In 2000, I was in the Bronx, NY, when Finding Forrester, directed by Gus Van Sant, appeared on the scene. Then, I was about the same age as the protagonist, Jamal Wallace, played by Rob Brown, and at the time, although undecided, I was studying the sciences at Pace University in Pleasantville.
Looking at this same movie over a decade later, I still get that same awe and inspiration. The only difference now in comparison to then is that its message has sunk deeper into my heart. I am no longer connected to just two aspects of this movie as I was then, but over the years, I have live a little more of its experiences. And this is what I would like to share with you.
What I love:
I love, as always, the themes of this story. The primary one, of course, is keeping one’s true identity hidden. Both Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) and William Forrester, played by Sean Connery, are holding back. Linguistically talented, Jamal hides behind his basketball and does just enough to get by academically. He hesitates to be himself for fear of driving his friends away and outshining even his brother, played by Busta Rhymes. For decades, William, literally, hides from society. He wrote one book and won the Pulitzer Prize. Circumstances had pulled him into the life of a recluse. His connection with the world outside is through square glasses: the window through which he peeps and studies birds and his three televisions.
I love how, in this film, fear is portrayed as if it were three dimensional. Fear of tapping into one’s potential because of how others will react; fear of a talented person defying the norm; fear of living life; fear of the unknown and what we do not understand instead of trying to discover and gain understanding; fear of new environments, growth and interracial relationships.
My favorite scene is when Jamal’s professor sadly underestimated him and Jamal had the chance to blow the professor and his assumptions away. The movie juxtaposed two types of teachers, one who is skeptical and quick to pull talent down and the other, who nurtures talent to a point where Jamal is able to take a piece written by Forrester and make it his own. Like a plant, Jamal shot up to his potential when nurture correctly.
8 Writing Tips
1. Face your fears and resolved pain and guilt that can hamper your creative production.
2. Know the (grammar) rules and break them with purpose.
3. Ask soup questions to get information that is beneficial to you.
4. Share your work with a mentor who can push you to the next level.
5. Read the classics and the genre you are interested in.
6. Write the first draft with your heart and rewrite with your head.
7. Free write without thinking. It kicks the anxiety connected to perfection in the butt.
8. After all the hard work, publish.
It is a great movie that leaves you with questions to ask yourself, For example, what are you as a writer made of and are you willing to find?