Tag Archives: weinberg

On Tour: Busted by the cops in Frederick, MD!

25 Apr

We got busted by an undercover policeman in Frederick, MD!

But first a pit stop: After Annapolis my wife Emily and I went to Georgetown to visit my good friend Piers Lewis. Piers stars in my movie, Power Trip, about corruption, assassination and street rioting caused by the energy crisis in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Nowadays, Piers is back in the States, working on breakthrough electricity storage for renewable energy sources. We met his new daughter Veronica, for the first time!

Back to the bust: In so many ways Frederick, Maryland it is a lovely town – lots of history, the Weinberg Center is thriving with culture and we had fun spending our money at the many antique shops. But during an excellent meal at the hopping Firestone Grill, a local man gave us an ominous warning: DO NOT get pulled over by police here.

Funny, at first we hadn’t noticed much police presence at all. We witnessed a drunken screaming match between an older couple at the scenic creek, and two local drunks ejected from the Public Library by security. Later a woman claiming to be a schizophrenic in need of medication harassed us once on the street and then again in our parked car. Police nowhere in sight.

Later we discovered where they were. Three undercover cops were detaining pedestrians walking across one of the main intersections. Violators had a choice – ticket or pamphlet. Apparently the lecture was mandatory. We’re talking small town, get across in a few steps and cars moving very slowly. Was this really a safety issue, or are police here just incredibly paternalistic?

Or maybe the motivation is simply revenue: When we were leaving town, I made a right at this intersection. I waited for the two pedestrians in the crosswalk to pass by and continued my turn. Apparently, another pedestrian stepped off the curb as I was doing so. The undercover officer unholstered his walky-talky, and within seconds we were pulled over by a waiting police car.

Officer Payne

The uniformed officer explained that I had not waited for the first two pedestrians to get both feet back on the curb. The undercover officer insisted that he and his 2 undercover colleagues had seen the other pedestrian step off the curb before I made my turn. Contradiction notwithstanding, the result was an $80 ticket. No pamphlet option for us.

Such a shame that this experience permanently interrupted our discussion to return to Frederick with Piers and his family for more antique shopping. It also overshadowed another excellent screening of BLAST!, this time at the Cultural Arts Center. The audience members were super engaged and enthusiastic about the film. One teacher expressed great admiration for the on-screen tenacity of my brother Mark and his team. She was excited to use the film in her science class to demonstrate the payoff of perseverance despite initial failure. Perfect! She and her husband brought along their boys, ages thirteen and (almost) ten. Always fun to have kids in the audience.

The universe is cool!

And we received impressive press in Frederick, both in the Gazette and the Frederick News Post. Full-page in print!

Great press in Frederick

Onward to the beach in Rehoboth, with our $80 souvenir summons in the glove compartment. (Luckily we sold lots of DVDs to cover it!)

Post by Paul Devlin, OSIP touring filmmaker

To read all posts by this filmmaker, please click here!

On Tour: Discussing Joseph Kony

14 Mar

March 8, Weinberg Center for the Arts, Frederick, MD

First off, I need to say that I think it’s a really good idea for as many people as possible to know who Joseph Kony is – the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which for more than two decades waged a brutal war in northern Uganda, that went virtually uncovered by the Western media for most of that time. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the LRA hasn’t operated in Uganda since 2006, and is now considered to be barely hanging on, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Kony has become quite the household name over the past few days – especially among middle schoolers – thanks to a 28-minute documentary by Invisible Children and their “Stop Kony 2012” campaign. It’s exploded as a viral phenomenon on the internet (with more than 70 million views)– and so has a storm of critiques, both of the film and the organization behind it.

We talked about it a little at last night’s screening of Fambul Tok and I hope it comes up again tonight and tomorrow night, the last screenings of my OSIP tour.

Because I want to talk about not just raising awareness – but HOW that awareness gets raised. The Kony 2012 doc has been widely criticized (and rightly so, from my perspective) for perpetuating the myth that the West/”the white man” needs to save Africa from all its problems. It’s great that more people know who Joseph Kony is — but if we’re learning about him through a lens that reinforces Western stereotypes (and misrepresents and diminishes Africans and their capacities and cultural wisdom), then the learning brings with it a huge negative. We have to question the storytellers — and the ways we tell stories — as much as we question everything else. The very way we frame stories, the perspective we bring, the questions we ask, the way we let others speak for themselves (or not) is an absolutely critical part of this dialogue.

