October 26, 2014 | Fly By Light | Erie, PA
Erie definitely surprised me. The lake that swelled like an ocean, the old barns converted into microbreweries and railway cars into diners, the once grand rust belt buildings and new blown glass galleries, the record number of young people killed by gun violence each year. Right before the screening of Fly By Light at Mercyhurst University, I asked Sonya Arrington why she started the Lead Mentoring Program. “My son was killed. I had to do something. And then I realized I had many more children in this town that needed my love.” I was so struck by her ability to change something so tragic and incomprehensible into something so positive for her community. Illustrating that capacity for people to transform themselves was definitely a motivation for making Fly By Light. Although I recognize the need to identify the problems, the overemphasis on the negative in the mainstream media has always frustrated me. Especially as it is precisely where you see that possibility of turning a corner, where the real story begins. After the screening, it was such an honor sharing the stage with Sonya Arrington, Councilman Andre Horton, and one of the youth from the Lead program, and hearing about their personal connections to the film and their own journeys of transformation. The youth shared “ I was bullied a lot in school. I used to be real angry. After going to Lead I started turning around. I finished school. I stopped taking drugs. I started to believe in myself again.” A statement which echoes the last line of the film, when Martha shares about how important it was for her to have mentors that believed in her. Job opportunities, better schools, gun-control are all critical pieces to confronting violence. But just as important sometimes is the basic feeling of being of value. As Sonya shared “One requirement for entering my program is that you get a big hug from me. Although at first they may be hesitant, you should see how they hug me now.”
Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Ellie Walton.
To listen to a podcast interview with the filmmaker, click here.