GoodCinema Puts Documentary Films to Work for Social Justice

The House I Live In will open the GoodCinema screening series.
The House I Live In will open the GoodCinema screening series. The House I Live in

GoodCinema hopes to spark change, one documentary at a time.

Officially launching tonight, August 7, at the Sie FilmCenter with a viewing of The House I Live In, the documentary series will screen films and host conversations with experts on social issues in Denver.

"The goal of GoodCinema is to increase engagement in the issues that affect our society through community discussion and action,” says GoodCinema founder Bill Byrnes.

An avid lover of documentaries, Byrnes personally cites films Crown Heights and Where to Invade Next as inspirations. "Crown Heights tells a story of a man convicted of a crime he didn't commit in 1980, and how his friend on the outside fights for 21 years to have his conviction overturned," Byrnes says. "[The film] inspired me to fight for those who don't have a voice."

Fired up and ready for action, Byrnes looked for a platform to have meaningful discussions and enact change. He found options were lacking outside social media, which he notes is unproductive.

“Behind the veil of social media, opinions are blasted with personal attacks," Byrnes says. "It leads to people not wanting to engage in any sort of healthy discourse, opting to avoid uncomfortable subject matters altogether."

With the creation of GoodCinema, Byrnes hopes to create an open discussion on a grander scale. “Watching these documentaries made an impact on my own life, so I wanted to push that notion forward and effect positive change.”

The House I Live In, an award-winning documentary from Eugene Jarecki, examines the War on Drugs from a firsthand perspective, following the stories of police, dealers, politicians, and families caught in the middle.

“I wanted to start the series on the War on Drugs because it is the crux of so many issues in this country, including poverty, addiction, crime, and immigrants seeking asylum from dangerous drug cartels.”

The screening will follow with a discussion led by a selection of panelists who are directly tied to the issues within the scope of the Denver community.

“For each film, we want to gather a well-rounded panel of local community leaders. For our upcoming event, we have Art Way from the Drug Policy Alliance. We have a public defender who is working on reforming the money-bail system by way of the Colorado Freedom Fund. We also have Cody Boden – someone who was directly affected by the War on Drugs – who now works at Second Chance Center.” Mayoral candidate, Sexy Pizza owner and cannabis entrepreneur Kayvan Khalatbari is also on the bill.

The final pillar of GoodCinema is to take action. “When confronting social justice, a lot of people think the only answer is going into politics. However, we can pull people of various backgrounds and work together in our own communities as a way to elect change and uplift people,” says Byrnes.

With panelists on site, film-goers have a direct line to donate and explore volunteer opportunities with various organizations. Opening these connections, Byrnes hopes, will build lasting change in the community.

In line with the theme of social justice for all, the following GoodCinema event will include a selection of four short films on immigrants including "Immigrant Prisons" and "Immigrants for Sale." Byrnes chose these films, purposefully screening on September 11, as a direct response to the current political climate.

“I have chosen to screen four short films about immigrant detention on September 11 — a day of patriotism often at the expense of intolerance — to shine a light on the way immigrants seeking a better life in the supposed 'land of opportunity' are treated by our government. As a country built by immigrants taking the land from Natives, I can think of nothing more hypocritical,” he says.

Moving forward, GoodCinema will pop up around the Denver area in order to bring a diverse audience into the conversation. Future film showings will shine a light on underrepresented communities, with themes touching on poverty and women's issues.

Byrnes reflects on his experience as a white man: “I know that I have privilege, and at times I've felt guilt. But instead of feeling guilt, I thought it was best to use my privilege to pull people up.”

The House I Live In, 7 p.m. August 7, Sie FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax Avenue, $15.
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