Help Me Help You

1. Help Me Help You. 2. Paige Lipari, Assistant Editor-cum-event organizer for A Public Space, and Ashley Martin, Intern and student at The New School, table the event.

BAM and A Public Space set forth on another installment of their seminal series Between the Lines last night. With this month’s theme (Help Me Help You) we found ourselves immersed in stories of public and private grief, a director’s unsuccessful attempt at helping a man smuggle himself into England, and attempts by anonymous strangers to help the pseudo-lovelorn find peace with themselves.

After Lewis Hyde began the night with an excerpt from Common as Air, we segued into Annie P. Waldman’s film So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away. This was our first indicator of what was to come for the rest of the evening.

The film centered on a group of displaced high school students in post-Katrina New Orleans, each living without parents. As New York Magazine states, the film is engaging, yet it doesn’t manipulate. I didn’t feel pity while watching this. These kids struggle every day with a very public and national grief, yet they do everything they can to graduate with their more fortunate peers after returning to New Orleans. These kids are strong, and while they experience a type of pain only New Orleans can own, it is impressive and inspiring to see them do what they need to do. The entire film can be streamed via PBS’s POV series.

Immediately after the credits (with music by Rachel’s!), Meghan O’Rourke took to the podium with a very different kind of grief. O’Rourke’s mother passed away two years ago, and in her upcoming memoir The Long Goodbye she ruminates on the loss and essential demonization of public grief. In the past, O’Rourke says, to experience grief meant to find the entire village at your doorstep. We had rituals to show and own our grief. These have almost disappeared, and O’Rourke longs for a ritual that will help her claim her grief. This is best illustrated when O’Rourke returns to Brooklyn after the funeral. A woman bumps into her on the subway, and O’Rourke wishes she had worn an indicator of her grief so that maybe this woman would have taken more care. We can all identify with this longing for old-world grieving. As O’Rourke spoke, my mind immediately jumped to the scene in Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver in which at least twenty women in black funeral gowns hysterically waved their fans and, one-by-one, kissed the bereaved on the cheek. And with this image, we came to our intermission.

The second half of the night began on a more comedic note with excerpts from Ships That Pass, a collection of fake missed connections posted to Craigslist and their very real responses. We were then treated to readings by John Haskell and Brian T. Edwards and another short documentary entitled On the Run with Abdul.

What I’m finding about the Between the Lines series is that BAM and A Public Space really know how to hammer down a theme. The curators select writers and directors that represent aspects that fall on so many ends of the spectrum, yet by the end of the night the point is bright and clear. Though maybe malbec and Ommegang beers facilitate the feeling.

–John Zuarino is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn and is a regular contributor for Electric Dish. His writing has also appeared in Bookslut.

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