“Even in the narrowest of matters, lies can be devastating,” said Ronald M. Green, emeritus professor of religion at Dartmouth College and an expert on ethics.

He will introduce, as well as moderate, the post-event discussions surrounding four films dealing with ethical dilemmas at BIG ARTS Film and Ethics Series. The first film, Denial, screens at12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at Island Cinema, 535 Tarpon Bay Rd.

Dr. Green served from 1992 to 2011 as Director of Dartmouth's Institute for the Study of Applied and Professional Ethics. A summa cum laude graduate of Brown University, he received his Ph.D. in religious ethics from Harvard University in 1973. In 1996 and 1997, Professor Green was the founding director of the Office of Genome Ethics at the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Denial is a film closely based on the story of Deborah Lipstadt, a university professor and writer who was sued for libel by historian David Irving, whom she calls a Holocaust denier in her 1993 book, “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.”

One of the central questions of the film – and the British trial it depicts – is whether or not Irving knew the Holocaust happened, and if he did, was he deliberately spreading falsehoods, i.e., lying.

“If I tell you there’s $1,000 in my bank account and I have half that, is it a lie,” Green asks. “Not if I think I have a thousand dollars.”

It’s a question with “high relevance” to today, Green says. Journalists and citizens alike have grappled with the definition of a lie in relation to statements made by the current political administration. The alleged liar must know he or she is lying to truly be a liar.

The importance of a court of law and existing evidence in ethical questions is clear in Denial, starring Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt and Timothy Spall as David Irving, because while interpretation of fact may be mutable, fact itself is not. “Alternative facts” do not exist, Green says.

“One of the most interesting things about the film is that now we’re in a period where people weave narratives, and they go on forever (with the advent of the Internet). This case was a watershed moment because this proliferating culture of denial was spreading. Lipstadt’s legal team took on the responsibility of trying to stop the growth of those lies.”

Green, who lives part time on Sanibel, chose the four films in BIG ARTS’ series. It wasn’t easy, he says. “Almost every single film is something about morality and ethics. But very few films present genuine moral questions that we can actually debate – most merely exhibit goodness and evil.”

Following Denial, three other films feature central ethical questions. All films will be shown at 12:30 p.m.

• Oct. 24, “Incendies”: Are there limits to maternal love?
• Oct. 31, “Anthropoid”: When resistance is absolutely futile and destructive, is it worth doing?
• Nov. 7, “Passengers”: Is it ever morally permissible for someone to do something otherwise wrong when that person’s own vital interests are at stake?

Nearly all films involve ethics because they deal with human beings, and ethics is about the human condition. The foundation for answering all these questions says Green is the golden rule.

“Present in Christianity, Confucianism, Judaism it’s universal. Ethics is the basic golden rule and then we build up codes to formalize it.” Additional information about ethical questions causes us to change our rules about them.

For example, Green says, it took higher education a while to fully consider the implications of a conflict of interest, as in the assumption that professors shouldn’t date graduate students. “And then people want those things written down. And at the top of all of this is the law, which is ethics crystalized to punishable offenses.”

And while our understanding of ethical questions may change, people will always grapple with them and always have. “Around cave fires we discussed whether everybody got a fair share of bison,”Green said.

“The ethics series promises to be one of the most topical at BIG ARTS this season, and we are thrilled to have such a distinguished presenter in Dr. Green”, said Lee Ellen Harder, Executive Director.

For more information and tickets, go to www.bigarts.org/film/