Last night was our first Stone Soup Community of Dayton, Ohio outing. We attended the screening of Hannah Free a Ripe Fruit Films production.
The movie addresses a subject that is both very real and very frightening to the lesbian community living in a country where our right to marry and create a legal family status with our partner are so dangerously tenuous. Who among us hasn't worried that an accident or a stroke might leave us permanently separated from the most important person in our lives? I am reminded of the heart-wrenching scene from If These Walls Could Talk 2 in which Edith's partner of many years, Abby, dies of a stroke in the middle of the night as she waits in the waiting room through the night and into the morning. Her "friend" dies. She wasn't allowed to see her. Not before she died and not after, simply because she was not "family".
As our country debates health care reform, perhaps we should think also about these "family" policies. It is the one part of health care reform that is totally free. Shouldn't we be allowed to see whomever we wish when we are sick or dying? Shouldn't anyone not a health risk to themselves or the patient, be allowed to visit a sick or dying person? "Family" in these circumstances are the people who show up, when they are under no obligation to do so, to support, comfort, and be with the sick and dying. That, and that alone, should be the definition of "family" in such circumstances. People are so obsessed with defending outdated, hateful and narrow-minded rules about the definition of family, they are forgetting to simply be compassionate human beings.
Who cares what form love between two individuals takes. Whether I'm a friend or a "friend", my presence in that hospital or nursing home room is important and healing. Too many people in hospital beds or nursing homes never get to see a friendly face. Is that the proper moral battle ground?
Kelli Strickland gives a fine performance as young Hannah. Although at times the romance seems to be a May/Fall one as Kelli appears much younger than Ann Hagemann who plays the younger Rachel. In discussing the film at dinner, we concluded that the film might have needed more than three stages of actors for Hannah and Rachel, but perhaps budget constraints prevented it.
Jacqui Jackson, who plays Greta also gives a fine performance. I would like to have seen her lover on screen as well, particularly in the final scene. Greta's interaction with Les Hinderyckx, who plays a sterotypical elderly nursing home gentleman, was incredibly touching.
The movie showed at the Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This was my first time attending a movie at this theatre, my usual choice for great independent films being The Neon in Dayton, Ohio which is very close to my home.
I enjoyed the theatre very much, although the amenities at The Neon are better. Except for the popcorn. The Neon tends to over salt their popcorn. The screening showed to a nearly full house and in attendance was Tracy Baim, publisher of Windy City Media Group (Windy City Times) and executive producer of Ripe Fruit Films. There was an introduction of Tracy and the movie prior to the screening and a Q and A session after the screening. Tracy was also on hand in the lobby to pass out free ball caps and bandannas just for giving up an email address.
I suppose it is important to note that going to see a lesbian film in a theatre is a rare treat. But that fact doesn't detract from the quality of this film in its own right. It would be difficult to make a film starring Sharon Gless anything other than completely wonderful. Of course I was a huge fan of Cagney back in the day. And then her character, Debbie Novotny, PFLAG member extraordinaire, compelled me to fall in love with her all over again.
So the news of this movie coming so close to my home town was an absolute thrill. And it is possible with all of that anticipation one could be left disappointed. I assure you I was not disappointed. Sharon Gless, according to Tracy, took low-budget scale to participate in the film and made her home a cottage on the property during the filming to save money in the film's budget. Also according to Tracy, "Sharon is the least 'Diva' of any actor I have met". These are the things we fans like to hear. We want to think of the folks on the screen as regular folks, just like us. And Sharon does not disappoint. Seeing the film in a room filled with women, most of whom look nothing like those seen on The L Word also added to the pleasure of the event.
When asked how we can further support the film, Tracy gave these sage words:
I intend to do all three. If we want to see more movies of this type, it is important for us to support the movies that someone took the risk and made.
Synopsis for Hannah Free: Sharon Gless (Burn Notice, Queer as Folk, Cagney & Lacey) stars in the passionate lesbian drama Hannah Free, a new film about a lifelong love affair between an independent spirit and the woman she calls home.