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Over the course of the last decade, film has become one of our most critical resources and powerful tools for educating, empowering, and motivating audiences around the issues that affect our world—some that may already be in the public consciousness and many that we might never otherwise have known about. Today’s filmmakers have also become highly skilled at approaching the endless stream of social, political, and environmental issues from two angles: They can rile us up, and they can give us hope. And, in order to make change, we probably need just a bit of both.

A lot of things can happen when you watch a film about a highly charged or politicized issue: You may become enraged or emboldened, indifferent or inspired. But then what? For activist cinema, this is the crux of the matter: What happens after the lights come up and audience members start looking around for answers, wondering “What can I do?”

The many members of the ever-growing active cinema movement have some answers to that critical question, and they’re eager to share them with you. And so are we.

Active Cinema was launched at the 31st Mill Valley Film Festival in 2008 as a forum for “celebration, education, and activation.” Each year, MVFF continues to present a selection of activist films in its Festival program and offers a variety of forums and opportunities that help make connections between films, filmmakers, audiences, and community partner organizations working toward the causes and issues represented onscreen.

We’ve developed this site as a companion to the Festival itself, where you can find information on Active Cinema films from current and past festivals and ways you can continue to view and share the films and be involved in their work. We hope these live and online resources will provide the necessary mechanisms that make it easier for people to connect and, ultimately, make change.

We encourage you to Question, Engage, and Transform.


Young audiences are an important part of the Active Cinema initiative. Through year-round in-school and theatrical events, CFI Education works closely with teachers and students to expand the global and cultural awareness of Bay Area youth and to nurture their understanding of issues that not only affect the world around them but may affect their own lives well into the future.

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