Oak Park resident Loretta Ragsdell was among the first moviegoers to see the film Crash when it debuted in theaters early last year.

Ragsdell said when the film was over, for a few minutes, there was nothing but silence. No one in downtown Oak Park’s Lake Theatre said anything. They just sat there before slowly and quietly trickling out, Ragsdell said.

Friends and associates she talked to who also saw the film had a similar experience.

“I realized when the movie went off that no one got up,” said Ragsdell, who’s organizing a free screening of the film Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. at the Austin Boulevard Christian Church, 634 N. Austin Blvd. The church will be open afterwards for viewers to discuss the film.

Crash tells the story of several multi-racial characters whose lives become intertwined around a single racial incident that unfolds during a tense 36 hours in Los Angeles. The movie explores the prejudices of the film’s many ethnically diverse characters. The film, nominated for Best Picture in this year’s Academy Awards, opened in theaters in May of last year.

The film’s open glimpse into racial attitudes and stereotypes has struck a chord with audiences to the tune of more $55 million at the box office. While audiences have flocked to see the film, some have been slow to talk about the film’s underlying message on race, according to Ragsdell.

“People sat there stunned for at least two to three minutes,” she recalled. “No one had an immediate reaction to the film. But people that I knew who had seen the film had strong opinions about it.”

Ragsdell originally thought of just having a small, select group of friends see and discuss the film. She decided to open in up to Oak Parkers, residents of neighboring Austin and anyone else affected by the film.

“I just thought, why don’t we try, especially in the Oak Park community where we think these issues don’t exist or that we’re so beyond the racial thing, we don’t we try to have an outlet for a dialogue and sort some of these things out.”

Ragsdell hopes to see a cross-section of people and of all races.

Ragsdell said peoples’ attitudes about race in Oak Park and elsewhere need to change.

“There are those who think racism is dead. There are those who think that it doesn’t affect them. And there are those of us who experience it every day of our lives, and those who perpetrate it. So it’s out there and we need to deal with it.”

The Saturday screening will begin with a 6 p.m. reception and a brief program of dance, song and poetry. The screening takes place in a theater connected to the church. For more information, call (708) 366-3298.

Crash is nominated for six Oscars and features an all-star cast, including Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and Don Cheadle.

Join the discussion on social media!