Sunday, March 23, 2014

Jan Krawitz - Madison, GA

An update from filmmaker Jan Krawitz, touring her film Perfect Strangers on the Southern Circuit. This entry is from March 20, 2014.

Madison is a beautiful town with a number of homes that pre-date the Civil War. I spent most of the day at the local high school where I visited two film appreciation classes. In consultation with the teacher, I decided to show my film Big Enough as its focus on dwarfs provides a great point of departure for a discussion about ostracism and difference. A few of the kids asked most of the questions about the film but I later heard from the teacher that they were quite voluble the next day – and that it provoked a lively dialogue once I was no longer present. In any case, it was a good opportunity to interact with a different population than the older set who typically attends the evening screenings. I ended the classes by showing the the trailer for Perfect Strangers. Rebecca Bonas, the Program Director at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center distributed free tickets to the students.

After the high school visits, I made my way to Bonar Hall, a magnificent home that passed through the generations to the current owners, Alexander Newton and Betsy Wagenhauser. Alex showed me around the spectacular grounds and gardens, part of which he is restoring to their original design. They had invited me to stay overnight in a small dwelling behind the main house – a building that housed the original kitchen when the home was first built. It was a unique experience to spend the night there and a genuine example of Southern hospitality at its best.

The screening at the cultural center was well attended and the audience posed some challenging questions. One viewer shared his ambivalence about a particular scene with Ellie --  he felt like he shouldn't be there (as a viewer) but simultaneously wanted to be there longer… I used his observation as a springboard for a discussion about documentary ethics, the tacit contract between filmmaker and subject, and my own sense of responsibility to my subjects and their stories. In this audience, there again were several people who were drawn by the subject matter. One woman volunteered that her daughter was having surgery the following day – donating a kidney to a co-worker. After a lengthy question-answer period, we moved to an adjacent room in the beautiful Madison-Morgan Cultural Center – a restored building that was originally the local schoolhouse – where we continued the dialogue more informally. The evening ended back at Alex and Betsy’s home where, together with their neighbor who had also attended the film, we continued the conversation.