Sunday, March 8, 2015

Call Me

As enjoyable as my evening was, the highlight came when I got home.

I'd just gotten in and the phone rang - mind you it's almost midnight - and when I answer, I hear a friend's deep voice asking, "You just getting home from the cluuub?"

I laughed so long and hard he accused me of being wine-drunk when I hadn't had anything to drink for days. It was just such an unlikely thing to hear, especially with his unexpectedly suave delivery.

Just to enjoy another good laugh, I made him say it to me again before we hung up.

But I hadn't been out at the club, I'd been watching filmmakers screen their latest works, listening to a D.C. shoegaze band and eating pizza. The beauty of it was that I'd done all that in one place.

Tonight was the sixth anniversary of the James River Filmmakers Forum, a far cry from the very first forum held at the former Carver Healing Arts Center (the building that went on to be sued for Obama's first Richmond campaign), which I'd attended a lifetime ago in 2009.

Back then, I'd known no one and tonight I recognized several people during the mingling period. I even met strangers. A man came up and introduced himself as an avid fan of the James River Film Society.

In fact, he'd been their very first (and unsolicited) donor years ago, after attending an event and wanting to help support them. What's interesting about that is that just today I was reading an article about the woman who was the first donor to the Smithsonian's African-American museum.

It had never occurred to me that being the first donor was a thing, but twice in one day I'd seen proof otherwise.

Chatting with the one I met tonight, I learned he was from the West End. When he heard I live in Jackson Ward, he wanted to know more about the restaurant scene in my neighborhood. His proposition was to meet at one and have me tell him all about the others.

Just call me the J-Ward ambassador.

The genial gentleman behind the repertory movie theater project was also there and, as always, I put in my plug for locating it in the Arts District (also known as my 'hood). He wants to meet and talk about the theater's board, but I'm not sure I'm board material.

On the other hand, he's become a pro at biscuit-making (he's a Southern boy), having learned from his grandmother, something I wish I'd the sense to do. Maybe he can provide biscuit=making tips.

But I digress.

Like that very first forum, tonight's program of films was eclectic but with a much darker slant.

"Bill" traced the path of a $20 bill through many hands and all kinds of recognizable places: Ipanema, the rocks at Belle Isle, Fine Foods in Oregon Hill. The one place I didn't recognize was the street where the prostitute plied her trade.

Maybe I 'm not supposed to know that sort of thing.

Much darker was "Memory," shot at the VCU School of Nursing and dealing with mental imbalance after the death of a young patient.

Most unique was "Emotional Dimensions of the James River," a project initiated by a 15-year old scientist and artist (who knew you could be both at 15?) with music and visuals conveying joy, sadness, anger and fear, created separately and not co-joined until the editing process.

For something completely different, there was "Optimist, Pessimist, Solipsist," completely hand-drawn in #2 pencil and chronicling three unlikely characters. It was voiced by actor Alan Sader, whom I've seen tear it up onstage so many times.

After so much film drama, we had intermission and D.C. shoegaze band These Quiet Colours got up and played for the crowd in the dark while delicate videos of pastel flowers opening played on the screen.

Theirs was a shoegaze-influenced sound with shimmering guitars and lots of reverb, meaning they were very much my kind of band. I heard that the British singer used to be in Florence and the Machine and she certainly had a beautiful enough voice to believe it.

One thing that struck me was that it had to be the first time I'd seen a band playing on carpet. Between the high-ceilinged room and the carpet tiles, it was a good room for the sound they were creating. No hard edges.

After their too brief set, we all dove into a table laid out with three kinds of pizza, nourishment to get us through the rest of the screenings.

Good thing, too, because the last two were especially heavy.

For his first Virginia screening, the filmmaker, who was from Cleveland, had gotten off the plane in Richmond, looked around and said, "You call this snow?" Tonight he was showing us his least gory movie.

"Lock-Out/Tag-Out" began with statistics about pay and accidents for those working for the elevator unions before telling a tragic story of suicide and death by elevator, with a sex scene and Lucky Charms along the way.

The night ended with "Neco's Basement," an even grislier tale of a sleazy guy who hits on young girls at a club (Off the Hookah) and then kidnaps them afterwards. Let's just say a lot of blood was spilled in that basement and it wasn't just Neco doing the bludgeoning.

These Quiet Colours played one short final set before the evening ended, giving us one more shot of music from a cave (my favorite, you know) on which to send the remaining film lovers out into the night.

Where, it should be noted, I walked outside to see an SUV barreling down Main Street in the wrong direction. The surprising part was that no one honked at him until he almost hit an oncoming car.

What do you think those horns are for, idiots? Warning devices!

Luckily, I was headed away from the runaway SUV and back toward the relative safety of home.

Where I am still chuckling about being accused of just coming in from the cluuub. Friend, if I'd been at the cluuub - like I was last Saturday night - I can assure you I wouldn't be home this early.

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