Fur and Subtitles
OpinionClosing Thoughts

Fur and Subtitles

Chana reflects on her experience at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Chana Shapiro
Chana Shapiro

There are people who will do anything to avoid standing in line for a long time, but I’m not one of them, especially at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Surrounded by my people, I actually welcome it. Of course, there are those who waste the hiatus thinking deep thoughts, sending text messages or buffing their nails, but some of us use the time wisely. We are the talkers.

In the span of 30 or 40 minutes, one can get to know quite a lot about the six or eight people nearby, and it’s fun to debate the merits of the movies we’ve enjoyed and to consider the ones to come. There was a lot of conversation afoot concerning the film we are about to see, which had actors speaking three different languages, including Portuguese. Some otherwise cultured, worldly and open-minded people — that means my husband — are uncomfortable with foreign films because reading the subtitles is too distracting for them. However, the folks standing in this line were interested in the multigenerational plot, and most avid moviegoers, over the years, have become comfortable reading the translations streaming across the bottom of the screen.

Standing behind me was a friendly couple with distinct New York accents. The fellow was debonair in a gray fedora, paisley muffler and tweed jacket. His companion was wearing something you don’t see every day, a full-length Persian lamb coat. I had to ask. The coat originally belonged to her grandmother, purchased in Russia long before the species was declared endangered and illegal to export. For years, especially in New York, my new acquaintance was embarrassed to wear it. Nowadays, she explained, Persian lamb is so rare and unidentifiable, people don’t think it’s even real fur. She’s now emboldened to wear it.

A woman, lingering two couples back, overheard us and edged closer. “My grandmother also had a coat like that. She accessorized it with hats that had exotic feathers from real birds. When I was a kid, I didn’t think anything about the coat, but the hats bothered me.”

Mr. Fedora nodded. “I hated those hats!” he agreed. I concurred.

Memories of retro styles could have led to an engaging chat among temporarily-bonded strangers, but we were interrupted.

In line directly behind the New Yorker were two young women, who had also been listening to our conversation. One of them addressed Ms. Persian Lamb, “I know you didn’t buy that coat yourself, but you’ve got it on, and you’re enjoying it. Fake fur’s wrong, too. It still represents skinned animals. I won’t buy clothes with animal patterns!” Her friend added, “She won’t sit on my brother’s sofa because of the leopard print pillows.”

I feared that our original amiable conversation could take an unpleasant turn, when an overwrought, middle-aged man and two ushers came bustling our way. The ushers had flashlights, and the three of them were exploring every nook and cranny. There was a large waste receptacle near us, and they carried it away. Spooked out, we onlookers hypothesized about the situation.

Our immediate thought was that there had been a bomb threat, but that fear was quickly quashed. If we were in any possible danger, the theater management would have immediately evacuated us. Other possibilities followed, and now our little Persian lamb chat group expanded to include more people. There was a general agreement that the man believed he had thrown something of great value away, and the ushers were going through the garbage with him, away from the other patrons.

Ahead of us, a woman told about losing a treasured diamond earring at a restaurant. (I wondered if the ring and bracelets she was wearing were also the real thing.) Other people started sharing anecdotes of lost-forever objects. I was about to relate my own tale of purloined traveler’s checks in the Holy Land, when the line began to move.

As the New York couple and I parted, I spotted the man who had been searching with the ushers.

“Is everything OK? I asked. “I saw you in the lobby.”

“I lost a hearing aid,” he answered. “It’s a good thing that this movie has subtitles!”

Saved by subtitles! I had to tell this one to my husband.

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