A St. Louis Story in Central Asia | Living St. Louis

A St. Louis Story in Central Asia | Living St. Louis


♪♪JIM: I’M JIM KIRCHHERR, AND
SOMETIMES WE TAKE A ROAD TRIP TOGET A STORY, BUT THAT USUALLY
MEANS MAYBE DRIVING A FEW HOURS.BUT FOR THIS FIRST STORY, OUR
FILMMAKER-IN-RESIDENCE FRANKPOPPER ACTUALLY TRAVELED 6,700
MILES ONE WAY TO GO TO ONE OFTHE LAST PLACES WE WOULD
HAVE EVER EXPECTED TO GO.HE WENT TO MEET SOME
PEOPLE IN KYRGYZSTAN.AND HE DIDN’T REALLY GO
SO HE COULD BRING BACKA STORY TO ST. LOUIS.HE ACTUALLY WENT TO BRING
A ST. LOUIS STORY TO THEM.BE HONEST, WHEN YOU FOUND
OUT WHERE YOU WERE GOING,DID YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT A MAP?FRANK: I DID.I DID HAVE TO LOOK AT A MAP.I WASN’T EVEN SURE THAT I’D
HEARD OF KYRGYZSTAN BEFORE.THERE ARE SO MANY
“STANS” OUT THERE.JIM: THE STAFF AT THE U.S.
EMBASSY IN THE CAPITAL OFBISHKEK THOUGHT THAT YOUNG
AUDIENCES IN THIS FORMER SOVIETREPUBLIC WOULD WANT TO SEE THE
“NINE NETWORK’S” DOCUMENTARY“GENTLEMEN OF VISION”.THEY HAD IT
SUBTITLED IN RUSSIAN.MARLON: START
ANYWHERE BUT KEEP MOVING.LET’S GO.JIM: IT’S ABOUT THE MEMBERS OF A
CHAMPION ST. LOUIS HIGH-SCHOOLSTEP TEAM, MANY FROM
AT-RISK BACKGROUNDS,AND HOW THEIR COACH, GUIDE AND
MENTOR MARLON WHARTON PREPARESTHEM FOR COMPETITIONS
AND FOR SUCCESS IN LIFE.SO, THE FILM’S DIRECTOR
FRANK POPPER GOT ON A PLANE.ACTUALLY, HE HAD TO
GET ON A LOT OF PLANES.FRANK: PRETTY MUCH EXACTLY ON
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD.FOUR SEPARATE CARRIERS.LEFT ON A THURSDAY,
GOT THERE ON A SATURDAY, SO…[INDISTINCT CHATTER][CAR HORN HONKS]FRANK: I WAS SLEEP-DEPRIVED.AND BY THE TIME I GOT
THERE, IT WAS SUCH A FRESH,NEW, STRANGE,
EXOTIC LAND THAT I,UH — WELL, I THINK I WAS — I
JUST STARTED DRINKING COFFEE ANDI SUDDENLY STARTED
THINKING MORE CLEARLY, SO…JIM: YEAH.AND WHILE FRANK WAS ABLE TO
SEE A LOT OF DRAMATIC SCENERY INTHIS COUNTRY, VISIT THE MAIN
MARKETPLACE IN THE CAPITAL ANDSAMPLE THE FOOD, HE WAS THERE
TO DO A JOB AS A CULTURAL ENVOY,MEETING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE AND
ASPIRING FILMMAKERS AND TALKINGABOUT THE PEOPLE HE
BROUGHT WITH HIM ON FILM,THE YOUNG MEN OF
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, USA.♪♪STUDENT 1: RIGHT NOW,
WE’RE GONNA BE STRUGGLING.STUDENT 2: WELL, I WISH I
COULD ASK MY PARENTS FOR MONEY.I WISH I COULD
HAVE MY DAD AROUND.JIM: AND THE U.S.
