After screening his film, “The Story of Brian Gittens,” in a crowded restaurant in Washington, D.C., last Wednesday, Jack McGovern ’15 received a standing ovation from scores of Andover alumni and faculty members, including Brian Gittens ’89,
“The Story of Brian Gittens” recounts the day Andover installed its first Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day celebration. During his Senior year, Gittens spent MLK Jr. Day on the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall and played a recording of Dr. King’s speech “I Have A Dream” on repeat, refusing to attend classes in hope of Andover finally recognizing the importance of this national holiday.
Linda Carter Griffith, Assistant Head of School for Equity and Inclusion, persuaded McGovern to screen the film in places beyond the Andover campus after he premiered it in Kemper Auditorium last year. Together, the pair selected Washington, D.C., as a screening site because of its proximity to the many Andover alumni and former faculty members who were involved in the film.
“We had been kind of envisioning screening the film in D.C. maybe a year ago, ever since I premiered it a year ago at Andover, but we never got to a specific date until just several months ago, just because we were trying to find the right time. And we actually finally decided that a time near Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be appropriate and be most relevant to people watching the film,” said McGovern in an interview with The Phillipian.
Gittens said, “I think [the film is] reaching out to our alumni, especially to our minority alumni during this time of year. I think it’s a powerful reminder of the connection that the event has with the institution.”
McGovern also hosted a question-and-answer session after screening the film.
Gittens noted that this screening was a great opportunity for interpersonal connection among alumni and other Andover community members.
“I think that events or critical instances like this connect people emotionally because you can forget facts, you can forget names and things like that over time, but often times emotions and things like that are powerful connections,” Gittens said. “I think this is just one of many opportunities to do that and Andover has a wonderful way to do that, helping to cultivate this affinity for the institution.”
McGovern said, “What happened when I made the film about Gittens is that I was able to, in some sense, immortalize his story and share it with generations of other Andover students. I think that’s a really powerful thing, and I really love being able to do that.”
Gittens has lofty hopes for McGovern’s film career, and is looking forward to see what McGovern can create next.
“[‘The Story of Brian Gittens’] is pretty impressive, I think, in terms of capturing the moment and some of the emotions around it,” Gittens said. “I think if this is any indication, he’s off to a good start, a very promising start.”
Gittens’s reaction to the film was what McGovern had hoped for at the start of the project. When Gittens came back to Andover as the keynote speaker in the 2015 MLK Jr. Day All-School Meeting, he viewed the first screening of McGovern’s movie.
“[Gittens] walked up on stage afterwards – I’m not sure if anyone prompted him to – but he walked up on stage and stood at the podium and just started tearing up. It was really powerful to me to know that I touched his feelings in that way and he was explaining to me and the audience how much this film meant to him and his family and really to his life and what he lives for,” said McGovern.
Other alumni and former faculty members also attended the screening in Washington, D.C., including Bobby Edwards, former Dean of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD), and Darryl Cohen ’92. The event was hosted by the Abbot Academy Association.
McGovern will attend New York University Tisch School of the Arts next fall as a member of the Class of 2020. Although he is unsure of exactly what direction he will take, he hopes to pursue filmmaking.
“I like to keep my options open. I love exploring different genres of film, too. But I definitely have a strong interest in documentary particularly because I like the realness of it, and the fact that there are stories in life that, when you share them in the medium of film, can become so much more powerful than they would be otherwise,” said McGovern.