It’s something my collaborator Libby Hoffman pointed out when we first began working together on a still photography project about forgiveness traditions in post-conflict African countries, a collaboration that ultimately led to us meeting John Caulker, the founder of Fambul Tok, and to the creation of the Fambul Tok documentary. As a peacebuilder, Libby was, and is, very convinced that the way you see something, the lens you bring to a story based on your own perceptions and filters, is as important as what is seen. In other words, like the law of quantum physics, the storyteller directly impacts the story being told. It was a sobering thought for me, as a longtime journalist, and gave me much to aspire to. Early on in our work, in 2007, Libby shared this quote from the Nigerian Booker Award-winning author Ben Okri – words which became our shared inspiration as we learned the story of Fambul Tok, and brought it to others through our documentary:

“We have to re-discover Africa. The first discovery of Africa by Europe was the wrong one. It was not a discovery. It was an act of misperception. They saw, and bequeathed to future ages, an Africa based on what they thought of as important. They did not see Africa. And this wrong seeing of Africa is part of the problems of today. Africa was seen from a point of view of greed, of what could be got from it. And what you see is what you make. What you see in a people is what you eventually create in them. It is now time for a new seeing. It is now time to clear the darkness from the eyes of the Western world. The world should now begin to see the light in Africa, to see its sunlight, to see its brightness, its brilliance, its beauty. If we see it, it will be revealed. We only see what we see. Only what we see, what we see anew, is revealed to us. Africa has been waiting, for centuries, to be discovered with eyes of love, the eyes of a lover. There is no true seeing without love.”

I think the West has done more than enough “talking” for Africa, judging Africa by Western standards of crime and punishment that have little to do with local traditions of justice through reconciliation. And for me, that includes the Kony 2012 campaign, particularly because it advocates what most Ugandans do NOT want: military intervention by the US, and a trial at the International Criminal Court for Kony. In answering criticisms of their campaign on their website, the founders of Invisible Children said this:

“We are advocating for the arrest of Joseph Kony so that he can be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a precedent for future war criminals. The goal of KONY 2012 is for the world to unite to see Kony arrested and prosecuted for his crimes against humanity.”

It’s a popular concept in the West – that we will prosecute African warlords and prove to Africa and the rest of the world that war crimes are not okay. Unfortunately, that conversation rings hollow to so many people in Africa – who criticize the West for not indicting Western leaders considered, in the eyes of many, to be responsible for war crimes as defined by international law (Henry Kissinger is a popular example for many; George W. Bush is a more recent candidate). And many African human rights activists – including John Caulker – argue that the West would do well do listen to Africans, who have a lot to say about the role that local traditions and culture can and should play in resolving post-conflict dilemmas.

Just watch Fambul Tok – you’ll see what John is talking about, and the amazing impact of a cultural tradition in addressing truth-telling, forgiveness and reconciliation at the grass-roots level.

On the internet, a few of the posts from people who are outraged that anyone would criticize Invisible Children suggest that other activists (and storytellers) are simply jealous that their work has not had the same impact. I’m not jealous. But I will tell you this: I wish 70 million people would watch Fambul Tok, and realize how much the West has to learn from Africa. Maybe then we might begin to start seeing Africa in the new ways that Ben Okri so eloquently urges us upon us all.

I’d like to leave you with three of the most recent links that have come my way, one from a Westerner who has worked on the ground in northern Uganda for years, one is a posting from the Fambul Tok website and Libby Hoffman that pulls together many of the best critiques of Kony 2012 and Invisible Children, and one from a site that pulls together responses from the people we should all be listening to in all of this – Africans.




Post by Sara Terry, OSIP touring filmmaker

On Tour: Ryan Richmond brings Money Matters to Frederick, MD

10 Feb

Back on the road to the next stop Frederick MD. We’re screening at the historic Weinberg Center for the Arts. Again, another dream venue to have your film screen. The downtown looks like Gotham City. Its been snowing for the past three hours so the streets are bare. It’s not sticking so it didn’t really affect attendance. The house got more than expected.

