EXCLUSIVE: Chappelle’s film premiered in D.C. and we were there

Dave Chappelle’s compelling, funny and locally appealing documentary “Dave Chappelle: This Time This Place” received a rousing Washington D.C. premiere Sunday, Aug. 1 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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A love letter to Yellow Springs set against the backdrop of last summer’s emotional period of medical unease and societal unrest, “This Time This Place,” co-produced and directed by Academy Award winners Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (“American Factory”), captures a pivotal moment in which the quaint village of 3,700 found itself at a standstill. As COVID-19 shutdowns forced businesses into a bind and the nation coped with the death of George Floyd and rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Chappelle took it upon himself to simply create art. With help from his famous friends, and in spite of controversy and pushback from some members of the community, his socially-distanced shows at Wirrig Pavilion quickly became the hottest ticket in town.



The premiere, held inside the spacious Concert Hall with over 2,000 in attendance including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, marked the first full capacity event at the Kennedy Center since March 2020. iPhones were notably silenced and locked in Yondr pouches. The audience, all masked per D.C. mandate and temperature checked, was thoroughly engaged by the film, laughing and applauding from start to finish. In addition to the hilarious yet topical and thought-provoking stand-up routines from Jon Stewart, Michelle Wolf, Chris Rock, Tiffany Hadish, Donnell Rawlings, and Mo Amer among others, kooky moments pop out of nowhere such as actor Jon Hamm leading “Don’t Stop Believin.’” I was particularly delighted to see Chappelle channel his inner Kevin Bacon a la “Footloose” with help from John Mayer.

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“We live in Ohio in a small town and we have a neighbor – his name is Dave,” Reichert noted in her opening remarks. “Documentary film and comedy, yes, they’re kind of different. But it’s all about storytelling – trying to find the truth.”

“Dave said he was doing a weekend of outdoor-safe shows in a friend’s field and he asked if we would document it – and so it began,” Bognar added. He also praised Chappelle as “our visionary friend and our great collaborator.”

The premiere was a homecoming for Chappelle, a native of Silver Spring, Maryland and a graduate of Washington D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He also began his stand-up career in D.C. in 1987. In his brief post-screening remarks, he stressed the importance of kindness and shared his rage about the Capitol insurrection before ending in appreciation.

“Thank you for raising a giant,” he said, exiting the stage to a standing ovation.



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