The theme of this year's Global Film Festival, "Film and Community," is much more than a subject matter.
"We're really trying to not just program films around it, but to live it," said Kate Previti, the festival's senior assistant director and programming director.
In a way, the festival has lived it since the start, founded with a mission of "commitment to using film as a global medium, an international medium, to bring our local community together," said Timothy Barnard, festival director.
Presented by the College of William and Mary, the ninth annual Global Film Festival will pack Feb. 18-21 with screenings of nearly 30 short and feature-length films from around the world, presentations from guest filmmakers, filmmaking workshops, themed receptions and more.
It's a big year for the festival organizers say has built on its successes since 2008.
In a special sneak preview, audiences will be first in the U.S. to view "Angry Indian Goddesses" at 9 p.m. on Saturday. Featuring leading Indian actresses, the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2015, followed by screenings at European festivals. As India's first female "buddy" film, the comic drama highlights both the beauty of female friendship and the challenges women face in Indian society.
Other exclusive screenings include "Embrace of the Serpent," shown 5 p.m. Sunday, and "The Boy & the World," shown at 1 p.m. Sunday; both are Academy-Award nominated films. "Embrace of the Serpent" is Colombia's first-ever Academy Award nominee for "Best Foreign Film," following the relationship between an Amazonian shaman and two European scientists.
For filmmakers and distributors to see the festival as a place to exclusively release films speaks to its reputation, Previti said. "It's a dedicated community of film-lovers, and that speaks to people."
With feature, documentary and animated films, the lineup explores "Film and Community" in subject matter as much as it does through experience.
In the age of Netflix, Barnard said the festival is "trying to revitalize and bring back more of a social practice of film going."
The complete experience includes the chance to hear from filmmakers, this year from Albania, Romania, Pakistan and the U.S. Former Ambassador of Pakistan Akbar Ahmed presents the regional premiere of his film "Journey into Europe" at 5 p.m. on Thursday. The documentary follows Ahmed's road trips taken with students to explore Islam's communities throughout the world.
Another documentary follows at 8:30 p.m., as director Ilinca Calugareanu and producer Mara Adina from Romania present "Chuck Norris Vs. Communism." A popular film at last year's Sundance festival, this documentary follows the underground Romanian audiences who watched forbidden action films, playing a role in crumbling Romania's ruling totalitarian regime.
For film buffs and average viewers alike, Previti sees the festival as a unique opportunity "to be immersed in so many different kinds of films and worlds, and communities within those."
There's something for everyone, including a student film competition showcase and Sunday's Community "Come Together" reception at the Williamsburg Community Building, 401 N. Boundary St., celebrating filmmaking and culture specific to Williamsburg.
The festival is largely student-run. Each year, Barnard said he sees students affected, inspired even, by the community interaction: "Their eyes have been opened in this really positive way."
"There's the town and the gown and everything in between," Previti said. "It's pretty exceptional to watch students and retirees and people from all over just engage in conversation about films at the Kimball."
Plus, "What's better than a weekend at the movies?" Previti said.
Bridges can be reached at 757-275-4934.
Want to go?
When: Feb. 18-21
Where: Kimball Theatre, 424 W. Duke of Gloucester St.
Tickets: Most screenings are $2; marquee films are $3 for students and $5 for the public. Receptions included with corresponding show tickets or festival passes.
Full festival schedule and ticket information available at filmfestival.wm.edu.