The Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival, with a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of NENY, presents a zoom panel discussion of the 2016 film Fences, based on August Wilson’s 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name.
August Wilson wrote in her original 1985 play that “some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in.”
Fences is a film about how our environment shapes us, and how, no matter how noble their intentions, our parents affect the way we view and grapple with life, for better or worse, just as their parents had done for them. This is our legacy as humans, whether we model ourselves in our parents’ persona or indoctrinate ourselves against that which we saw as wrong with them or we internalize their futility and we pass it on.
Set in the 1950s, the character Troy is a former baseball player in the Negro League, now working as a garbage collector in Pittsburgh. He outran an abusive childhood and a troublemaking past for a shot at athletic glory, but aged out of his prime before Major League baseball could integrate.
“There ought not never have been no time called too early,” Troy says in the opening act.
His passionate outburst paints a life defined by prejudice and bad breaks. We see the central tragedy of Wilson’s play: the sense that a rising tide is leaving you behind, and the ways such a realization can undo even the sturdiest among us, even the one who have wrestled with Death.
“The timeframe of this film does not date the material,” said Phyllis Wang, Coordinator of the Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival. “Its universal themes transcend any of the social details and some may be taken aback to discover that the American working class is more than just Midwestern and White.”
Fences, the film adaptation with Academy Award winner and director Denzel Washington and co-star Academy Award nominee Viola Davis, provides a background of a working-class black family in the 1950s, with particular focus on a father whose own rough go at life informs but doesn’t fully excuse his behavior in his own household. Troy is manipulative to his two sons, channeling the pains of workaday life to sour their dreams of escaping the same and destroying the trust of his wife.
The panel discussion of Fences will be held through zoom on August 11 at 7 p.m. Registration is required at email@example.com