Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly's documentary The Way We Get By has its official Maine premiere in Orono this weekend with an unusual amount of fanfare. Governor John Baldacci, both of Maine's US representatives, and members of the military will be attending the April 9 VIP reception and screening, which kicks off a weekend of showings at the University of Maine's Collins Center for the Arts.
The premiere's impressive guests are a reflection of how the film both embraces and transcends its unusual, nearly unmarketable pitch. Set in Bangor, the film follows three senior-citizen troop greeters who have shaken the hands of tens of thousands of soldiers leaving for or coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. (Gaudet's mother is one of the greeters.) While the premise couldn't be less sexy, the film — intelligent and funny, tearjerking and heartwarming — couldn't be more winning. It's a dignified look at aging and offers an eye-opening glimpse at the soldiers going to fight wars much of the country doesn't support.
"We've been overwhelmed with the response," Gaudet said, after his film won the Audience Award at the prestigious Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in North Carolina last weekend. "We've now won awards at five festivals [including a Special Jury Award after its world premiere at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas], and three of them were voted on by audiences."
While it's "still a really hard sell," strong word-of-mouth has helped the film both at festivals and in terms of securing distribution. (PBS will air TWWGB on its P.O.V. series later this year; Bangor Savings Bank is supporting the film's theatrical rollout in Maine.) "Every festival we go to, the first screening will be less attended than the second ... [which] will be filled with people that will tell us they heard so many amazing things about the movie," Gaudet says. "[T]he festivals are where we can build that national grassroots group that can help us push it out, and so far that couldn't be going any better."
After a couple more months on the festival circuit, The Way We Get By is expected to screen in Portland in mid-to-late June over a weekend at SPACE Gallery. We'll keep you posted.
: This Just In
, Afghanistan, documentary, Iraq, More