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DDN: Dave Chappelle’s new pandemic film a love letter to Yellow Springs

Dave Chapelle, Reichert & Bognar.

Excerpt from the Dayton Daily News

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

Co-produced and directed by Yellow Springs residents and Academy and Emmy Award winners Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (“American Factory”), “This Time This Place” is a love letter to the beauty, quirks, culture and politics of Yellow Springs. Set against the backdrop of last summer’s emotional period of medical unease and societal unrest, the breezy two-hour film 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 in the place he calls home.

With help from his famous friends, who were stringently COVID-tested upon arrival, the Emmy and Grammy Award-winning comedian’s socially distanced shows at Wirrig Pavilion quickly became the hottest ticket in town. And, as expected, the film chronicles his appealing playfulness as emcee to the hilt. “I’m a regular person, but I’m very rich,” he jokes. Despite controversy and pushback from some citizens who objected to the noise and adult language among other complaints, Chappelle and his team persevered with humor and heart until a positive COVID test within their bubble forced cancellation. Nonetheless, the over 50 shows produced reportedly brought in more than $9 million to Yellow Springs and the region.

The D.C. 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. Cell phones were notably silenced and sealed 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 many respects, the feeling in the room was electric.

In addition to the hilarious yet topical and thought-provoking stand-up routines from Chappelle, Jon Stewart, Michelle Wolf, Chris Rock, Tiffany Hadish, Donnell Rawlings and Mo Amer among others, enjoyably kooky moments pop up out of nowhere such as singer Erykah Badu’s twirling entrance at Springfield Municipal Airport, actor Jon Hamm leading “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the sight of a lone squirrel crossing a deserted street. I was particularly delighted to see Chappelle channel his inner Kevin Bacon a la “Footloose” with help from John Mayer.