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Every semester, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts partners with the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers to bring three films to ETSU’s campus—and not only the films, but the filmmakers as well. The first showing of the spring on Monday, Feb. 6, was a narrative film called Mango Dreams.

The film follows the story of an Indian doctor who lost his family during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. He embarks on a journey with an unlikely companion: a rickshaw driver. The two wayward men strike a balance and travel across India together to reach the childhood home of the doctor. It is a story of reconciliation, of bridging the gap between past and present, between Hindu and Muslim, young and old, Indian and Pakistani.

This is the first picture by filmmaker John Upchurch, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina. He gave a question-and-answer session after the screening and talked at length about what inspired him to make the film and how it was made. He had had the basic idea for the story in his head for a long time, and when he began learning about Indian history after marrying an Indian woman, the details came together. Upchurch shot the film in India, and most of the cast and crew are from India.

The crowd packed into the Culp Auditorium for the 7 p.m. screening—and it was a crowd, nearly full. (Interesting note: your blogger may have been the youngest person in the room.) The audience received the film well, laughing generously and applauding when the credits rolled. Present were two people of note: a man who had survived the partition himself; and a woman whose husband endured a similar separation as the main character of the film, except his story took place in Israel and Palestine.

One man in the audience thanked Upchurch for the film, noting how timely the story of bridging differences felt to him given the world’s current political climate.

Mango Dreams will be released on Netflix or Amazon Prime sometime in the late spring. Upchurch said to watch the film’s Facebook page for updates.

The next films as part of the Southern Circuit Tour are two documentaries: I Come From, which follows incarcerated poets and playwrights, screens March 13; and Speed Sisters, the story of an all-woman race car driving team in the West Bank screening on April 10. Both films will be shown in the Martha Street Culp Auditorium at 7 p.m on their respective dates.

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