[Pt. II] Ch. 50: “Since when was Star Wars a black and white film?”
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Sunday, September 27th [Last day of the Festival of Nations], morning
Our booth on the green

The booth was quiet for most of morning; I’d brought along som­e bootleg VHS tapes and a couple of originals I’d brought from home, my video tape player and the old monitor I used instead of a TV.  I first put on Ghostbusters, which failed to attract any attention, and after that, The Terminator, which started off with equally little interest.   I didn’t expect anyone would want hot dogs for breakfast, so the grill was off, and basically, I got to relax at the booth and watch some familiar films from home.  I also brought my camera, and got a few pictures, although being stuck at the booth, none were especially interesting.

A few people came by to buy candy; I had to apologize to them that we were sold out, but that class 2-C might still have some.  I did sell a few more souvenirs than I had during slow hours yesterday – maybe once people were over here, they felt like they should buy something.

Or not. I shrugged to myself.  As the second movie went on, Galen came by.  “Hi Mark,” he said.  “Some of the folks from my class said you were asking about my camera?”

I nodded. “I was curious what cameras are like here.  That was yours up at the booth?”

“Yeah, my dad gave me his older one.  Are you also into photography?”

“A little.  I actually brought my camera today to get a few pictures of the festival.” I picked it up to show him, and his eyes lit up.

“What is that?” he asked, and when I offered it to him to take a look. “Whoa, this is way different.  Where’s the F-stop ring?  Why’s it all plastic?  Wait, is this autofocus?”

He looked at me like I’d just handed him something precious, and then back to the camera. 

“Yes, it’s autofocus,” I said. “That’s not exactly unusual in my world.  This is a pretty basic one.” 

He kept looking at the camera. “I know you were talking about coming from the other side of the gate, but you never really seemed different, I guess.  The only ones we have here are really expensive, and I can’t imagine someone calling them pretty basic.”

“You’re welcome to try it out,” I said.

It look him a little while to get the handle of doing a half-press of the shutter to get it to focus, so Hull was going to have a couple of blurry shots of the literature club, but by the time he handed it back, he was happy with it. “That’s really nice! Was that a gift, or do you know what they cost over there?”

“I went with my dad to buy it using some money my grandfather gave me for my birthday and Christmas.  It was a little less than three hundred dollars with the sales tax, if I remember right, and that felt expensive to me.  They told us one hundred dollars and an Imperial were close to the same, so I guess about three Imperials?”

“I guess that is expensive for someone our age,” he said, “but you could easily pay that for a new manual-focus one like mine around here.”

We chatted about cameras a bit more, and Galen mentioned that he sometimes used a darkroom in the basement of the arts center.  It was shared by art classes, the school newspaper, and the yearbook, so it was hard to get free time in there, but it sounded like fun.  We’d likely have kept chatting about cameras when the movie interrupted – there’s a scene where the robot assassin selects from a menu of insults, followed by the actor dropping a heavily accented F-bomb and then another strong word in the same sentence.  It got Galen’s attention.

“I haven’t really been watching,” said Galen, “but are you sure that movie is appropriate for school?”

I noticed that some girl from over at the literature club booth was giving us a nasty look; I didn’t think she could hear the dialogue from over there, but I wondered if it was the movie.  Galen and I watched for a couple more minutes, both of us having been distracted from our conversation, and it went straight into a love scene.  Nothing explicit, but I got embarrassed, and when I looked over at the girl over at the literature club booth she looked really unhappy.

“Maybe I should turn it off?” I said, and pressed stop on the VCR.

“How did you end up putting movies on?” asked Galen.  

I explained that we’d run out of candy, and that this had been a last-minute idea to have something to do for today. It was getting on late enough in the morning at this point that I thought we might start getting people asking for hot dogs, so I took a minute to light the grill before figuring out the next movie to put on.

“Do you want to look through the other movies I brought?” I asked Galen, hoping that he’d save me the trouble of picking the next one.

“Sure,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll recognize any of them, though.”

I handed him the box, and while he was looking at them, a girl came up to the booth, who asked very quietly if this was the American booth. When I said yes, she then asked if Joel was around.  On taking a look at her, she was familiar – Violet, one of the girls we’d seen on the train a couple of times, and that he’d helped out with bullies. 

“Uh, no, actually, he’s taking a shift in our classroom.  It’s 2-C if you want to go look for him.”

Had she and Joel kept in touch?  I realized only after that was coming out of my mouth that I’d failed to introduce myself, and I wasn’t sure if I should admit to recognizing her since we’d never been introduced. 

“Joel said you had some American candy here for sale?”

I shook my head, and started to say, “It’s all sold… uh, wait a second.”

I checked in my backpack; there were a pair of packs of candy I’d been saving for myself.  I gave one to Violet, and one to Galen.   Galen, who’d been busily looking through the tapes, looked up at Violet and blushed; I don’t think Violet noticed.  “There you go,” I told her. She tried to give me a ticket, and I waved her off, “since you’re a friend of Joel’s, please, just take it.”  She blushed, and mumbled something I couldn’t follow, and then wandered off.

“Do you know her?” I asked Galen.

“Yeah, we’ve been in the same classes most years,” he said.  He still looked embarrassed, so I didn’t press further.  “This chocolate is really good, thanks.”

After this, he left; a couple of people wanted hot dogs, and I made a few souvenir sales, and then Hull arrived before I could put another movie on.  I gave him a brief update on the prior day’s events and told him to keep an eye for Cory who’d been willing to be interviewed in exchange for the orbiter model.

Once he was settled in, I took another look through the box; I had brought a fair number of other fairly violent action movies and fairly raunchy comedies – if Terminator had been inappropriate, I’m not sure most of the others would have been a good idea. Then I spotted my boxed set of the three Star Wars films.  I didn’t think they could offend anyone, although I wasn’t sure the whole space thing would have much traction here.

