I have had the privilege of representing Opening Our Eyes at two film festivals the past few weeks: the first at the Bare Bones International Film Festival in Muskogee, Oklahoma and the second at the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And boy, I do have to say that I love that southern charm. I’m not saying that Oklahoma and South Carolina are the same by any means. But at both places, I was surrounded by a sense of small-town pride, extreme friendliness and a big ‘old dose of southern hospitality.
This especially came in handy when I was in Muskogee, as I was completely by myself. The festival had arranged for volunteers to pick filmmakers up at the airport in Tulsa, which is a good hour drive from Muskogee. I arrived late Friday night in the wake of some torrential thunderstorms and severe tornado warnings. But my volunteer, Lara, still showed up on time, with a smile, gave me a big hug and even brought me a little goody bag to welcome me to Oklahoma. Lara ended up driving me into town from my hotel the next morning, too where I was lucky to witness the Azalea Parade, and later, the annual chili and BBQ cook-off. If that wasn’t a good introduction to Oklahoma, I don’t know what was.
After eating several helpings of chili and baked beans (and getting some on my dress, of course), I went to the Roxy Theater and met the directors of the festival, Oscar and Shironbutterfly Ray, as well as some of the other filmmakers. Everyone was very friendly and excited that I had come, and I found myself starting to understand why Bare Bones is known as the “Friendliest Film Festival” by many filmmakers.
After the screening of the film, Lara continued to show her hospitality by taking me to see the blooming azaleas that Muskogee is known for, then out for a dinner of BBQ ribs, and finally a traditional Native American powwow. By the end of my stay, it didn’t matter that I didn’t get any cell phone service in Muskogee – I had been charmed by the “Okies from Muskogee,” and I certainly didn’t feel alone anymore.
Myrtle Beach was a slightly different story. I was not alone (I had Executive Producer Angel Burns at my side) and I had the chance to meet more of the other filmmakers who were attending the festival. In fact, one of the filmmakers who I had briefly met in Oklahoma was in Myrtle Beach as well! – a classic “small-world” moment. But the festival directors and the local people I met were just as friendly and welcoming. Several locals told me that they’ve been coming to the festival for years and are always so excited when the filmmakers come from around the country. We went to a few local establishments for gatherings after the screenings where the owners were more than generous with their food. And everyone called me ma’am! Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the small-town atmosphere, friendly festival-goers and southern charm of both film festivals.
I am proud to announce the awards that Opening Our Eyes has won at both these festivals. At Bare Bones International Film Festival: Best Movie Trailer and Best Humanitarian Documentary. At Myrtle Beach International Film Festival: 2ndrunner up for Best Documentary.
And I am looking forward to our next festival this weekend: the Awareness Festival in LA!