Why Whitehead?

Most film festivals carry the name of the city in which they are located. So why are we, here in Claremont, calling ourselves “The Common Good International Film Festival?” And why are we “celebrating the wisdom of Alfred North Whitehead?” Here’s the answer: The initial impetus for this festival in 2001 came from a worldwide group of persons deeply influenced by the philosophical vision of Alfred North Whitehead. Whitehead was a mathematician turned physicist turned philosopher in the first half of the 20th century. His queries into the “how” of this world led him to develop a vision in which all things that exist are interdependent. We live in and through our relationships with one another. Because of this, we are ultimately responsible for one another – and therefore, we are personally and communally responsible for The Common Good.

“How can we, as Whiteheadians, foster a deeper awareness of our responsibility for the common good?” was the question this group asked. And one of the answers was this film festival. Films are the common language of people around the world; we share our cultures through film; we share our perceptions of what it is to be human, our trials and our transformations. Through film, the ‘strangeness’ of other cultures can turn into appreciation and understanding. And through appreciating and understanding one another, we exercise care for one another, doing what we can to seek and promote the common good.

And so we select films of artistic excellence that do this very thing. Each film speaks of human dignity, of our responsibilities to one another, of problems common to us all, and of the hope of creative transformation in our very togetherness.

Whiteheadian philosophy provides a worldview that fosters social and personal responsibility to one another and to the earth that sustains us. And so do the films we select each year. Thus, we are the Common Good International Film Festival, celebrating the wisdom of Alfred North Whitehead. And the little owl figure with the top hat? Why, that’s Owlfred, of course!

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki
Director, Common Good Film Festival