Thursday, April 23, 2009

Refuge in Jackson

I fled a thunder and hailstorm this morning in DC to arrive happily in the balmy warmth of Jackson MS. At the airport I met up with my companion for the next (and final) leg of the Tour -- my mother.

Yes, my mother.

And no, not because I am 16 years old, but because, on the contrary, I am a married mother of two little kids living across the country, and mom never gets to see me. So we thought this would be a good opportunity for some quality mother/daughter time. Which I'm sure it will be.

It's just that it's a little odd explaining to the venue hosts that I am bringing my mother with me.

So here we are in Jackson MS, which I haven't seen all that much of. We rushed straight from the airport to the screening, held at Millsaps College and hosted by the charming Melissa Kelly, a psychology professor at the college and a wonderful dinner companion. At five minutes to the start of the film, there was a sparse scattering of students in the theater, and I started to get a little nervous. Thank goodness for the perennial tardiness of college kids though, they all came pouring in with seconds to spare and the screening was packed. They were a fantastic audience, laughing at throwaway shots and little verite moments that I thought only I appreciated. I saw more than one student crying at the climactic moment, and heard audible gasps when the tension was high. Seriously, I love these guys. I want to rent them to come to all my screenings.

As the lights came up and the Q&A started, I realized that a significant section of the audience was part of the white Greek system on campus, sororities and fraternities, and a few boys were even members of the Millsaps chapter of KA, a fraternity I show in my film parading around in front of the black sorority house in Confederate uniforms for their annual "Old South" week. They seemed nonplussed but not hostile towards the film, saying I had done "a good job" but also noting that the Alabama chapter that I showed was the most "decorated" chapter in the KA membership. I'm not sure what you get decorations for in that world (I'm assuming it's not matching your throw pillows with your drapes) but it seemed to be something to be proud of.

I wish we'd had more time to talk about the positive and negative sides of Greek life, but overall I was so thrilled to be able to show the film to these kinds of audiences - young, collegiate, partly Greek. It's really been a strong point of this tour for me, at several of the academic venues. No offense to the usual film festival crowd, which I love, but preaching to the choir has it's limits. Sure they know the chorus, and they'll harmonize with you on key, but you're probably not teaching them any new hyms. Being able to take my argument to these kids though, to watch them consider things from a new angle, maybe make them think analytically about something that they took for granted, well that, in a nutshell, is part of why I made this film in the first place. So screenings like tonight are pretty darn gratifying.

Tomorrow, a renewal of our quest for good BBQ ( we have a good lead in Hattiesburg, 2 hours away) and let's see what Mobile Albama has in store for us.