Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tina Mabry - Capri Theatre - Montgomery, AL

It seems like the Film Gods really had a hand in the screening schedule because the film got a chance to screen at a location where another member of the cast and crew resided. Dr. Tonea Stewart (who played the grandmother character in the film) teaches at Alabama State University and I looked forward to her being able to show the film to her family and friends. I was housed at one of the best B&Bs I've ever stayed - The Lattice Inn. When the innkeeper, Jim, alerted me to the hot tub in the back. Boy was I tempted to go in, but I hadn't packed for it.

I rested for the first night at the inn, trying to stockpile sleep for the rest of the tour if one can even do such a thing. The next day, Martin McCaffery (the Director of the theatre) took me on a tour of Montgomery. I've spent time in Birmingham and Mobile, but sadly I'd never been to Montgomery. It was an honor to see the Rosa Parks museum and to view where she boarded the bus and where she was detained.

Montgomery is steeped in history and to listen to Martin's extensive knowledge about the city was a delight. We even went to Hank Williams' grave. I've got to say my knowledge on Hank Williams is limited; I knew he sung country and that he had a son. To discover that he passed away at the young age of thirty was a bit of a shock. Martin asked me to read the inscription on the back of Hank Williams' tombstone. As I read it, I discovered a typo. Martin says he doesn't know how they missed that.

At the screening, I greeted several of the guests and as usual, I passed out an email sign-up sheet for the film. When I pasted it around, two people asked me, "There's a email list for a Joan Rivers' film?" "Uh-oh," I thought; they're about to attend the wrong movie. Even though Martin was careful to let all of the incoming viewers know that Mississippi Damned would be showing that night, these two must've slid past him. I told them what they were about to see and that sadly, Joan Rivers would not be making an appearance. We shared a laugh and they said they'd stay and watch the film anyway.

Prior to introducing the film, I was met with a surprise. Dr. Stewart and I are members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; the ASU chapter graciously presented me with a gift. This was completely unexpected and I truly appreciated the welcome bestowed upon me.

Martin and I went to dinner during the screening and had a great time discussing not only film, but our families. Once the screening was over, plenty of questions were asked at the screening. The two Joan Rivers audience members stopped to tell me that this was one the best mistakes they ever made and that the film was truly a delight.

I gave out plenty of hugs after the Q&A and had a chance to talk to a few of the audience members; some were aspiring screenwriters who asked for my advice. One young lady stood out in particular, she approached me and made it clear that she has never cried at a movie and she has never been more moved by a film than ours. Her eyes started to water as she talked to me and I could tell she was trying to hold back the tears; I started tearing up as well. She said while the film had moments of despair, there was a lot of hope in the film. She said seeing work like Mississippi Damned inspires her not only as a creative artist, but also as a person; it was comforting to know that someone can overcome what seems to be insurmountable odds. I told her that the reception I received from the audience was inspirational to me as well. I told her the business side of filmmaking at times completely overshadows the creative aspect of it, which can discourage you; for me to hear her kind words helped push me to overcome the difficulties.

The next day, I was off to Baton Rouge but while waiting for my connection in the Atlanta airport, I got an email from Martin. He told me what we grossed for the night and said one more ticket would've outgrossed the Carmike 8. As it stands, we beat out 30 of the 34 local theater chains. He also went on to say that this was the first screening at the theater in which the audience hugged the director. I've got to say that I was humbled by this experience.