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The Color Purple

Volunteer of the Month Leonardo Ostergren on The Color Purple

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The Color Purple screens Sunday, December 1st through Tuesday, December 3rd

“Oh Celie, unbelief is a terrible thing. And so is the hurt we cause others unknowingly.”

Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Leonardo VOTM pic

December starts Sunday, and with it the countdown to Christmas! Also starting that day is The Frida Cinema’s three day run of Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey! Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of young Celie (Goldberg) as she navigates racism and domestic abuse in the Deep South.

A smash hit upon its release in 1985, The Color Purple raked in a staggering $142 million against a $15 million budget and earned 11 Academy Award nominations. Considering the significant place the film occupies in American cinema, it’s definitely worth revisiting, something our December Volunteer of the Month Leonardo Ostergren has made possible by selecting it as his programming pick! Working Rocky Horror, Halloween night, and everything in between, Leonardo is always ready to help out and jump on anything that needs to get done around the Frida. Plus, he’s got great taste in movies, as I learned in my interview with him about The Color Purple!

How did you find out about The Frida Cinema?

I found out about The Frida Cinema just by living in the area. Seeing some of the films offered that weren’t being played at other cinemas was reason enough to come check it out.

What made you want to volunteer here?

Because of some of the films that the Frida does! They have an exclusive programming list of stuff that you can’t find at other places, so there’s definitely a uniqueness to it, a niche if you will. One of the other things that I really appreciate is that the patrons of the Frida are all like chill vibes and good energy. I think that people that come here are also appreciative of what the people here do.

Tell us a little bit about The Color Purple.

Well that’s a tough one Reggie, where to begin with that! One of the things that stands out to me is back in the day when it was first released on videotape – some people might know that as VHS – it was one of the first films that was offered in letterbox format and that was kind of a big thing at the time. See, it was frightening to some people to have black bars at the top and bottom of their screen. I remember we were selling the Star Wars letterbox gift set and we had someone come in saying they were all upset because they had a huge screen with black bars on the screen and the guests were falling asleep so they blamed us for it! 

The Color Purple
Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery in The Color Purple.

I found it amusing, but aside from the technicals of it, it’s got a great cast. It’s got Whoopi Goldberg, it’s got Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Laurence Fishburne, and just an amazing supporting cast also. I think that we can each identify with different aspects of the struggles and challenges that different characters have in the movie. That’s another reason I appreciate it because while the main character Celie is our focus, it’s good to see the arc and redemption that come to some of the other characters as well.

What were your other choices for your Volunteer pick of the Month?

One that I really wish that we had been able to get and I hope will come up in the future was my answer to last month’s volunteer board question, which was “Which film are you most thankful for?” One of the titles that I’m really thankful for is a documentary called Celluloid Closet, which by chance also includes Whoopi Goldberg. It’s narrated by Lily Tomlin and has Tom Hanks and just a lot of other actors that are relevant today even though the movie came out 20 plus years ago. The movie looks at how the Catholic Church’s influence over the studios kept the studios from really giving different kind of people, i.e. homosexuals, a voice, so the studios had to find ways to kind of play around that. Now, the landscape is very, very different in 2019 than it was when it first came out, but back at the time it was really amazing to experience it because it pointed out that we go to movies to empathize but also to identify with characters and when you don’t see characters like yourself in cinema it leaves you feeling left out.

But also, being a big Tim Burton fan, I also had Batman in there, the ’89 one! That and Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, those were my other ones!

What is your favorite Frida memory?

I had never been to one of the Rocky Horror Picture Show experiences and I came to the 5th anniversary, which was a great and fun experience just altogether. KAOS told us that different members from different areas had come to help out and they had at least two different actors for some of the main characters so it was fun to see different interpretations of the material. It was really a great experience to come to, it had a great and fun energy and I can see why they almost always sell out. Just a lot of people with a great energy and looking to have fun!

If you could program any movie here, what would you pick?

Wow, you might want to pause for a minute! That’s just too much, let me try to zoom in on something. Xanadu might be my joke answer…

I’m going to say The Breadwinner. I really love where that left us, with that last impactful line, “Raise your hearts, not your voice. It is rain that makes the flowers grow, not thunder.” I really like the message that was taught with that story. 

Well, that or Cloud Atlas! I knew something else would come to me, and that’s the one!


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