Growing up in New Canaan, J. Tedrowe Bonner had always delighted in the town's "communal art activities" -- carnivals, art festivals and film series, among others.

"New Canaan has a legacy of being one of the most creative places in Connecticut," said Bonner, a resident of Long Island, N.Y, who recently bought a house in Fairfield County. "It's the home of the modern house movement and the home of many great artists."

Bonner plans to continue that tradition when he, along with filmmaker and Westport resident Larry Locke, launches the Blacktop Film Series Thursday in New Canaan.

Taking place in the parking lot of Bank of America, near the corner of Cherry Street and South Avenue, the series features five independent films that convey the theme of "self-realization," Bonner said.

"We wanted to chose movies that explore humanity in fun ways," said Bonner, the founder of Rubicon Seven Foundation, a New Canaan-based organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development.

The opening film in the series, "Going Nomad," follows El Cid Rivera (Damian Young), a 33-year-old Manhattanite who has never left home. Tired of his mundane life and fruitless career, El Cid takes to the streets of New York at night, as part of a group who call themselves the Asphalt Nomads. The film, which begins at sunset, includes a discussion with writer, director and producer Art Jones.

The second offering, to be screened Aug. 12, is Locke's "Pin Gods," a 1996 documentary about three amateur bowlers -- Bob, Tony and Sonny -- who go on the 1993 Pro Bowlers Association tour. Locke decided to include the film in the Black Top series after it was revived this year at Stranger Than Fiction, a documentary film series in New York City.

"The PBA was interested in me because I had done a lot of MTV Sports segments, and they thought I could bring some hipness to bowling," said Locke, who began work on the film after graduating from Columbia University in the early '90s. "But I wasn't interested in that; I was interested in real life. The story was about a little dream."

Locke, who also directed "The Accidental Mayor" -- a peek into the administration of former Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi -- looked back on his long career as an independent documentary filmmaker as he and Bonner zeroed in on the focus for the series.

"I saw a lot of films that didn't have big lives outside of a certain world, but were still really good," said Locke, who co-owned the New York City post-production house, Arc Pictures in New York City and now runs his own business, Larry Locke Films.

The series is rounded out by "Once" (Aug. 26); "A Touch of Greatness" (Sept. 11); and "The Story of Anvill" (Sept. 25).

Movie-goers are invited to come before sunset -- the start time for the films -- and bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnics.

In addition to reinvigorating the New Canaan art community, Bonner also hopes to draw a connection between the films and the mission of the Rubicon Seven Foundation. The organization is dedicated to "communally spark regenerative practices to create social-ecological vibrancy," according to a press release.

"We're showing movies of self-exploration to ... make people think about how to make a community a better place," he said.

And if there's any film that make that happen, Locke said it's the story of three amateur bowlers with dreams of making it big.

Said Locke of the film's underlying lesson: "If you chase a dream, you may or may not succeed, but you'll be a better person for it."