Not quite! Actually, Keep the Change is still playing in the US in Florida (Boca Raton, Key West, Lake Worth, St. Augustine) as well as in far-flung areas such as Portland, OR, Hilo, HI and Martha’s Vineyard, MA. Keep the Change will also be kicking off The White Mountain Jewish Film Festival in Vermont on July 5th, but after that the party is over—unless another country buys the film rights. Hint to France: We speak some French, would love reading those subtitles, and a grand finale in Paris would be vraiment magnifique.

As for the Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival—which opened Thursday, May 10th—it was our family’s last stop after a month of traveling in the US and abroad during our whirlwind year of attending film festivals. While I’m delighted to be sleeping in my own bed again, I’m going to miss the excitement and my daughter’s joy in the limelight. In many ways, Harrisburg provided an enthusiastic but gentle landing. Julie Sherman, the film festival director—recognizing that Harrisburg is NOT the most alluring travel mecca—treated us all like celebrities, anticipating our every need.  For the Q and A, microphones were attached to the table rather than the actors’ clothing (a deal-breaker for Samantha).  At our hotel, Julie handed us a cooler filled with Diet Coke as we unloaded our luggage. (God forbid my darling diva would be without her beloved soda within arm’s reach.)

More importantly, the movie attracted a full house of at least 300 people (more than I would have ever imagined in this Pennsylvania town).  The festival organizers and audience members were so appreciative that we had travelled to their hometown movie opening, that I can’t imagine a bigger welcome for an established celebrity. Film festival director and moderator, Julie Sherman had spent a lot of time talking to me, Samantha and the Polanskys, so the Q and A was smooth and orderly, with roughly equal input from both co-stars. Samantha and Brandon were featured in The Patriot News Weekend, with a gigantic picture taken at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. In addition, Julie was interviewed  on Channel 27, ABC news in Harrisburg about Keep the Change and its actors. 

Julie had invited us to attend (more like insisted) her film festival in Harrisburg SIX MONTHS in advance.  A 98% “yes” from me had not been good enough, even though I explained that I didn’t know when Samantha’s two theater groups were staging their spring performances, or whether Samantha might actually get some paid work. Nevertheless, Julie persisted.  She came to New York, took me and Samantha to lunch, and explained the meaning of the word “charisma” to my daughter.  There was no way we could have said no.

After a successful screening, Julie took us back to the hotel, drank coffee with us in the lobby, and then sat with us over breakfast the following morning, deconstructing the event.  (Don’t worry, Julie, it was as perfect as anyone could have made it). Plus, now Samantha and I have a lifelong friend in Harrisburg!

Will this be a Warhol moment for Samantha and a uniquely authentic autism film, or will new opportunities follow? I can’t bear the idea of my daughter and her fellow cast members going from total invisibility into the limelight, only to return to living in the shadows. My daughter’s voice, along with Brandon’s, and countless others’ on the spectrum, deserve the chance to be heard in the future.  The world really does need to keep the change.



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