Following a screening of Best and Most Beautiful Things on November 3, an audience member shared her experience as a single mother raising a son who didn’t fit in anywhere until he started being true to himself.
That got Michelle Smith, the documentary’s subject, onto the subject of labeling.
“The thing about labels is, if someone puts a label on you, they’re shoving you in a box,” Smith told the audience in the Bright Family Screening Room. “If you put a label on yourself, in a way of, ‘No this is who I am,’ then you’re putting a button pin on your backpack. This is mine. It doesn’t have me; I have it.”
Smith is a quirky and engaging legally blind woman with Asperger syndrome. The film, directed by Garrett Zevgetis, MA ’05, and executive produced by Emerson College Los Angeles Founding Director Kevin Bright ’76, follows the Bangor, Maine, native as she explores her path to independence, love, and self-discovery through a sex-positive community.
Students, faculty, and members of the public gathered to watch the film as part of Emerson’s Bright Lights Film Series, in partnership with the UMass Boston Film Series. After the screening, Smith and her mother, Julie Smith; Zevgetis; producer Jeff Consiglio; cinematographer Jordan Salvatoriello, MFA ’12; and Smith’s English teacher at Perkins School for the Blind, Jeff Migliozzi, discussed the film and answered audience questions.
Migliozzi reminded the audience of a particular part in the film when Michelle talks to an old teacher. The teacher tells Michelle that when she gets upset it is her “autism speaking and not her.” Migliozzi told Michelle, “All I can say is, in the past year and a half, I didn’t hear the autism speaking, I heard you speaking; and you’re speaking in ways that you haven’t spoken before, and you’re expanding your thoughts and ideas.”
Michelle said she was frustrated with that conversation. “That is never something that someone working with people with disabilities should say. They are basically telling them that their words hold no weight.”
Zevgetis said he hopes many young women see the film and feel empowered by Smith’s story. “This is Michelle’s film, and it always has been, and it always will be.”
Salvatoriello echoed his sentiment. “There are so many important themes in this film and I think the larger takeaway is about being O.K. with yourself.”
Zevgetis told the audience that he wanted Michelle to have the last word of the night.
That word was “meow.”
Bright Lights screenings take place every Tuesday and Thursday evening, followed by a discussion with someone affiliated with the film or an Emerson faculty member. All events are free and open to the public.