Since many folks are unable to get to the big cities or small town resorts to attend indie film festivals, Film Forward brings the festival experience to communities that don’t usually enjoy that privilege. The cherry on top, of course, is that audience and filmmaker have a chance to engage in dialogue and interact after the screenings, just like they do at the big-time festivals.
Yesterday we were at the Oasis Center, a nonprofit that serves LGBTQ+ youth here in Nashville. Even though our screening was scheduled in the middle of a sunny 90 degree day, we ended up, surprisingly, with nearly a full house.
The audience was largely a diverse group of teenage gay men and women. One of the facilitators shared with us that about half the kids in the room had been recently rejected by their families and were now residents in the organization’s temporary housing facility. All of them, she said, “are facing huge lifestyle changes with virtually no family or community support.” She also mentioned that many of them “may not know what a ‘Chicano’ or a ‘lowrider’ is, but they will definitely understand the sense of rejection and alienation that La Mission so accurately depicts.”
She was right, and the dialogue that followed the screening was intense, frank, and personal. But what moved me most was what followed the discussion. After many had gone, a shy, homeless African American boy approached me and shared that he was an aspiring writer and poet. He said he had a question, but didn’t want to ask it in public. So he asked privately: “How can I do that — how can I become a screenwriter and tell my story?”
As I shared some of my personal experiences with him, I was struck by just how powerful film can be. I‘ve never been homeless, or rejected by my family, so I can’t say what I’d do in those circumstances. I imagine I would be preoccupied with where my next meal was coming from, or where I was going to lay my head that night. I don’t know if I would have the strength or the courage to dream about writing or making a movie. But this young brother – who at night sleeps under a bridge – does. Somehow, by participating in today’s process of interaction, his courage was emboldened.
Later that evening, I was still wondering who was inspired more, me or him.