March 1st – the road from Erie to Allentown, and thoughts on perspective.
It was just one of those days where things don’t go as planned – my 11:15 am flight from Erie to Philadelphia/Allentown wasn’t happening. First the flight was delayed out of Philly, due to weather, and then, once on the ground in Erie, engineers found a mechanical problem. And pushed back the already delayed flight. And pushed it back again. And again.
By 2 pm, I called Brigid at the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation (my travel guru) and suggested that I get a rental car; I was sure I could drive the 300 miles to Allentown in time for the Q and A after the film. Brigid and her boss were reluctant – they didn’t want to impose on me. I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to get on the road. Perspective. From Brigid’s kind point of view, I was being imposed on by having to make such a long drive. From mine, it was freedom and control over my own destiny. There’s something about getting behind the wheel of a car and heading off on a road trip that makes me happier than almost any thing else. I’m in control – I’m not dependent on anyone else to get me where I’m going, or to keep me from getting there.
The drive was long, and gray, not particularly scenic. But I had time to think and to listen to music, and to think some more – a good journey. Brigid had been concerned that it would be stressful; for me, it was relaxing. (Not to mention the fact that I was simply grateful to be driving on huge, paved highways; a similar drive in Sierra Leone, across dirt roads, would have taken two days). Perspective.
Six hours later, when I got off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, not far from Allentown, I asked the woman at the tollbooth how long it would take to get to town. “Well, that depends,” she said. “It could take you a while. Allentown is really big.” I stifled a very good-natured laugh. I’d just driven 300 miles in six hours, and had only a short way to go from my perspective. Not to mention that I come from a city (Los Angeles) that takes two hours to drive across at its widest part. Perspective. I smiled and thanked her and went on my way, and pulled up outside the theater about 10 minutes later. The Fambul Tok screening had already begun, with some 80 people inside – the biggest crowd yet for an OSIP screening, the staff told me. I waited for the film to end and went inside the beautiful theater for the Q and A.
There were a lot of great questions – many from a personal perspective. One woman wanted to know if something specific had happened in my life that made me want to help try to make the world a better place. A man talked about his own life experiences, and being brought up in an “NAACP oriented family” where much discussion took place about being black in America. But, he said, nothing he’d ever heard compared with what he’d seen on screen in Fambul Tok, and the story of Sierra Leone. “And those people went through that, and still they found love and compassion.” He said the film had given him a whole new way to consider challenges in his own life. Perspective.
At the end of the evening, after most everyone had left, a man and woman came up to me and told me that the audience had been almost entirely made up of people who were part of their social service programs – a veterans program, a half-way house, a drug treatment program. I’d had no idea. But what they told me gave me a whole new framework for considering the post-screening Q and A, and where the questions were coming from, and why. They told me they were sure that there would be many interesting conversations, sparked by the film, the next morning.
I drove away from the theater thinking about Fambul Tok in a new light, and what its message could mean for people who were struggling with some of these challenges. I wish I could have eavesdropped on the conversations that happened after the film. Perspective. It was a day full of so many.
Post by Sara Terry, OSIP Touring Filmmaker