Chautauquan Bestor Cram premieres films

Josh Cooper | Staff Writer

Filmmaker Bestor Cram is no stranger to Chautauqua.

“I consider myself the George Washington of Chautauqua,” Cram said, “because I’ve slept in almost every house here given the number of years that I’ve come here.”

This week, Cram, the grandson of former Chautauqua Institution President Arthur Bestor, is screening several films at the Chautauqua Cinema. Two of the films are world premieres.

His company, Northern Light Productions, produces documentary films for museums and for television. The company has done all the films that are shown in the International Spy museum.

The two films to be premiered are titled “This Is Where We Take Our Stand,” and “Weapons of Mass Disruption.” This week, he also screened his 2008 film, “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.”

“Weapons of Mass Disruption” will be screened at 12:15 p.m. today and will include a Q-and-A session  with Cram.

The first film premiered here, “This Is Where We Take Our Stand,” looks at the perspective of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who do not support the wars.

Cram said that for him, this film had particular personal significance.

“It interested me because I had been a participant in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War when I was discharged from the military,” Cram said.

This is among his more controversial works, Cram said. He appreciates that Chautauqua is a place that welcomes debate about controversial topics like the ones covered in his films.

“I think Chautauqua is a place where the notion of dissent and the notion of being able to explore points of view … that are different from the ones you are hearing elsewhere makes this a perfect place for the films to be exposed and exhibited,” Cram said.

“It will not please everybody, I am sure.”

“Weapons of Mass Disruption” is a feature-length film produced in cooperation with the International Spy Museum based upon an exhibit of the same name.

“It was essentially the first attempt at looking at, from the museum’s perspective, the emerging threats that occur in the cyber world,” Cram said.

He said the Chautauqua audience offers good feedback.

“When you have your first audience, you’re sort of doing a test run,” he said. “This is such a vocal audience. People are not afraid to speak their minds here. I’m glad to be exposed to their criticism.

“It’s better than any test audience you could get in Hollywood.”

As a lifelong Chautauquan, Cram’s love for this place runs deep.

“Chautauqua appeals to the restless mind,” Cram said. “I love coming here because there are so many things that are happening. Chautauqua is a perfect place to come to feel re-energized, because you are amongst people who are equally interested in talking.

“And it doesn’t have to be about the tough issues. It can be just catching up about what it’s like to get older.”