As my regular readers know, our family has been caught up in a thrilling wave of film festivals featuring Keep the Change. Not only did KTC win Best Narrative Film and Best New Director at the Tribeca Film Festival, but my daughter Samantha was also nominated for Best Actress! This accomplishment would be exciting for any actress and her family. But when your daughter has struggled on the autism spectrum her whole life, starring in an award-winning movie is more than anyone (even the most optimistic mom!) could have ever dreamed possible. Following the Tribeca win, Samantha was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, IndieWire, The New York Post, and The Newark Star Ledger. At first, I thought I was hallucinating. MY DAUGHTER, REALLY? Then I worried Samantha would come crashing to earth after the media frenzy ended and she became yesterday’s news.
Too soon for me for me to worry about THAT, it turns out. On July 6th, 7th and 8th, Keep the Change will premiere at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, where it’s competing for awards with 11 other films. It’s the only American film being screened! Now I’m wondering how the film will be received in a foreign land. What will it be like to watch Samantha on the big screen with subtitles? Will the jokes survive translation? Do Czech audiences understand—or even care about— adults with autism? The theater where the film will be shown seats 1,100 people. I hope there won’t be hundreds of empty seats. . .
I always worry about the Q and A following each screening: what if Samantha doesn’t understand a question or finds it too difficult to answer? She managed reasonably well at the Tribeca Film Festival screenings, but other cast members ended up doing most of the talking. In Karlovy Vary, Samantha will be the only cast member present. How will she fare with an interpreter asking questions? Que sera, sera. . .
We are flying to Prague on Saturday night and will most likely arrive sleep deprived (not to mention that I’m an anxious flyer). I’m praying that terrorists aren’t planning any attacks at JFK or Prague airport. Assuming we arrive safely, we have a two hour drive to the festival town of Karlovy Vary where we will all be sharing one room. Not ideal for three exhausted adults (one with autism), but hey, we’re lucky to have gotten any room in a famous spa town during a major film festival. The whole trip is going to be a foreign adventure unlike any we’ve ever experienced. We’ve never visited Prague so we’re squeezing in two full days of tours, including Theresienstadt and the Bone Church (yes, it’s made entirely of bones!) Howard will be celebrating his birthday in Karlovy Vary after watching the second screening of Keep the Change at 10:00 am. I’ve NEVER watched ANY movie at 10:00 am, let alone a film starring my daughter in a town I can barely pronounce, in a country I’ve never visited. Talk about a special birthday. What could be more thrilling to an autism dad than watching his daughter sh
ine on a foreign screen?
After our Prague adventure, the film frenzy will continue a bit longer. On July 19th, KTC debuts at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Samantha has been invited (all expenses paid!) to attend for three days. How could we pass that up? Well, Howard will have to return to work, but for Samantha and me the adventure continues. After San Francisco, we’ll have a few weeks to rest before going to Los Angeles to meet Samantha’s new agent. The film festival frenzy will be over, but hopefully Samantha’s career is just starting.
As my daughter likes to say, we’re going to be “very busy bees.” But stay tuned and I’ll “keep you posted” (another of Samantha’s favorite expressions) whenever I can.