On Thursday, the Sunflower Theatre screened “The Mask You Live In,” which explores how America’s definition of masculinity can harm men and boys.
The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, has won numerous awards at regional film festivals, including the Side by Side LGBT festival in St. Petersburg, Russia. The local screening is part of an ongoing partnership between the Cortez Public Library and the theater.
“September marks our third year of doing films with the Sunflower,” Eric Ikenouye, library director, said. “We do not have a good place to show films in the library, and they have a good space and were interested in letting us use the space.”
Ikenouye, who usually chooses the films, said he was inspired to expose the community to unconventional films.
“I started doing this once-per-month documentary thing partially just because I like documentaries,” Ikenouye said. “I had heard people talk about how it is hard to see a film that is not a cartoon or a big blockbuster film if you live in Cortez.”
The film was followed by a discussion led by Geoff Byerly, of the Piñon Project.
The discussion was open and honest. A range of topics were discussed from how to tackle the issue of not allowing boys to feel, to why there are not a lot of male teachers in earlier grades.
The film cites that without early-life male role models, boys are more likely to fall into the same “traps” of masculinity.
“The rates of engagement of men in early childhood development is an abysmal representation,” Geof Byerly, fatherhood coordinator at the Piñon Project said. “There is a lot of stigma that goes along with male engagement. Typically there is a cut-off at fourth grade.”
Byerly wasn’t sure of the reason, but cited data showing that the number of male teachers beyond the fourth grade greatly increased.
“I was in early childhood for years as a lead teacher and coach in different areas, and I ran into that opposition for a variety of reasons – opposition to men being in that environment for safety reasons – so I know firsthand that culture isn’t always embracing of that shift,” Byerly said.
Ikenouye likes to show a little bit of everything, but this month’s film was a new topic entirely.
Byerly asked the audience, “What do we do with this information?”
Jason Howell, who participated in the discussion, said that the film had made an impact on how he will interact with his son, who was also present.
“We can say that it is going to take a generation before this gets introduced in schools, but it starts right here. It starts here in this room opening my heart to my son, it starts when we walk out this door,” Howell said. “It starts with we as a community coming together and not leaving it in the hands of something larger.”
“For me, it is something to do for the community that wants to talk about different subject matters and for them to have a way to do it,” he said.
September’s documentary follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity, according to the film’s website.
“You know, I think it is an interesting subject, and I think the issue of masculinity in our culture is kind of a fraught subject matter,” Ikenouye said. “I think especially for young men, how we present what it is to be an older man in this culture is very different for everybody and oftentimes very contradictory.”
With the success of the documentary program, Ikenouye hopes to expand it soon.
“In the next little bit, we are going to move to two films per month,” Ikenouye said. “We are looking at one being a documentary and one being a classic film.”