EMBASSY STAFF WAS RIGHT.WHILE KYRGYZSTAN IS ABOUT AS FAR
FROM ST. LOUIS AS YOU CAN GET INSO MANY WAYS, THE STORY
DID HIT CLOSE TO HOME.FRANK: THEY SAW SOMETHING IN
THESE KIDS FROM “RIVERVIEWGARDENS” THAT THEY
SAW IN THEMSELVES.STUDENT 3: BUT NOW YOU ASSUMING
I’M JUST NOT GONNA GRADUATE.MARLON: I AIN’T ASSUME A THING.I’M GONNA ASK YOU, DO
YOU WANT ME TO STOP?JIM: HERE’S HOW THIS HAPPENED.THE DOCUMENTARY WAS SEEN AT A
FILM FESTIVAL AND CHOSEN TO BEPART OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT’S
2019 “AMERICAN FILM SHOWCASE”.EVERY YEAR, ABOUT 40 FILMS ABOUT
AMERICAN SOCIETY AND CULTURE ARESENT TO EMBASSIES AND
CONSULATES AROUND THE WORLD,AND IF THEY’RE INTERESTED, THE
FILMMAKERS ARE BROUGHT IN TOSHOW THE FILM, LEAD DISCUSSIONS
AND RUN FILMMAKING WORKSHOPS.AND A YEAR AGO, FRANK, “G.O.V.”COACH MARLON WHARTON AND
I WENT TO SOUTH AMERICA.WE SHOWED THE FILM TO
AUDIENCES IN COLOMBIA.THEY CONNECTED WITH THE
STORY, AND WE FOUND UNEXPECTEDCONNECTIONS WITH THEM AS WELL.BUT KYRGYZSTAN?YOU’RE TALKING
ABOUT CENTRAL ASIA.YOU’RE TALKING
ABOUT A MUSLIM NATION,FOR THE MOST PART,
DIFFERENT ETHNIC GROUPS,REALLY NO CONNECTION
HISTORICALLY OR CULTURALLY,IN MY MIND, TO
THE UNITED STATES.FRANK: THE FOLKS AT THE EMBASSY
WHO LOOKED AT THE SCREENERS FORALL THE FILMS THAT THEY COULD
HAVE CHOSEN FOR THE “AMERICANFILM SHOWCASE” THIS YEAR, MOST
OF THEM AGREED THAT “GENTLEMENOF VISION” WAS PERFECT FOR THEM.I — YOU KNOW, I’M STILL KIND OF
STRUGGLING WITH WHAT THE APPEALWAS WITH ALL THE OPTIONS, BUT
EVEN THE KIDS THEMSELVES AT SOMEOF THE PLACES SAID, “YOU KNOW,
WHEN WE FIRST HEARD ABOUT THEFILM, IT WASN’T THE KIND OF
THING WE THOUGHT WE WOULD BEINTERESTED IN.”BUT ONCE THE FILM GOT
STARTED, THEY FELL IN LOVEWITH THE CHARACTERS.THEY FELL IN LOVE
WITH THE STORY.MARLON: AND MY MOTHER — SHE
STARTED SAVING MONEY AND SAID,“YOU KNOW WHAT?WE GOT TO GET OUT OF THIS
NEIGHBORHOOD RIGHT NOW.”THAT’S PROBABLY WHAT…[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]TRANSLATOR: SO, SHE SAID THAT
HER NAME IS JAKENAI AND SHE WASALSO INSPIRED AND MOVED BY THIS
MOVIE BECAUSE IT’S LIKE A TEAM.IT’S LIKE A FAMILY.FOR EXAMPLE, IF ONE OF THE
DANCE-GROUP MEMBERS ARE INTROUBLE, THE WHOLE TEAM HELPS
HIM AND ALSO SUPPORTS HIM TOOVERCOME THOSE
TROUBLES AND PROBLEMS.AND THEN THE SUCCESS SHOULD
BE ACHIEVED SLOWLY BY STEPS,AND THEN YOU’LL BE
ABLE TO ACHIEVE IT.♪♪JIM: THEY REALLY PUT
YOU TO WORK THERE.FRANK: THEY DID.JIM: THIS WAS NOT A TOURIST
VACATION TO CENTRAL ASIA.FRANK: NO, NO.I WAS TOTALLY EXHAUSTED
BY THE END OF THE TRIP.I MEAN, I SPENT PROBABLY
MORE TIME TRAVELING TO THESEFAR-FLUNG PLACES —
JUST GETTING THERE,FOUR, FIVE, SIX HOURS IN A CAR.AND I WAS WARNED BEFORE WE WENT
OUT ON TOUR THAT I WAS GOING TOBE SEEING MORE OF THE COUNTRY
THAN MOST PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERETHEIR WHOLE LIVES SEE.THERE ARE SEVEN
DISTRICTS IN ALL OF KYRGYZSTAN,AND WE WENT TO FIVE OF THEM.IT WAS JUST SO DIFFERENT.JIM: THE SCREENINGS AND
DISCUSSIONS TOOK PLACEAT “AMERICAN CORNERS”.THESE ARE CULTURAL
CENTERS RUN BY THE U.S.EMBASSY OFFERING
PROGRAMS, EXHIBITS,CLASSES HIGHLIGHTING
AMERICAN CULTURE AND HISTORYAND GOVERNMENT.THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF
THESE AROUND THE WORLD.KYRGYZSTAN HAS EIGHT, AND
FRANK WENT TO SIX OF THEM.LOOKING AT YOUR DAILY
REPORTS, ONE OF YOUR TRIPS,YOU SAID THE DAY’S
SCREENING WAS HELD IN THE“OSH REGION” LIBRARY.FRANK: YEAH.
