Middle of Nowhere | Writer/Director Ava DuVernay
[PREMIERE SCREENING: Friday, January 20, 2:30 pm –Library Center Theatre, Park City]
First film I ever loved was West Side Story. My aunt Denise forced me to watch it one rainy afternoon. I had to be about 9-years-old. I was spellbound. The dancing. The romance. The brown people. I grew up in Compton, right where the city limits hug Lynwood. And for as long as I can remember, my school, my block, was predominately Latino. I remember watching that film and it changing the way I saw my schoolmates and neighbors. Seriously, I recall feeling something very specific about the immigrant experience for the very first time. I don’t think I ever even realized that some of my friends had come from another place. It’s odd looking back on that now. But glossy West Side Story did that for me.
Why film over music or literature or theater or something else, I can’t tell you. Film just became my thing, my comfortable, challenging thing. Film as window. Opening my eyes, my mind to others. Film as mirror. Reflecting me, people who look like me. I find both completely thrilling. All through high school and college and into my adult life. Oddly, I never thought to make one myself. I just felt super-fortunate to work as a promoter of other people’s work. The first feature I ever worked on as a full publicist was called Slam. I remember meeting the filmmaker, the actors, sensing their nervousness/excitement at the early screenings. Advocating for the film to press and community. Experiencing the buzz starting to happen. Feeling that connection to a piece I believed in. I thought, “This is heaven.” One hundred and twenty film and television campaigns later, I feel the same.
These worlds presented in films, they mean something. It’s corny, but they do. They change us, if we let them. More corniness, but I would’ve never known about the red dust on the shoes of a working-class woman in Rio de Janiero if it weren’t for Walter Salles’s Central Station, or the majesty of the Gullah communities if it weren’t for Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, or the rhythms of the sea in Iceland as an old man cries in his fishing boat if I hadn’t just seen Rúnar Rúnarsson’s exquisite Volcano. These are now people and places I know. Windows and reflections both?