Arts Engine recognized the promise of online-video when the internet was still in its infancy. The organization “supports, produces, and distributes independent media of consequence and promotes the use of independent media by advocates, educators and the general public.”  In 2001 it set out to create a new kind of film festival that drew on the unique capabilities of the internet.

Media That Matters does just that.  It’s “inspired by the possibility of what we thought the web could do for documentary films,” said Katy Chevigny, Arts Engine co-founder and Executive Director.  It features thoughtful films from an ever-eclectic group of often young filmmakers, for an entire year, in a virtual setting that enables immediate response.

So, for instance, website viewers can “take action” immediately by clicking on a related link below a featured film.  Media That Matters has also discovered, as many new media creators have, that the project should not be confined to one medium, so the films are not only viewable on the festival website, but on DVDs, television broadcast and in theatrical screenings. 

Of this year’s selections, I’m struck by a 12-year-old Lebanese boy named Hammoudi. He lost both legs from a cluster bomb explosion during the war with Israel in August 2006.  He reflects on this life-altering tragedy with a maturity and candor that is at once horrifying and uplifting. 

Hammoudi’s is one of countless stories like it, but it’s just one of twelve films that the festival has selected. The other pieces, which range from a community leader’s personal story of Hurricane Katrina’s impact  to a lighthearted commentary on the apathy of young Americans to catchy and informative exploration of e-waste, were all selected by a panel for the earnestness of their messages. 

I sat down with the Executive Director of Arts Engine, Katy Chevigny, to discuss the festival, its evolution, its mission and a bit about this year’s films.

As I mentioned when Katy and I met, the website leaves a bit to be desired.  The ability to toggle videos to full screen would add a lot to the viewing experience, and the ability to embed would add a lot to the surrounding discussion.

Media That Matters is an inspired festival with inspired and inspiring films.  I applaud the efforts of Arts Engine, and I encourage all to watch and “take action.”

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