“Freakonomics” – Bringing people together

One thing that’s super cool about going to Silverdocs is NOT being the only person in the audience watching a documentary in a movie theater.  We had tickets to FREAKONOMICS – the premiere film at Silverdocs on Tuesday – and the audience was packed.  There were interviews and cameras, and lights flashing! It was like a Hollywood premiere…for a documentary film!  (And with all the cameras flashing everywhere – Thank goodness I put on make-up! )

We got there early to find a decent seat,  sat next to our neighbors and started up a conversation.

“What brought you here?” I asked the gentleman on my left.  “Oh, we know Sally.  She’s in this film!” he said.   I wasn’t quite sure who Sally was and racked my mental databanks for her – the authors of FREAKONOMICS were both Stevens, pretty sure none of the filmmakers were Sally.  Hm.   I asked a couple of follow up questions, but wasn’t clear.  Instead we talked about other things – how the area has changed, what other films we planned to watch, what we knew about the movie. Meanwhile, audience filled in around us, with cameras filming folks everywhere.

Once the movie started – after a few speeches welcoming all of us to the festival, we settled in.  FREAKONOMICS was kind of a series of shorts – with different famous doc filmmakers taking a different segment of the book.  I found out who “Sally” was during the last segment.

The last segment is about an experiment to try to get kids to graduate from high school by paying them for their grades in 9th grade. It takes place in a school in Chicago – and we meet two young students who are currently not making passing grades – and follow to see if they are motivated by the experiment.  Directed by local filmmakers Rachel Grady and  Heidi Ewing of Jesus Camp and Boys of Baraka fame, this was my favorite segment by far.  You wanted so much for the characters to pass!  Especially the one young man who had a tendency to joke more than apply himself – but he was so smart!  He had so much he could do with his life!  You kind of wanted to go in and give him a push!  And Sally?  It was her experiment!  She was the one filling the best role – trying to find key ways to motivate students to achieve everything they could in life.  Smiling and doling out cash in front of the students, and behind the scenes staring at charts of progress and wondering if it will have an effect – that’s Sally.  She seemed like an excellent person to know!

Cheers to Sally – and to all the audience that make attending Silverdocs great! There are more premiers over the next couple of days so get dressed up and join the glitz and glamour in downtown Silver Spring.

—Katy B. Jones

“Watch a doc, grab a drink.”

To Read More:

Steven Levitt – the Author of Freakonomics and his take on the documentary

NYT article about the movie “Freakonomics”


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