I always sit through the credits after the film has ended and the lights have come on. I sit there until everyone else leaves the theater and the house manager politely asks if there’s anything else they could do for me. I would only then gather my belongings and walk slowly through the dim, narrow hallway into the real world.
Having worked on my fair share of sets, I know how much effort everyone — and I mean everyone including the caterers, the production assistants and the background actors — has to put in to make a film possible. Every film making its way to the screen is a small miracle and sticking through the credits is the least I can do to pay respect to the people behind the film.
For the same reason, I love reading dedications and acknowledgements. I want to know why someone started writing a book and how they ever finished it. I want to know who or what the project could be for. I want to know what sparked the passion, what changed over the course, and what came out of it. And most importantly I need to know — what keeps one going?
There were times when I felt like I couldn’t. There were times when I came very close to saying fuck all of this and let me be. There were times when I just wanted to run away from my embarrassment and regrets and insecurities — which is why this column was named Escape in the first place. As a lonely kid I watched a lot of DVDs and would sneak out to go to the theatre every chance I had. Cinema has been my escape for as long as I can remember, and I want to recreate that space in some way, for myself and hopefully for others. Perhaps that’s another reason why I linger after the movies: I never feel ready to leave.
Many of my friends were shocked to learn that I hadn’t always been a “film person” — I came into college as a biology major and pre-med. Long story short, I have to thank my mentor Prof. Sabine Haenni, performing and media arts, who has been there through it all. Thank you for repeatedly reassuring me that it is okay to fail and that things will work out one way or the other, and for having faith in my wildly ambitious daydreams. If we had a graduation I would tell you then, but this might have to do.
I also want to thank The Sun for being another constant in my turbulent four years. When in doubt I often return to the words of former arts columnists, Shay Collins ’18 and Jael Goldfine ’17, who I’ve looked up to and read religiously for the longest time. My fellow writers — Andrea Yang ’20, Katie Sims ’20, Paris Ghazi ’21 and Olivio Bono ’20 — I am honored to be in your company. Nick Smith ’20, Lev Akabas ’19 and Zachary Lee ’20: although we disagree on just about every film, please know that I do appreciate you. To writers who will still be here after I am gone (Cecilia Lu ’22 and Tyler Brown ’22, you are so cool): my one humble tip is to assume that people are reading every time you write something, even when it doesn’t seem like it. I have gotten some very kind words from strangers and built meaningful connections from there. The director of Ann Arbor Film Festival Leslie Raymond, who is one of my personal heroes, reached out to me the day after my review of the festival was published, and I freaked out so much that there were two typos in my overexcited reply.
To my film friends in Chicago and New York City, most of whom I met through Cannes: You have quite literally changed my life. I think about that road trip last summer when we slept in Walmart parking lots in a camper van and lived straight out of the song I used to be obsessed with every so often. I can’t wait to binge watch and make films with you again.
Agnes Varda’s films and Yiyun Li’s writing follow me like gentle ghosts.
In high school, I came across Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness and read the book cover to cover several times. Keegan graduated from Yale in May 2012 and died five days after graduation in a car crash. In the poignant collection of prose she left behind, there was the title essay, originally printed in a special Commencement edition of the Yale Daily News. 16-year-old me tried to gather what college would be like from her words, and her genuity and optimism stayed with me, even when I wasn’t aware of it. A little more than a week ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook when I came across a post from a friend I hadn’t talked to in years. It wasn’t exactly from her, however — someone who must have been a family member revealed that my friend had passed away, and asked people to keep her “in your prayers.” For a few minutes I just stared at the screen trying to process the information, and each comment under the post came as extra confirmation. Stunned, I clicked into her profile, where everything seemed perfectly normal. Links to music, cover photo changes, birthday wishes, even shitposts. She was my age.
It was then Keegan’s words snapped back to me: “We’re so young,” she wrote. “We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.” And we need to do something with this time, which we know is finite. I hope I have, I hope I will.
Here’s to Marina and Madison and everyone who has left a dent in my life and in the world. You keep me going.
Ruby Que is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Escape runs alternate Thursdays this semester.