A screening of Gabriel Rhenals' 2nd feature film 'State v. Unknown' took place on Saturday, January 21st, 2023 from 3pm to 5pm at Kendall Branch Library. Starring Andrew J. Garcia, Lorean Mapp, Mia Scornavacca, Florencia Barletta and Juan Iglesias. Music by Ben Morris.
Growing up in Massachusetts, my parents regularly took me to the library for read-alouds and to check out what was likely their entire collection of heavily illustrated dinosaur and shark books. When my family moved to Miami some time later, visits to the library as a child persisted and I continued to check out books for early readers. Despite the angst and raging hormones of my subsequent teenage years, my attendance at the library did not recede. During my early adolescence, per the suggestion of my parents, I asked my older sibling Juan if he'd allow me to ride with him to Florida International University so I could work out of their library on a script for what would become my first short film. From that point forward, a routine of stealing away to these special bastions of public good, particularly those nestled within university campuses, to read, think and work became a characteristic habit of mine.
Toward the end of 2022, as I was on the cusp of completing my 1st book 20 Years a Filmmaker, I began relishing the possibility of adding this significant literary effort of my own to the collection of the two local libraries I visited most as both child and adult in Miami. On top of that, having completed my 2nd feature film State v. Unknown months prior, I also began considering the possibility of having the film screened at one of the two libraries; Kendall Branch Library, in their recently renovated auditorium space. I soon sent an email directly to Miami-Dade Public Library System to see if there was a possibility of making wish reality.
Near instantly, I was invited to join a Zoom call with the relevant management of MDPLS (Library Services Specialist Carmen Baker, KBL Manager Javier Corredor and KBL Assistant Manager Leonard Abreu) to discuss my proposals. Both the addition of my book to their collection and a screening of my film were warmly embraced. The screening was made a priority as the book waited to be approved.
After State v. Unknown was watched and approved by KBL, Mr. Abreu and I convened on several occasions to determine the event date, discuss promotion of the screening and to test the library's A/V equipment. The screening was set for the afternoon of Saturday, January 21st. I would be using social media primarily to promote the event while KBL would display a large poster at the entrance of the library and make distributable flyers available. The event would also be listed on MDPLS's online calendar of events.
On the day of the screening, I arrived early with plenty of time to welcome all attendees. The guests included several cast members, some personal friends of mine, some family friends, a KBL librarian or two and some family members. I was absolutely thrilled to see Gary Alan Ruse, a local published author and community newspaper writer, and Ms. Farnsworth, a former teacher from my days at Miami Killian Senior High, also in attendance!
When it was time to commence the afternoon's program, I was introduced by Mr. Abreu and made some brief opening remarks. Afterward, the film got on a roll before a nicely filled-in audience gallery.
As soon as the film cut to its end credits, a vigorous applause was loosed and spirited murmurs among some of the audience members suggested a mostly positive and rather enthusiastic reception.
After the credits rolled, the lights came on in the library's modest auditorium space. It was time for a brief Q&A. Of the principal cast members, only Juan Iglesias, who played the avuncular crime lord Brom Bowell, was in attendance but I took the opportunity to ask some essential questions and praise not only the work he turned in on State v. Unknown but his work over the course of our three collaborations thus far!
After the Q&A, I quickly promoted a sale of my book 20 Years a Filmmaker at a discounted price. I was glad there were actually a few takers. I signed their copies and after schmoozing with a few lingering attendees, the event soon came to a satisfying close.
My collaboration with KBL on this screening of State v. Unknown had been resoundingly effective and enjoyable! After the attendees had vacated the auditorium, I remarked to Mr. Abreu that I'd love to screen every future feature film of mine at KBL. It may have sounded like a throwaway quip but it came straight from the heart. Screening one of my feature films at KBL represented an intersection of literacy and cinema that had defined the better part of my entire life. To be frank, this meant a lot.
So, thanks to everyone at KBL and Ms. Baker of MDPLS for their kind assistance in making this screening of my film work possible! And I greatly look forward to seeing 20 Years a Filmmaker added to my local libraries' collection soon! Libraries truly are special places.
(Photos by Leonard Abreu and Gabriel Rhenals)