#10: Meet JOIE WALLS

19 10 2009

JOIE WALLS, co-writer/director/producer

Film: RETURN TO MEXICO CITY

Screening: Saturday Oct. 24th, 5:45pm, Window to the World Program

Return to Mexico City is a documentary about Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos and their actions during the1968 Olympics in Mexico City. After winning medals, both men bowed their heads and raised a black-gloved fist toward the sky as the national anthem played – an action both men said represented not only the American struggle for racial equality but the universal struggle for basic human rights.

The film, narrated by Kiefer Sutherland, focuses on their dramatic actions and the aftermath of their struggles over the ensuing 40 years. It also features Smith and Carlos returning to Mexico City together for the first time since their controversial dismissal from the 1968 Summer Games. It features interviews with Tom Brokaw and President Barack Obama.

Co-Written, Directed and Produced by Maura Mandt and Joie Walls

Return to Mexico City

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and where you have lived, highlighting any major cultural identities that define, influence or challenge you in your life:

I was raised in Los Angeles, California, but my family is from Jamaica.

I attended a prestigious private high school in Los Angeles, and was one of only 5 minority students in the graduating class. This was a difficulty I found throughout my education from elementary to college – that there were very few people of my culture and ethnicity around me at school.

2. How did you come to be a filmmaker, and where/how did you learn the “craft” of filmmaking?

I studied filmmaking in college, as I was about 20 when I decided that was what I wanted to do. I was a double in major in film and political science. I thought that if I could apply some of my political education into my filmmaking I would be able to make a difference in society.

I practiced the craft in my student films, and upon graduation I received a job at ESPN in New York. There I was able to hone my skills into directing and producing short features. Eventually, I gained a reputation for making politically conscious pieces with a sports angle.

3. What prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?

Return to Mexico City began as a short feature for the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for the 2008 ESPY Awards.

After the 7 minute piece premiered in July of 2008, we had so much compelling material left that we felt it would be an injustice to let it all sit on the cutting room floor. But what could we add to the story?

As we watched the two men interact at the ESPY Awards, old friends who had lost touch for various reasons over the years, we could see that a big aspect of the story was their relationship. Again, we returned to the men to discuss doing further interviews and taking them back to Mexico City together for the first time in 40 years. After some encouraging, they were finally convinced.

They too felt as though their full story had never been told and that perhaps the missing variable had always been the fact that they had never told it together. We agreed that the perfect time would be the anniversary of the stand, October 16th, 2008 and started working on the project as full length documentary.

4. What is your single favorite line from your film?

John Carlos:  I ask myself over and over again if I knew my wife woulda took her life  would I have done that? You know and that’s a heavy question. But my wife would have had to die again. Because I’d a done it because it was so necessary to do. I think that was more important than her life or my life.

5. What movies would you say have transformed or changed the way you see the world?

Requiem for a Dream, Dancing in the Dark & Breaking the Waves, American Beauty, Wall-E, Do the Right Thing & School Daze, Bowling for Columbine, everything Hitchcock, Grey Gardens documentary, Born into Brothels

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