By John Rice
The world premiere of Ezra & Mike: Facing Racial Tension in Forest Park, on July 29 at Slainte, was a success. Over 30 people came to the second floor of the bar to view the film. The sound and picture quality were good and the audience was attentive. I'm the only one who forgot to silence his cellphone.
Mike Chiappetta, one of the "co-stars" of the documentary, brought his family. After the film was over, Mike and I participated in a lively Q&A. Mike is such an entertaining character, we're considering using footage of him to create a second film, called "Mike."
Jordan Kuehn intended to come to the screening but had a last-minute conflict. Jordan more than made up for his absence, however, by bringing the film to the attention of the Lake Theatre. I received an invitation from Classic Cinemas' co-owner Shirley Johnson to show the movie on a Saturday morning. She asked that we transfer the movie to a DVD and have it tested at The Lake, to see if it was compatible with their equipment.
My Forest Park buddy, Ed Pickart, made the DVD for me free of charge, and it passed the test at the Lake Theatre. We're going to show the film this Saturday, Oct. 7, at 10:30 a.m. Mike is coming and we hope to have another spirited Q&A. Admission is free and the doors open at 10 a.m.
I met with one of The Lake's managers, Doug Clayton, to discuss the screening. Doug said the Lake Theatre has allowed independent filmmakers to screen their films for years. He noted that Classic Cinemas is a small, family-owned chain of 14 theaters in Illinois. They strive to help the communities they serve by assisting local filmmakers.
This feels like a dream come true, to see the film on a big screen, with professional-quality sound. The Lake has always been my theater. When I was growing up in Oak Park, it seemed like a magical place, with the latest Hollywood epics — and in color. There was just one screen back then, highlighted by classic Art Deco décor.
It then became a revival house where we watched a double-feature of An American in Paris and Singing in the Rain. Like many classic theaters, The Lake was later divided into seven, smaller cinemas.
Ezra & Mike will be shown in an auditorium that seats 125. I hope we get a good turnout. I'm willing to show the film at other local venues in the future. I'm also hoping to air it on WTTW Channel 11. I'm fortunate to have a high school classmate with a strong connection to the PBS station.
In the meantime, I hope to see you this Saturday. The film is only 22 minutes long and describes a racial incident that occurred in Forest Park in 1975. It's a simple story of two families reaching across a racial divide to fight an injustice. I think it's a timely film for our current racial divide.
To enhance your enjoyment of the film, I promise to silence my cellphone.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.