California Film Institute Launches Movie Club for Teens

California Film Institute celebrates film in Marin County through acclaimed events like the Mill Valley Film Festival and DocLands Documentary Film Festival, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center’s diverse programming in San Rafael, and CFI Education’s calendar of screenings, classes and workshops.

Now, CFI hosts a new nationwide film program, Movie Room, the first-of-its-kind online film club for teenagers that CFI recently established in collaboration with several film organizations from across the country.

“Through this pioneering collaboration, we’re expanding the traditional concept of film education to also include film exhibition, curation, arts administration, and the variety of ways young people can translate their love of film into fun and gratifying careers,” CFI Director of Education Joanne Parsont states. “We are so excited to welcome these young cinephiles into the art house and film festival community.”

The national film club is specifically targets teens ages 14-18, and will combine distance learning and film appreciation when it meets virtually once a month to connect young people with independent cinema.

Students from around the country receive exclusive, free online access to an independent film curated by the participating film organizations. After viewing the film, the students and mentors from each of the partner organizations come together online for a live, moderated discussion focused on creative interpretation and critical analysis of the film. When possible, filmmaker guests will join the live conversation to get direct feedback from the students about their work.

Movie Room began as a pilot program at the 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival in October 2020, with CFI and three partner organizations coming together to examine Noah Hutton’s sci-fi feature Lapsis.

More partners came on board in the following months, and the full version of the program launched in April with Channing Godfrey Peoples’ narrative feature Miss Juneteenth. On May 8, the club discussed Emily Cohen Ibanez’s new documentary feature Fruits of Labor, with Ibanez and the film’s protagonist, Ashley Solis, joining the discussion to hear the students’ responses to the film.

Currently, Movie Room includes collaborating organizations The Belcourt Theatre (Nashville, TN), Cinema Arts Centre (Huntington, NY), Facets (Chicago, IL), Fresno Filmworks (Fresno, CA), Images Cinema (Williamstown, MA), Kan-Kan Cinema (Indianapolis, IN), Milwaukee Film (Milwaukee, WI), and North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, NC).

“Movie Room is an innovative venture I wish I had access to as a young student,” states Cat Kim, Associate Director at Cinema Arts Center in Huntington, NY. “Especially now with remote learning, to get to watch a new movie and talk about it with it with like-minded, or not so like-minded, peers, but to really share virtual space with cohorts, and meet minds several states away, is an adventurous opportunity from the confines of one’s own bedroom.”

According to CFI Education, the club builds a national community of students who are passionate about cinema by providing a consistent and safe space for young people to interact with each other.

The club also aims to foster empathy and cultural awareness by examining diverse films, characters and communities.

“I love to talk and write about films so when I was notified about Movie Room, applying was a no-brainer,” states Grace, age 16 from Chicago. “I get to see films that I wouldn’t have been able to see on my own and I get to connect with new people, something that I haven’t really been able to do in over a year.”

The 2021 Movie Room is currently at capacity. The 2022 program will be open to new applicants in the fall. For more information, visit

Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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