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Concordia alumna is the new executive director of the Flaherty Film Seminar

Samara Chadwick: ‘It dismantles many of the power structures of traditional festivals’
July 16, 2021
Blonde woman with hair tied back wearing white blouse, standing in front of blurry water backdrop
Samara Chadwick: “I feel incredibly lucky to have found a position that allows me to deploy the many disparate skills I’ve amassed over the years.” | Credit: Flaherty

The Brooklyn-based Flaherty Seminar is the longest running film event in North America. Last month, Concordia alumna Samara Chadwick (BA 06) was named its executive director.

Following her years at Concordia, Chadwick took on various roles within the film industry, including production assistant, editor, sound recordist, film programmer, conference and political organizer and scholar. What tied all those experiences together was her passion and appreciation for film.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have found a position that allows me to deploy the many disparate skills I’ve amassed over the years while also remaining fiercely committed to my beliefs in independent non-fiction cinema, critical and expansive dialogue and international experimental forms,” says Chadwick, a former curator for the Goethe-Institut Montréal and senior programmer at the Points North Institute and Camden International Film Festival, both in Camden, Maine.

‘A fiercely political time’

It was in her first term at Concordia that Chadwick realized her passion for film.

“I remember the fall of 2002 when I was a first-year student at the Liberal Arts College. It was a fiercely political time at Concordia,” she says.

“I was reading Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli and Diderot and trying to locate myself in the current moment: where issues of 9/11, globalization, NAFTA, the violence in Palestine, in Kosovo, in Haiti, were all very raw. I wanted tools for expression that felt more collaborative than the written word.”

Chadwick got involved with the student union and with founding what would become Cinema Politica. She also made lifelong friends.

“We stayed up late watching films from all over the world, shooting video, 16mm, editing on the old Steenbecks, building audiovisual worlds that helped us process our experience and concerns at the time.”

Chadwick graduated from Concordia in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in liberal arts and communication studies.

More about the Flaherty Film Seminar

The Flaherty was founded in Vermont in 1954 by Frances Flaherty, a filmmaker from Cambridge, Massachusetts, best known as partner and lifelong collaborator to filmmaker Robert Flaherty. The purpose of the event was to bring people together for Socratic debates about films within experimental, ethnographic and non-fiction genres.

Over the past 66 years, the Flaherty has brought together filmmakers, critics, artists and writers for a week-long seminar of screenings and discussion.

“What makes it quite rare is the way it is able to dismantle many of the power structures that often take over the spaces of traditional film festivals,” Chadwick adds. This year, the Flaherty has moved online and is accommodating a wide range of films from various parts of the world.

From July 9 to 18, the seminar will welcome  400-plus participants from more than 40 countries to watch films and engage in the seminar’s conversations. This year’s edition is programmed by Janaína Oliveira.

Chadwick says it's important that the voices of the filmmakers and audience members at the seminar are heard, so the organizers are doing their best to facilitate communication in various languages and translations throughout the week in the online space.

Find out more about Concordia's Department of Communication Studies and the Liberal Arts College.


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