Kim Mordaunt, Director, The Rocket
I have clambered over live bombs in foreign lands but when it comes to showing my work, I am always mildly terrified, especially in places far from my home and the origin of the film. But screening The Rocket at the Harrisburg Area Community College was full of all the emotion, curiosity and connection that makes filmmaking worthwhile. Firstly, Will Guntrum (Department Chair – Communications, Humanities and the Arts) shook my hand with all that crushing masculinity that I thought, “Oh…he didn’t like something in the film and is about to tell me.” But then Will dipped his head and told me he had tears in his eyes at the end of the film (something that rarely happens to a stoic person like him.) The world of The Rocket is so different from ours but somehow a man in Harrisburg felt the heart of a family in Laos. I love how this shared human experience can cross so many borders.
I also had a discussion with some of the students of the theater department – which is obviously driven by some very creative hands. It would usually take me several beers and meetings to get to where we got to in 30 seconds with these young people. With delicious, locally made Lao food, we talked about what makes up good stories: digging deep into our own “hurts” and examining how we survive them; aligning that to narratives across the globe. This was how the students connected deeply with Ahlo in The Rocket . I could see maturity and fire in the eyes of some of these young men and women at the college as they latched onto the word “courage” which is what it takes to find stories that will resonate far and wide.
I knew very little about Harrisburg and it took me by surprise how filled with history it was and much like parts of Europe. It felt like Germany with all its regal stone and marble architecture and use of German dialects and names. Thank you, Bonny and Stacey (State Library of Pennsylvania), for taking us into the belly of your beautiful state library (which is like the movie set we filmmakers can only dream of) and now the preservation center of iconic U.S. historic treasures (and the alleged home of ghostly occurrences.) It seems these grand premises are watched over by the kite-flying-electrical-fingers of Mr. Benjamin Franklin who turns lights on when they should be off, and sends lifts to places they shouldn’t be going. That sense of longevity and playfulness is obviously something deep in the soul of Harrisburg. Before the screening of the beautiful film If You Build It, David Volkman from the education department said something which has stayed with me: that we have to continue to “dream with our eyes open”.
Thank you to Film Forward and the U.S. Federal Cultural Partners for having me here and connecting me and The Rocket to many extraordinary people who have shared their experiences and emotions.