultural zeitgeist. And while COVID-19 lockdowns have kept everyone in the house, the increasing number of streaming platforms people have, combined with the absurd amount of content they offer, has made it tough to find conversation partners who are watching the same films you are at the same time you’re watching them.

But the Sherborn Library’s film club, which currently meets over Zoom, offers people a suddenly-unique opportunity to talk about a movie with others who’ve just seen it. Last Thursday, the club gathered to discuss “Captain Fantastic,” a 2016 drama about an unorthodox father raising his kids in the woods of the Pacific Northwest following their mother's suicide. Why this movie? Sherborn Public Services Librarian Liz Anderson, who runs the club, explained that after she picks a theme, the group votes on which movie they’d like to watch.  

“I send out a themed vote to the group (via Google forms) every month. January's theme was documentaries and we watched and discussed "The Stories We Tell." February's theme was “World Cinema” and the group chose "Timbuktu." Yesterday's theme was Oscar winners or nominees (Viggo Mortensen was nominated for “Best Actor” for "Captain Fantastic"). I also make up themed snack packs based on the movie each month for the group to pick up curbside, which is really fun to brainstorm.”

For “Captain Fantastic,” the snack pack reflected a spartan, back-to-nature feel by featuring water and fruit - although there were cake bites to mimic a birthday cake the family stole in the film to celebrate their personal holiday, “Noam Chomsky Day.” Although after the group joked about the opening scene of the film, which features the family hunting and slaughtering a deer, a film club member asked Liz: “Why wasn’t there a deer heart in my snack pack?” Funnily enough, she said she’d thought about some kind of jerky to reflect their game-meat-heavy diet, but opted against it.

Essentially, the movie is about a guy raising his family off the grid, deep in the woods, preferring brutal honesty about the world to using kid gloves when speaking with the children. When their mother commits suicide, the family travels to the mother’s funeral, where they run into various culture-shock moments ranging from first seeing a violent video game, to living in the mother’s family’s mansion next to a golf course instead of their school bus in the woods.

Club topics of discussion about the film ranged from lesser matters - like why the film is called “Captain Fantastic” - to headier issues, like if the father is committing child abuse, as is alleged by the mother’s father; whether the portrayal of their upbringing is realistic or overly exaggerated; and whether the filmmaker provided a balanced and nuanced look at different ways to raise children, or opted to push an agenda.

Because it’s difficult to find two people that subscribe to the same streaming services or cable channels these days, the films are selected from the library’s own streaming service, so everyone in the group can watch them, no matter how they get their entertainment at home.

“The library subscribes to Kanopy, which is a video streaming service. I go through that every month to give the group four choices to vote from. I also order DVDs that they can pick up at the library, in case they don't have ability or don't want to use Kanopy.” 

Participants do have to register ahead of time to get the Zoom password - and request a snack pack, if they want one. While it’s not as well-established as other, older Sherborn clubs, so far it has been pretty successful. In fact, it’s been so successful that it went from meeting every other month to once a month.

“We're a pretty new group, we've been meeting since January.  The group meets monthly. I had originally planned for the group to meet bi-monthly, but we've been enjoying it so much that we've decided to do it more frequently. Plus, way less time commitment than reading an entire book! We’ve been getting a great turnout for our small library - almost twenty people every time.”

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