The last two days have been simply amazing and mostly surreal and unbelievable. On Saturday All God’s Children had its world premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival with a second screening yesterday. We had full houses both times, apparently there was a standing ovation (I was much too nervous to notice) and people kept telling us that they really liked the film. The last part is still a bit difficult for me to really believe but it’s starting to sink in that if nothing else the film is well-received because of its important message of breaking the silence regarding child abuse within the missionary community. And everyone seems to be very taken by the courage and honesty of all the survivors and their parents who speak so frankly in the film.

The former Mamou students Beverly Shellrude Thompson, Marilyn Shellrude Christman, Dianne (Darr) Couts, David Darr, John Darr and Rich Darr and the parents Ann and Howard Beardslee, who all appear in our film, traveled from as far as Seattle and Toronto to be present at the two screenings and be available for Q&A’s afterwards.

The conversation after the film between them and the audience (the first people besides us and the Sarasota programmers to see this cut) was amazing and again made me feel like every step of this journey has been so very worth it. It truly feels like the story of the children without voices is starting to be told… and heard.

I cannot thank Holly Herrick and Tom Hall enough for programming our film and giving us, the survivors and their parents, the opportunity to bring their story to the public for the first time in such a hospitable, safe and beautiful environment.

The two days have been a true whirlwind. Saturday morning we arrived at 3:30am after those flight delays. A few hours of sleep and at 11:30 Scott and I participated in a panel moderated by Holly Herrick about non-fiction film with several amazing filmmakers: Jenny Phillips of Dhamma Brothers, Kurt Kuenne of Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father and Mark Brecke of They Turned Our Desert Into Fire. To be in their company was a real honor and I’m really excited to see all their films. Holly asked some great questions which lead to

Scott, Luci, Jenny, Knut, Mark, Jason Mitchell (at table, Mark’s producer)
photo by Michael Tully

Next we were whisked away to a press conference held by members of MK Safetynet, an advocacy group for missionary kids who have suffered abuse. Some of them appear in our film. Excerpts from the press conference, clips from the film and a short interview with Scott appeared on SNN, the local news station, on heavy rotation throughout Saturday and Sunday! Thank you to D’Arcy Drollinger and Ethnee Lea.

Next we premiered the film. I’m going to just skip the part about some technical issues with the After Effects files and Super 8 material, which we were aware of but had never seen THAT big.

The Q&A was great, as I mentioned before.

Afterwards all of us did a video interview, which may be used by the festival and even ABC. Then finally we were able to sit down for a celebratory and nerve-calming drink at the closest bar with people from the film and the friends who had come in from out of town and out of state to see the film.

Next stop was dinner with the whole “cast”, friends and family at the Amish restaurant. No, really.

We rounded out the night with a fantastic 50s themed festival party at the swanky Lake Club in Bradenton, where we met so many fascinating filmmaker and finally a lot of those hard working staffers.

Sunday was a lot less hectic until our screening, to which more friends and other former students of the Mamou Academy showed up. The Q&A was even more touching when several of the parents and survivors spoke about how their lives and faiths had been effected.

Scott and I sat down for another interview with Noralil Fores of the fantastic online independent film magazine ShortEnd Magazine.

In the evening we had some much-needed time to just spend with everyone who had been in the film who could attend the screenings. It was really good to be together and talk about how amazing this experience has been like and what the next steps may be to get the film seen in other venues.

The Sarasota Film Festival event of the night was Karaoke at The Cabana Inn, a rather cinematic lounge and motel. Dancing, laughing and thankfully no singing by me – a perfect night. Scott closed out the evening with a dip in the ocean since he had to fly back to New York today.

To read more about the first two days of the festival and the opening night events, which we missed, check out filmmaker Michael Tully’s blog “Boredom at Its Boredest”, who took the picture included in this post and has such nice things to say about the panel and the film. Thank you.

(I’ll post our pictures later, I’m running out of time now.)

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