I’m going to stray off topic for a second. It seems that this venture is the first time for several of these venues. Hosting independent films where usually concerts or plays would be held. This poses hurdles but it also frames new opportunities to take advantage of. I think it should be more of a concerted effort between all three parties to reach the specific target audiences for each film on the tour. I could have definitely been more involved with the out reach in each location for mine. Now I understand the importance of doing that.

I think its great that these films are shared with the built in audiences of these venues. These are people our films may not have reached with out this platform. But I also think that this is a great chance for people that may not normally frequent these nice venues get to enjoy something special there. I hope next time around energy is put into tailoring marketing strategies for each film. That way you mix the target audience with the unexpected audience. That makes great discussions.

Again, I have digressed. I had a couple folks from abroad in this one. One man from Germany of mixed race told me how authentic he thought the film was. He has travelled extensively throughout his life and felt he had meet some of these characters both hear and over seas. One older white gentleman asked did I embellish the dialogue for effect? Do kids really talk like that? I answered ‘go to any major artery in DC or NY or any city for that matter, where there is a cross section of subways and buses. Go there at 3:30pm when kids are let out of school. You will be amazed at the number of four letter words they can fit in a sentence. It should be considered a talent.’ That’s all folks! Annapolis you’re on deck.

Post by Ryan Richmon, OSIP touring filmmaker

On Tour: Jim Hanon at the Weinberg Center in Frederick, MD

13 Oct

The Weinberg Center in Frederick, Maryland was built in the early 1900’s and has been restored. It is a great performance hall and I was impressed with the number of volunteers and their friendliness. John Healey, the center’s director, gave a gracious introduction to the film and explained the On Screen/In Person program.

Normally a few people leave after the film before the discussion starts, but not this time. The questions were about the young people in the region and what is being done so that they are not indoctrinated into the conflict. The audience understood that the older generations tended to hold on to the conflict because of their trauma, but the younger generations tended to be more open to knowing the other side, and were inclined to believe that it could be different.

How much of our fear and trauma do we pass on to our children? How much is appropriate? How much enslaves them to the same cycle? In terms of the Jewish trauma of being marked for extinction in World War II, they never want the younger generations to forget what happened so that it can never repeated.

Remembering the holocaust essential, and I devoted a good portion of the film to it. But there are two ways to remember it. One that creates fear and self survival, and one that creates compassion for others whose survival is also threatened. How much of each way do we pass on to our children? This isn’t a question for just Israelis and Palestinians. It is a question for us all. The audience in Frederick, Maryland knew that.

Post by Jim Hanon, OSIP Touring Filmmaker

On Tour: Frederick, Maryland, Weinberg Center for the Performing Arts & Heartly House

16 Sep

Are you man enough to walk a mile in her shoes? Ashley and Tamara, spirited women from Heartly House, set man-sized pairs of shocking pink and lime green patent leather stilettos on a table in the lobby of the Weinberg Center where TRUST was to screen.  They were promoting an upcoming event in which the mayor, the softball team and other “high profile” men in the community totter a mile in these most outrageous-looking high heels.  The walk is political and performance art with public, personal and existential messages that raise awareness about domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.  Everyone coming to see TRUST stopped to look at those shoes and talk with Ashley and Tamara.

When the lights came up after the screening, Ashley, Tamara, Weinberg Center Executive Director John Healy and I discussed the film with the audience.  Some distributors have criticized TRUST for being about too many things – but that’s the nature of the Albany Park Theater Project’s work, so the film couldn’t help but have that quality.  The breadth and depth of the questions the audience asks during these post-screening discussions is strength, I think.

During the discussion, one woman in the audience said she felt uncomfortable with the idea of thirteen-to-fifteen year olds dealing with the ugly, evil side of sexuality. She wasn’t even sure how she felt about people that young being exposed to the idea of sex.  Tamara took the microphone and described in the most upbeat tone, a program she does for kindergartners, teaching them the names of different parts of their bodies and move from there to the concept of good touching and bad touching.  What a way to answer that question!

Filmmaker NancyKelly at the Weinberg Center for the Arts.

At almost every screening in the year since we premiered TRUST, I’ve invited someone from the local rape crisis center to join me for the discussion with the audience.  I have come to love and respect the people working to raise awareness, treat, and prevent sexual violence – the very act of talking about such things is a revolution and they do it with verve and a smile.

Post by Nancy Kelly, On Screen/In Person Touring Filmmaker

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