"With the help of the filmmakers, the conversations tend to peel away the layers of the film and explore the film's message or impact on culture," said Windrider executive Shannon Fischer.
The three film forums are:
• "Rising From Ashes" (7 p.m. Thursday, July 12), a documentary about the first Rwandans National Cycling Team, whose members were personally impacted by the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. T.C. Johnstone, producer and director, will participate in the discussion.
• "The Hammer" (7 p.m. Friday, July 13), the true story of the first deaf wrestler to win a national collegiate championship. Oren Kaplan, the director, will participate in the Q&A session along with the film's co-star, deaf actress Shoshannah Stern. There will be American Sign Language Interpreters present for the discussion portion.
• "Red Dog" (7 p.m. Saturday, July 14), the true story of a dog's impact on a mining community in the Australian outback. Lead actor Josh Lucas and screenwriter Daniel Paplitz will discuss the film with the audience.
Windrider's arrival in this area is intimately linked to Fuller Seminary, a multi-denominational theological seminary with a campus on the grounds of St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park.
Three years ago, Menlo Park resident Meritt Sawyer attended Windrider Film Forum in Park City, Utah, where the forum was started by a Fuller Seminary student and staff person as part of the Sundance Film Festival. As a member on the Fuller board of trustees, Ms. Sawyer said she realized the cultural value of the forum.
She became determined to bring Windrider to Menlo Park. With the help of the Fuller Menlo Park campus director, Curt Longacre, and her friend, now Windrider Bay Area director Terri Bullock, she did just that.
"The Windrider team's goal is to bring these powerful stories to an audience that is intelligent, caring and intentional in their efforts to make a contribution to their world," said Ms. Bullock. "I believe the Bay Area is the perfect place for this type of film forum."
The name Windrider comes from the Hebrew word "ruach," which means "spirit," or "breath," but is literally translated as "wind," explained Ms. Fischer. "'Windrider' is like riding on the spirit or on the wind, and the wind being the fact that films can be life-changing for people," she said.
The film "Rising From Ashes" documents the redemptive journey of the Rwandans and their coach, American cyclist Jock Boyer.
"We wanted the film to not only be about the team and their situation with genocide and becoming heroes for a country, but also about their and Jock's relationship," explained the film's director, T.C. Johnstone, who went to Rwanda in 2005 to look at the country "through the eyes of a bike."
"It (the film) calls up a lot of questions in terms of culture and business, of looking at business differently, of looking at faith differently, of looking at redemption differently," Mr. Johnstone said.
In "The Hammer," a deaf actor plays every deaf character in the film. The film is two-thirds English and one-third in sign language, with subtitles for both. "The whole idea when we made the movie is that it would be a mainstream sports film that deaf and hearing people can watch in the theater," said director Oren Kaplan, who will participate in the discussion.
"The film tells the story of (a family's) efforts to navigate the best way to educate their child — something we all grapple with, even if our children are not deaf — and support his passion for wrestling," she said.
Deaf actress Shoshannah Stern, who also played a deaf character in the Showtime television series "Weeds," will attend as well. There will be an ASL interpreter present for the discussion portion.
Australian director Kriv Stenders described the third film, "Red Dog," as a "love letter" to Australian cinema and a tribute to that time and place in Australia.
"It's a story about unconditional love, loyalty, and accepting people no matter what," Mr. Stenders said. He is not able to attend the forum, but lead actor Josh Lucas and screenwriter Daniel Taplitz will be in attendance. Their session will be mediated by Ralph Winter, the executive producer of "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four," among other films.
A forum pass is available for all three films for $35. Individual general admission tickets are $15 for general admission and $5 for students.
Visit windriderbayarea.org for tickets and more information.