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'Thunder Soul' kicks off Arts Array

January 7th, 2012 6:44 pm by staff report

Virginia Highlands Community College’s Arts Array film series will begin a new semester of screenings with “Thunder Soul,” a documentary about the extraordinary alumni from Houston’s storied Kashmere High School Stage Band.

The film will be shown at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 16 and 17, at the Abingdon Cinemall.

“The series programs foreign films, documentaries and independent American films that film buffs in the area don’t usually have access to in commercial movie theaters,” said series coordinator Ben Jennings. “We have had excellent community support for this series for over 40 years.”

In “Thunder Soul,” the musicians from Kashmere High School return for a tribute concert for the 92-year-old “Prof,” their beloved band leader who broke the color barrier and transformed the school’s struggling jazz band into a world-class funk powerhouse in the early 1970s. The film’s music is exhilarating, and the story’s history reflects the societal changes taking place in America in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Other documentaries in the spring lineup include “Passione” (Jan. 30 and 31), about the music of Naples, and “We Were Here” (Feb. 13 and 14), the first documentary to take a reflective look back 30 years to the arrival and impact of the AIDS epidemic on San Francisco.

Foreign films to be screened this semester include the Polish “The Mill & the Cross” (Jan. 23 and 24), an imaginative re-staging of Pieter Bruegel’s masterpiece “The Way to Cavalry” presented alongside the story of its creation, followed March 12 and 13 by Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier’s psychological disaster film “Melancholia.” Kirsten Dunst won the Best Actress award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival for her performance in “Melancholia.”

One of the most acclaimed films of 2011, the French black-and-white silent film “The Artist” will be shown March 26 and 27.

Showing on April 16 and 17 will be “The Iron Lady,” Meryl Streep’s intimate portrait of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

“Ten Canoes,” the most famous Australian Aboriginal film ever made, will be screened April 23 and 24 in conjunction with the “Circles in the Sand” exhibition of Aboriginal art at the William King Museum.

The majority of films in Arts Array’s spring series are independent American films. “Martha Marcy May Malone,” a thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as a young woman escaping the psychological effects of living in a cult, will be shown Feb. 6 and 7, followed Feb. 17 and 18 by “Margin Call,” about the financial industry during one 24-hour period of the financial crisis of 2008, and Feb. 20 and 21 by “Like Crazy,” the most critically acclaimed love story of last year.

The George Clooney social comedy “The Descendants” will be screened March 5 and 6, followed March 19 and 20 with screenings of “My Week with Marilyn,” which has garnered a number of acting awards for Michelle Williams in the title role.

Showing on back-to back weeks in April will be two films from two of America’s most renowned directors, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. A biography of Frenchman Georges Méliès, the inventor of special effects in early movies, Scorsese’s “Hugo” is based on a children’s book but also boasts adult appeal. The film will be shown in 3-D. Speilberg’s “War Horse” is an epic World War 1 film, also based on a children’s novel, about the friendship between a boy and his horse Joey, who is drafted into the war effort.

Rounding out the season will be “Pariah” (April 30 and May 1), the coming-of-age story of a teenage African-American lesbian struggling with whether or not to share her sexual identity with her family.

The Arts Array film series is part of the comprehensive cultural outreach program of Virginia Highlands Community College and is co-sponsored by Abingdon Cinemall, the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, Emory & Henry College, Virginia Intermont College and King College.

Admission to the films is free for the faculties and students at the supporting institutions. Members of the general community may attend for $7.50.

For more information or to request a brochure on the series, call Jennings at (276) 739-2447 or email him at

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