Little did she know a decade ago as an all-state cross-country star at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, but those years of training would come in handy in Courtney Marsh’s next challenge as a documentary filmmaker.
“It taught me strength and perseverance. It’s that type of mental strength you can only get from running. You are by yourself, alone in your own head, and you learn how to control your thoughts, when your mind is telling you, ‘Stop, it hurts,’” Marsh says. “You have to cross the finish line, like with the eight years of trying to finish this movie.”
It may be no coincidence that Marsh chose for the subject of her first film someone who taught her a few things about perseverance.
“Chau, Beyond the Lines” is a beautifully rendered profile of a young man living in a grim Ho Chi Minh City facility for kids disabled by the Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange. Chau, born without muscles in his arms and legs (his mother drank water from a polluted stream), is determined to be an artist.
The 34-minute film is one of the little gems that pop up each year at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. The festival is lucky to have it: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently announced that “Chau” was among the final 10 films being considered for an Academy Award nomination in the documentary short-subject category. The nominees will be named Jan. 14.
“Chau, Beyond the Lines” screens at 6:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale (503 SE Sixth St.). Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors, $5 for students. Call 954-525-3456 or visit FLIFF.com.
After she graduated from St. Thomas, Marsh was one of 15 students accepted into the prestigious UCLA undergraduate film program. At the end of her freshman year she and a classmate went to Vietnam to do a documentary on street kids. While there, a local TV producer mentioned the kids tucked in the back of a nearby maternity hospital.
Marsh was 21, had never heard of Agent Orange, but was stunned at what she saw. Before pulling out a camera, she and her friend spent 10 weeks volunteering at the center, feeding, bathing and dressing kids with varying physical and mental disabilities.
Marsh spent most of her time in a room designated for the particularly helpless. It would take a team of people to lift one young girl onto a table where Marsh could bathe her — the girl’s swollen head was three times the size of her body. She later died.
As they filmed, the story of Chau, his forceful optimism and his unlikely dream became the focus of Marsh’s documentary.
While the villain in the film is Agent Orange, Marsh is not interested in political polemics. It is not giving away too much to say that “Chau” has an uplifting conclusion.
“It’s a movie about a kid, a universal story. The point of the movie is to see the kids past their deformities. They’re kids, just kids. They care about candy and they care about soccer and they have their own dreams,” Marsh says.
“I wanted to make a movie about a kid who wanted something beyond what maybe you and I think he could ever achieve. He paints giant murals with his mouth. He’s never focused on what he doesn’t have. He just does it.”
Marsh will introduce “Chau” at Cinema Paradiso and do an audience Q&A after the film. For more information, visit BeyondTheLinesFilm.com.
Reminder: The Norton Art Museum's popular exhibition “The Summer of 68: Photographing the Black Panthers” is the focus of Art After Dark on Thursday (Nov. 12), an evening of live music and poetry that includes a discussion by Deborah Willis, chair of the photography department at New York University and the author of “Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers - 1840 to the Present.” Willis will be joined by her husband, Hank Thomas Sr., a former member of the Black Panthers’ Philadelphia chapter who helped establish its health clinic and children’s food program. South Florida keyboardist George Tandy Sr. will perform jazz interpretations of classic songs of the era, and local high school and college students will offer poetry and spoken word. Art After Dark begins at 5 p.m., with a tour of “The Summer of ’68,” set for 5:30 p.m. The Norton is at 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Admission is $12, $5 students, 12 and younger free. Info: Norton.org.
Just when you’ve gotten the kids calmed down from the sugar high of Halloween (remnants of which may linger in your bowl of secret stash behind the takeout menus on top of the fridge), here comes Fort Lauderdale with “Light Up Lauderdale,” the annual Riverwalk holiday lighting party 6 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 12) at Esplanade Park. Live music, kids' activities, food and (adult) drinks, and visions of sugar plums aplenty. Info: GoRiverwalk.com.
BOOKS AND BEER
Your relationship to books may be, um, estranged, but there’s no reason to feel left out of all the hullabaloo as Miami Book Fair International gets going this weekend. Books & Beer Night is a collaboration 7:30 p.m. Friday at Books and Books (265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables) curated by Wynwood’s Concrete Beach Brewery. There will be books, food pairings and beers including the excellent Stiltsville pilsner. Info: ConcreteBeachBrewery.com … But who are we kidding? Also on Friday night, Concrete Beach will host the monthly outdoor Whiskey Blue Beer Garden series at the W Fort Lauderdale. From 5 to 8 p.m. there will be beer and barbecue. No books. Admission is free. To reserve a table, call 954-414-8300. Info: Facebook.com/WFortLauderdale.
