I was thrilled when “It’s In Your Hands” was selected to participate in the Media That Matters festival in New York. Not just because there was a little prize money involved and it’s an excuse to visit one of my favourite cities in the world, but because the festival is now in its 11th year and provides an amazing platform for important social issues.
The films chosen make up a touring program that travels the US and beyond, screening in classrooms, cinemas, community centres, and lots of other places beginning with ‘c’. And there’s nothing a filmmaker likes more than getting the work seen, particularly with a piece like this which is all about spreading an idea and raising some awareness.
The festival took place at the end of October over three days which included a chance to meet the other filmmakers and the Arts Engine staff who run the festival at brunch, a swanky launch party at HBO where all the filmmakers introduced their work (and our Tippy Tap film had its ever first outing on a big screen), a day of panels and filmmaker interviews, and a premiere in the School of Visual Arts cinema.
At the premiere the screen was HUGE and the projection was super crisp – the film looked amazing, provoking a moment of wonder at how this tiny thing that Jared and Sowmya and I put together in a couple of days in India in February had travelled all the way from Panchgani to New York City and become 50 feet high in the process.
Another special moment was the appearance in the cinema lobby of an original and much admired MTM Tippy Tap, which had been built by the father of one of the organising team. A bang up job he did too, Sowmya would’ve been proud.
The films are a broad mixture of styles and subjects, some made by recent filmmakers, others by more established teams. A couple really stood out for me: The Leaves Keep Falling and Sick Wid It but they’re all definitely worth a watch and together create a powerful tool for discussion and action.
MTM have a tradition of asking filmmakers to accept their awards with a haiku (a Japanese poem of 17 syllables), so after the screening we all made our way to the stage. Our film won the Jury Award, so I went last. Never having read any kind of verse in public before gave rise to no small amount of apprehension. Before I left London I had contacted the vastly talented poet Lemn Sissay to see whether he could pen something worthy of the occasion, and he rose to the challenge in exemplary fashion. Armed with Lemn’s haikus (one of which required singing,) I arrived in NYC feeling confident the night would be ours. However, I hadn’t reckoned on the meltdown of my laptop on the day of the screening. Its immediate admission to the Apple store for surgery meant that his wonderful pieces were gone. Instead I had to hurriedly come up with something of my own, which went something like this:
ideas find us
Many unseen hands brought
this to being
which isn’t quite right in syllable count so here are Lemn’s, thankfully rescued by an old watchmaker in a dusty back room of Apple HQ
(all by Lemn Sissay)
As Lemn advises in his mail: “My favourite is fifty percent. But you’ve actually got to sing that one. With referrence to fifty percent water makes up about fifty percent of our body weight. (75 percent in a baby)..”
Perhaps it was a good thing that the audience were spared the chance to hear me sing. Instead we all retired to a nearby bar for some post award schmoozing.
It was great to meet a whole bunch of people over the course of the festival, but especially Cara Shih a graphic designer based in NY who had come across the film when it won the youtube competition and got in touch with Sowmya and offered to do some work on Tippy Tap logos. Meeting her kind of brought something full circle: work connects with people who get inspired to create more work and go on to connect in real life. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Massive thanks to Lemn for stepping up, to Arts Engine for putting on a great festival, and to the Tippy Tap team for all-round amazingness. What a trip!