What follows is one man’s experience after attending an AARP Massachusetts Movies for Grownups event last month, during African American History Month. The film event included a special screening for AARP members and guests of the PBS American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, at AMC Loews Boston Common. Here are Josiah Brandt’s words.
Tonight I attended a Movies For Grownups (MFG) screening of Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, with 36 members of the Boston-area AARP family. This was a smaller group than usual, and for this movie most of my co-viewers were older African American women. To my surprise and delight, these women were an unusually awesome group to experience this film with.
One of the things I noticed right away, from when I attended my first MFG event, is that an MFG theater experience simply feels different – from the very moment you walk in. The comfortable ambiance of an MFG theater mimics the warmth of a living room viewing-party where you’re surrounded by fun friends and friendly strangers – a dramatically warmer experience than your average “movie night at the cinema.” Tonight was a perfect example of this… I am grateful for the work AARP has done to create open, inclusive environments where this unique and beautiful multi-cultural engagement can emerge.
“One of the things I noticed right away, from when I attended my first MFG event, is that an MFG theater experience simply feels different – from the very moment you walk in.”
As the movie progressed, the African American women became active participants in the experience of the film – often hooting with laughter and emitting what could only be described as a choir of the all-too-knowing “mmmhmmmmm” – a noise someone can only make when they are confronted with truth, and especially when they realize that they have personally been-there, done-that, lived-this.
It was inspiring to witness. Being in that environment, watching that film in particular with that incredibly unique group of individuals, created an entirely new experience of the film for me. As I tuned into what I was witnessing, I became aware of the limits of the cultural filters I inadvertently, yet all-too-often, erect around my usual perception and engagement with movies – and with life in general.
I was able to experience this film, in an unusually beautiful way, through the expanded perspective of the generation who possessed direct, first-hand experience of so much of the pain, yearning, and strength so eloquently portrayed through the words, voice, and story of Maya Angelou.
Josiah Brandt is the Community Programs Manager for AARP Massachusetts. Check our listings for future Movies for Grownups events, and other community happenings, across the state and in Boston. To receive email updates about AARP Massachusetts events, subscribe to our emails here.