A Conversation with JD Dillard and Rachel Smith, director and producer of Devotion [Film Fest 919]

The 2022 Film Fest 919 kicked off the week with a screening of Devotion, directed by J.D. Dillard and starring Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, and Daisy Brown. Based on a best-selling book with the same title by Adam Makos, with screenplay by Jake Crane and Jonathan Stewart, Devotion is the true story of Jesse Brown (Majors), the first Black aviator, and his relationship with his wingman, Tom Hudner (Powell). 

Dillard, along with producer Rachel Smith, attended the screening at the Silverspot Cinema in Chapel Hill, NC. It was the first live interview for 1 of My Stories, and I was instructed to line up at the "step and repeat" in order to speak to Dillard. Dillard graciously answered a few questions before the film. 

After the screening, Dillard and Smith did a live Q & A with a Vanity Fair correspondent. Many of the question asked Dillard to separate the fact from the fiction in how the story plays out on screen. Smith, an alumni of UNC-Chapel Hill was asked about her time as a student and how it influenced her work now. 

Devotion was the perfect crowd-pleasing film to kick off the festival. Audiences are always drawn to war stories and military heroes. Yes, we've got aerial footage, military battles, military bros on day leave, and romantic subplots, but Devotion is also a nuanced portrait of how these things play out in real life. Brown endured different forms of racism while in the forces, and even when his white brothers-in-arms tried to walk with him, they didn't always hit the mark when it comes to allyship. Devotion is a period peace, but it will speaks specifically to issues in these times, without beating viewers over the head. At one point Brown says, "Forget about the life preserver and get in the water. Please, Tom." Viewers will have to wrestle with what that means for them. 

My review of Devotion. Lots more films and film coverage to come. Want to know more about Film Fest 919 or how to buy tickets? Check out my write up

JD Dillard and I at the afterparty of DEVOTION