On Tour: Wilmington, DE

1 Apr

March 23rd, 2014  | Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines | Wilmington, DE

On the way to Wilmington, Delaware, we got to spend a day in DC, and once again, try to catch our breath. The weather was outrageously delicious: all of a sudden, sunny and warm with everyone shrugging off the winter layers. We’d spent so much of the tour sitting on our butts, driving in cars or huddled in cold, sprinting through streets to the next warm establishment, we just wanted to stretch our legs and bask in the sunlight. So we just decided to walk the Mall and take the requisite photo of our daughter in front of the White House. Nothing says future President of the United States more than a toddler in leg warmers gripping the front bars, staring forlornly at the fountain, out of reach in the distance on the other side of the tall fence.

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We rolled into Downtown Wilmington mid-Sunday, and that part of town appeared quite shut down. The neighborhood seems to be somewhere in the middle of a revitalization process. We knew beforehand about David Bromberg’s violin shop, and there it was, a block from the venue, and a block away in the other direction, a fresh mural touted the city’s ties to Cab Calloway, jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown, theater director Susan Stroman, rocker George Thorogood, Bromberg and, to our surprise, Bob Marley. Turns out he lived near his mom there in the ‘60s, working at the Chrysler assembly line under an alias.

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I always get nervous that the weather, competing sports event, or a town that generally just stays in on the weekends, might make for a poor turnout. But a warm crowd, even if small, is always a welcome experience for a filmmaker and her film. I met Tina Betz, Executive Director of the Queen Theatre, at the door and she showed me around. What a gorgeous space they have! The Queen Theatre was originally built as a hotel in 1789, renovated as a fancy movie theater in 1916, and shuttered in 1959. It was carefully refurbished and finally reopened as a performing arts space in 2011. They kept much of the original interior and even rescued some of the original murals uncovered in excavation. Check out the way it looks now.

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Tina organized a really great, informal discussion after the film with refreshments to boot. Smart idea for keeping people hanging around, right? Stephanie Gilmore, an educator-activist-writer, led the discussion and invited some of the most compelling panelists I have had the experience of appearing with to date. Theologist and “feminist man” Kyle Fort joined the conversation, and I really appreciated his perspective as a young man of color and pastor. He talked about – no, quoted — one of my all time heroes: bell hooks, and identified as a liberation feminist. It was a good reminder to me that any movement of equality needs to seek the equality of all peoples regardless of class and race. And this is where the whole Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In” argument becomes pointless. What does leaning in have to offer the working class mother of three struggling to make ends meet? What does it even have to offer the working mother who does not aspire to a corporate definition of success?

Architect and Algerian business woman Leila Hammoun spoke to the what TV heroines like Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels brought to the Middle East, and how, for many women of the Middle East, the sexualization of these images were seen as limitations to their strength. In fact, she contested, under Sharia law, many women have found empowerment and liberation in a dress code that does not objectify them sexually. They can be validated for what they do, not how they look.

Wilmington was also a very special screening for us because I had family from Pennsylvania coming. In fact, my uncle Dennis, of the Flanagan clan, none of whom I’d seen in over two decades! Unfortunately, we were in the car changing a nappy when he and his family — wife Laura, daughter Rebecca and son Patrick — walked up, peered in, and asked (delicately), “Kristy?” It was a warm reunion nonetheless and a great treat for my daughter to meet this Irish side of her family. We ended up driving back up to the Philadelphia area to spend the night and catch up. Isn’t that what road trips are for, spontaneity?

Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Kristy Guevara-Flanagan.
To listen to a podcast interview with the filmmaker, click here.

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