I’m glad to be able to use this platform to give a shout out to my former college classmate and roomie, Susan McMartin, whose film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival (NYC) last week. Entitled Mr. Church (a change from the original title of Cook) the film stars Eddie Murphy in a dramatic story that is semi-autobiographical.
The reviews are very favorable, praising Murphy’s portrayal of a man who comes to live with a single mother and her kids, agreeing to cook for them. What might have initially been estimated as a short term arrangement, Mr. Church’s relationship with the family spans 15 years.
I’ve seen only one unfavorable review so far, which criticized the story for employing a subdued Murphy to play a “magical negro”. I’m not going to comment on that review because I haven’t seen the movie, which is scheduled for a wider release November 11th. But here’s the rub – McMartin’s story is based on real life events, and whatever creative souls produce for public view, will be subject to criticism. While students at NYU, our writing professor Mark Dickerman was fond of reminding us that real life is no excuse for bad drama; rather than recording verbatim the events of our lives, we were encouraged to find the nugget or theme of the story, and often times make the ordinary events, extraordinary and the extraordinary, ordinary – even departing from autobiography to find a story vehicle that would best amplify our theme. Given the overwhelming favorable reviews, I’m sure McMartin has done that. In order to connect with our audience – be it an individual reader of our novel, or a film director interested in optioning a script, or a wider audience watching a collaborative project – we need to tap in to life truths that resonate because they are true. I think also, when we draw from our own experiences, we need to remember that these events are fixed points in history, and history needs to be evaluated in its own time, not rewritten or white-washed to satisfy the current wave of political correctness. Is the Mr. Church character a “magical negro”? — All I know is that Mr. Church is a character who acts as a catalyst; in history he was a man who mended a family.
Susan’s had a life full of ups and downs and it’s been truly wonderful seeing her come in to herself and come in to very good fortune after many, many years of paying her dues and honing her craft. I’ll let her tell her own story, which she writes about in her blog Studio City Mom. My question for you is – what story will you tell?
During April, I’m participating in The A to Z Blogging Challenging, blogging 26 days of the month on writing topics while systematically moving through the alphabet. The goal is to develop a more regular blogging habit and network with other bloggers. Join us!