This week, we take a break from production, but there is no rest for Sharat and me. We flew to Montana to fundraise for the film and spent the weekend in Livingston, MT, a small eclectic town at the mouth of Yellowstone Park. Our visit was organized by Penny Ronning, who hosted screenings of our work on Friday and Saturday nights at her art gallery, House of Fine Arts. We showed Sharat’s award-winning short film American Made and our film trailer for Divided We Fall, which was followed by an intimate conversation with our small audience.
As soon as the lights came up, the room was buzzing. People began to offer praise for “both the intention and execution” of American Made, and share excitement for the stories in our film. Soon people began to open up and share their own stories:
“My father was a guard at the camps where they interned Japanese Americans during World War II,” one woman said. “And he still expresses so much prejudice.”
“I’m Jewish and I have experienced this discrimination all my life,” another man said.
“So many groups in America have faced this kind of discrimination,” someone added. “Every person here descends from immigrants who had to face exclusion and hate at some point in this country. This story needs to be told, because it is so American.”
“My mother is glued to the television set,” another woman shared. “And she has so much hatred for Muslims and Arabs. It makes me crazy.”
“What do you think would change her?” I asked.
She thought for a moment and said, “This.” She pointed to the screen where we just showed our trailer. “Your stories. Your film.”
I later gave her a copy of the film trailer to show to her mother. “Maybe this will make her see that we are American too, we are people too, just like her.”
We were overwhelmed by the warmth and support of the people in this small town. Including one MARGOT KIDDER, the strong and beautiful woman who played Lois Lane in the original Superman movies. In the picture, Sharat and I stand next to Margot Kidder and John Ansotegui from the Montana Film Commission:
Margot now lives in Livingston, where she pours her energy into activism; her community loves her, and it’s easy to see why. After viewing our work, she took us under her wing and showed us Montana from the best possible view: inner-tubing down the cool waters of the Yellowstone River. Floating down the river, we could see everything: green fields sweeping up into dramatic rocky mountains and great billowing clouds erupting into endless blue skies (just like the picture below).
Margot is hysterically funny. She made us laugh very hard on that river – a much needed break after so many sleepless 12-hour production days. What’s more, she really believes in our film. She said that our message about fighting racism draws upon American history, speaks to the present situation, and will echo into the future.
We want to thank the Livingston community in Montana for supporting our film, and especially Penny Ronning whose friendship, mentorship, and vision made it all possible. Although the project has received donations in film and equipment from Panavision and Kodak, we still need $40,000 to finish production alone. We must rely on the support of grassroots communities like Livingston, which is why every single donation makes a real difference at this point.
[This entry is cross-posted at "Into the Whirlwind," and was originally posted on July 25, 2005]
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