Sunday, May 20, 2007

LR Film Fest - Friday

I’ve done my best to catch what I can of the Little Rock Film Festival , between working, watching friends graduate, thinking about cleaning my room and such. I clocked out early on Friday so I could get down to the Chamber of Commerce building in time for the Arkansas Shorts Program and my first viewing of 50/50.

The highlight of the Shorts for me, and it seemed for the rest of the audience, was the 13 minute documentary Under the Bridge. Through these brief minutes, Jon Crawford and Robert Jenkins were able to completely pull the audience’s attention away from the art of filmmaking and channel that enthusiasm and energy toward the issue of homelessness in Little Rock. The documentary followed a variety of people living on the streets, showcased some of the people who are helping in little ways and featured an interview with Michael Stoops from the National Coalition for the Homeless, a feisty and intelligent man who I have had the honor to hear speak twice. It was amazing. The Q&A with the filmmakers was almost centrally focused on this one film and, particularly, on its subject. Why is Little Rock considered one of the meanest cities for the homeless? Your film mentioned that one of the shelters was closing down – did it actually close? What is currently being done for the homeless? Suddenly the information this audience had ignored in the op-ed section of the Democrat-Gazette for months and years had become important to them in 13 minutes.

The best question of the evening came from a man I affectionately refer to as Drunk Rich Guy. This guy reminds me of Herman Munster, you can’t miss his brooding presence in a room. And though I have no knowledge of him actually being drunk, his loud, direct and imposing way of asking questions at every lecture and event I encounter him at leaves me with that impression. Not that his questions aren’t good, just abrasive. I also have no knowledge of him being rich but, again, he carries that air about him. He has influence or, if he doesn’t, he plans to. So Drunk Rich Guy asks this guy if it is correct that these 13 minutes were actually pulled from a longer feature? Yes. Has the longer feature been shown in Little Rock yet? No. If I give you my card to arrange for a showing of the full feature, would you be interested? Absolutely. I, for one, can not wait.

You know you are at a film festival in Little Rock, Arkansas when there are only eight other people in a particular screening with you. Such was the case with a little film titled Exist. While a fictional story, the feature was filmed primarily in a documentary (or almost home movie, at times) style. Exist will require a second watch, as so many thoughts flashed in my head while watching the film, but were unfortunately lost as I transitioned into the next feature. I did come away with the echoing themes of community and justice, and how the two are intimately intertwined. One powerful scene for me was when, through the grace of forgiveness, a former bully became a friend and a mentor. What’s worth caring about? What’s worth preserving? What’s worth sacrificing? These questions followed me out of that theatre, whispering in my ear. Not that I needed to see Exist to ask those questions, but it seems they are constantly being stirred up around me.

The final film I caught Friday night was Hip Hop Project. Not sure if I wanted to sit through a movie or go home and sleep, I was rewarded with redemption for the decision to stay and catch this film.

A few weeks ago, the director of an outreach program for inner city youth spoke at the beginning of my Perspectives course. I know this man’s heart (sharing the love of Christ) and I know his background (growing up in “the hood” – his words), so I admire his sincerity. But when he spoke of Hip Hop as being from the devil, sent here to pull people into sin and keep them there, I just couldn’t receive what he was saying. Yeah, I had some Hip Hop albums confiscated when I was younger… and for good reason. But I’ve also been inspired by Hip Hop, I’ve been encouraged by Hip Hop, I’ve been floored by emotions captured through Hip Hop. Quite frankly, I felt that his claim that all Hip Hop is about pimping hoes out to get some lettuce to buy some bling was the same as claiming all Country music is about crying in your beer because you ran your hunting dog over with your pickup truck. In a word: misguided. Scenes from Brown Sugar started running in my head (When did you fall in love with Hip Hop?). I have never fallen in love with Hip Hop, but we had an affair in my younger years and continue to see each other on occasion. There’s a special place in my heart for Hip Hop.

Hip Hop Project isn’t about the destructiveness of the art form, it’s about healing. The tagline of the film comes from a question Kazi asks participants, If you had the whole world listening, what would you have to say? And these kids had a lot to say. They had a lot to say about hurt and love and forgiveness and confusion and regret and redemption. As in Exist, I was able to glimpse the grace of forgiveness - this time, as a man had to learn to extend unrequited forgiveness to the mother who had abandoned him as a child. Watching a person’s concentrated effort to transform frustration into unconditional love would have been enough in itself.

However, this film was much more than a reminder of what is beautiful about the explosive lyrical poetry that is Hip Hop music, but a reminder that art has purpose. I have always highly valued art in all of its visual, audible and performance forms. But lately I have become a bit jaded. Sometimes when I am focused on the grand scheme of life, I get overwhelmed with the frivolousness of decaying cathedrals and million dollar paintings. But Hip Hop Project reminded me that some emotions and ideas are best communicated through art… some are only communicated through art. There’s a reason the Psalms speak so powerfully to our souls. There’s a reason Jesus employed the art of storytelling. Art isn’t always an escape from the realities of life – more often it is an expression of the reality of life, in a way that only art can reveal.

1 comment:

Ramón said...

I'm cracking up! Kimberly, you are beautiful for so many reasons, but right now it's because you referenced the line "When did you fall in love with hip hop?" from Brown Sugar.

As much cool stuff as goes on in Portland, right now I'm jealous that you were that film festival and I was not. Sounds like there were some amazing features.