This year, Mayor Bill Peduto’s Welcoming Pittsburgh Initiative partnered with Citiparks to present the Spark! Film Series at this summer’s Dollar Bank Cinema in the Park. Spark! will debut on June 10th with the the baseball drama Million Dollar Arm, and continue with a diverse film selection. The series, which seeks to bring together Pittsburghers of all backgrounds, will spotlight the Mexican, Indian, black American, and Bhutanese experience, creating an opportunity for communities to learn from their struggle to integrate. See film descriptions below:
Directed by Sebastian del Amo, Cantinflas tells the story of Mexico’s most important comedian of all time, from his humble beginnings through his triumph in Hollywood winning the Golden Globe for his acting in the film Around the World in 80 Days.
Cesar Chavez (2014)
Directed by Diego Luna, Cesar Chavez chronicles the birth of a modern American movement led by the famed civil rights leader and labor organizer. Torn between his duties as a husband and father and his commitment to bringing dignity and justice to others, Chavez embraced non-violence as he battled greed and prejudice in his struggle for the rights of farm workers. His triumphant journey is a remarkable testament to the power of one individual’s ability to change the system.
McFarland, USA (2015)
Inspired by the 1987 true story, McFarland, USA follows novice runners from McFarland, an economically challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley, as they give their all to build a cross-country team under the direction of Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a newcomer to their predominantly Latino high school. Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other, but when White recognizes the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change. With grit and determination, the unlikely band of runners eventually overcomes the odds to forge a championship cross-country team. Along the way, Coach White realizes that his family finally found a place to call home, and both he and his team achieve their own kind of American dream.
Million Dollar Arm (2014)
In a last ditch effort to save his career as a sports agent, JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next great pitching ace. Hoping to find a young cricket pitcher he can turn into a Major League Baseball star, JB travels to India to produce a reality show competition called Million Dollar Arm. With the help of a retired baseball scout (Alan Arkin) he discovers Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma), two 18-year-old boys with a knack for throwing a fastball. Hoping to sign them to major league contracts and make a quick buck, JB brings the boys home to America to train. As the boys learn the finer points of baseball, JB learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment, and what it means to be a family.
In the shadow of Bhutan’s lofty ideal of Gross National Happiness and its golden image as the “Last Shangri-la” hide 107,000 people who fled a militaristic insurgency as their peaceful kingdom turned against them. With their villages burning behind them, men, women, and children fled into the Indian jungles, bewildered, never to return to the land they love. After 20 years living in bamboo huts and barbed wire parameters, the Refugees of Shangri-la break a hopeless cycle and brave a new course due west.
The award-winning film from director Ava DuVernay chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. The film tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history.
Spark! Film Series screenings will take place at Arsenal Park, Brookline Memorial Park, Schenley Park, Grandview Park, Riverview Park, and Overlook Park between June 10th and August 30th. Event dates and locations can be found on the Citiparks website. All screenings are free and open to the public.