Following my previous post about the process of creation of such controversial film and how tough opinions were even before the shooting began, I have finally experienced people’s reactions on its first official screening at the Sir John CASS school of art, a.k.a. “my university”.
It was a small screening, with 35/40 people in the audience approx. and most of them knew me from previous years, only about 15 of them were unknown to me. I am saying this because this film can be perceived completely different if a person does not know me at all.
Everyone picked a seat, there was a lot of chattering around and the room was very noisy but I finally spoke up to get the attention. I introduced the film and gave a warning to the audience: “This film contains strong violence in general, but also racist and gender violence, you have all the right to leave the room now or at any time during the screening.”.
Boom, silence invaded the room, I guess you don’t expect a student film to have such content. A friend turned the lights off and I pressed play. I nervously sat in the third row of the mini screening room, anxious about what could happen in the next 10 minutes.
The first minutes were all laughs and cheers, they seemed to get every little joke thrown at them, even the sexist ones.
The moment of the truth, the White Man punches the woman very hard, I still hear laughs. The Black Man comes in, the White Man breaks a bottle on his head, laughs.
So far, I couldn’t be more surprised, they laughed even at the darkest moments until the mid point of the film.
The White Man uses the N-word, the audience goes: Wooow, Ohhh, and laughs. However, as soon as he does the monkey impression, I heard the most shocking sounds, the ones my mum would make if I told her I just hurt myself and she can’t do nothing about it cause she isn’t here with me.
As soon as the psychopath happy music kicks in as the White Man prepares himself to crush the Black Man’s head, people surprisingly bursted out laughing again, I felt relieved, I honestly thought someone might stand up by that point and leave the screening, or worse, shout something at me.
The Man begins his crushing with the pan, no laughs at this point, a few people covering their face, “OMG” here and there. Then at the final speech, the room stays silent and pays attention to it.
Finally, the unexpected, the doc-style debate at the end. People had a laugh when the voice over actors questioned me about the intentions of this script and how people might perceive it. Same with the comments at the end, more and more laughs, I felt extremely relieved, even if I had no idea how the Q&A could go at the end, the fact I heard more laughs than anything else made me less nervous.
The film ended, huge applause, I stand up, lights are on, I invite the actors to stand next to me, so they audience could also ask questions directly to them (and honestly, it made me feel better).
The first question is made by one of my tutors, a “let’s-break-the-ice” type. He wanted to know why there’s a debate at the end, and how the two are connected. We answered the question both me and Norman, actor and co-writer of the project.
My tutor then asked the audience for questions and I was extremely excited to see about 8 hands in the air. They were all very positive questions, all related to theme chosen and the script rather than technicalities like: “How did you shoot this, and that”.
After about 10 minutes, the time was “up”, so everyone could leave if they wanted to, however, surprise for me again, only 5 out of 40 people left. I was on ecstasies.
The questions turned into a debate, and some people were raising their hands to express their opinions against each other, rather than asking direct questions to me.
At one point, the tutor asked the million dollar question: “has anyone got offended by the content?”. Tension.
Two hands in the air, both of them were black, I was nervous again. Both of them said they would have preferred not to see it (why?) and did not understand the purpose of it (fair enough), but funnily enough, one of them said he/she missed the warning I gave at the beginning and the other thought my warning wasn’t serious, more like a joke.
None of the points were strong enough for me to feel bad about the work or myself.
Nevertheless, I spent some very intense 40 minutes, 10 of screening, 30 of Q&A, unforgettable.