Opening Night Reactions – Day One FFF 2011

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Bob & Stephanie Gave One Of The Most Spirited Q&As Ever At A FFF

The lights come up and a stunned silence descends upon the theatre. We just saw Project Nim, the powerful documentary about a 1970s Columbia University study that attempted to raise a chimpanzee as a human.

“That was so drepressing…it was a great movie, inspiring!” laments Number One Daughter, giving a voice to the experience we all just had.

Opening Night FFF Was Packed

As the patrons begin to file out of the theatre, I ask them about the film.

“Excellent Film,” exclaims Gustavo, “I highly recommend it.” He pauses to watch me type.  “Don’t forget to say I highly recommend it,” he corrects me as I type.

“It was great, disturbing and important,” remarks Sylvia.

“Thought provoking and well filmed,” says Terri. “How do you spell that?” I ask. “With an i, not a y,” she replies. Her escort also chimes in, “And that’s with two Rs.”

During the Q & A that SunnyStefani talks about in her blog post, one of the central characters in the movie is speaking about his rebellious period when he went off to study Chimpanzees. “My parents thought I was crazy,” he quipped.

Then, in a moment that can only happen at the Florida Film Festival, a little old lady sitting in the front row shouts, “I never thought you were crazy, I just got tired of listening to the same story over and over again!”

It turns out that Bob’s mother was in the audience.  I catch up with her after the Q&A to ask her about her son.

“I’m very proud of my son, he accomplished a goal he set out to do.  At that time, we thought he was just playing a game. He was playing with chimps,” says Bob’s mom. Dad chimes in, “the corner turned when I saw that film clip of him playing with chimps.”  “How old was he then?” I ask.  “20, 21 or 22” says mom, “at that point he was playing his passion.  He was playing his passion,” she repeats.  She goes on to talk about how much he would speak about the chimps, like a grandmother talking about her grandkids.  He wouldn’t shut up. That’s what prompted her outburst.

Both parents talk about being military parents.  They are conservative and hated long hair–which, of course, Bob insisted on wearing. “It was all very much POWER and CONTROL in those days,” says Bob’s father emphatically, but I’m very proud of him today,” he acknowledges with tears in his eyes.

Mom talks about the Sundance Film Festival.  At the end of the Q&A there was one last question when a woman in the back stood up and said, “I don’t have a question, I have a statement. Thank God for Bob.” Bob’s mom begins to sob as she finishes telling this story.

Great Tunes At Opening Party

Moments later, Bob accepted our invitation to drive him over to the Enzian for the Opening Night Party.  He spoke about living in Japan when he was in the 4th to 6th grade.  “Was it like a Miyazaki story?” I inquire. “It really was,” he says, “you’re young so you don’t realize any danger. You walk around the streets just like the kids in the movie.”

He talked about his path through a psychology BA then a primatology Masters. He worked in Oklahoma, loved Hendrix, was a die hard Grateful Dead deadhead and now lives in San Francisco. “I’ve traveled the world,” he says as he speaks of the eight or nine different countries he moved to as a military brat.

He’s an engaging, very personable guy who speaks energetically and passionately–Not unlike the chimpanzees he loves so much.

Henry Maldonado, President Of The FFF

We arrive at the Eznian and would love to talk about the great opening party. But we can’t. A slight glitch in the film festival’s internet connection meant we couldn’t access the website to post our blog for the many fans who patiently await our reviews.  The always accommodating FFF staff solved the problem by ushering us into the theatre office. They allowed us to write and post our blogs using their computers. We may have missed the party, but we didn’t miss the incomparable hospitality that is always the hallmark of this great festival.

The LanceAround family drive SunnyStefani back home and we take an hour or so to record these last comments before heading off to bed in the wee hours of the morning.  It was a great start to what looks to be a fantastic festival. We’ll tell you about it with multiple posts tomorrow.

Till then, sleep well and dream of great film…

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