A Small City’s Film Festival With Big Talent

Our small city of Statesville, NC, had its film festival this weekend. It’s called Full Bloom. This is the 7th year, but only my second year attending. I wanted to from the start, but it was always a weekend I had another event going on. I’m so grateful for those that put it on and for those that sponsor it. This year it was bullet-proof. They did not have to sell a single ticket to break even. That’s a rarity!

One thing I have learned about film festivals. I always learn so much and am so inspired. The energy is unbelievable. A bunch of creatives will add passion to a community, even if they are passing through. Thankfully we have some who live here, too.

So let me tell you about a few of my favorite things.

I interviewed Juan Pablo Reyes a week or so ago for an article in NewsBreak. You can read it here. I wrote an email asking if perhaps we could set up a time to talk. He emailed me right back and said “I have about an hour available now if that works for you.”

Juan Pablo Reyes of “Samland”

It did and I took his whole hour.

He’s the type of person you adore from the start. “Samland” is his first feature and he should be so proud. It is excellent. The casting was perfect, the cinematography compelling, and the story not only well-written, but important.

This was the premiere of their film – in our little town. The two actors and the assistant director had not yet seen the film, so they watched with the rest of us.

The respect within their whole team was evident as they answered questions and shared their experience in Q&A afterward. They said there was a lot of improvisation and Juan said he was comfortable with them not sticking to the script letter by letter because he trusted their input and talent.

“Samland” group answers questions after their premiere

When they won Best Feature, their excitement was touching. It was Juan’s first feature and this was the first festival to accept their film and the place where they chose to premiere. We were blessed. It next shows at New York’s Latino Film Festival. They wanted to premiere it first, but we got it here!

Anyway, the movie is the story of an illegal immigrant who marries a woman (who happens to be a cocaine addict) to avoid being deported. It’s got grit and heart and humor and action and humanity. Before or after you see it consider what is the American Dream to you?

Meeting them all was such a complete pleasure. I plan to stalk all of their careers. I’m obsessive like that.

Next I’ll tell you about a woman who acted a major part in a movie at age 95. Bonnie Jourdan is now 97 and came to our festival to represent the film “The Legacy Sessions” (the filmmaker was not able to make it due to the shooting schedule of his current project).

Bonnie Jourdan with Brandon Sproul, one of the Festival committee members

When their film won Best Short Narrative she was such a delight. Well, that’s not quite true. She was a delight the whole time she was here. I’m not going to use the word inspiring to describe her, though she is. I’m going to say instead she teaches us the possibilities of what we can be as we age. If only we could only age as she does and retain our passion.

The young actress, Julie Kashmanian, was also very good. I did find a trailer of her online. She plays a teenager Darby whose mother has died so has gone to live with her dad, who she barely knows. She is forced into a drama class where one of the assignments pairs her with the 95-year old Flora. Their relationship changes her. It’s a tearjerker!

The film wins Best Short Narrative

The film “Saving Juliette” won for short documentary. It’s about how a coal ash pond impacts the wells in Juliette, Georgia (as it does in many other places, including my state) and how the town reacts after one man educates them, tests their water, and talks to them about things like the rate of chronic illness. It’s also a powerful picture of people fighting together. I believe this is a must-see for everyone and you can watch it on YouTube here!

One last one, which one the Festival Award. I love basketball and I love life stories. This film, Aulcie, was executive produced by Nancy Spielberg & Jon Weinbach, who also did Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance”. I found that out afterward and thought it was interesting because I’d actually thought about that movie when I was watching. I went to UNC-Chapel Hill when Michael played there, so I am prejudiced in his favor, but even so I found this movie Aulcie more compelling.

Evey Wilson Wetherbee, director of Best Short Documentary “Saving Juliette”

Aulcie Perry was drafted and subsequently cut from the Knicks and ended up playing in Israel. He won two European championships and was a celebrity there dating a supermodel. He ended up with a drug problem, and going to jail on federal drug charges (at Butner Federal Prison, in NC). It’s a story of triumph, then falling, then getting back up. I hope it’s one that goes to Netflix. People deserve to see it. It’s playing at a lot of festivals, so look for it in your town.

I’ll stop for now. I wish you could have been here with me. You would have found a whole lot to fall in live with.

The red carpet, a gathering place

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