By Michael A. Wiseman
There’s this idea in modern culture that all things are temporary… that physical things are disposable, that ownership is nothing more than a vague notion, and that our current space and time will soon be demolished for something “new.”
It’s an idea that’s been perpetuated by increasing technology capacity and a movement towards digital. It’s easy to forget that things exist when they’re not tactile, or in front of you – object permanence is a struggle when the object doesn’t have much of a physical presence.
Or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say, “did cross those boundaries.” Because in 2014, on the 60th anniversary of the event, the Junior League held its final Rummage Sale. A yearly tradition for many found itself the victim of growing indifference and cultural changes.
Local filmmaker Diana Greene called it, more poignantly, a “demise of this collective sharing of merchandise and ideas.” It’s what inspired her to make a documentary about the fading tradition that so many still hold dear. She sought to capture this mini “utopia” – where people from every zip code in the region came together – and give it a permanent, celluloid home.
That result is “The Final Rummage”.
Greene worked with a team of 18 – including director of cinematography Jon Pfundstein, editor Ian McClerin, sound designer Wade Wilson, and associate producer Peter Wilbur – to give viewers firsthand insight into what many rummage-goers considered a personal holiday.
The Junior League would collect donations year-round. They would move the items to the rummage location and spend hours sorting and pricing them. Then, on the morning of the rummage, attendees lined up around the Winston-Salem annex before the 9:30 start time to stake out their treasure. But the real frenzy always happened around 1pm. It was at that time when deal hunters could load up large trash bags with whatever they could fit for one flat rate. For a brief hour, on these particular Saturday mornings, everybody turned into bargin bin Santa Clauses.
But, as “The Final Rummage” shows, the tradition alone wasn’t enough. Fewer volunteers showed up every year. People who held the tradition most dear aged out of attending. One documentary interviewee likened both herself and the sale to relics on the surrounding rummage tables – scarcely relevant. An afterthought.
That underlying gloom doesn’t define Greene’s documentary, though. She wanted to take a different path than traditional documentaries and use “The Final Rummage” to celebrate: the event, the people, and the community. To quote Greene, she aimed for the film to be “experiential, entertaining, emotional, a little bit educational, and slightly existential.”
Greene and her team utilized Indiegogo to finance part of the production, a process which she praised the local Winston-Salem community for. She described Twin City citizens as generous and supportive.
And many of those same personalities are captured on screen. There’s a man who brings his own bread to test toasters at the rummage sale; there’s a police officer who reflects upon her own experience attending as a child and even a donated her wedding dress one year; there’s even one man who calls the Junior League Rummage Sale exactly what it is: a cultural anthropology event.
So “The Final Rummage” is more than a bunch of catchy E’s. It’s a blend of modern filmmaking and community engagement, both new media, and classic retrospective. It’s fun and humanizing at the same time.
Best of all, it’s a great time at the movies.
“The Final Rummage” is currently showing at the RiverRun film festival as part of the NC Shorts 1 block. You can find out more information, including showtimes, here: http://riverrunfilm.com/events/nc-shorts-1/
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