PULSE OF THE NIGHT
An annual highlight of the South Florida performing arts season, Pulse returns on Friday at 9 p.m. with an extraordinary program that turns the New World Center into a late-night lounge (with club-style lighting and video). This edition of Pulse features symphony musicians joined by DJ Le Spam and the Spam Allstars on a program that includes interpretations of Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and John Adams, among others, and the world premiere of music created by Sam Hyken (Nu Deco Ensemble) in collaboration with DJ Le Spam. Tickets: $50. Info: NWS.edu.
Julian Lage, still somehow just 27, has generated a new round of acclaim for his 2015 solo album, “World’s Fair,” with mentor Gary Burton calling him a “jazz star.” Filed as a jazz guitarist, the Northern California native is happy to wander, as in his recent work with Wilco guitarist Nels Cline. As Guitar World recently observed: “While his musical foundation is rooted firmly in the world of bebop and swing, his playing encapsulates the full breadth of 20th century American music. The ghosts of Eddie Lang, Skip James, Doc Watson and Elizabeth Cotton haunt his vintage Martin 000-18, with which he creates a sound that is distinctly modern yet deeply indebted to the American folk music tradition.” Hear for yourself when the Julian Lage Trio performs 8 p.m. Saturday at the Miniaci Performing Arts Center at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. Tickets: $40 at Ticketmaster.com, but students 25 and younger can get $10 tickets at the box office 90 minutes before the show. More info: JulianLage.com.
Shop small and shop local during Margate Under the Moon, an all-ages gathering of small businesses, artists, crafters, bakers, food trucks (15) and local musicians from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the northwest corner of Highway 441 and Margate Boulevard. There will be cornhole and free beer. What more do you need? A joint effort by Indie Craft Bazaar, Atlantic Studios and the Margate Community Redevelopment Agency, the event is free. Info: Facebook.com/IndieCraftBazaar.
A HARTFELT GIFT
If you are thinking holiday shopping, remember that tickets for comedian Kevin Hart’s Dec. 26 performance at Hard Rock Live go on sale 11 a.m. Friday at MyHRL.com, all Ticketmaster outlets, including Ticketmaster.com and 800-745-3000. A presale begins 10 a.m. Thursday via Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Prices are $150, $130, $105 and $70.
The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival will screen George Lucas’ eloquent and timeless "American Graffiti" at 5:15 p.m. Saturday at Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale (503 SE Sixth St.) with an introduction by Oscar-nominated actress Candy Clark. A Mel's Drive-in-themed reception (free with ticket) will follow, with Clark in attendance. Tickets: $12, seniors and students $10. Info: FLIFF.com.
SMOKE ON THE WATER
Chair? Check. Cooler? Check. S’mores ingredients? Check. We’re ready for the season-opening weekend of Lake Worth beach bonfire season. The family-style series starts 6-9 p.m. Friday on the sand at 10 S. Ocean Blvd. Other confirmed dates are Nov. 27, Dec. 11 and 18, Jan. 8 and 22, and Feb. 12 and 26. More info: LakeWorth.org/events.
It doesn’t take much to get the ladies of Cupcake Burlesque to flaunt their funny bones, as they will do in “The Parody Follies” Saturday at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach. Targets include the “the most hilarious tunes of the 21st century” by Weird Al, The Lonely Island, Flight of the Conchords and others. A product of the fertile mind of troupe founder Miss Jenna Beth, the show’s cast includes favorites such as Francean Fanny, Isadora Bull, Miss Cherry Mae, Tania Sofia Luna and Candy Muldune. The ever-dangerous Patrick P. Smash is the emcee. Doors open at 10 p.m., with the show at 11:30 p.m. Tickets: $10. Info: CupcakeBurlesque.com.
Two of the most popular acts of Tortuga Music Festival 2015 return with 7 p.m. shows on Sunday: Zac Brown at Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre (LiveNation.com) in West Palm Beach and Sam Hunt leading a contingent of country players (Jerrod Niemann, the Brothers Osborne, Parmalee and Kelsea Ballerini) to the Broward Center (BrowardCenter.org). Brown famously introduced his rock side at Tortuga, but Hunt was the bigger revelation, drawing an unexpectedly large mass of fans who sang along to “Take Your Time” and other songs.
When Cigar City Brewing released bottles of Marshall Zhukov Imperial Stout (named for the WWII Russian general who helped crush the Nazis in Berlin) a couple of years ago, it sold out in about 11 seconds. It’ll be one of the featured pours at Riverside Market (608 SW 12th Ave., Fort Lauderdale) at 7 p.m. Monday. Think of it as a three-day weekend. Info: Facebook.com/RiversideMarket.
This week C&I Studios (541 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale) began counting down to the December release of “The Force Awakens” with Tuesday-night screenings of each “Star Wars” movie in order of release. They pick it up at 6 p.m. Nov. 17 with the second release in the series, “The Empire Strikes Back.” There is free popcorn and wine, so you’ll have plenty of input if you need help getting caught up with what happened in the first film. Info: Facebook.com/CIStudios.