Susan Sarandon is 2002 Freedom in Film Award winner

Monday, June 10, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Actor and activist Susan Sarandon is the 2002 Freedom in Film Award recipient, honored by the First Amendment Center and the Nashville Independent Film Festival for her powerful combination of professional and personal commitment to free expression and civic activism.

Sarandon’s stellar film career has been marked by creative challenges to the status quo in movies that include “Dead Man Walking” and “Thelma and Louise.” Her personal activism began with the civil rights movement and included Vietnam War protests. She also worked to highlight the conditions of Haitian refugees afflicted with AIDS and participated in protests against police brutality in New York City. She is a founding member of The Creative Coalition, a nonprofit group from the arts and entertainment communities that focuses on First Amendment and social issues, and she also works with the Center for Constitutional Rights in defending First Amendment freedoms.

The 2002 Nashville Independent Film Festival, one of the nation’s oldest film festivals, celebrates independent filmmaking and runs through Sunday, June 9. Sarandon accepted the Freedom in Film Award in New York City this week following a taping of “Speaking Freely,” a weekly, half-hour television program that explores freedom of expression issues in the arts. “Speaking Freely” airs on PBS stations in New York, Los Angeles and across the country. Ken Paulson, executive director of the First Amendment Center, is host of the program.

Asked during the program, which will air later this year, why some art or films or stage productions provoke fearful reactions from the American public, Sarandon said that people “should fear art, should fear film, should fear theater. This is where ideas happen. This is where somebody goes into a dark room and starts to watch something and their perspective can be completely questioned. … The very seeds of activism are empathy and imagination.”

Sarandon also noted that artists often provoke questions about government policy or performance. “Governments have always been afraid of art and I think they should be. It’s an artist’s job and expertise … to kind of aerate things and punch holes in things so people can squirm around in there, and kind of let some light in and see what is going on,” she said.

“That’s the great thing about this country … [dissent] is not only our birthright, it’s our obligation. It’s what this country was founded on,” she said.

The annual Freedom in Film award is presented in recognition of lifetime achievement in film/video that exemplifies and advances free expression.

In 1999 the award was presented to Charles Burnett, an independent filmmaker whose work has focused on African-American families. In 2000 the award was presented to Harry Belafonte for his career in film and for his work to bring diverse voices to the screen. Robert Redford was the 2001 Freedom in Film Award recipient, in recognition of his work on free-expression issues, his personal involvement in social issues and as his creation of the Sundance Film Festival in support of independent filmmakers.

Media contact: Gene Policinski, 615/727-1303

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