Lush Life

Film debut documents the start of a meeting you're qualified to attend: AA

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Nobody knows why a couple of dudes were compelled to meet at an Akron gatehouse to talk about their drinking problems. But the Mother's Day meeting in 1935 between a doctor and a stockbroker would eventually lead to the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous. And a historical account of the group is now chronicled on film in the 58-minute doc, God as We Understand Him: A Film About Faith and the 12-Step Movement. "When I started reading the Big Book — the Alcoholics Anonymous book — I immediately realized that it's quite religious," says Akron filmmaker Joshua Gippin, who shot the footage with his wife, Shane Wynn. "The title of the film comes from the third step in the Big Book: Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him."To mark AA's 73rd anniversary, Gippin and Wynn will debut the film today during several screenings at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, the home of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company founder Frank Seiberling, whose wife moderated the inaugural meeting in the mansion's gatehouse. Filled with interviews of recovering drunks, the film will be shown again on Sunday afternoon at Akron's public library, and broadcast on PBS channels 45 and 49 at 10 p.m. on Tuesday and 4 a.m. on Thursday, June 12. Gippin hopes the story will have a global impact. "Before I moved back to Akron, I was living in Mexico. I would tell people I was from Akron, thinking they wouldn't know where or what it was. A lot of people recognized it as the home of Alcoholics Anonymous," he says. "This was my first clue that it really is a worldwide movement." The film screens at 11 a.m., 2, and 4 p.m. today at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, 714 North Portage Path in Akron and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 South High Street in Akron. Admission is free. Call 330-836-5533 or visit www.stanhywet.org.
Sat., June 7, 11 a.m., 2 & 4 p.m., 2008
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