Ebert’s ‘Empathy Machine’

When I first started as a programmer at Indy Film Fest, at some point I got an email from Wayne (documentary programmer) who has this amazing quote from Roger Ebert as his email signature. “Empathy is the most essential quality of civilization…And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy…It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.”


That’s exactly how I have always felt about movies, and I try to keep that in mind when picking selections for World Cinema. I want them to be of different genres, different styles, be from different continents. There should be a whole range of emotions that they elicit from the audience. This year we have feature films from Africa, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. A lot of them seem to be about belonging and identity; some are comedies, some are tragedies, some are just slice-of-life type films.


I hope people watch them and feel like they are entering new worlds which the characters inhabit and getting an inkling of what it’s like to be someone else. That’s what movies do for me.

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