Director of the Community Cinema documentary selection BETWEEN THE FOLDS Vanessa Gould spent the past few days at a series of screening events for the film in the greater Los Angeles area. In addition to the two unique screening and folding events at the historic Aero Theatre in Santa Monica and at the Frida Kahlo Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, Ms. Gould attended a very special screening of the film at the LA County Sheriff's Pitches Detention Center for close to 200 inmates. She shares her deeply moving visit with us. [No photographs were allowed in or near the detention center for security reasons.]
As we walked into LA’s Pitches Detention Center, the sky was deep blue and a long flock of birds flew calmly with the wind above. The series of heavy gates and barbed wire fences ahead gave me a pit in my stomach. Behind the barriers, I soon saw men of all ages – hundreds in royal blue jumpsuits – working, standing, exercising outside. I was there with Desiree Gutierrez, the ITVS National Community Cinema Coordinator for the Southern California region, to answer questions about BETWEEN THE FOLDS, which a group was watching as we arrived. I had strong doubts as to whether they’d connect to a film about paperfolding, worrying it was trivial in light of the gravity of their own personal situations. How would the film be relevant to them? What could I possibly say or do that could be genuinely useful?
Desiree and I entered the room with Deputy Bates and a few other staff members just as they had finished the film. It was a crowded room with about 200 men seated closely, gathered around a single television. As soon as the lights went on and I looked up – despite my insecurity – it was quite possibly the most enthusiastic reception the film has ever seen: a room brimming with almost-rowdy excitement and big smiles, a few thumbs up and hands on hearts. Even some paper hats and paper stars made out of the local county newspaper were floating around. Deputy Bates introduced us, and I filled with warmth, relieved that the film had perhaps given them an escape from their daily routine.
There were far more questions and comments than we had time for. One gentleman – probably in his mid 40s or so – wants to use folding principles to design a collapsible shelter for the homeless that fits on to a wheelchair. Another was curious to learn more about the filmmaking process so he could make his own documentary about drugs and gangs. A third was eager to better understand the medical implications of protein folding. And a fourth man who spoke Korean shared with everyone that “origami” in his language means “tying a knot”, a new meaning of the word that we all liked.
Their engaging comments so clearly showed that many of them wanted to get on a different track and do something personally meaningful in their lives. After about 20 questions, we all folded a simple model of a fox. I tried to remind them that if anyone made a mistake it was okay. They could try again. One of the good things about paperfolding is you can start over. More chances are possible. And, with that small metaphor, I hoped the afternoon was a success. In just two days in LA – after screening at an arthouse cinema in Santa Monica (the Aero), a small community theater in downtown LA (the Frida Kahlo Theater), and Pitches – I revisited my initial sense of awe towards the medium of paperfolding. Across these audiences – despite their enormous differences – everyone had a common and equitable relationship with the medium of paper. What a wonderful starting point for an artform.
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