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FilmFest: Movies that make a difference

By Phillip Jordan

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Dr. Pam Haldeman, chair of MSMC's Film, Media & Communications department, interviews Jordan Wagner, producer of "La Source," following the film’s screening at the Mount.

This spring, the Mount screened "La Source" as part of its ongoing FilmFest series. The next movie in this free, open-to-the-public series will be held this fall.

Last November, “Tamale Road” helped to launch Mount St. Mary's College's new public film series, FilmFest. The Mount’s most recent public screening took place April 16, with a showing of “La Source,” an uplifting documentary about a Haitian custodian working at Princeton University who returns to Haiti with a mission to help provide clean water to his countrymen.

The screening was part of Mount St. Mary’s FilmFest series, which is free and open to the public. Each screening includes a conversation with the filmmakers, hosted by Pam Haldeman, chair of the College’s Film, Media & Communication department.

“La Source” was created by Award-winning director Patrick Shen (“The Philosopher Kings”) and producer Jordan Wagner, who is also the executive director of the nonprofit Generosity Water, which supported the water project at the heart of the film. Narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle (“Hotel Rwanda,” “Crash”), with music scored by Sigur Ros, “La Source” has proved to be a success both cinematically and as a vehicle for social change.

In 2010, Haitian native Josue Lajeunesse was working as a custodian at Princeton University. After a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, Lajeunesse returned home to revive a lifelong dream that he shared with his brother: to build a clean water system for their village, the rural town of La Source.

Lajeunesse’s journey also galvanized a far-flung community of support for his hometown, including students, musicians and nonprofits. For his efforts, Lajeunesse has been awarded the prestigious Journey Award by Princeton University, “given to someone exemplifying the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and, in this case, making the problems of others his own.”

“Josue is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met,” Wagner, the film’s producer, said in a Q-and-A session with the audience following the screening. “A lot of times we simply dismiss people because of who we think they are, where they’re from or what they do. But this whole experience reminded me of how much power, how much beauty we have in our diversity, our uniqueness. And if we can come together with a common goal, a common dream, we can still change the world.”

Mount St. Mary’s FilmFest series is sponsored by the College’s Film, Media & Communications department. The FilmFest series takes place each semester on the College’s Chalon Campus, and includes refreshments and a conversation with the filmmakers. For more info on upcoming FilmFest screenings, e-mail hschraeder@msmc.la.edu.