An acclaimed documentary about an inspiring playwright and her quirky family will be shown at the Savannah Cultural Arts Center on Oct.14 at 7 p.m. The documentary is titled "Iron Family", and it will be shown one night only in Savannah. "Iron Family '' follows Jazmine Faries, a young woman with Down Syndrome who writes and produces an original play with her family each summer in their upper Michigan town of Iron River. The play is called “The Double Life'' and the documentary captures Jazmine and her family as they get ready to put forth the play’s sixth season. Jazmine’s interest in drama and theater first piqued when she was young.
“Ever since I was in school, I really loved theater and plays. . . A mini play that I did when I was little was Pocahontas, and I got really good at that. Then when I went to high school, we did another play. It was Guys and Dolls, and I played one of the gals. It was really fun. I had a great time with everybody,” she explained.
There was a brief period of time where she stepped away from the stage, but her creativity eventually led her back to theater. Although, this time, she took on a new role. Jazmine decided to become a playwright, and with the support of her family, she was able to produce “The Double Life,” which is riveting play centered around Jazmine’s character, Jazmine Carrington, and her love interest Matthew McConaughey.
“What the play is about is Jazmine is a fashion designer to the stars, and in the first season she meets Matthew McConaughey. She has this crush on Matthew McConaughey. And then each season, there’s one step forward in their relationship,” her brother Chad Faries explained.
Through the seasons, the relationship between Jazmine and McConaughey develops from the initial meet-cute to marriage, with interesting twists and turns along the way. In season six, which is what the documentary covers, the drama is heightened with Jazmine becoming pregnant with a baby that doesn’t belong to McConaughey.
“It’s from a previous old flame,” she reveals.
Family and friends in the Iron River community play various A-list celebrity roles including Kate Hudson, Meryl Streep, Mark Wahlburg, and John Travolta. Jazmine draws a lot of inspiration from pop culture, and she uses her creativity to imagine herself in the mix of Hollywood life.
“I’m in my room all the time and writing plays. And let’s say I watch a show, like Good Girls to Mean Girls or a dramatic show or a soap opera, or whatever it is. And I put it down into a play so I can be in it with them. It’s so fun . . . I can put myself in it. And I can make up a character that is me, but I get to be someone else in this script, in that show. So that’s what I do all the time, ” she remarked.
“The Double Life” had a humble beginning, initially being performed in the family’s garage. Most recently, the play took place at the Windsor Center, Iron River’s all purpose community center. With the support of family, friends and her community, Jazmine is given room and opportunity to express her creativity, which is the main subject of the documentary, along with her personal struggle for independence, romantic yearnings, family ties and more. The idea to document Jazmine’s creative process and production via film came from her brother, Chad.
“I’m kind of a storyteller and a writer, and I knew that there was a story there somewhere with Jazmine’s imagination and the family coming together to make these plays happen,” he said.
Chad, who has been living in Savannah for the last fifteen years, ended up connecting with a local filmmaker, Patrick Longstreth, and together they produced "Iron Family".
“The film ended up being sort of a family portrait. . . It was a fun documentary because Chad and Jazmine are like actors in their own way. They’re always competing for the spotlight and they get it from their mom, who is very funny and outgoing. So, when the three of them are together, it’s just nonstop comedy and entertainment. So, that’s a perfect setup for a documentary filmmaker,” Longstreth explained.
The documentary is called "Iron Family" in part because the subjects are a tight-knit family. It’s also named for the community of Iron River. A quintessential American community, Iron River contributes much to the story.
“A big highlight for me was just learning about the town of Iron River and how connected everyone is there. . . It was just really interesting to dive into the issues of different people in small town America,” said Longstreth.
Most of the action takes place in Iron River, but some of the scenes were filmed in Savannah, as well. So, the screening is a bit of a homecoming for the documentary. That being said, the community where Jazmine comes from may be small, but she certainly has big dreams, and Chad is happy to help her realize some of them.
“What I get out of it most is seeing her stimulated and getting excited about things and getting out of her shell . . . because I think she’s super talented. You can just see the transformation in her. She’s just glowing when she does these things. It’s her dream,” Chad beamed.
Beyond producing her own original plays, doing the documentary has afforded Jazmine some great opportunities. She’s been able to attend various screenings and festivals over the last year with one of them taking her to Hollywood.
“We ended up going to a festival in L.A., Dances With Films, and we literally got to go to Hollywood. Jazmine draws inspiration from all of these Hollywood stars. And then we do this documentary and she ends up going to Hollywood,” said Chad.
It was definitely a full circle moment. Jazmine got to meet Paula Abdul at a pride parade in L.A. She’s hoping to meet McConaughey in the future as well.
“We’re still working on Matthew. He has a digital package. We do have a connection with one of his charitable foundations. We don’t know for sure if he has seen the film yet, but it is in his orbit,” Chad added.
The documentary has been received really well, winning numerous awards including Best Documentary at the 2021 Atlanta Underground Film Festival and the Audience Award Best Documentary Feature at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival among others. The success has led to Jazmine becoming somewhat of a celebrity in her own town, and Chad hopes that more opportunities for Jazmine to get into acting will open up.
“I’d love to see her career move forward and for her to even get out of her own story and be a part of other people’s stories and do a little acting because she’s pretty magical,” he said.
“Iron Family” really allows Jazmine to shine, and everyone involved enjoyed the process of putting the documentary together.
“It was an exploration process and it was really exciting and surprising. Chad described Jazmine to me before I met her, but I’ve never met or spent a lot of time with someone like Jazmine, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But then, right in my first ten minutes of meeting her, I knew she was a character worth documenting,” said Longstreth.
Beyond the play, the documentary brings attention to certain challenges Jazmine and her family face including health, addiction, love, heartbreak and other relatable themes.
“It’s got a lot of story lines and themes that appeal to a wide range of people. That’s what I love about it is that there’s a little something in it for anyone and everyone. And I really tried to weave all those different stories together,” Longstreth began, “Also, I think Jazmine is really unique and I’ve always been drawn to other documentaries that shine a light on unsung heroes or underdog stories. . . Jazmine is really inspiring and the big thing that I would want people to take away from this is to be inspired to follow their creativity, whatever that might be. Don’t be inhibited by or afraid of what other people might think. Just go for it. If Jazmine can do it, and she can convince her whole family to do it, anybody could,” he continued.
Longstreth, Chad and Jazmine encourage everyone to come out to the screening and celebrate this moving documentary.
“It’s very comedic, very touching. It tells a love story for you to share with your experience about love and heartbreak. But mostly, come and feel like you’re part of our family. Be a part of something that’s more brilliant and more loving and nurturing. You can bond with us because we’ve dealt with the same issues,” said Jazmine.
She, Chad and other family members filmed in the documentary will be present at the screening. There will be a Q&A with the cast and filmmakers afterwards, and Jazmine looks forward to engaging with the audience.
“Come meet me in person. You can enjoy the film and see what I’m really like aside from all the glitz and glamor. Have some popcorn and just have fun with it,” she said.
Tickets are $10 at the door, and cash is preferred. Doors open at 6 p.m. To learn more about the documentary, visit ironfamilyfilm.com/.