Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DNWA in Florida…

Driving back into St. Augustine (where I went to college and then after where I spent 5 years making DNWA) was a surreal experience. I was confronted with the hope and dreams of the Civil Rights Movement that took place here and the sometimes painful reality of the situation forty years later. I could not help but see the parallels to independent filmmaking.
Making DNWA was a total act of love requiring years of sacrifice relying on coalitions with diverse people, an ambitious hope built on dreams and a desire to change the world. I think may filmmakers working on issues of human rights and social justice want to make films that can change the world, but sometimes the painful reality of the process can make one feel like no matter how much is achieved, it never quite did enough to change things. When I left St. Augustine four years ago I had a film with an unsure future, and I left a community that had nurtured me but who’s future was just as precarious.
So it was great to come back and see some of the positive changes that have taken place in the community, not that it is totally where it should be but there are signs of hope. It was also great to come back as part of the Southern Tour of Independent Filmmakers, and though I have said it before, no other screenings of the film have been quite the same as on this tour.
The screening at UNF was no different.
Arriving just in the nick of time for the screening I was greeted by the staff at the amazing Performing Arts Center located in sprawling campus at UNF. It was personally rewarding to play in this venue and the crowed lived up to the tour expectations that at this point are quite high. After the screening of the film we engaged in yet another lengthy and intelligent conversation about Civil Rights past and present, the idea of community and responsibility. It was great to have such a wonderful local reception for the film.
Then it was on to Stuart in South Florida. This place was awesome! It was all that one pictures South Florida to be, warm sunshine, palm trees, and retirement communities.
We screened at the Blake Library that hosts an amazing line up of events. The crowd was mostly made up of retired folks who came out in droves to see the film. I was so curious to see what the reaction of would be by a group of people who lived through the time of the events depicted in the film, but especially their reaction to the contemporary section that deals with the white backlash after the movement and the continued cycle of poverty that plagues some communities.
True to form the post screening discussion was off with a bang. The audience was truly engaged and exhibited a wide range of reactions. There were a few touchy moments as divergent viewpoints were expressed, but that is the whole point of these discussions, to create dialogue and a safe place for people to exchange ideas and maybe, just maybe be enlightened in the process.
It ended with one elderly woman standing up and proclaiming in a loud voice “I just loved it! Keep making movies!”
That was the best thing any filmmaker could ever hear.
Afterwards I met a man in his late 90’s who started writing screenplays when he was 85 and has finished three feature length scripts! (a huge accomplishment for a person of any age) His ambitious movies were well thought out and engaging, and I now have some reading to do. He said that he would be so proud and honored if someone stole his ideas, and after he got over that feeling, he would sue them. I love this guy! I left so inspired by this man.
One more stop… Augusta GA