I was at in a bar yesterday evening and one of my companions told a great story that I am hereby stealing. I will endeavor to retell it as best I can.
First a bit of background. “SIFF” is the “Seattle International Film Festival”, an annual event during which many of the larger theaters suspend their usual schedules for a week or two and instead show foreign and “art house” films from around the world. Among the cinemas participating in SIFF this year is the Cinerama, Seattle’s largest, one-screen theater, which typically devotes itself to nothing but the biggest of big-screen pictures: Gladiator, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and, currently, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.
So I’m working as a volunteer at the Cinerama for SIFF this year, and I was there just the other night when they were showing this real obscure documentary about the native people of the Himalayas who guide climbers up Mount Everest. Now SIFF volunteers usually get a few free passes for the films they work at, but they often have more than they need, and so they usually just give them away to someone outside the theater. Apparently that’s what happened here: someone had an extra ticket and just stopped a guy walking past the theater. He asked this guy if he wanted a free pass to the movie playing at the Cinerama, and the guy took it and was totally psyched.
So this guy, the guy who got the free pass, comes into the lobby and then charges in to the theater to get a seat. He’s totally excited about this free ticket. But not a whole lot of people were at this particular movie, and almost none of them were in the theater — they were all out in the lobby, talking and mingling. So after a while the guy comes back out and looks over the crowd in the lobby with this look of total bemusement on his face. Eventually he comes over to me and says “Hey, what’s the deal here? Why is everyone standing around in the lobby instead of going in to the theater?” You can tell this guy can’t wait for the movie to start.
So I say, “Well, there’s going to be, like, a pre-movie discussion out here.”
And the guy says “Really? That’s cool!” But I can tell that he’s thinking it’s kind of weird, and he doesn’t really know what to do. So he asks me, “Do we just, you know, walk around and talk to other people, or what?”
“Yeah, sure,” I reply, “But the discussion really starts when the director shows up. The guy who directed the movie is coming and will be talking to everyone.”
At this point the guy with the free ticket goes into paroxysms of excitement. “The director?!” He’s just going berserk. “The director is going to be here?! Oh my God! I’ve always wanted to meet George Lucas!!”
And at first I’m thinking “What is this dude talking about?” And then I’m like “Ohhhhhhh noooooooo …” So I say “Uh, yeah. Uh, you know that Star Wars isn’t playing tonight, right?” And the guy’s face just freezes, like he’s been shot. And I say “Yeah, tonight they’re showing SIFF movies.” And the guy is, like, “SIFF, what the hell is a SIFF?” And I point to his ticket, and he looks at it for what must be the first time. And there, in huge letters, it says Sherpa: Unsung Heroes. And he just deflates, like someone opened his air valve or something.
The funniest thing about this guy was that he flat-out refused to believe that he hadn’t scored a free ticket to see Star Wars. Even after I pointed out the movie title he was still like “So, wait: when is George Lucas showing up?” And he points to the stairs on the other end of the lobby and says “Where do those go? Are they showing Star Wars in that theater?” And I say “No, those go to the same theater you just came out of.” And he points to some other stairs says “What if I go up there?” And eventually I’m like “I’m totally sorry, dude, but you’re seein’ Sherpa.”