Judy Blume and Tiger Eyes at SFIFF

October 22, 2012 § 8 Comments

The Tiger Eyes movie screened Oct. 21 at the Lensic Theater as part of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first read Tiger Eyes—somewhere between ages 14 and 17. I can’t remember which school library I picked it up from.  I can’t remember exactly when I bought my own copy of the book, and I definitely can’t remember when it disappeared from my bookshelf.

Tiger Eyes cover-the version I first read after checking it out of the school library.

Like Davey, the heroine of Tiger Eyes, my memories from that time are all so fragmented. It had something to do with moving to a new city at age fifteen and leaving a home I had known for eleven years. Plus dealing with adolescence in general. What I do remember is how much I loved that book, that it is my favorite book by Judy Blume, and that I couldn’t believe such a fantastic story about coping with loss and rediscovering one’s joy for life had been written in the first place.

Tiger Eyes-the version I bought and later lost. It’s still my favorite cover.

When I saw that Judy Blume was going to be in attendance at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival screening of the Tiger Eyes movie, I was ecstatic. This was beyond a dream come true! It was time to get a new copy of Tiger Eyes and re-read it before the big event.

Tiger Eyes-the version I own now. Re-read it in 3 hours the day before the movie screening.

I was picking up my event ticket from will call at the Lensic Theater box office, when who should I see walking by but Judy Blume herself. I said “Hi!” like I knew her, and she said “Hi!” right back like she knew me, too. She is one ultra-cool and classy lady. I was first in line to get my books signed.

Judy Blume signing books at the Tiger Eyes movie event in Santa Fe.

The movie was filmed almost entirely in New Mexico, and a majority of the cast and crew were New Mexicans as well. Judy Blume herself lived in Los Alamos, New Mexico for two years during a difficult time in her life. This was the inspiration for the setting of her book, also set in Los Alamos.

Judy shares a laugh with Gwen Goldsmith, who plays the Rabbi at the beginning of Tiger Eyes.

Judy and her son, Lawrence Blume, co-wrote the screenplay, and Lawrence directed the film. The challenge in making the movie was the writing. Judy said she had had no experience in screenwriting, and that she and Larry would have “discussions” about translating Davey’s inner dialogue into pictures. “Mothers and sons never fight,” Lawrence Blume joked.

Lawrence Blume, director and co-writer, and Judy Blume, co-writer, lead a Q&A after the screening of Tiger Eyes.

The film was fantastic. One is always apprehensive about seeing a favorite character portrayed by an actor, but Willa Holland was luminous as Davey Wexler. Things that had to be changed from book to screen were translated well while remaining true to the spirit of the book, and it was clear from the audience’s reactions that all the notes resonated. Of course, we got a kick out of the New Mexico inside jokes and insights that would go over the heads of other audiences. The line “there isn’t much water in New Mexico” is especially funny if you actually live here.

I think the movie poster most mimics the original hardcover art of the Tiger Eyes book.

On a sad note, the actor  who played Wolf, Tatanka Means, was supposed to be at the screening but couldn’t make it because his ailing father, Russell Means, had taken a turn for the worse. Russell Means, who had a principal role in the movie Last of the Mohicans, played Wolf’s father in Tiger Eyes. Russell Means died Monday morning, the day after the movie screened at the festival.

ABQ Journal: Activist, actor Russell Means Dies

NYT: Russell Means Dead at 72

Towards the end of the Q&A, Judy Blume said that it wasn’t until she had seen the Tiger Eyes movie herself that she realized the book she had written had sprung from her feelings after her own father’s death. Judy’s father died suddenly of a heart attack when she was 21. She was with him when it happened. She sees now that her character, Davey, was going through emotions very much like her own.

Judy Blume and me! Gwen Goldsmith, a Minister who played the Rabbi in the movie, took this photo for me. Talk about divine intervention.

Getting a new Tiger Eyes book signed by Judy Blume more than makes up for the copy that I lost all those years ago. Seeing the movie with hundreds of other people who loved it as much as I did closed that hole of loneliness I had felt during that time in my adolescence that had caused me to lose the book in the first place. I had been carrying those leftover wisps of upheaveal and isolation with me all this time, and now I feel that they have dissipated for good.

The books I got signed by Judy Blume. “Forever”, “Then Again, Maybe I Won’t”, and, of course, “Tiger Eyes”.

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