Saturday, September 14, 2013

Joe York on the Road with 'Pride & Joy' - The Food is Fine & the Audiences are Better!

From Joe York:

Suwannee, Georgia

My Circuit started in Suwannee, GA, last week. What struck me from the start (and what continues to impress as I make my way along the Southern Circuit ) is the level of organization and energy everyone brings to the screenings and events they host. 

Tony Shrewsbury and all of her colleagues from the City of Suwannee could not have been more friendly, the venue for the film (a great theater called the Movie Tavern that serves food and BEER during the screening) could not have been any better, and the audience was as engaged and interested in the film as any audience I’ve ever seen. To that point, the Q&A after the film went on for over an hour and we ended a great discussion with a DVD raffle or sorts, with six lucky Suwaneeans winning a copy of Pride & Joy to share with their family or sell on the black market. 

Leaving the theater after the screening I thought to myself, “If the rest of the stops on this tour are half as good as the first stop, I’m in for a hell of a good time.” I was right. 

Madison, Georgia

I’m from Oxford, Mississippi, a town that’s so quaint and charming that we can’t stand it when people tell us how quaint and charming it is. I thought we had the market cornered on beautiful old homes, cool shops on our town square, and nice folks who are nice to be around. Then I drove into Madison. 

My first stop in Madison was in one such home, the residence of Dr. Paul Roman, a professor of Sociology at the University of Georgia who had invited his freshman class on the Sociology of the South to meet with me for a discussion prior to the screening of the film. 

As we talked about the food and culture of the South, we ate pimento cheese sandwiches and boiled shrimp, a perfect beginning to a great night in Madison. 

After an hour-long discussion we headed over to the Madison Morgan Cultural Center, which is housed in a grand, old school building from the late 1800s. Inside the auditorium, a cozy room constructed entirely of heart pine from floor to ceiling, we found a crowd of over a hundred folks visiting, chatting, and enjoying the wine and beer that altogether too few concession stands feature at film screenings. 

Rebecca Bonas, who coordinated the event gave a wonderful introduction to the film and the audience really enjoyed the film, laughing throughout (a good thing) and asking really thoughtful questions during a half-hour Q&A after the screening.

We moved to an adjoining room following the Q&A and were treated to a gracious plenty of local foods, everything from spicy sausages to hand-made gouda. 

The next day I had a chance to meet with students at the Madison County High School where we talked about sustainable agriculture, what food means, and how cultural identity and food are so closely connected. When the bell rang, ending our time together and my time in Madison, I was set to leave, but was stopped by members of the Madison County Future Farmers of American and given one of the coolest shirts I’ve ever seen and one I will wear with pride, a Madison County FFA shirt with their logo emblazoned across the front “Getting’ Dirty Since 1928.”
Hapeville, Georgia

One of my favorite aspects of the Southern Circuit is how varied the venues for the screenings are from one town to the next. In Suwanee, we were in a brand new, state of the art movie theater where the latest summer blockbusters were playing on the other screens in the theater. In Madison, we were in an old and beautiful school auditorium where the audience sat in classic wooden theater seats and watched as the film was projected from a small upper gallery.  And then in Hapeville, we found ourselves in a meticulously restored Episcopal church on the edge of peaceful park in the middle of town. 

Before the screening, the good people of Hapeville, led by Charlotte Rentz and Allie O’Brien who organized the event, dined on fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni-and-cheese, and miniature pecan pies provided by Buttersweet Bakery (a must-stop restaurant in Hapeville). 

And then the folks who were chewing and sipping in folding chairs on the grounds of the old church did something I’ll never forget. Discovering that the day of our screening there was also my birthday, they had the band (did I mention they had a band!) play Happy Birthday as the fifty-or-so folks in attendance sang along. They even presented me with a damn tasty chocolate cupcake with a birthday candle on top. 

As if that wasn’t enough, these fine folks piled into the old church and watched the film with great enthusiasm and lots of laughter. Like all the crowds I’ve had the pleasure to meet on the Southern Circuit, the Hapeville audience asked thoughtful questions, made insightful comments and just generally embodied everything a filmmaker would ever hope for in an audience.