It’s All About the Story

I’ve said it a million times “It’s all about the story”.  If you don’t have a good story to tell – and tell it – you’ve got nothing.

Last night I watched the documentary Sugarman“Searching for Sugar Man” and all I can say is WOW – it is probably the most incredible story I have ever heard in my life.  It’s the kind of story that’s almost to good to be true and yet it is.

It’s a story about Sixto Rodriguez, a Detroit folksinger who in the early 1970’s recorded a couple of records that were brilliant and “well received” but – they didn’t sell.  Rodriguez went on to live a simple life as a laborer, spending his time demolishing abandoned buildings in a city wracked by ruin and hard times.  Little did he know that on the other side of the world, in South Africa, he was a legendary music icon and an inspiration for generations who grew up with Apartheid. 

Back in the early ‘70’s, a young American woman went to South Africa to visit a friend and took with her one of Rodriguez’s records.  At that time, in South Africa, you could be put in jail for just listening to records like Rodriguez’s. It was a heavily censored society and ripe for rebellion.  He became a cult hero, bigger than Elvis.  Rumors grew up around this legend where it was said he committed suicide in front of his audience, at the end of a concert.  No one could find any information about him at all, because nothing had been written about him, unlike many of the popular rock musicians of his day.

Meanwhile, back in Detroit, Rodriguez had no idea his music had touched millions.  It wasn’t until the 1990’s, that a few die-hard fans tracked him down using cryptic clues from his lyrics and the Internet.  They finally found Rodriguez alive and well in the city of Detroit and brought him to South Africa.  What transpired was a series of concerts to sold out stadiums for this folksinger who had lost sight of his musical dreams.

It’s one of the most powerful inspiring stories I have ever heard.  Almost like parallel universes colliding to complete dreams across the divide.  Of course it took another 10 years for a filmmaker to bring awareness of this story in this incredible film.

When I was at the Traverse City Film Festival, I saw and met Rodriguez at the opening night outdoor party.  I couldn’t get into the screening because it was sold out and I had to wait until it was available on DVD.  It was worth the wait and it’s a film that you shouldn’t miss.

If you want to know what Rodriguez is doing now – well you’ll have to watch the movie.

PS I just bought his CD that was released in ’71. You couldn’t find in America before this film was released.  Like Orson Welles said “If  you want a happy ending that it depends on where you stop the story”.


Meeting Michael Moore

It seems like I’m meeting a lot of celebrities these days, but the truth is I’m meeting a lot of just regular folks too because I’m putting myself “out there”.  It’s just that celebrities stand out because – they’re celebrities.  Ever since Tom posted this photo

Michael Moore and Gail Mooney at the Traverse City Film Festival

on Facebook, of me with Michael Moore at the Traverse City Film Festival, I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people asking me about it.

To be honest, I was one of many that Michael had a 5-minute chat with that night at the opening party of the festival.  I won’t tell you exactly what we will talked about, other than to say that I asked him how I could get 15 minutes of his time.  That probably wasn’t the best question to ask him at a large party that he was escorting Susan Sarandon to, but I figured I would do what Michael Moore would have done.

Moore is a polarizing kind of guy – strong in his convictions and people either love him or hate him.  I’m somewhere in the middle, but after reading his book “Here Comes Trouble”; I’ve probably swung more to the “love” end of the spectrum.  His book is about his life – with each chapter telling a story about a particular time and experience. I didn’t really know a lot about Moore and all that he has done, but he is like the Forest Gump of his time. In his book he tells the most amazing stories about himself and the serendipitous situations he has encountered in his lifetime.  It’s extraordinarily funny and I would highly recommend it, regardless of what you think about Moore.

Michael has done a lot for the people of Traverse City, Michigan.  He was co-founder of the Traverse City Film Festival and if you’ve never been – GO.  It’s a festival like no other and it’s in one of the most beautiful spots in the country, in northern Michigan.  Michael was instrumental in restoring the State Theatre that had been vacant for over 40 years.  We were able to rent that state of the art theater last year to show a sneak preview of our film, Opening Our Eyes for only $250.00!  Michael loves films and filmmakers.  He also started a funding campaign to raise money for new seats for a local elementary school’s auditorium.  He had only one condition – that the school would honor Martin Luther King by recognizing his birthday as a national holiday and closing on that day. That was only last year, a time when most schools in our nation had recognized this holiday long ago.

I was a bit surprised to see Michael at the “open” outdoor party that night.  He’s literally a “target” and has had many threats on his life.  At one point in his life, he was guarded by a team of ex Navy Seals because of these threats and the copious amounts of “hate mail” he was getting.   I’m sure that has taken a toll on him personally, yet he stays true to his convictions and continues to speak out.

It’s not easy to stay true to your convictions, especially when it’s counter to the status quo.  I admire people, who are consistent in this way, regardless if I agree with their point of view or not.  After all, we live in a democratic country, and democracy is built on the voice of the people – and that means ALL people.  My biggest fear is losing that right to speak out. Ironically, when the “status quo” feels threatened,  “fear” is used to control the voice of the people and only a few are brave enough to speak out, facing the wrath and conjecture of popular opinion.  Moore is one of these people and whether you agree with him or not – take a moment if you live in America to think about this. It’s because of people like Moore that we are still “free” to speak out.

Sadly we couldn’t stay for the entire festival, but we did get to see the film, “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey” – an incredible story of the band Journey and how they found their new lead singer in a most unusual place – The Philippines.  I just found out that this film got the “best audience award”.  Seems fitting for this movie to receive that award – it’s got everything that someone like Michael would love – a great story with a message that anything is possible and to never stop believing.

%d bloggers like this: