Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hold the Popcorn, Pass the Ballot

My husband and I are still discussing the films we saw at the 17th annual Austin Film Festival. We’ve passed the popcorn for nine years during the week-plus celebration of competition and marquee movies, documentaries, and short films.

After the screenings, we cast our ballots rating our favorites and dinging the stinkers. Audience votes can help the filmmakers acquire distribution for their films, so we always participate. It’s hard for me, an industry outsider, to rate any of the movies harshly – no matter how outside my taste they are.

The courage to pour your heart into your work and see it through to completion, deflecting all obstacles is admirable and inspiring. The ability to assemble a diverse crew, on a scant budget, that can cooperate and tell cohesive stories demonstrates the conviction of the urge to create.

Hubby and I split our votes on several occasions. Higher or lower, one of us walks out with a different level of connection or distance, ah-ahs or uh-ohs. We may split the vote, but we are always united in our love of the festival and the fascinating people it draws, particularly during the Q&A sessions.

The “Casino Jack” screening was followed by the final interview with the Emmy-winning director, George Hickenlooper, who passed away the next night from a heart attack.

During the Q&A, Mr. Hickenlooper talked about the upcoming election and said that he voted for candidates from either party, depending on the needs of the country at the time.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard anyone admit this in public. Folks are polarized beyond conversation. Civility seems exhausted and has turned in for the long, dark night, pillow over head, shutting out the glare and growl.

I hate “pulling a single lever” – or now, clicking a straight ticket square that speeds away my convictions over little bits of copper into a portable chunk of magnetic memory. I’d never do that at the film festival – tick the same score again and again.

It struck me: do I pour more thought into rating a low budget horror movie than on choosing the leaders who will guide us into the next decade? Now, that’s a scary story!

Are you feeling the power of one? Will you make your voice count? When the polls close, will you have voted your true convictions?

I’m inspired by Mr. Hickenlooper to finish reading that stack of articles I’ve been clipping and collecting before I stand in the queue and the election volunteers call, “Action!” When it’s a wrap, I’ll pat my “I Voted” sticker to my shirt and head straight home to our “craft table” and delicious conversations on festival favorites.

Just hold the popcorn, please. I’m still picking kernels out of the laundry.