Q1 2021

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54 C I N E M O N T A G E T A I L P O P By Amy Kimmelman M y mother always taught me that "when life doesn't work out, you have your dreams." Dream Big is her motto, and I have never failed to meet her expectations. When I learned recently that my father became ill with Covid-19, I let some of my dreams out of the bag for him. I cheered him on during Facetime calls, telling him he could beat this. I had some experience turning bad luck into something great. After high school graduation, I couldn't afford my dream college. This led to another aspi- ration: a career. I was only 18 years old when I landed a job at Rogers & Cowan PR, answering reception-desk phones. I dreamt some more, this time for a pro- motion to assistant, and got the job. That first week of work, I found Paul Newman in my chair staring at my disorganized mound of files, a glint of amusement in his blue eyes. In two years, I was exceed- ing mom's Dream Big dictum and trying to fit giant legend Sean Connery into my tiny car. At least he was showing some desire to help organize my stuff, plainly desperate for a place to sit. With my secretarial skills clearly lacking, I became a Vice President before I was 25 years old. Sometimes life is better than the fantasy. I was soon getting married and my sister Dale helped me pick out a wedding dress. Dale passed away unexpectedly a few months later leaving her two daugh- ters motherless. Grieving the loss of my sister, I looked for a job where I could remain close to home and help raise her babies. I left my career behind and began reading scripts at home. I was feeling like the dream pipeline was rusted when I saw "The Shawshank R e d e m p t i o n ." W h i l e p r i s o n m o v i e s always show inmates building muscle lifting weights, I was mesmerized by the amazing "mind muscle" that character Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) exercised while at Shawshank. What I recognized, and connected with immediately, was the presence of mind that Dufresne main- tains throughout his life sentence. I, too, was sentenced to an unbearable tragedy, powerless to change the fate I was hand- ed in watching my sister's girls grow up motherless. What one learns to do in such a situation is develop an escape, a place where the mind can go to find hope, while remaining in the present to spark optimism in others. Watching Dufresne teach the inmates to read, get an educa- tion, and even fail in redeeming some of his prison brothers, like suicidal inmate Brooks, was ironically mirroring much of what was happening in my life. After one sister died, I lost the other to drugs. When tragedy doesn't make sense and a person begins to feel like they are living a horribly distorted version of their life, reality begins to feel like a prison. I love the way in which Dufresne becomes FINDING HOPE IN 'THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION' No Good Thing Ever Dies incredibly calm, as only someone who has undergone a tragedy of enormous proportions can do when they reach acceptance. Like Dufresne, I have felt that rage melt. I have also kept a secret like Dufresne does, and it's not a jailbreak, but a large pocket of hope, and the mastery to elude my painful memories. As I get older, I am humbled by the intricacies of dreaming, which allow for the potential to escape loss, failures, and pain. While events in my life have of ten lef t me feeling powerless, I am with Dufresne in finding kernels of satisfaction in every bad situation. It's almost irrelevant that Dufresne makes a physical escape from prison, since the movie shows that his mind has liberated him long before he leaves Shaw- shank. In truth, Dufresne found enough hope to dole it out in handfuls, in tandem with the delivery of library books. The hope is found between every bad chapter of life, and the movie teaches that the trick is in turning the pages. I find myself opening a new chapter today as I bury my father, who passed from COVID-19. The imagining of his afterlife, seeing him energetic and happy, is not far from the place that Dufresne in- habits in the last scene of the movie. The beach in Zihuatanejo, with an umbrella shading the sun, and no memory of pain, is where hope will find my father. ■ Amy Kimmelman has been fishing for family fare at Disney for 25 years as a Story Analyst. She spends her spare time figuring out life and scheming her next big dream. You can reach her at "Shawshank Redemption." P H O T O : P H O T O F E S T

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