The Venice Premiere of UNZIPPED: An Autopsy of American Inequality was held last weekend at the Mishkon Temple on Main Street, on a beautiful night in a historic building filled with friends.
I had never been inside the Temple, and you would never know how big it is inside ... and how full it would soon be with all of our Venice loved ones. A long line formed outside, and the buzz was building as friends happily greeted each other and caught up as fast as they could before the movie was to begin.
The long road to getting this film out into the world began in Venice, and was made for and by Venetians. To finally get to see it in a room jam-packed with people that also care deeply about our chosen home was both very exciting and very moving. I was close to tears the entire evening.
As I'm still deep in caregiver mode for my family in Minnesota, I had to just zoom in for the event. That made it even more special and emotional, because I had to soak it all in for just one night, and try to get to see and talk to everyone at once who I miss so dearly. Of course, that was impossible, so please consider this both my thank you note and my love letter to all of you who were there to support us and our Venice movie.
All of the happy reunions and catching up of course meant that the film had to start on "Venice Standard Time" - which is always a little later than stated. Once we got everyone seated, there was a land acknowledgement and welcome from Carol Levy, the Mishkon President, as well as an update and welcome from Kristina von Hoffman, President of the Venice Heritage Museum. The VHM was one of our chosen beneficiaries of the evening, as well as a valuable resource throughout the making of our film. We all learned that it looks like the VHM will have a home as soon as this year! Great news! It will be a wonderful place for people to learn all about our beloved town that has given so much to the American culture. Venice Family Clinic was also there as a beneficiary and partner, and the good they do for our community is on full display in our film. THANK YOU, VFC!
UNZIPPED is not a documentary trying to tell you how things should be. It is a vehicle to get a conversation started about how we can all find solutions together for the unhoused situation that has gotten out of control in Los Angeles in recent years. And get a conversation started it definitely did - even DURING the film! In true Venetian fashion, audience members were shouting back to the screen, cheering for faces they know and love, jeering at others who maybe are missing that empathy chip that is so crucial to any hope of harmony in our world. It was awesome.
Cheers rang out as Run The Jewels kicked in and the credits ran, and then it was time for more socializing and catching up. As hoped, there was much discussion about the homeless issue, and what everyone thinks is best for Venice. PERFECT. Keep it up! We need to not look away, and we need to look out for each other - whether we have housing or not. It's a very complicated issue (as the audience let us know), but we don't have the option of looking away. We can all do better. We all MUST do better. And we don't want it to stop with seeing the film and having discussion about it. There are SO many ways to get involved in our #RaiseTheRoof campaign ... there are so many ways to help in the world - just pick ONE.
It was all over way too soon, and I didn't even nearly get to talk to everyone I wanted to, but I saw your faces and felt your love, and carried it all back with me the next day (after the crucial and glorious beach afternoon, followed by Hinano's!) with a smile on my face and in my heart.
If you weren't able to join us at the Venice screening, you're still in luck! The Oscar qualifying run of UNZIPPED begins TODAY at the Santa Monica Laemmle for one week. There will be a Q and A with our director, Colin Gray, after the Tuesday screening (that I will HATE to not be at), and I hope you can get there to see it in a proper theater. There will also be a New York premiere in May, and a big Hollywood red carpet whole deal premiere on June 1st, and a streaming release that will make it available in 192 countries right on your own tvs. Please stay tuned for all of the developments regarding the film, and please try to get involved in your own way.
Affordable housing needs to be enshrined as a HUMAN RIGHT. It is unconscionable that there is even one person living on the street in a country this wealthy, never mind whole tent cities. It's really embarrassing, and as one of our interview subjects in the film says, other countries in developing parts of the world look at US as backwards. As they should. And we all know we can do better.
There was a lot of work and heart and emotion put into this film, and our whole team has a deep love for Venice that is up on the screen for all to see. I miss our groovy old Venice, and anyone who lived there in those times knows what I mean. The magic is still there in Venice, it's just maybe a little harder to find than it was back in the day ... unless you know where to look. And all you had to do last Saturday was sit down in a darkened theater among your COMMUNITY gathered together to know that you were surrounded by that only in Venice vibe that will always be kept alive in each one of us, wherever we may go.
THANK YOU, VENICE!! I LOVE YOU! Now go see UNZIPPED, let us know what you think, and let's roll up our sleeves together to make our Community - and the WORLD - a better, even MORE magical place.