I put the first one on, and within a couple of minutes it had attracted attention.  A couple of kids had come over from the literature club booth, and one boy asked, “Is this a remake?”

“Huh – what do you mean?” I asked.

“This looks like Star Wars, but that’s a classic film… it should be in black and white,” he said.

“What?” I asked.  “Since when was Star Wars a black and white film?”

“Of course it was!   I’m surprised you don’t know the story, if you’ve got a copy of this version.  The newcomers would always talk about the story from their world, and after the war some of them recreated it here.  It one of the first successful movies.  I hadn’t heard they’d done a remake, but this looks really good.”

“Wait, you said the newcomers made a version here?”

He nodded.

I pointed at the sign for the American booth.  “I don’t know if the newcomers’ world was exactly the same as ours, but on ours this is the original.”

“Your world?  Wait, this film came through the gate?”

I nodded.

“No way!” he said. “I’ve always wanted to see the original, I’ve got to go tell my friends.”

Soon, there was a large crowd around the booth, and people were not exactly being orderly about trying to find a position to watch.  I noticed a couple of younger kids pushing to get closer, while some of the older ones called for them to stop.

A 13” computer monitor wasn’t very big compared to a TV, so I couldn’t blame them for wanting a decent view but I was concerned the people pushing might get out of hand.  I went to Hull, who had been trying to avoid the crowd and asked him, “What should we do?”

“I’m surprised this was so popular!  I caught what the other student was saying, and it confirms that intellectual property rights are going to be a sticking point if we can on an eventual trade treaty.  Still, the popularity of this is… interesting.”  The pause before interesting was a little villainous.

It took a little while for the crowd to get bigger, and as it did people got louder and more boisterous, and pushing gave way to shoving. One of the younger boys shoved someone larger and in response they got knocked over right onto my table full of souvenirs. 

I paused the movie, which elicited groans and angry muttering from the crowd. Holding up my hands to plead for calm, I said, “Hey, careful please.”

The commotion, however, must have drawn the attention of the student council, because the next moment I heard a voice yelling, “Break up this rabble at once!” and I knew at once that it was that annoyance, Neil.  He came pushing through the crowd, followed by a security guard.

"Cease this disruption of the festival at once!" Neil bellowed, glaring about at the crowd. The security guard gave an apologetic shrug, looking more embarrassed than anything else at having been dragged into this.

The crowd ignored him but did reluctantly give way.  Once Neil pushed closer first he strode up to the desk and snapped at me, “Why am I not surprised that the center of this mob is one of our so-called ‘American’ guests.”

Before I could respond, he went on, "As vice president of the student council, it is my duty to put an end to this disorder." Neil's tone only made the crowd angrier. People yelled at Neil to be quiet and resume the movie. He scowled, but even the guard seemed to realize Neil's attitude was making things worse.

Before things could escalate further, a man in a tweed jacket approached briskly from the direction of the lower school.  I didn’t know his name, but I recognized him as Dean Jerdew’s counterpart for the lower school.

The dean stepped forward before Neil could continue, giving him an unhappy look. "That's quite enough. I will take charge here."

Neil's eye twitched, but he managed a stiff nod. "Of course, Dean Bravak. I defer to your authority in calming this...situation.” The tone of his voice made it clear that he was reluctant to back down.

The dean took over calmly, asking me to explain the situation, and when I’d done so, he said, “I see, there must be a classroom you can use,” then to Neil - “you’re from the upper school student council, right?  Can you find him something?”

While Neil thought for a minute, I replied, “I’m not sure that would work; the video system is different here.”

Neil barely managed to avoid interrupting me, and said to the Dean, “Surely you’re not going to encourage this.”

The Dean gave him a frustrated look. “This isn’t for me to encourage or not.  We do need to get this crowd under control though and clear some of the walkway.”

The crowd made some room for the walkway, but few if any left. 

Hull took the Dean aside for a few moments and then came back and addressed the crowd, “Folks, I’m really gratified that there’s so much interest in a film from our country.  I’m sorry the club wasn’t better prepared for this, but here’s what we’re going to do: the United States trade mission is going to arrange for a proper screening of this film – of the whole trilogy.  We can’t do it today, though!  We’ll work with the school so you can all see it.”

The crowd took the news with some excitement and started to disperse.   I asked Hull, “What now?”

"I think it's best we close up the booth for today," Hull said evenly.

I hesitated, thinking of the pile of remaining souvenirs and all the uncooked hot dogs. But the morning's excitement had sucked the fun out of it, and I really did want a chance to check out the rest of the festival myself.

Neil overheard us and jumped in immediately. "Yes, shut this down at once! The festival cannot have disruptions from...questionable influences." He gave a meaningful glare in my direction.

I gritted my teeth and decided to avoid an argument. I didn't have energy for it, anyway - arguing with Neil would just frustrate me more. And I knew he was itching for any excuse to escalate the situation.

"Fine," I muttered. Neil appeared taken aback that I didn't object.

I looked over at Hull and asked, “you’re supposed to be here until 2PM, do you want to stay here to do the rest of the meet-and-greet?”

Hull nodded.  Neil looked at me, and at Hull, and gave an unhappy look.  “Fine,” he said, and left.

Once Neil finally left, Joel and Elise came over. I hadn’t seen them but was relieved to have friendly faces now that the situation had wound down. Joel introduced Hull to her, and told him, “She’s our class’ representative to the student council, and had some questions about trade through the gate.”

“Thank you for bringing her by, Joel,” he said in reply.

While Elise and Hull stepped away to talk, Joel asked, “What now, man?”

"Hey, can you give me a hand packing up?" I asked Joel, eager to get it over with. Between the two of us, we had the booth cleared quickly.