By Nancy Austin, PhD – newportFILM Outdoors Summer 2017 Humanities Blogger

With support from the Rhode Island Council on the Humanities (RICH)

This Thursday’s free outdoor newportFILM offering is Dealt, an inspirational documentary that has been capturing Audience Awards since its premier this spring. So come on down to the Newport International Polo Grounds with your blanket or chairs and join in this collective movie-watching experience. Food Truck action begins at 5:45pm, live music at 6:30pm, then screening planned for 7:45pm. Plan to stay for the post-film Q/A with the film’s director, Luke Korem, and the remarkable subject of the documentary, Richard Turner – a world-renowned blind card magician — or card mechanic, as he prefers.  

On the one hand, Dealt is a remarkable portrait of one man’s inner game to overcome odds and excel as the consummate craftsman of his art. On the other hand, this heroic documentary offers another opportunity for critical conversation about self-reliance as a lauded American virtue in 2017. I will be watching the film closely Thursday for insights into some of the questions I’ve been wrestling with lately as I’ve watched our country unravel. What kind of leadership qualities are needed now to play a new hand with different and diverse teams in the digital twenty-first century? What does character-defining self-reliance look like to me, today, and why does it look very different to other Americans? What is this disagreement really about?

Self-reliance has been a kind of leitmotif among the films I’ve blogged about this summer. The film subjects of both Dealt and Take Every Wave are exceptional men who have inspirationally pursued their own vision and self-reliantly conquered the inner and outer game to deliver solo mind+body performances that few will ever duplicate. In contrast, Bending the Arc profiled men (of roughly the same generation) for whom self-reliance meant in part self-sacrifice in the pursuit of their leadership mission to organize the village, or country, or global public policy to collectively deliver heath care so that a multitude of other’s might even have a spot at the table of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And what did self-reliance look like in Chasing Coral? It meant the whole young film team undertook whatever problem-solving and photo-documentation resourcefulness was necessary to complete this film as leadership activism designed to bring hearts and minds together around the precarity of our shared and very fragile ecosystem on Earth. No amount of self-reliance on the corals’ part could prevent the coral from being victim to forces far beyond their ability to resist. Context matters. I think Hedy Lamarr also complicates the American notion of self-reliance; she was held up for perfecting her role as glamorously beautiful movie star and dismissed as “out of character” when she was self-motivated to invent prototype WiFi technology to advance the American war cause.  

What parts from this summer’s portfolio of newportFILM documentary subjects would you draw on to talk about the leadership needed now to inspire the next generation? To encourage problem-solving conversation across various divides? To feel inspired to go further on your own inner game and achieve new result for your own artistry? Or put together your own proactive definition of self-reliance as we head toward 2018? That’s no card trick. 

Film screening details:

Thursday, Augut 24

7:45pm (sunset)

Newport International Polo Grounds (715 West Main Road, Portsmouth, RI)

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newportFILM Outdoors is presented by Lila Delman Real Estate International