Monday, April 30, 2007

Here's an idea for a movie: a movie about a bunch of British indie filmmakers trying to make a road movie

This amusing article in the Guardian made me think of an idea for some plucky UK based indie filmmakers: a movie, would have to be a comedy, about a group of quirky (yes, would have to be) British filmmakers trying to make a road movie; you know, the kind that the US releases in "bundles" (Little Miss Sunshine, The Puffy Chair, etc.). Could be funny, could work. If anyone in the UK pulls this off, lemme know.

Here's the link to the Guardian article about American road movies (including a Puffy Chair mention) & the lack of British road movies.

- Sujewa

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Washington Post article wonders why Filmfest DC is not bigger & more famous

Read it here.

Some people in DC want the fest to be famous like Sundance or SXSW, the fest's director Tony Gittens is happy with how things are.

Filmfest DC is 20 years old, has a budget of about $410,000, and the '06 version of the fest reported attendance by 34,000 people.

Check out the long & informative article here.

- Sujewa

Saturday, April 28, 2007

1 year anniversary of Date Number One premiere in 15 days! :: indieWIRE's Blogs We Love page readers are probably pretty tired of reading about DNO :)

Man, things in the DIY indie film world can take a loooong time to get done. It's like fighting underwater with a non hydro-dynamic haircut (and here i am hoping that hydro-dynamic means the same thing as aero-dynamic, except, u know, for water). Anyway, the months have rolled by, this May 13 will be the 1 year anniversary of the World Premiere of Date Number One.

I better have the DVD available for sale before 5/13.

Once the DVD is ready, I can get busy with some other DNO distribution & promotional things that I want to try.

The other important project right now is trying to get a ton of DC area press coverage for the 1 week DNO run in Kensington; July 12 - 18. Scroll a few posts down for more info. on that run.

::

Topic # 2:

There are two ways most people who encounter this blog end up doing so; either by dialing up the blog directly or by seeing my blog posts at indieWIRE's Blogs page (under Blogs We Love) - which carries a portion of each of my entries on their Blogs page & also links to the full entry. Now, most people who have blogs that are carried by iW don't write about the same movie over & over, day after day, and that's a very good thing. But, a few months ago I switched from writing about general indie film stuff to mostly writing about Date Number One stuff when important DNO things happen so that I can focus on getting other stuff done besides blogging. Also, at some point a couple of months back, my posts stopped appearing at indieWIRE - probably because I switched to Blogger 2. So I got very used to writing just about Date Number One, not having to think about people who may find my blog through iW & treating this blog as just a blog for DNO. Then, a few weeks ago I see that my posts are back on at iW - very cool, more readers, but I hope they are not bored by constantly reading about DNO. If so, apologies, but this blog is a very easy & very inexpensive way for me to spread the word (no matter how slowly) about the movie, so most likely I will keep writing about DNO as interesting things happen or every couple of days, whichever comes first. I am going to try to mix it up a little just for the benefit of iW readers, thus the Humanitarian Activism blog-a-thon project & the Beats & Film blog-a-thon project (see links sections on right for both those projects), and posts about other indie/DIY films and related topics.

::

Alright, next time we talk I better have the DNO DVDs ready for sale. And it better be before May 13.

In the meantime, check out Chuck Tryon's review of Date Number One, which he saw at the May 13, '06 World Premiere, almost 1 year ago.

- Sujewa

new blog, for indie film distribution company Passion River

check it out here. they say they are awesome.

UPDATE: looks like they haven't blogged since May '06, maybe that project is on the back burner. so here's the company's website if you want to find out more about them. they offer "marketing services to independent films and documentaries."

- sujewa

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sense of Cinema article on the beat generation artists & filmmaking

i am posting this as a part of the Beats & Film blog-a-thon, happening 4/27 - 9/6 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Kerouac's On The Road

There is an article at Sense of Cinema about beat generation artists & their relationship with independent/underground filmmaking of the time. The article is called "A brief introduction to beat (in) film", written by Jack Sargeant in 2000. Here are a few lines:

"In late '50s and early '60s America the beat experiment in film was primarily linked to the emergence of underground film (a.k.a. New American Cinema). Perhaps the most famous beat film was created by two young artists, the painter Alfred Lesley and the photographer Robert Frank, who began to collaborate with Jack Kerouac on an idea for a film adaptation of a short play by Kerouac entitled The Beat Generation or The New Amaraen Church. The film - eventually entitled Pull My Daisy (1959) - was cast with leading members of the beat literary scene: Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Peter Orlovsky, alongside Delphine Seyrig, jazz musician David Amram, and artist Larry Rivers."

Read the rest here.

