Emmett Pepper is a state native who left for a few years and came back eager to become involved in his community.
He decided to offer his help to one of his favorite cultural institutions - the West Virginia International Film Festival - on its board of directors.
"For me, growing up here in the pre-Internet age, it was a way to see the outside world," Pepper said of his love of films.
Starting tonight, the festival kicks off its 30th anniversary with a free screening of the documentary "Dirty Wars," about the rise of the Joint Special Operations Command's covert operations. The 87-minute film begins at 8 p.m. at the Capitol Center Theater.
The festival runs through Oct. 26 with a variety of documentary, foreign and award-winning films.
"We have a history of showing both films from around the world that didn't make it here to Charleston, but also highlighting especially documentary and films from here in the state and the region that people wouldn't have the opportunity to see," Pepper said.
His personal favorites are foreign films that usually don't come to Charleston theaters.
And though films are readily available for home consumption, Pepper noted that there's still nothing quite like experiencing a film on the big screen.
"There really is something special about seeing it in a theater - and having that shared experience with others," he said.
Pepper is especially excited that the festival will feature several films with local connections.
West Virginia native Elaine McMillion's "Hollow" documentary will be shown free at 5 p.m. Saturday, and McMillion will take the stage to talk about her web-based storytelling project.
Braxton County native Mari-Lynn Evans also will offer a free screening of her documentary-in-progress, "Blood on the Mountain," about the history of the coal and gas industries at 7 p.m. Oct. 26.
And West Virginia State University graduate Tijah Bumgarner will offer a free screening of his 23-minute documentary "Hey Day," about the emotional process of pregnancy and birth at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24.
Popular films that played in big cities but not here include "Before Midnight," starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in a story of a long marriage and what it takes to make it over the long haul. Popular French film "The Intouchables," tells the story of a wealthy disabled man who hires an ex-con as his caretaker.
Pepper said film festival board members choose films based on their screenings of them.
"I think every single one has been vetted by someone," he said.
He hopes attendees will choose to do something he remembers most from his earlier days of attending the festival.
"Growing up, going to the film festival, I would see movies I wouldn't have otherwise seen," he said.
COURTESY PHOTO The Intouchables tells the true story of a wealthy disabled man who hires a young ex-con as his caretaker. The film was a Golden Globe nominee for best foreign film.
Contact writer Monica Orosz at email@example.com or 304-348- 4830.
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