Paragon Village 12 rolled out the red carpet for the premiere of “No More Chains 2,” a homegrown independent film.
People dressed in cocktail finery held up smartphones to photograph producer/director Ari Squires of Locust Grove, TV stars and those whose stories are shown in the film as they took turns standing in front of a backdrop in the theater’s lobby for interviews at Sunday’s premiere.
Shavon Dotson, one of those featured in the movie, said it’s about how changing your mindset can change your life. She went from being a struggling, teenage single mom who couldn’t afford to pay her electricity bill to becoming a professional makeup artist with her own business in Bethesda, Md. She said she saw Squires, a motivational coach and author, at an event, followed her on Facebook and then began tapping into her services.
“When I saw that she was doing this project for a second time, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Dotson said.
As the lights dimmed in the theater Squires had rented for the premiere, “No More Chains 2” opened with poet Will Porter walking down a city street and reciting lines he wrote for Squires about how slavery has impacted families generation after generation.
The film then weaves interviews with Dotson and others sharing their deeply personal challenges with re-enactments illustrating their stories.
Lorna Blake of Empower Yourself Consulting, for example, grew up knowing that others knew who her father was even though she didn’t.
Edward E. Mosley Jr. relied on alcohol and bad relationships to dull the pain of his wife’s death before using that experience to start The Broken Man’s Coach.
“I thought love died when my wife died,” he said.
The documentary cuts several times to a group session with clinical social worker/therapist Charlie Pleasant in a Stafford County gym. He asks, “What risk are you willing to take to tell yourself a different story?”
There’s also commentary by Squires along with several others, including actors Isaiah Washington of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” Timon Kyle Durrett of OWN’s “Queen Sugar” and Darrin Henson of BET’s “The Family Business.” Durrett and Henson both attended Sunday’s premiere.
“At the end of the day, no one’s going to come and save you. No man, nobody. It’s us,” Squires says in the film. “We have to be responsible for that.”
This concept is deeply personal for her. Despite being raised in a good home and earning A’s in school, Squires made bad decisions early in life that landed her in jail. Incarceration proved life-changing, and she made herself a vow.
“I said, ‘I’m not coming back, and when I get out of here, I’m going to change my life and be an inspiration to young girls,’ ” she recalled in a phone interview from her home last week. “That’s exactly what I’m doing now.”
The 42-year-old was 20 when she got out of jail. She went on to enroll at Howard University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications (radio/TV/film productions) with a minor in child psychology in 2004. She moved from Sacramento, Calif., to the Fredericksburg area to start a new life, and opened Ari’s House of Dance & Performing Arts Studio in Spotsylvania County in 2005.
Craig Boothe, CEO of The Sports Booth Athletic Center in Stafford, became her mentor and told her that she needed to think bigger. She decided to tell her story, which became the basis for her first book, “Release The Chains: A Woman’s Roadmap for Finding the Strength to Reclaim Her Destiny.”
It shows how summoning the courage to break the emotional, mental and social chains that prevent people from being successful can result in a productive and happy life.
“From there, I started speaking to audiences to help them move past their past,” Squires said. “I felt it was needed. I started writing more books to help people free themselves.”
Today she’s a motivational speaker, author of eight books and has produced two films. The first one featured 11 women who spoke at one of her “Release the Chains” conferences, and are included in her book “No More Chains: Succeeding Against the Odds.”
“No More Chains 2,” which she produced with help from Washington and James “Waiter” Rapelyea of Fredericksburg, features 10 men and women who share their stories of overcoming pain, shame and anxiety stemming from such challenges as addiction, abusive relationships and broken families.
Filming for “No More Chains 2” was done partly in the Fredericksburg area, including several scenes set in Alum Springs Park.
Squires said she found the people whose stories are featured in the films by reaching out through social media and then screening likely candidates.
She got to know Henson, who has choreographed music videos and concerts, when she invited him to speak at her dance school. They became good friends and he introduced her to Washington.
“They believe in what I’m doing to help people,” she said. “They tell me, ‘Whenever you need me, let me know.’ ”
During a question-and-answer session after the movie, Squires said she’s already working on “No More Chains 3,” and made a pitch to the nearly 150 people packing the theater to help her reach the goal of raising $100,000 by June 30 to share her No More Chains movement globally. The funds will cover marketing, materials, travel and compensation for collaborators, she said.
“No More Chains 2” will be shown next in Little Rock, Ark., on Feb. 10, and then at seven more locations through May. The next closest showing will be March 23 in Washington.