FilmScene kicks off new outdoor movie series on April 24 with ‘Minari’

Artists conception of people attending FilmScene outdoor movie series. — courtesy of FilmScene

A new free outdoor movie series will add another opportunity for people to gather for a safer, arts-filled summer this year. FilmScene, in partnership with the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department, will present FilmScene in the Park, screening in Chauncey Swan Park.

The park, located at Washington and Gilbert streets, has recently undergone a redesign and can now serve as an outdoor amphitheater for socially distanced events. The city-wide mask mandate will be enforced at these screenings (except when attendees are actively eating or drinking), and markers will be painted on the grass to aid social distancing. All shows start at sunset.

During its meeting on Tuesday, the Iowa City Council approved $50,000 to help cover the estimated $100,000 in expenses involved in buying and installing the equipment necessary for the outdoor movie series.

“This open-air screening venue is something we’ve envisioned for over a decade and serves us well now as a safe way to enjoy a communal arts experience,” FilmScene Executive Director Andrew Sherburne said in a press release.

The series kicks off on April 24 with Minari, a semi-autobiographical drama from director Lee Isaac Chung about a family of South Korean immigrants beginning a new life in rural Arkansas in the 1980s. The film was at the center of some controversy when it was nominated for (and eventually won) Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Golden Globes. Many of its supporters argued that the strict percentage rule regarding non-English dialogue in a film is antiquated and out of line with the American experience, and that as a film made in the U.S., set in the U.S. and intrinsically about the American dream, it should have qualified in the Best Drama category.

Minari sets the stage for the first arc of FilmScene’s summer programming (full schedule below): critical darlings with cultural weight, somewhat headier than the usual late-night outdoor summer fare. Each of the first five films will screen twice, on Wednesday and Saturday. It’s the FilmScene “arthouse” experience, with only the location shifted — a testament to the way the pandemic has caused us to rethink our cultural institutions and how we engage with both art and entertainment. FilmScene has been a local leader in that effort since last year, with their ongoing Curbside Concessions offerings and, more recently, small-scale theater rentals.

Cementing that shift in perspective is a screening on June 5 of Wizard of Oz, a celebration with their Strengthen Grow Evolve partners Englert Theatre (who have also weathered this year of challenges with ingenuity). The celebration recognizes the community’s commitment to the success of the Strengthen Grow Evolve campaign, even in the midst of collective trauma.

Following, through June, July and August, is the Summer of the Arts Free Movie Series, now a partnership with FilmScene. The six largely family-friendly films form the second half of the dozen summer screenings, closing out on Aug. 28 with the 2000 Ang Lee classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. All of the films will be shown on a screen mounted on the Chauncey Swan parking ramp. Between shows, the screen will double as a work of public art, with a prairie landscape-inspired curtain by artist Thomas Agran.

FilmScene in the Park: Full Schedule

Minari (PG-13) — Wednesday, April 21, 7:54 p.m. and Saturday, April 24, 7:57 p.m.
Wolfwalkers (PG) — Wednesday, April 28, 8:01 p.m. and Saturday, May 1, 8:05 p.m.
The Truffle Hunters (PG-13) — Wednesday, May 5, 8:09 p.m. and Saturday, May 8, 8:12 p.m.
Emma. (PG) — Wednesday, May 12, 8:16 p.m. and Saturday, May 15, 8:19 p.m.
Nomadland (R) — Wednesday, May 19, 8:23 p.m. and Saturday, May 22, 8:26 p.m.
The Wizard of Oz (G) (in celebration with the Englert Theatre) — Saturday, June 5, 8:37 p.m.
Young Frankenstein (PG) — Saturday, June 12, 8:41 p.m.
From Here to Eternity (NR) (in celebration of Donna Reed’s centennial birthday) — Saturday, June 26, 8:45 p.m.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (PG) — Saturday, July 10, 8:41 p.m.
The Wiz (G) — Saturday, July 24, 8:32 p.m.
The Monuments Men (PG-13) (in collaboration with the Iowa Arts Festival) — Saturday, Aug. 14, 8:07 p.m.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13) — Saturday, Aug. 28, 7:45 p.m.