Movies don't have to be mindless action extravaganzas; in fact, they can sometimes be educational.
In January, come learn about a different aspect of the world while sitting in the cinema as the Film Lovers in Carroll County bring back their annual documentary film series.
The series, held each Friday at the Carroll Arts Center, starting Jan. 13, will feature screenings of the films "Young@Heart," "Life Itself" and "Kings of Pastry."
This is the second year the group has held their documentary series. Frank Baylor, of FLICC, said the series took a while to get off of the ground because it was hard to raise attendance at documentary screenings in the past. Despite their prior struggles, he said he was impressed by how much of a success the documentary series ended up becoming last year.
"We definitely saw a raised amount of interest, especially in the last screening, 'Sommelier,' which was sponsored by JeannieBird Bakery," Baylor said. "The key is to finding movies that the audiences want to see."
Baylor said they've been working on selecting the titles for about the entire year, before finally narrowing the field down to the final three. To be selected, at least two FLICC members have to vouch for a title before it can be added to the schedule. One of the other challenges to selecting films for the series are finding titles that they have the rights to screen. Baylor said it can sometimes be tough to persuade companies to let them screen their films for a single night in front of just a couple of hundred audience members.
"Disney can be problematic in that way; they don't want to water down the product, so they kind of limit how the things go out," Baylor said. "Another one that's tough to get your hands on are the Beatles movies."
Documentaries can be an exciting part of a movie diet, according to Baylor. He said that although they're often entertaining, they can also be difficult to find.
"You never get to see a doc, unless you're willing to travel to Silver Spring or travel to Gettysburg [Pennsylvania] or the Charles Theatre [in Baltimore]," Baylor said. "If you don't do that, you have to watch it on the small screen at home, and they don't always become available there either. It can be hard getting your hands on a disc nowadays."
The first film of the series is "Young@Heart," a British film from 2007 that follows a senior citizen chorus, which performs songs of groups like The Clash, Sonic Youth and Jimi Hendrix. The musicians, with an average age of 81, perform these lively hits at venues around the world. Baylor said they were looking for a crowd-pleaser for their debut film of the series.
"The film rose to the top of the list after several FLICC members saw it and loved it," Baylor said. "It's heartwarming, happy, fun and interesting."
After the light-hearted "Young@Heart" comes "Life Itself" a film about the life and death of film critic Roger Ebert. The film, directed by Steve James, incorporates interviews from Ebert's final months with discussions with his family, friends and filmmakers, as well as historical footage from his long career, including time with the Chicago Sun-Times and his various shows with critic Gene Siskel.
As a project about one of the most popular film personas of all time, Baylor said it was perfect for the movie-lovers of FLICC, and was one of the titles floated for last year's series. In addition to his work in the film industry, "Life Itself" also details his public battle with thyroid and salivary gland cancer.
Finally, FLICC will host a screening of "Kings of Pastry," a film that recalls last year's successful screening of "Sommelier." The film follows a French battle between 15 pastry chefs as they participate in the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, a competition held every four years in which the victor is awarded a title for life.
Baylor said the film follows a gripping competition, feeling as much like a sports documentary as one based on a love of baking. He said it's thrilling to see what each creator has gone through in preparation for the final competition.
Despite the challenges in finding high-quality documentaries, he said they're often worth seeking out for an evening at the theaters.
"It's absolutely true that you can learn an awful lot from a fictional movie, but to see a documentation of a true event that happened to people; when it's done well, there's just no comparison," Baylor said. "There's so many on our list. I'm looking forward to next year to see what we get."