On Tour: Proceed and Be Bold! in St. John, USVI

9 Mar

This morning I woke up at the Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel in St John, the United States Virgin Islands and went out to the front outdoor lobby and made myself some green tea and grabbed a banana. As I was sitting down, Dave, one of the owners of the hotel looked at my tea, and asked me: “Are you not drinking coffee because you’re afraid it will make you black?” I immediately laughed.

In any other circumstance, in any other situation, this would have seemed completely racist, but I assure you, neither Dave nor I are racist. Dave was one of about 40 people at the St. John’s Film Society last night watching my first feature documentary film, Proceed and Be Bold! which delves deeply into issues of race, art, avoidance of corporate culture, the sacrifice of the artist, and following that which makes you happy.

Crowd gathering before the screening

The St. John Film Society was probably the perfect audience for this film. As I re-watched the film for probably the 100th time with this new audience, I got to experience it again by witnessing their reactions to the film. I laughed again at the parts that I always laugh at, but I got to see and experience which parts this audience reacted to. For example, they LOVED the animation. I have never met an audience that was so enthused with the animation in the film.

Animation

Also, the parts they loved the most were the parts were Amos was defiant and subversive and an outright trickster, pulling Shine his lawn jokcey mascot (itself a symbol of horrific racism) along in a wagon on his way to be interrogated by the Indiana University Police who were called when one of Amos’ art pieces, “Nappygrams” offended the Office for Affirmative Action. This sequence in the film ends with one of Amos’ most profound Nappygrams, “Tenure, Housewifery, Slavery, all guarantee lifetime employment.” When this Nappygram flashed onscreen, the room jolted in collective agreeance.

Laura talking to the crowd afterwards

After the screening, I stood on stage, and answered questions from the audience. The first and most profound one was from a gentleman who asked about the literary components of Amos’ art. I’ve never gotten this question before. When Amos and I show this film, we are always asked about The only letterpress printer we could find, Sachkia Barnes, the owner of a PR firm from the British Virgin Islands, came to the screening and filled in for Amos, who unfortunately, could not come to the screening, and talked about her own discovery and love of letterpress. Sadly, she owns a press in Florida that is in storage there until she can afford to ship it to her home. I can’t wait for the day that the two will finally meet. She had taught herself how to do letterpress by contacting letterpress printers online and by searching through the internet for sites like Ladies of Letterpress that served as a resource for her.

Sachkia and Laura

After the Q&A, I remarked to Mary, my incredible host at the St. John’s Film Society (and an incredibly passionate and informed advocated for hemp production-I will learn more about this, Mary! You have completely scintillated me with your facts about Hemp!) that I don’t even feel like I made this film or that it’s mine anymore.

Laura and Mary

I have shown it to so many audiences (from St. John’s, Newfoundland to St. John, US Virgin Islands as I realized last night at dinner with Mary) and I’ve seen so many people take to Amos and his messages and his thoughts and feelings about art and race, that the film, I feel now is all of theirs. I feel so extremely privileged and honored to have been part of the process to bring Amos and his life and work to the big screen, because it is so thrilling to me to see so many people react viscerally to his messages that he is quite literally putting into the hands of the people in the form of his posters, artists’ books, and unforgettable Nappygrams.

DVDs for sale!

I also want to give a shout out to a young 18 year old filmmaker named Graham Raubvogel whose Grandmother, Glenda Werbel attended the screening. Graham at 14 years old applied for an internship at George Clooney’s production company and was told that he was too young to intern for them, and had to come back at 16 years old. He did. He is now 18, getting ready to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and had made 12 short films that have already won awards. He will be a filmmaker, but what impressed me more than any of his impressive resume at his young age, was that he is spending the year in China to learn Mandarin fluently. Those are the experiences that make a filmmaker in my opinion. Not Hollywood, not awards and festivals. It’s personal life experiences especially in situations where you are the minority and are struggling to understand another culture and understand yourself and your own culture from so far away. Good luck to you, Graham. I hope to see your name in the future attached to an award winning feature. Thank you, Glenda, for telling me about your incredible grandson.

Awesome projectionist, Alan

I also wanted to give thanks to the following: Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation for giving me the opportunity to come screen the film in St. John. St. John Film Society for inviting us and treating us so well. Mary for dinner and the amazing conversation about women and work and art, and of course, hemp! Sachkia for coming to the screening, sharing your love of letterpress with us after the screening and for just being you! Of course, Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. for your support in making this documentary, for not caring if I failed, and for being so nice and kind to me every step of the way. And finally, my father, who has been my longest and biggest supporter, and when he looks me in the eye, he doesn’t see just his daughter, or just a woman, he sees his equal. Thank you.

Post by Laura Zinger, OSIP touring filmmaker

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