Recent Press and Praise

Apr 6, 2009

Florida Film Festival---MANY THOUGHTS!

On April 2, we screened at the Enzian Theater with a few more Up With People alumni in attendance. What a great venue---intimate dinner theater and the weather was perfect. I was a bit anxious about the Q&A because I knew several Up With People alumni would be coming, most of whom never knew how Up With People formed and were kept in the dark about the organization's past. I think it was an eye-opener for everyone as the complex story unfolded. I was delighted to hear so many emotional responses freely expressed during the film, not to mention the chatter afterwards!

Our screenings at the Florida Film Festival were sponsored by Women in Film and Television. I can't say enough positive things about the Women In Film organization, let alone the terrific support from the Florida Film Festival staff and volunteers. It was an honor to be hosted by such amazing people!. I learned that the General Manager of the Florida Film Festival even used the opening clips of SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS as instructional material for the volunteer program. How cool is that?!He wanted the volunteers to express the fun and enthusiasm of Up With People throughout the festival. These organizations are top notch in every category. If you have an opportunity to sponsor them or join, please do. :)

Our screening audience was lively and the Q&A was vibrant. I received a few questions about the postings on YouTube and comments from alumni who expressed reservations about how gays were treated in the organization. Some suggested that the "gay issue" was a reflection of the decade more than UWP's recent history. Others said they always knew that there were gays in the cast, even in the 60s and 70s, so it was never a big deal and they didn't need to mention it. All I can say is that the film includes Eric Roos' personal experience while traveling in UWP. Since posting clips on YouTube, I have also received numerous emails from gays who traveled with UWP in various decades---even as recently as 2009---all of whom expressed appreciation for putting the subject out in the open. I also received one email from a 2007 alumni who claimed nearly all categories of sexual preference (the majority of which I'll admit I didn't even know existed), and that he was out in the open and accepted among his UWP cast peers. Given UWP's mission to be open and accepting of all cultures, races and sexual orientations, there should be no reason to run from the issue even now. Perhaps it's an opportunity to listen rather than react out of fear or feel the need to defend.

Glenn Close appeared at the Florida Film Festival the day after our screening. She was present for a Q&A after the screening of Fatal Attractions. Although numerous people in the audience were wearing SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS buttons, Glenn Close made it clear that she did not want to talk about her experiences growing up in Moral ReArmament and her acting, song and script writing years in Up With People. I don't blame her. It was an intense experience for my husband who kept his own prior involvement secret from me for nearly 15 years. I wasn't in the audience when she held her Q&A, but I hope some day we will have the opportunity to meet. I probably know more than most.

I left the Florida Film Festival for a screening of our documentary at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival on Friday 4/3 (see next blog), and returned to the Florida Film Festival on Saturday 4/4. Yes, I was exhausted from the puddle jump flights back and forth!! But because Florida was the first film festival I ever attended as a member of the audience, I wanted to participate in the rest of the festival and spend time with a local group of film students from Central Florida State who volunteered with enthusiasm to help promote SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS. These kids were terrific. They donned themselves with retro clothing and passed out postcards and posters to willing recipients. I hear that some even sang the "Up With People" song they learned from watching the film. The team helped with everything including giving directions to a "navigationally challenged" person like me. One team member even filmed the Q&A. I hope to post that on YouTube soon.

I am smiling thinking about the closing party event at the Maitland Arts Center Saturday night. Have you ever heard of a "Frito Pie"? The event had a classy outdoor atmosphere with an amazing jazz band, and the food was a topic of conversation that made the event happily informal at the same time. The food reminded me of camping with the Girl Scouts. Who would think of opening a bag of Frito Lay corn chips, dumping in spoonfuls of chili and topping that with cheese, green onions and sour cream? I didn't try it because I had just taken the film students out to eat at the Cheese Cake Factory and I was stuffed from the Key Lime cheesecake (my favorite). Still, I really enjoyed watching people eat from a bag a Fritos and talk about how unique an experience that was. Maybe for those from the MidWest (where it's rumored that this food speciality originated) this is old news, but most of those attending the closing night event at the Florida Film Festival had never seen it before---let alone this gal from Phoenix. And dessert? Well, that consisted of a marshmallow on a stick----flame broiled to perfection then rolled in chocolate and graham cracker crumbs. Had the Key Lime cheesecake not been enough, I would have tried the new twist on the old fashioned S'more. Instead I watched enthusiasts go back for more. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment