Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tina Mabry - Cullowhee, NC - Western Carolina University

While I've been to North Carolina many times I've never been to the mountain area, so I have to admit I was a tad scared to make the long night, dim light drive through the mountains from Asheville to Cullowhee. When I finally got the Cullowhee I was immediately reminded of the small town where we shot Mississippi Damned, Ahoskie, NC. Being the southern girl that I am, I've been looking forward to bringing the film to the south and I felt screening in Cullowhee was the perfect place to start.

Prior to the screening I had a chance to take a look around the campus and I couldn't help but to have a flashback about my old stomping ground at Ole Miss. It was homecoming weekend for WCU and I got a chance to sing the fight song with the students prior to their march around campus. Thank God they handed out cheat sheets. While I know quite a few members of the Felidae family, WCU's mascot threw me for a loop. They're the Catamounts. Lori Davis, my contact at WCU, saw my confusion when she said the name and immediately told me most newcomers to the university have never heard of a catamount.

I'm usually a little nervous before every screening; I think most filmmakers experience some form of mild neurosis when showing their film. To my surprise the homecoming hype got me emotionally ready to show the film. I sat back and watched the audience come into the theatre while trying to decide whether or not I would sit in and watch the film. In the end, I chose not to and spent time with Lori instead where we talked about her upcoming marathon in Chicago and her work as a photographer.

After some good conversation and much needed relaxation time, I looked down at my watch and saw it was close to the end of the film. We walked in during the final scene and I could hear a few sniffles in the audience, which has become the norm at the end of our screenings.

When the lights came up and I held the mic ready for questions I was met with silence. Inside, I was afraid the film didn't go over well with the audience. Finally a voice came from the crowd and a female student said, "I think we're so moved by the film that we have to get our thoughts together." After this, the questions started and I could tell the screening went well. Halfway through the Q&A and after I let them know the film was based on my life, a few students continued crying. I offered to give hugs at the end of the screening, which they gladly accepted.

At the reception, I got a chance to have some real in depth talks with the students and professors. Some shared similar experiences shown in the film and were appreciative of the film because it told something they were personally unable to vocalize due to shame. This is the gratifying part of being a filmmaker and these are the moments I remember when I at times become discouraged. After around an hour or so, I finally found my way back to the alumni house. Grateful for the warm reception, I was excited the first screening was nothing short of a success.