A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a moving picture stirs up a thousand memories, at least for Splendido residents, who relived the civil rights movement this month through new cinema release “The Butler,” a historical drama based on a White House butler’s seven-presidency tenure.
The special event, hosted twice on two different weekends, attracted a total of 64 residents from Splendido, an all-inclusive community for people 55 and better. A time of discussion following the viewings organically evolved and sparked conversation from the film’s portrayal of the era to its technical creation, as well as incited rich, first-hand sharing of residents’ own memories.
Joan Mayer, Splendido’s Director of Resident Services, who coordinated the outing said, “The civil rights movement had a huge impact on who I am today, but I knew it was also a moment in time for which residents would have important and vivid memories to share.”
Throughout the year, Splendido features a “Movie Magic” series in which residents are given opportunities to see a series of movies under a theme such as “reconciliation” or “transformation,” accompanied by an hour-long discussion at the end of each screening. The movies have allowed residents to deepen community bonds and express their own thoughts, lives and opinions.
This past semester, residents chose to screen the nine 2013 Oscar nominations – which is practically a part-time job. “Having time in retirement to see movies, doesn’t necessarily mean people make an effort to do so, but staying current with popular culture and sharing the experience is vital to overall wellbeing,” said Mayer.
Released in time for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the August box office hit “The Butler,” chronicles the experiences of African-American butler Cecil Gaines as he witnesses the sweeping changes in American society between the 1950s and 1980s.
For resident Betty Grassmeyer, the scene of two vintage water fountains distinctly marked “white” and “colored,” immediately brought back a sad childhood memory from Missouri. “In our city one time, a very famous band came to perform, and I can remember they could not even drink out of the faucets or use the restrooms in the place they were performing,” Grassmeyer said.
Jean Seehausen still remembers her husband daring to sit in the back section of the bus as a teenager, where he was not supposed to as a white man. And though she was living on the opposite side of the country when the movement broke out, “The Butler” reminded Maxine Pearson of her deep Southern roots in Birmingham, a city then known for its disparate racial segregation, where Martin Luther King Jr. would be jailed and later write his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
Reflecting on the movie, Pearson said, “I shed a few tears. Those were some sad memories. It’s a reminder of what people used to do, and it’s a reminder that we still have things left to do.”
Splendido’s on-site movie theater, Cinema Delfino, also screens movies for residents three times a day, five times a week in a plush setting that accommodates up to 12 people. When “Movie Magic” is not playing Tuesday, Thursday and Wednesday nights, residents are in charge of electing choice movies to Splendido’s cinema committee for screenings the rest of the week. On occasion, the theater has also been used for anniversaries or to entertain visiting family members.
Talk is already stirring among residents of attending the next potential screening for this fall’s biographical film on former South African President Nelson Mandela.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to see some good movies, and to be able to talk about them afterwards,” Grassmeyer said.