Last night I premiered The Education of Ida Owens — about the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D from Duke University — at the Nasher Museum in Durham. The Duke Graduate School really stepped up to the plate. It was a lovely event, thanks to Dean Paula D. McClain, Sondra Ponzi, and above all Jacqueline Looney, who I worked closely with for over a year on this amazing project.
Having never really premiered a film before, this was a new experience. I stood nervously in the back, more interested in the audience reaction than the project I’d spent, weeks, months, putting together. For about 15 minutes, there was little visible reaction, but then came a moment when the audience laughed. I breathed a sigh of relief – they were with it.
After the show, I ran into Ida herself. I’d forgotten that she had never seen the film before, and that this would be the real test – what did she think of it?! As soon as she started speaking, I had the sudden wish that the cameras were still rolling – everything this woman says is thoughtful, original, witty, and just really compelling and food for thought. In another life she could have been a philosopher, I believe. She said this (I paraphrase):
Ivan, I had butterflies in my stomach coming in tonight. Watching you shoot, it was just click, click, click – just bunch of different shots. It didn’t seem like anything. But you made a story of it. And I’m really happy – I’m really happy that it didn’t make me feel bad. I was expecting it to make me feel bad, but it didn’t.
With that said, please enjoy the film: