PROVINCETOWN – In the weeks before and after the 18th Annual Provincetown International Film Festival, we have been barraged with news of a mass shooting, the vote of Britons to exit the European Union and the frenetic lead up to what will be a historic US presidential election (no matter who wins).
Thankfully, in the middle of it all, to put the world’s troubles into perspective, there was the P’town Film Fest and especially Jewel Thais-Williams, subject of a documentary that premiered at the festival “Jewel’s Catch One.”
“Jewel’s Catch One” was just one of dozens of films shown at the festival this year. Oddly enough, under aggressively sunny skies for June, hundreds of people chose to enter dark theaters tucked along Provincetown’s colorful Commercial Street to be entertained, educated, saddened, horrified and just plain edified by new feature films, documentaries and short films.
Documentaries are often a highlight of the P’town Festival and this year, that was particularly true when it came to “Jewel’s Catch One”, a documentary tracing the history of a Los Angeles nightclub and its founder. L.A.’s Catch One was named after the club hook-up mantra, “You only have to ‘catch one,’” But this was not just any nightclub. It was the oldest black-owned disco in America and its very existence broke down racial and cultural barriers in its community.
The director of the film C. Fitz announced before the film that the Provincetown showing was the film’s world premiere, since she had just finished the film the previous week.
Exploring rascism, gender and pop culture beginning in the early 1970s, this movie was a trip to another time and yet with these issues still so much in the news, it is quite relevant today.
Just five days after the Orlando shooting, Fitz dedicated the movie to the victims of the shooting.
The unabashed star of the movie is Jewel Thais-Williams. She attended the Provincetown screening, along with friends and colleagues from her days at the club.
As one commenter put it, Thais-Williams had four strikes against her: She was poor, black, female and a lesbian. But that didn’t stop her from buying a club that had previously discriminated against blacks and opening it to all–for 42 years, against pressures that ranged from financial challenges to discrimination and even arson.
After the film ended and the audience gave a standing ovation, Thais-Williams answered questions from the crowd. Though the nightclub was sold last summer, Thais-Williams vowed to carry on with her good works—she also is an acupuncturist and runs a health clinic.
And so it was in Provincetown that a piece of American history was illuminated in a small, dark theater while outside the sun shone brightly.
MORE MOVIES TO SEE: Among the other entertaining documentaries that we saw at the 2016 Provincetown International Film Festival: “Obit”, about the people who write those brilliant summaries of a life in the New York Times, be it a despotic ruler or the inventor of Slinky; “The Guys Next Door”, about a gay couple who rely on a friend to be the surrogate for their two daughters; and “Brillo Box (3 Cents Off)” about, you guessed it, Warhol’s famous artwork.