Foreign film night courts immigrant families of NFA students

Norwich - A desire by Norwich Free Academy to involve families of immigrant students in the school will soon merge with a cinema group's plans to expand its offerings of foreign and independent films.

The Norwich Community Cinema announced last week it has formed a partnership with NFA to host a foreign film night on the fourth Friday of the month starting Jan. 22 at the Ensemble Room in the Sidney Frank Center on campus. The films will run at 7 p.m. and will have subtitles in English.

James Landherr, director of research and strategic partnerships at NFA, approached leaders of the Norwich Community Theater about two months ago with the idea of using part of the school's recent $76,229 federal Immigrant Children and Youth Education grant to bring foreign films to campus.

The cinema group has been running independent and foreign films on the second Saturday of the month at the Donald Oat Theater on Broadway since the summer.

Ed Heffernan, vice president of Norwich Community Cinema, said the group will choose the movies and will try to concentrate on Chinese, Hispanic and Creole languages. The first film at the Sidney Frank Center will be "The Blue Kite," a 1993 controversial Chinese film about life soon after the Communist government rose to power.

And to usher in the foreign film series, Norwich Community Cinema will show "Amreeka," a film about an Iraqi family immigrating to the American Midwest, on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Donald Oat Theater.

Tickets for the downtown shows are $7, but admission to the NFA foreign film series will be a suggested $5 donation to encourage more families to attend. Heffernan said the community cinema's volunteers will screen movies ahead of time for content appropriate for the high school setting, and if anything "edgy" is included, an announcement would be made at the start of the film.

The group also is looking for volunteers to help seek appropriate movies and for movie suggestions. The theater group can be contacted at

The film series is a small portion of NFA's effort to improve involvement of the 200 immigrant families who send students to NFA, Landherr said. With part of the grant, NFA will purchase English language learning software for library computers and will open the library for three Saturdays a month - it is now open only one Saturday a month. The computers will be available for use by all students and their families, Landherr said.

"It really benefits the whole school, not just the immigrant families," Landherr said.

The school also will purchase some library books in foreign languages and more dictionaries. After-school tutors will be available for immigrant students as well. The grant also will pay for field trips for immigrant students to Norwich City Hall and to the state Capitol to learn about local and state government.

The grant runs from January 2010 through June 2011.

"How can parents be more empowered to be part of their kids' education?" Landherr said of the school's goal for the grant money. "Get them on campus, watch a film or come to the library on Saturdays to use the computers."

If you go:

Upcoming films shown by Norwich Community Cinema:

Saturday, Dec. 12: A "Good Evening" with early Alfred Hitchcock Films. A double feature of "The Lady Vanishes" and "The 39 Steps."

7 p.m., Donald Oat Theater, 60-64 Broadway, Norwich.

Tickets: $7.

Saturday, Jan. 9: Film "Amreeka"

7 p.m., Donald Oat Theater.

Tickets: $7.

Friday, Jan. 22: Premiere of foreign film series at Norwich Free Academy with the Chinese film "The Blue Kite."

7 p.m., Ensemble Room, Sidney Frank Center, Norwich Free Academy.

Suggested donation: $5.

For information, contact Norwich Community Cinema at


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