—"The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill," the latest independent film from Dr. Bob Pondillo and a crew of MTSU students and alumni, will have a red-carpet premiere at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 8, at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre.
The 23-minute film, which has been two years in the making, won the “Best Achievement-Short Screenplay” award at the 2010 SoCal Film Festival in Huntington Beach, Cal.
Pondillo's earlier independent films, which also included students and alumni in the crew, have garnered awards at film festivals around the world. "My Name is Wallace" and "Wait ..." were screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France.
With a mostly juvenile cast, "Miracles" tells the story of Millie, a girl who is beloved by everyone in her church until she introduces the congregation to her soulmate, a girl named Ed.
In addition to the young stars, who range from seven to 11 years old, veteran Hollywood character actor David H. Lawrence XVII portrays God.
Lawrence is best known as the evil puppetmaster in 13 episodes of the NBC series "Heroes." His other television credits include "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Lost," "The Unit" and "The Finder."
The dynamic colors and fairy-tale motif of the film provide context for what Pondillo calls a message of "tolerance, acceptance and love."
"It is a story of marriage equality, which I think is the civil-rights issue of our time," explains Pondillo, a professor of electronic media communication at MTSU.
Nashville actress Lucy Turner plays Millie. Lucy's mother, Lori Turner, says, "We like the message. We have some very close family friends in the gay community, and Lucy has known them all her life. So it's more strange to her that there's a controversy at all."
A March screening of the film for MTLambda, a student organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at MTSU and their straight supporters, prompted criticism in some quarters. University administrators defended Pondillo's right to make the movie under the First Amendment and principles of academic freedom.
"They stood up for everybody, not just me, for which I'll always be grateful," Pondillo says. “They stood up for all of us who care about First Amendment issues. This is a free-speech issue."
The Belcourt is located at 2102 Belcourt Ave. in Nashville. Doors will open at 7 p.m., and admission is $6. Part of the proceeds will go to the Tennessee Equality Project and the Bob and Edie Pondillo Student Film Fund.