JIM: THEY WERE HOPING TO GET 70.THEY GOT 150.FRANK: THEY GOT 150.JIM: AN AMERICAN FILM FRANKLY
NOBODY HAD EVER HEARD OF.FRANK: NO, EXACTLY.AND I’M — BUT I WAS JUST
ABSOLUTELY AMAZED TO SEE ALLTHOSE PEOPLE THERE.STUDENT 4: I JUST
WANT TO SAY THANK YOU.I LOVE ALL Y’ALL.THIS AIN’T —
THERE’S NO STEP TEAM.IT’S A BROTHERHOOD.FRANK: THIS WAS SOMETHING
THAT THEY KEPT BRINGING UP.IT’S AMAZING HOW
WHEN YOU COME TOGETHER,YOU CAN ACHIEVE SOMETHING
AS A GROUP THAT YOUCAN’T INDIVIDUALLY.AND FOR SOME REASON, THAT
REALLY RESONATED WITH THEM.JIM: YOU KNOW, HERE YOU’RE
JUST ONE OF MANY FILMMAKERS —INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS, RIGHT?FRANK: YEAH.JIM: THERE, THEY KINDA GAVE
YOU THE ROCK-STAR TREATMENT.FRANK: THEY DID.I COULDN’T QUITE
FIGURE THAT ONE OUT.AND ONE OF THE
HOSTS THERE, CHOLPAN,WAS TELLING ME, YOU KNOW, THIS
IS PROBABLY THE FIRST TIME INTHEIR LIVES THAT THEY
HAVE EVER — NOT — I MEAN,THEY’VE ALL SEEN MOVIES — BUT
TO ACTUALLY BE IN THE PRESENCEOF THE FILMMAKER IS
SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL TO THEM.IT WASN’T ENOUGH
JUST TO GET SELFIES.THEY HAD TO GET MY AUTOGRAPH.JIM: AND — AND PRESS COVERAGE.FRANK: OH, MY GOD.THE PRESS COVERAGE WAS AMAZING.WE WOUND UP GETTING A NATIONAL
BROADCAST ON THE — YOU KNOW,THE DAILY NEWS THAT DAY.BUT AMERICA IS A BIG
THING TO THE KYRGYZ, YOU KNOW?JIM: YEAH.FRANK: SO, TO HAVE AN
OPPORTUNITY TO MEET AN AMERICANWHO’S WORKING IN THE INDUSTRY IS
A REALLY SPECIAL THING FOR THEM.[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]FRANK: THE
AMAZING THING, I THINK,ABOUT THIS WHOLE EXPERIENCE
IS THAT I GOT TO SEE THE STATEDEPARTMENT UP
CLOSE AND PERSONAL.I HAD NO — YOU KNOW, YOU
THINK OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT,YOU THINK OF AMBASSADORS
AROUND THE WORLD AND,YOU KNOW, A PLACE
WHERE THEY ALL WORK…JIM: RECEPTIONS AND CONFERENCES
AND THINGS LIKE THAT LIKE, YEAH.FRANK:
…RECEPTIONS AND ALL THAT,BUT THERE ARE — THERE
ARE PEOPLE WORKING AT THESEEMBASSIES BY THE HUNDREDS IN
COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLDWORKING WITH PEOPLE AT ALL
LEVELS TO TRY TO SHARE AMERICANCULTURE WITH THEM IN
WAYS THAT I HAD NO IDEA.JIM: THIS IS A ST. LOUIS STORY,
BUT I IMAGINE IN KYRGYZSTAN,THEY DID NOT KNOW ST. LOUIS.AND YET HERE’S A STORY COMING
OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF AMERICATHAT RESONATES WITH
PEOPLE IN CENTRAL ASIA.I MEAN, GO FIGURE.FRANK: YOU KNOW, THE THING THAT
I FIND AMAZING ABOUT THIS WHOLETHING IS THAT THE WHOLE SPECTRUM
OF — OF THE AUDIENCES THATCOULD GET SOMETHING NEW OUT OF
THIS STORY GOES ALL THE WAY FROMKYRGYZSTAN TO “RIVERVIEW
GARDENS'” OWN BACKYARD,AND APPARENTLY IT HAS STRUCK A
UNIVERSAL CHORD THAT IT’S MADEIT A PROFOUNDLY
MOVING EXPERIENCE,AS YOU KNOW, FOR THE BOTH OF US
TO BE — TO BE ABLE TO TELL IT.MARLON: THE FUTURE
IS IN WHOSE HANDS?[TOGETHER]
OURS.MARLON: I CAN’T HEAR YOU.[TOGETHER, LOUDER]
OURS!MARLON: ARE WE
READY TO PRACTICE?[TOGETHER]
YES, SIR!MARLON: ARE WE
READY TO PRACTICE?[TOGETHER]
YES, SIR!MARLON: ARE WE
READY TO PRACTICE?[TOGETHER]
YES, SIR!MARLON: ALRIGHT,
BOOT CAMP, BABY.LET’S DO IT.♪♪MARLON: STEP TEAM, ATTENTION!

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