In the last week and a half our family has enjoyed three excellent and thought provoking films, all based on real life events.
Perhaps the most remarkable and scandalous aspect of this story is that it hasn’t been widely told until now. Who knew that the US space program was dependent on a black woman figuring out the math so Alan Shepard and John Glenn could make their famous launches, and return safely back to earth? Our favorite line was when Dorothy Vaughan and her white supervisor meet up in one of NASA’s newly integrated women’s restrooms. The supervisor says, “Despite what you may think, I have nothing against ya’ll.” Vaughan replies, “I know. I know you probably believe that.”
This is the story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in the slum of Katwe, who has become one of her nation’s leading chess players. One of the most refreshing parts of the film is that it avoids the individual hero motif. Phiona’s mother, siblings, and her mentor all share the spotlight in the tangle of poverty, the possibilities of education, and the temptations of success. We streamed the film through Netflix.
What a thrill to be with many of you at last evening’s premier of this film that CMCers Elisa Stone and Matthew Leahy have poured their lives into over the last number of years. What was initially a project about the preservation of a culture in the Peruvian Andes – through an annual bridge building event – became an exploration of the many layers of tradition and loss in the family of the bridge master, Victoriano. A father-to-son lineage of bridge building expertise is increasingly revealed to be intertwined with patriarchy and generational domestic violence against females, including Victoriano’s daughter.
One of the key moments for me occurred late in the film when Victoriano and several men from his village are in Washington DC doing a bridge building demonstration. They are surrounded by American tourists observing and applauding their work. We as viewers get to watch the tourists watch the bridge-building. But the film has already given us the vantage point that the tourists can’t see — the complexity of a traditional culture in a globalized world, Victoriano’s sorrow about his daughter’s running away from home, and the struggle of these various characters to both preserve the good of their ancestors, and escape the sins of their fathers.
It would be fun to have a viewing at CMC sometime.