Washington, DC has film festivals, not markets. That’s the difference between DC and Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca. But there’s another bottom line for DC film festivals: IMPACT. How does a story move people to action? Support key legislation? Who should see it and why? What understandings or changes are inspired?
AFI DOCS devotes 5 days (June 22-26) to documentaries from around the world from filmmakers who have an impact goal in mind. Some of the filmmakers will be meeting on the Hill. They and others will also let their stories unfold in hopes that general audiences will connect with the people and the stories they live even after the cameras and boom mics are put away, and festival programs are archived.
For me drama or narrative has the same potential for impact. But that’s a tough sell in an information/data junkie city like DC. In either case, story drives everything. And I’m happy to be in the thick of another AFI DOCS festival.
I’m working with Margaret Byrne (director/producer) and Ian Kibbe (producer) to navigate their impact on Washington, DC for the AFI DOCS screening of their documentary RAISING BERTIE (June 25 and 26). RAISING BERTIE’s getting a nice buzz in festival and documentary circles. The film raised questions for me about the growing distance between my urban life and non-farming rural communities. Or to put it this way…
Bertie (pronounced Ber-tee), is a small community in North Carolina. There are no neighboring towns 30 minutes away where there are jobs. The primary employers are Perdue Chicken (factory) and 100 prisons that dot the NC landscape. It’s hard keeping a superintendent of schools. Most teachers are not from the Bertie community. But Bertie is where Reginald, David, and Davonte were born, grew up, and Bertie is where they choose to stay.
There was a time people planned and packed food for trips to “the country” during the summer to visit family, get some fresh air, and fresh perspective. DC was the mid-point for the Great Migration. Many from South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia stopped here. Many stayed and assimilated within a generation into urban life and culture. Southern food became “soul food.” Hip Hop became the urban “blues.”
There is little to no reaching back except for possibly the next migration to the South as rents in northern cities rise, and jobs shrink especially for unskilled or obsolete skilled labor. How many secretarial positions are posted? That was the first step to office manager and more on the corporate ladder. Do we still have mail rooms? What happened to that US Postal Service or entry level government job with the guaranteed pension or savings plan to send your kids to college. Diminished. Gone with the shrinking of government. For Bertie, even the diminished options aren’t available.
If there is an impact for RAISING BERTIE it’s to raise up this community to find its own way to opportunity (education, health, transportation, infrastructure) — with some help of course. RAISING BERTIE doesn’t fit into a neat familiar narrative of rural poverty. Bertie may be struggling but the people are proud. Call it rural resilience and a sense of reality. Opportunity is RAISING BERTIE’S bottom line.
Thank you @wcp and #DeanEssner. Beautiful write up for @RaisingBertie. See you @AFIDOCS pic.twitter.com/dr5ANtHTUV
— MichonBostonGroup (@MichonBostonGrp) June 17, 2016