In June 2014, POV caught up with Grace Lee, filmmaker of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, to find out what’s happened since the camera stopped rolling.
POV: What has Grace Lee Boggs been up to since we last saw her in the film?
Grace turned 99 on June 27th. She is still having conversations with activists, students and citizens from around the country and world as well as from down the street. We were lucky to have her accompany the film to a few festival screenings over the last year. She continues to speak publicly, write an occasional column for The Michigan Citizen and stays active with the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership in Detroit.
POV: The film has screened a few times now in Detroit, where Grace Lee Boggs has lived and worked for so many decades. How have audiences reacted to American Revolutionary there?
Detroit audiences have been very enthusiastic about the film. Many people expressed how the film captured a perspective on Detroit that is rarely seen, especially when most of the news from there follows the same tropes of ruin and bankruptcy. Audiences who aren’t from Detroit have often drawn comparisons with their own communities to the struggles they see in the film — especially areas that have been hit by the loss of industry. The general effect however is that people are excited to visit Detroit themselves. I hope they do!
POV: How have international audiences reacted to American Revolutionary and the story of Grace Lee Boggs?
The feedback has been very positive. International audiences — like many Americans — simply have not looked at recent American history from this perspective. Grace Lee Boggs likes to say the film is not just the evolution of her, but the evolution of us — as a community, a country and of humanity in general.
POV: What do you hope a public television audience will take away from the film?
I hope the film inspires conversations and questions in viewers’ own communities in the same way that Grace Lee Boggs has for decades. There are so many daunting issues confronting us these days — whether it’s climate change, war, rising economic inequality. If a 99-year-old woman living in Detroit is willing to grapple with these huge questions and continue to evolve, so can you!
POV: What are you working on next?
We want to make sure American Revolutionary has a healthy life in educational distribution and community engagement moving forward. I am also producing and directing an episode for the PBS Makers series on women in politics that will air this fall as well as another film for PBS that looks at Asian American stories through food called Off the Menu: Asian America.