Street Movies: A Breath of Fresh Air
by Alex Butt
Imagine for a moment that you can’t buy popcorn at the movie theater. No $9 popcorns. No 54-ounce sodas. Not even a drop of nacho cheese. Instead, fresh garden salads of kale, collards, and carrots grown from the ground right beneath your feet. Bongos and chimes resonate as PLP The Unity sings about sharing, loving and rising together as a community. I couldn’t help but think, ‘What a refreshing change of pace from my usual bloated sugar rushed viewing state.’
The sun had just set on a comfortable summer evening in North Philly where Philadelphia Urban Creators’ organic farm hosted Street Movies, an independent film festival brought in part by Get Lucid and Scribe Video Center. Emcee Jeaninne Kayembe assured us that our good vibes would help the plants grow better. So there I sat, feeling a new kind of kale and bongo fueled vibe beneath a clear night sky as short films began.
First up was Them That Do, the story of Lisa Barkley, a Philadelphia resident who transformed her backyard into a fruit tree orchard. To Lisa, it wasn’t just about gardening and sustainability, it was about building the community and getting kids off the violent streets.
The Story of an Egg revealed the true meaning of terms such as ‘cage free’ and ‘free range.’ Spoiler Alert: These terms are misleading and don’t mean much. It all depends how you define ‘cage’ and ‘range’ because in most cases, these chickens are still in warehouses. ‘Pastured’ eggs come from chickens that are actually raised outside. “What’s the difference?” you might ask. Try comparing a sunny-side up cage-free egg to a pastured one. I did and I’m switching to pastured.
Creation Story weaved between live action and claymation as a mother tells her daughter how god created people and why we style our hair. Well, most people do.
During the poetry-filled intermission, I could almost feel the plants growing. My vibe was on fire. These were movies that mattered. Movies about actual issues going on in the community. There were no action-packed CGI remakes to send my senses into oblivion. This was better. This was healthy. This was a slice of life that you can’t get in a normal theater. I was actually learning something. I could feel the community come together in an area otherwise lacking and it felt good.
Makin It made me wonder what it’s like to have only one pair of shoes for a few years and work in construction every day. This was the situation for an impoverished teenage boy who couldn’t afford new sneakers so he painted them with wall paint; not exactly the hottest trend in shoe fashion. He was ridiculed, but went on to become the first in his family to go to college.
When Ron McNair was 9, he refused to leave the segregated public library without being able to check out his books. One of these books sparked his interest in outer space and ever since then, Ron had his Eyes on the Stars. Ron became the second African American in space, but in 1986 he died during a rocket launch 73 seconds after liftoff.
My personal favorite, El Doctor, was the story of a married couple who hires two illegal immigrants in a Home Depot parking lot to repair their deck. After a tragedy of errors, we’re left to reflect on the differences between our own individual consciences and the law.
In Mama Jo, a community mother confronts an estranged young man who she raised years ago. The young man seems to be headed down the wrong path, but the mother can’t get through to him anymore. He’s too grown up to listen to listen to his guardian, yet at the same time, too naïve to know what’s best for him.
As a studio comedy writer, this was all so foreign to me; not just the atmosphere, but the content of the films shown. It’s amazing what filmmakers can do when they’re not bound by Hollywood’s constraints: financing, commercial appeal, getting Adam Sandler to sign onto the project. There’s such a wide range of meaningful stories to tell when the focus is on community, not money. Street Movies opened my eyes to the community around me and I plan to get more involved.
To learn more about Philly Urban Creators and Get Lucid! visit their media outlets https://www.facebook.com/GetLucidExclamation?fref=ts.