I was part of the team who traveled to Sells, Arizona on the Tohono O’odham Nation with Mike Mills and his film Beginners. February 29th was a great day for a road trip—sunny and mostly clear skies but not overly warm. The temperature in Sells felt a few degrees cooler than Tucson, which was a nice break from the pre-Spring warming we are getting in the Old Pueblo.
Admittedly, none of us who traveled from Tucson that day knew what to expect as far as the audience reaction and/or the Q&A with Mike Mills. This is a brief plot description of Beginners from the website IMDB: "A young man is rocked by two announcements from his elderly father: that he has terminal cancer, and that he has a young male lover." I am happy to report the post-film Q&A was one of the most genuine and gracious dialogues with a filmmaker I’ve witnessed.
Many in the audience expressed gratitude that the film was made, and that it was screened there that day. Along with questions, there was sharing. A couple of people shared their stories of knowing and loving gay family members—and also shared that it can be hard for gay individuals to be accepted by everyone on the reservation. It seemed that knowing that the film is so personal to Mike encouraged the audience to reach out to him. It was very special to be a part of that.
This is the second year Film Forward has come to Tucson, and this trip to Sells was one of my favorite Film Forward events. The culture and the people of Sells opened the door to three days in their life in late February, and we walked in and visited for a short time.