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Donnie Darko Frida Birthday

Event Recap: The Frida’s 10th Birthday w/ Donnie Darko + James Duval Q&A

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Being our birthday month, February is always a special time at The Frida, with special events like a live musical accompaniment to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or a Big Lebowski bowling party to mark the occasion in years past. This birthday, however, was particularly momentous as it marked 10 years since our theater first opened doors. As someone who came out that first year to watch the original 1954 Godzilla on the big screen, it’s been nothing less than incredible to see this place grow from a cool place to catch movies into something of a fixture in the local cultural landscape. With this in mind, it was only fitting that we commemorated this milestone with a film that’s not only a favorite at The Frida but a milestone in popular culture as well: Donnie Darko, the mind-bending 2001 sci-fi classic from Richard Kelly.

As you can imagine, The Frida was nothing less than busy for its 10th birthday. Hanging out in the lobby before the show with our Marketing Director Bekah and her husband Scott, I had an up-close view of the 200 or so guests trickling into the theater. The audience was an impressive cross section of guests, with Film Club and Board members joining first-time patrons for this special night. Despite the huge crowd, the staff and volunteers managed to get them all in in an orderly and efficient manner, thanks in no small part to the diligence and enthusiasm of the crew behind the counter (I like to think getting pizza helped boost morale, with me grabbing 6 from Little Caesar’s for everyone working the event.) Additionally, almost all of our staff members were present, making the occasion all the more special since it’s rare that we’re all at the theater at the same time.

With it being years since I’d seen Donnie Darko, re-discovering it on the big screen in a full theater was quite the experience. The moment Donnie rode his bicycle onscreen to Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon”, I was taken back to those adolescent years when the film was regular viewing at my home. Indeed, I realized there was much I had forgotten about the movie, namely how funny it is. The infamous dinner scene that introduces us to Donnie’s family, for example, has a humorous, almost camp sensibility that belies the profound, heady themes that the movie later tackles, with the audience laughing aloud at this and many other scenes. What I hadn’t forgotten, however, were the tender and heartfelt moments. There’s something deeply sweet and sad about Donnie promising unpopular schoolmate Cherita that “one day, everything’s going to be better for you”, and the climatic resolution of the time loop that sets the story in motion remains as potent – both intellectually and emotionally – as it was when I first saw it all those years ago. 

Donnie Darko Frida Birthday
Donnie Darko co-star James Duval in conversation with Frida Executive Director Logan Crow after the film.

To top it all off, we were joined by Frank the Rabbit himself, James Duval, for an in-person Q&A after the film! Fielding questions from our Executive Director Logan and audience members alike, James touched on everything from how he got the role (he was, according to Richard Kelly, the only actor trying out for the role to really understand the script) to how true the movie was to the style and atmosphere of its 80s setting (very!) He also answered questions about his work on Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy and what he thought of Kelly’s later film Southland Tales (he loved it.) Before and after the Q&A, he was kind enough to chat, sign, and take pictures with guests, including myself. Although James has visited our theater twice before, I never was able to meet him until this night and was pleased to discover that he’s just as kind and gracious as everyone says he is. 

The event was a success in and of itself but the mood of excitement and togetherness among everyone – from staff and volunteers to guests and patrons – elevated it to another level. It was, as they say, one for the books and another highlight in a tapestry of memorable nights at The Frida. And 10 years from now, I hope – nay, know – that there will be many more like it to look back on and cherish.

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