Day one of Film Forward in Mississippi was spectacular. So much so, that this blog post is tardy because there was not a moment to spare. First the hospitality of our host and partner collaborators—The Piney Woods School and Jackson State University—who have kept us well-fed and comfortable, and made to feel extremely welcomed. Southern hospitality is legendary, but these folks have moved it to a higher level. They’ve even arranged for stellar weather (sunshine and low humidity).
We started the day at JSU with a screening of Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. It was my third time to see the film which never ceases to amaze me. JSU students made an enthusiastic, participatory audience with informed questions. Also is attendance were Marideth Cisco and Dennis Crider, featured musicians from the film’s soundtrack. Marideth and Dennis provided incredible context about the role of music in the film and its tradition in the Ozark region.
The afternoon brought lunch at JSU with a beautiful Indian fashion show present by JSU students and a serenade from Marideth (her haunting vocals represent the best of traditional music), Dennis and JSU student fiddler, Andrew Dillon; a campus screening of Udaan with director/writer Vikramaditya Motwane (with an extended Q&A session); and a reception at the University Club (which provided a great aerial view of Jackson).
Evening brought a screening at the Mississippi Museum of Art’s new Art Garden—an incredible outdoor space. The screening of Udaan was the first film presented in this new, urban art space. The slightly chilling evening brought a few native mosquitoes that were held at bay by great food and drink from MMA’s Palette Cafe. Seeing Udaan under a clear sky with an extremely receptive audience was the perfect ending to a spectacular day.
The filmmaker Q&A brought a series of thought-provoking questions from the audience. It was evident that the Jackson community is receptive to independent film and world cinema. I was impressed with the number of audience members who stayed post-screening to continue the discussion with Vikram and one another. A great common ground for discussion and community reflection.
And seeing us through every step were Nina Parikh of the Mississippi Film Commission and Greg Smith with the Crossroads Film Society. Special thanks to Nina and Greg for tech support and their great humor.