- Sujewa

Wow, On The Road is gonna be 50 years old this year, dig it baby :: Beats & Film Blog-A-Thon

On September 5, 1957, Jack Kerouac's novel On The Road was published. The book was controversial in its time, but is now considered an American classic, and is taught in high school. The book's focus on travel, exotic religion & philosophy, jazz, sex, and the lives of several unconventional young writers was considered rebellious and the book has been popular with segments of several generations of youth. The initial wave of youth who were seemingly reflective of the kind of people Kerouac wrote about were dubbed The Beat Generation by the mainstream press of the time.

::

How is that film adaptation of On The Road coming along anyway?

::

Beats & Film Blog-A-Thon

To celebrate the occasion, let's do a Beats & Film blog-a-thon. Post something about an instance where a Beat writer or something significantly related to the Beats and cinema comes together (Allen Ginsburg in a movie, a Kerouac type character in an episode of Quantum Leap, film by Robert Frank with a few Beat writers as actors, whatever), e-mail me the link or post it in comments below, will link to it & post about it. Starts now, will go on until September 6. Thanksalot!

- Sujewa

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

$1500 each for two female DIY filmmakers

Read all about the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant at Anthony Kaufman's blog.

Or go directly to the web page for the grant, at Free History Project.

- Sujewa

Nothing new, a new label on an old thing, but the extra press attention sure is nice: Filmmaker Mag article on Mumblecore

Twenty and thirtysomething (& slightly younger & slightly older) indie filmmakers have been making movies about or inspired by events in their lives and their friends lives since, oh, about the early 1980's or before (when was Return of the Secaucus Seven made? maybe Permanent Vacation and Downtown 81 are better examples). But, right now it is cool that a handful of filmmakers who are friends with each other are getting their blogger friends to write about them & their movies under the banner of Mumblecore. A DIY filmmaking & self-distribution friendly promotion model that can be used by other groups of filmmakers and their friends to make their films stand out from the pack of no-budget indies that come out each year at festivals or on DVD or through DIY screenings. Mumblecore crosses into print in a pretty big way, I think, with this Filmmaker Magazine article. My favorite Mumblecore movies so far are: The Puffy Chair, Mutual Appreciation, Dance Party USA, in that order.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mark Andersen interview (from 2001, still very good)


A Conversation with DC Based Humanitarian Activist & Punk Author Mark Andersen

By Sujewa Ekanayake

[from 2001, re-posted here as a part of the Humanitarian Activism Blog-A-Thon project]

On a warm, sunny July afternoon in 2001, I visited the Washington, DC based humanitarian activist, punk and author Mark Andersen (and his cat Demo) in order to learn more about Mark’s activist work. Mark is a founding member of the punk activist collective Positive Force. He has also worked for the Washington Peace Center and has volunteered with Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS). At the time of this interview he was doing outreach work for the Emmaus Services for the Aging, helping to bring about an artist/activist center called the Flemming Center and was a recently published author. Mark’s book "Dance Of Days: Two Decades Of Punk In The Nation’s Capital" (co-authored by Mark Jenkins) was published by Soft Skull Press in early 2001. The following conversation touches on many diverse topics and outlines how a kid from rural Montana came to devote his life to punk rock and to helping others.

Sujewa
How did you get interested in activism? And can you define what activism is?

Mark
For me activism is turning rhetoric into action. If you say you believe in something then it doesn’t matter a whole lot if you are not living that way. There’s a great song called "Modern Times" by New Model Army, which I think in its own way speaks very well about what activism is and what punk might be about. The song modern times is basically kind an autopsy of the punk movement, kind of a requiem, looking back and seeing what was accomplished, what failed and where are we now and it ends with three very simple lines, simple but I think very profound:

" It matters not what you believe in,
It matters less what you say,
It matters what you are."
And an activist is somebody who has ideas of compassion, and creativity and justice and resistance and love in action. For me, the whole thing started, it’s actually really funny, I had a conversation with a friend of mine and he has this wonderful line where he says "you know you start out young with a big mouth, and then you open your mouth and your mouth writes out a check your ass can’t cash," (laugher) he says, and so you kind of screw up, you see things that are wrong and you talk about it, and then if you don’t do anything you kind of make a mockery of what you said and so what he said was that when that happens and it inevitably happens to anybody who is young and idealistic, you have to rise to the occasion, you have to do what you are talking about, in some way you have to be in action and that can be a bunch of different ways. For me the way it was is that I grew up in North Eastern Montana on a farm in a very conservative kind of narrow culture...

Sujewa
In the late sixties?

