It’s Not Cannes but…

test screening
test screening

I’m supposed to be paying attention to a presentation at the moment but finding it remarkably difficult because we just did a test screening of the film at the Northampton Institute. New audience, newer rough cut. Same old anxieties.

I float in and out of elation and exhaustion; now that the presentation is over I can release all the pent-up mental energy that goes into preparing to be on stage. You just don’t know how it’s going to go. And even with few technical difficulties (yet some, always something), it went well. So the energy releases, like a flood in a texas summer, and my body says, “now you can relax.” Jet lag says, “go to bed.”

I’m at a point where watching the film is no longer the same as watching any other film. It’s my film and I’m the director and all I can see are the technical aspects. Is this scene too long, is the sound off, should we change that angle. I found myself getting angry because some of the cover material covered up the emotion. The background noises irritated me. I wanted to squash the screen bug. Lighting, sound, scene transition, synchronization, color, background. Fade. Titles. End credits. Make the damn film play without stopping at each chapter.

But I want to see the people, the beautiful people, but my mind gets confused.

I had to pause this blog because eventually my attention was demanded and I had to pretend to be a professor again. So it is now two days from the writing above, and in the whirlwind of the institute I’ve heard some opinions, formulated a few of my own, processed…well about as good as anyone could on minimal sleep and maximum overburn. So doing those things means I’ve done a blip here and there, and over a 48 hour span managed to organize those blips into one small whole.

As some of my students discussed at the institute, I’ve managed to organize experiences into some sort of symbolic representation, thus generating, “meaning.”

So the obvious question is, “what does it mean?”

We had discussion from the film again; while some were more interested in technical aspects this time, it still amazed me the extent to which people get interested in the film. People approached us privately to share experiences, experiences that were recalled from hearing a story, phrase, or moment in the film. I am easily humbled by what some share. A person approaches one of our cast to offer an apology, because she realizes she may have engaged in microaggressions similar to those described by that person on the film. Another makes a point to let me know how the film reminded her of a family member who is now deceased, a casualty of oppression. I just didn’t expect the film to produce such reactions; I expected dislike, even disgust. I expected there to be opinions. My hope was that the film would initiate discussion, and people would consider the role of privilege and oppression in their life. But I did not expect the personal liberations that seem to be happening for some who watch. Those who get motivated to speak. Those who make a decision because of what they’ve seen. Those who share painful memories because it helps them heal.

I just didn’t want anyone to be bored. I suppose that can still happen. I did not presume the film would get so…well, personal. As idiotic as it sounds to say that, I guess I thought it might lead to what I have already seen – possible anger, frustration, denial, and maybe some universalization….but I didn’t foresee the film becoming a vehicle for others to start doing what the people in our film do: speak parrhesiatically.


But how could one predict that? I’m just happy the thing is actually getting made. And we will see what happens next. I love it and I hate it. I hate it because every time I watch I see the flaws. But every time I love those people in it – I love their courage, I love watching them fly. So next stop – Milan? Orlando? PBS? I suppose if “nowhere” is the answer, that works too – just keep talking…keep talking…