Indeed, here in America, tribes of Native Americans cherished their stories to such a degree that they literally held them and carried them wherever they went. Individual stones within their “sacred bundles” each represented a story. This allowed stories to be passed down, generation by generation, told and re-told so that those stories established a bond and an identity that, more than anything, defined a tribe’s culture.
So, stories do more than entertain. A well-told story captures our imagination, makes us laugh, forces us to reflect, and inspires transformation. Think about our own nation’s history and the degree to which story has impacted the way we view the world. We need to go back no further than the horrors of 9/11 to see a nation in mourning move forward by attaching itself to subsequent stories of inspiration. After enduring a senseless tragedy, we then sought and rallied behind the individual stories of heroism and courage of first responders, families of victims, and passengers of Flight 93. These stories shaped our memories, galvanized us, and motivated us to take action in countless ways within our communities to honor those who perished. In fact, there is a film in our Oct. 25-30 festival that chronicles the story of a 9/11 first responder.
People hunger for stories the way they hunger for food. The human brain is hard-wired to respond to story and that is why film, in particular, is such a powerful force around the world. At the Washington West Film Festival, we attempt to capitalize on the power of story not just by sharing the impressive work of the films we proudly showcase at our event, but then to channel the collection of stories told within our films to do something bigger, something that transcends our festival and has a real and measurable impact on people.
The films at our festival tell stories of tragedy, horror, love, humor, brilliance, vision, and the power of the human spirit. It is our vision for the festival that it do much more than entertain our audiences for several hours during the confines of our six-day festival across Northern Virginia. That, to us, would be squandering opportunity.
Instead, we attempt to take the power of story and compel ourselves to do something more with it. We donate 100 percent of our net box-office proceeds to charity. We do so, in large part, to cast focus and put energy behind the powerful stories of organizations that, in a genuine sense, are changing the world.
Poverty, disease, natural disasters, mental illness, scarcity of basic resources…everywhere there is a significant problem on this planet, there is a human spirit pushing to solve or alleviate that problem. Gathering the resources, the attention, the passion, and the money to do so becomes the largest obstacle. And that requires a story. Our hope and experience is that our festival can serve as a significant and growing force not just to tell great stories, but to use those stories in a way that effects positive change.
That is how Story Can Change the World.
Brad Russell founded the Washington West Film Festival to create an exceptional curation of the best new films and filmmakers from around the world while catalyzing an art-savvy community toward a new, immersive philanthropic experience. The Washington West Film Festival takes place in Reston, Arlington, and other locations across Northern Virginia Oct. 25-30, 2017. To learn more, visit www.wwfilmfest.com.