Mark
Yeah, late sixties and into, I was born in ‘59 so I guess I am ten years old in ‘69 and I am going to be twenty in ‘79, so around 1975 I guess I heard this woman named Patti Smith and I had already been listening to some of the ‘60’s artists who were really big: The Doors, The Kinks, Jefferson Airplane, Melanie, Hendrix, Joplin, folks like that, and I kind of picked up on their idealism and the passion that was in there, but it was kind of history that I was listening to. Wasn’t what was happening in my life. Patti Smith, and not that long afterwards the Sex Pistols, from a new angle, brought that same kind of passion and idealism to bear in a way that was relevant to me and so these different influences exposed me to a radical critique of American society. Well not even just American society, the world society, like looking at the gap between the rich and the poor, looking at the ways that people were being channeled into kind of the corporate, consumer, conformist culture and they were basically generating a psychic rebellion, at the very least, something spiritual or psychic rebellion against that culture. And I bought into that. It made sense to me in a way that nothing else made sense. For a long time my real friends and community were these little collection of punk records and magazines and whatever.

Sujewa
In Montana?

Mark
In Montana, yeah, the very rural part of Montana. Now I did go away to college.

Sujewa
before you go so far from that point, was there a religious background that pointed you in the activist direction?

Mark
It’s an interesting question, because at the time I saw, I was raised in the Christian religion, I saw it as a part of the problem. I didn’t see it as a part of the critique. Although it is interesting, because as time went on I began to see that the ideas of Jesus were revolutionary and actually offered up much of the same critique. But at the time I didn’t see it, I just saw the institutional church as it existed as largely a repressive force.

Sujewa
So at the time you weren’t a religious kid?

Mark
Oh, I was absolutely religious but part of the punk thing was my escape from it because I experienced it as a repressive thing. Now years later I come back and I can see that actually a lot of the values that led to activism were formed by my encounter with the revolutionary ideals both of Christianity and of this country. Because of course this country was born out of a revolution and even though we often forget this, those ideas are there and they still carry a power and a meaning. But I couldn’t access that power and meaning until I kind of created my own identity and had a place of my own from which to look towards them and then to be able to say "Oh, I can distinguish what’s real and beautiful about this tradition from the stuff that has been dumped on top of it." I felt very much like I was being buried alive, so for me a chance to go to college which not everyone from where I grew up would have, definitely was kind of the ticket out but what happened is that I was in that phase then of you know, running off at the mouth (laughter) and I actually was very much of a hermit, very withdrawn. I was a pretty good student, a pretty lazy student, but a pretty good one. Didn’t have much of a direction or much of an identity other then I knew I didn’t want to be these things that society was telling me that I should be. So I ended up doing my first public speaking actually as a result of punk. I gave a talk at one class at college about the ideology of punk rock/new wave music. And that was really the point when the things I was saying started to expand beyond just talking with friends, most of whom didn’t agree with me. Now all of a sudden, I was speaking in a way that was very public."

Sujewa
Early punk wasn’t necessarily about activism, it was about kids being rebellious, not necessarily directed towards re-structuring society, right?

Mark
Well, it depends on what you mean by activism because there were always activists in punk. But punk today is not necessarily even about activism. I mean there are different communities and different takes on it.

Sujewa
What about like the Sex Pistols and all those people back then?

Mark
The Sex Pistols had a very powerful, radical critique in their lyrics. Patti Smith certainly had a very radical critique and actually Patti Smith in a lot of ways is a child of the sixties. She’s kind of the bridge between the sixties folks and the eighties folks if you will. So I do think it is fair to say that it was not always front and center, the connection of punk to activism. For me it became the logical way to express it initially partially because there wasn’t any social grouping there. It was really these records and the ideals that were there and and so once I was talking about the ideals how could I not start try to live them? And so what actually happened is that I was wrestling with this distance between what I was saying and what I was doing, you know talking all this revolutionary stuff but basically hiding out in my room and reading books.

Sujewa
Right.

Mark
And I was on my way to class one day and lo and behold the janitors were picketing the administration building at Montana State University where I went to...

Sujewa
This is in the 70’s?

Mark
This is in 1980, the spring of 1980.

Sujewa
Got it.

Mark
And my dad had been in a union, a farmer’s union, one of the few things he took time out of his work to do, that and church basically. And I don’t know, I just stopped and I read what their demands were and it seemed really righteous and I had been talking all this stuff and so I felt like well I gotta do something or I am just as much a fraud as people I am critiquing, so I picked up a sign and walked with them on the picket line. Then I got involved with a group of students to support the strikers group and at the time I was kind of distressed that I did not have as much time by myself with books and junk food in my room and I was just like "well you know I’ll just do this until the strike is over and then I can go back to the way things were", you know, as life would have it, activism is kind of something that becomes a way of life, you can’t just walk away from it, that’s not in my experience because the music opened the door to this whole other world, every step I took further into that world there were more doors and windows opening and I never really looked back, and that’s over 21 years ago.

Sujewa
Not being able to walk away is probably like art or religion. People I know are into both of them and it fills up all their time and they just can’t clock out.

