Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ryan White - Madison and Augusta

I made the drive from Hapeville, GA to Madison, GA in about two hours. Madison sprung out of nowhere – a beautiful town with a courthouse square and red brick buildings low to the ground. I got there early so ate chopped beef and turnip greens at the “Ye Olde Colonial House,” a converted old bank vault. Afterward I drove down tree-lined Main Street until I found the Cultural Center. It was a towering dark burgundy building with massive sculptures in the front yard. Turns out it’s a converted schoolhouse built in 1895. The screening room was the actual school auditorium, originally preserved from 1895 –with a wooden balcony, wooden shutters, wooden floor, wooden ceiling, and about 300 wooden seats kept since 1895. It made for amazing acoustics for the film. This crowd had a lot of soccer players – many local coaches apparently ended practice so their teams could come. I met one 16 year-old player who had already seen Pelada three times and told me it was the “best movie ever made.” I thanked him and asked, “Better than Citizen Kane?” But he didn’t know what that was and said “Yes,” and I realized I am not funny to teenagers.

I met about ten women who all work at the cultural center or volunteer there, and they couldn’t have been nicer. They also had a huge spread of cookies and desserts for a reception afterward, which only made them seem nicer. I’ve realized how hard these organizations have worked to turn out crowds in their town for our films, and it’s overwhelming. We know how hard it is to get people to come to see your movie regardless of reviews or festival accolades, so I have utmost respect for these people who are able to turn out large crowds in small towns. The reception was really fun – I met three government workers (two work for USAID and one works for the embassy in Mali) who told me that if only we had known them before we filmed, we would have had a place to stay anywhere we visited. Too bad we didn’t meet them before our trip to Cairo, where all wanted to/almost did die in our abandoned apartment. Thanks to Dina and Patricia and everyone else in Madison who made this screening so special.

From Madison I headed to Augusta, GA, home of the Masters. The screening was held at the Morris Museum of Art, alongside the river in downtown Augusta. It’s the first museum dedicated to artists of the American South, and has over 5,000 pieces. The screening was small – but sometimes small audiences can be the most passionate. Before the screening began I heard one couple ask an older woman, “So are you a soccer fan?” She said she was not, and when they explained the reasoning for their question – that the movie was about soccer – she said, “I thought it was about women’s issues.” I wanted to pipe in and say gender issues are a large part of the film, “Don’t leave!,” but then it would have been obvious I was eavesdropping, so I just stayed quiet. Luckily she did not leave and she smiled a lot during the movie, so I think she was appeased.

Thanks to David Tucker and Nicole McLeod for the great hospitality.

On to South Carolina and Louisiana tomorrow…