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By Lauren McDowell

Fans of The Independent Picture House know that a jam-packed, in-person movie experience has the power to move and inspire audiences. But as pandemic-era theater closures and ominous box office headlines remind us, geographic and financial constraints mean many under-resourced community members miss out on these transformative experiences. 

That’s where IPH comes in. We’re launching a brand-new initiative called Indie on Wheels: a mission-driven mobile cinema project dedicated to educating and engaging communities through the power of film. This initiative will host public screenings (often alongside in-person community events) at venues, recreation centers and libraries across Charlotte. 

The inaugural event will take place February 29 at the Sugaw Creek Recreation Center. We’ll be screening My Soul Speaks, a documentary shot and produced in Charlotte in 2003-2004. It follows several local spoken-word artists who showcase their talent and commitment to their craft. Spoken-word poetry is a timeless art that continues to find an audience (as you can tell from the readings and open-mic nights that take place across The Queen City). And it fosters community by inviting its audience to connect through the performance of narrative and poetic arts. 

“When you go to a spoken-word event, they are not just poets putting pen to paper. You are seeing someone’s raw emotion. They put their heart and soul into it. Spoken-word poets, much like rap artists, are telling you a story they’ve experienced over time. Sometimes it’s past; sometimes it’s current. Either way, it’s happening now,” says Steve Rutherford, director of My Soul Speaks. 

This screening will be followed by a public discussion with Rutherford and spoken-word artist Bluz Rogers. This will give attendees the chance to connect with the creators and each other and to discuss their reactions, questions and takeaways from the film and the legacy of spoken-word in Charlotte. 

“I made this documentary 20 years ago because I wanted to capture what was happening, and I knew early on in the shoot that we were capturing a historic moment. I followed their passion and was able to capture artists who became icons to people getting on the Charlotte spoken-word scene today,” Rutherford says. 

Indie on Wheels is sponsored by Culture Blocks — a community partnership between ASC, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation — to bring arts and cultural experiences closer to where residents live, at no cost to participants. Culture Blocks is funded by Mecklenburg County. 

Cinema has the power to forge and bridge communities, especially here in Charlotte’s vibrant creative ecosystem. That’s why when we founded The Independent Picture House in 2022, creating a place for “community” cinema was a cornerstone mission. But as Indie on Wheels demonstrates, IPH’s founding principles don’t stop at the walls of the theater. We believe in the power of cinema to transform our community, one screening at a time. 

Join us for My Soul Speaks!

When: Feb. 29, from 6 to 8 pm

Where: Sugaw Creek Recreation Center, 943 W. Sugar Creek Road, Charlotte, NC 28213


Stay tuned for more info on future Indie On Wheels events!

Lauren McDowell is a writer, artist and photographer based in Charlotte.
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