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A VOICE FROM THE MONROVIA COMMUNITY

Still from MONROVIA, INDIANA

A Q&A with Monrovia Town Council’s Carol Youngblood on Frederick Wiseman’s MONROVIA, INDIANA.

For your own copy of Frederick Wiseman's latest documentary:

What was it like to have Wiseman filming in Monrovia? Did you notice him filming or did he blend into the background?


It was interesting to have Mr. Wiseman in our community. I don't think he blended in. It's very unusual to have a camera crew in various locations along the roadside, in the store, at meetings filming, but I think once people knew what he was there to do, people were able to just do what they were doing and try to be as normal as possible, and so I think he was able to capture that. I don't think people were unable to be themselves, but I don't know that he blended in. I think some people got used to it, because he was here for about a month filming. And then he came back again in the fall for a short time, and so I think once everybody knew what was going on, they were comfortable with it. But blend in? I don't know that you could say it, because it's such an unusual thing for us to have, you know, someone with a big camera such as he had and filming like he was. But we got used to it, I would say.

I think one of the most kind of fun things about the movie was not only just some of the filming aspects that reminded me of this, but after the movie was completed and it was announced when it was going to be released and we all got the announcement to go, that it was going to be shown at a local theater over in Mooresville, how much people were interested in going. And they set up these special viewing times, and you could get online and get tickets, and a lot of that reminded me of an old Disney movie, with everybody kind of interested and talking and what's it going to be like, and “do you think the scene when he was where I was at was going to be filmed?” or “when he was at this event…” That was kind of fun as it led up to the showing or the premiere of the film when we got to see it. And then Mr. Wiseman was very nice to come specially back to town, and he was there, and he sat through each of those showings with us and was gracious enough to be there for people to talk to and talk with after the movie was over. So, I really appreciated that, and I thought that was kind of fun. And, as I said, kind of nostalgic about some kind of old Disney movie or something.

What was it like to see your town and your community members in the film?

I'm occasionally asked, and even just this weekend someone messaged me on Facebook and told me they've watched the movie. They went to Monrovia High School and they've moved away, but they said they ordered the movie and watched it, and they were curious about the issues that've been presented that the town council, and if those were still on-going, and how they've been resolved. The thing about those issues is we're still dealing with those issues. We're still, some of the issues discussed at that meeting have been discussed at recent meetings. And so we still—the movie captured a moment in time—but our town still goes on. Those things that were issues then are issues now. The people who you saw in that movie, some of which have passed, which that was something that was special about that movie as well, that we're able to reflect back and say, “Ahh, there was a picture of Bruce and Kay,” and we caught that. Or another person that you have fond memories of. That was a neat element of the movie as well. Again, it's kind of like a little time capsule that we have. That's something that I think we benefit from having the movie filmed as well.

Did it feel like the town you know and love, or did it have a different perspective?

The movie has had, I think, mixed reactions here in our community. Some people had really preconceived ideas, I think, about what they thought it might be or contain. A lot of us were just not sure with a documentary that had really no narration, just us in our natural element, what that would be, and all the filming that was done, and then it was again, the editing that was done to bring it down to what it was. I've tried to look at the film and appreciate it, even though maybe I don't like all elements of it. You know, it's not always a good reflection of our community, but it is us, and it was what he caught here in our area, in our community, while he filmed. Some of it was good and was some of it maybe isn't quite as good, but it is who we are, and I thought overall it was very interesting to see how Mr. Wiseman really told a story from beginning to end. It was kind of an evolution of life, I thought, the way he created the editing of it. And so I think, you know, I've tried to appreciate the movie for what it is, and in that regard, you know, I don't know that I'm happy with all elements of it, but I'm glad that he was able to come to our community, and overall I'm glad that we have the movie as a historical record, to some degree, of that moment in time here in our community.

I think the movie's a pretty accurate reflection of who we are and what Monrovia is. It's a mix of people. We're a very small town, but we're close to Indianapolis, so we have really a fair number of different types of people that live in our community. People who still are from a farming background, some people who have moved into our area over the years because of the ease of getting on the interstate and getting into Indianapolis. So we're a real mix, but we're able to maintain that small town feel and have, I think, a very good sense of community here, and I think the movie captured that. Again, not everybody has been a big fan of the movie since it was released, a lot of people have been very critical of certain scenes and maybe how it was portrayed; but I think back again, it's a reflection of who we are. None of it was made up. Mr. Wiseman filmed here, and all those things happened here, and there's a lot of different things going on in our community, even though we're very small. We have different organizations, we have clubs, we have sporting events, we have the school, we have the community issues. We have a variety of things going on and so I think, in our own little way, we're very diverse and interesting and I've tried to appreciate the film and I'm really happy in the end that Mr. Wiseman came to our community. You know, the good, the bad, all mixed in there. I think overall, it was a positive experience and I'm glad he came and captured what he did.

Were there aspects of the town that felt new to you or surprising?

Seeing the film after it was put together and what was captured, it was interesting to see the town you grew up in and the places you're around every day. The streets, the landscape, and the people. So, I don't know that there was anything really new or surprising to me. There were things I think we all laughed at, and things we might've even cringed about a little bit. And it was very interesting to see people you know, people you grew up with or are close to, and then see them, what they were doing, and how they were captured in the film, so I found it very interesting in those regards. I don't think there was anything really new or surprising to me. Of course, I've lived here my whole life, and so I'm pretty used to the town and the people. But it was interesting. And like I said it had some moments I think we all smiled at, and maybe even a few moments some of us may have cringed at just a little bit. But I think it was good reflection of who we are.

Has the film’s exposure brought more people to Monrovia?

I don't know that the film has brought people to Monrovia, certainly not from a tourism standpoint. I don't think anybody's going watch that film and then say, "I've got to go to Monrovia to see it," but I think, in general, and it was brought out in the film, Monrovia is in a location that is bringing more people to it just by its locale close to some interstates and Indianapolis, and so we are an area that potentially has growth. Whether you look at that as an opportunity or not, of course, came out in the film. But I don't think it's brought people to our area. We are already an area that I think a lot of people are looking to as a place to possibly locate just because of our location, and it's an area that hasn't yet been overdeveloped.

What was your favorite scene in the film?

My favorite scene in the movie was really the opening scene in the movie where he captured our landscape around the community, the farm fields, the sky, the livestock, the planting. He was here in late May, early June. It's a very beautiful time in our area. And to me, that's home. To me, that's Monrovia. It is our beautiful landscape, and I thought he did a good job of capturing that and that, for me, was my favorite scene.


This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.