Mark
Well you see, to me all those things are ultimately connected because in one sense I am an activist, maybe that is the main definition but I also would consider myself an artist and I am certainly very interested in the spiritual life. One of my basic beliefs is that you can’t separate the personal and the political and the spiritual and if those are really happening they’re going to be intermingling in your life and so the things that you believe spiritually or the art that you do inevitably is going to have to reflect the political and social concerns that you have or its not going to be real and that for me is the ultimate basis of my search as a punk or an activist. It’s towards what’s real, towards what is true. Towards these big lofty words which of course are very amorphous but it’s kind of like what the Supreme Court once said about pornography. Well, what is injustice? Well, they said what is pornography? And the guy said I know it when I see it. Well, what is injustice? Well, I know it when I see it, you know (laughter), unfortunately you don’t have to look far.

Sujewa
Right, once you are tuned in.

Mark
Yeah, exactly. And that’s a good way to put it, because the art helps you to tune in, the spiritual stuff helps you to tune in, whatever work you do in your personal life helps you to tune in, and then you are just aware of the immense suffering and injustice in the world and the deal for me is that if it weren’t for the fact that I felt that I was somehow a part of the solution, and that was something that I got out of the 60’s, straight out of an MC5 record actually, are you a part of the problem or are you a part of the solution? That’s kind of simplistic and sometimes it’s hard to tell but I think it is a really important tool for us to think about and we should always be trying to be a part of the solution though inevitably to some degree we are also going to be a part of the problem.

Sujewa
How did you end up in Washington, DC?

Mark
You see, this is the cool thing for me is that a lot of my life before punk and even the early part of punk was about hiding out and kind of trying to find the easy way, avoiding challenges, and I wasn’t very happy (laughter). It just wasn’t a lot of fun, and so it’s funny then when I found purpose and kind of things that seemed important to do, I worked my ass off, but then I was a whole lot happier then before when I was in the pursuit of creative laziness. And so one thing led to another and I became kind of tagged as the 60’s throwback even though in some ways I consider that an insult because of course I was punk rock, that’s not about the 60’s, and secondly also because you know it made it easier to people to try to dismiss me like "oh, he wishes he had been there in ‘68" or like "you’re nostalgic." I wasn’t nostalgic for the struggle they had then, there were plenty of struggles in 1980 to deal with, there are plenty of struggles in 1985, there are plenty of struggles in 1991, there are plenty of struggles now here in 2001

Sujewa
Absolutely.

Mark
And it’s not about me wishing to be there back then, it’s about me being here right now and feeling like, as a human being, I have a responsibility or as an artist I have a responsibility or as someone who is trying to live a spiritual life I have a responsibility. So basically what happened was that when my life found a sense of purpose and I started taking classes not because they were going to be easy but because I was actually interested in them, even though I was more challenged, I rose to the occasion, I did really well in school even as I was doing all the activism stuff and it’s kind of counterintuitive ‘cause you think you take all this time for activism and it’ll take time away from school, not for me, because all of the sudden I found a reason to be.

Sujewa
All those things were connected and you had to excel in them.

Mark
Yeah, exactly, and it didn’t even feel like work, it just felt like, love. Really, I mean just like when you are in love. Why do you do all these things? Why do you go through so much agony? Well, you know it’s worth it.

Sujewa
It feels good.

Mark
Well, it doesn’t always feel good, but you know it’s worth it. That’s the thing. That’s how it was with me and I ended up having a very high GPA and I did really well on my GRE’s and then came to this point where, "well now I am done with undergrad, what next?" I had a bachelor’s in political science and history, not immediate job prospects leaping up around that, especially for someone who is as idealistic as I, so, what’s the answer? well, more school (laughs), and so I came out here to go to grad school.

Sujewa
When was this, ‘84?

Mark
‘84, yeah.

Sujewa
And you knew about the DC punk scene?

Mark
I knew some about the DC scene.

Sujewa
But you weren’t connected personally with it?

Mark
No, I wasn’t connected to them personally and to be quiet honest, it wasn’t in the top 3 of the reasons why I came to DC.

Sujewa
So at that time people who eventually became really important people in the DC punk rock scene were really young kids, compared to you.

Mark
Some of them were, some of them were more or less peers, I mean people like Henry Rollins, of course Henry wasn’t here at that time. Or Ian Mackaye, a couple of years younger then myself, but not much. I was old enough in punk rock terms. I was kind of in a different generation but that was one of the things that was actually kind of beautiful. I came here to this school.

Sujewa
Where did you go?

Mark
Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. I studied Latin American studies there, focused on Central America. This is of course during the wars in Central America, death squads and Liberation Theology and all those things were happening.

Sujewa
And the incident in Latin America that you wrote about in "Dance Of Days" where you saw someone getting killed, did that happen around this time period?

Mark
Um, yeah, it’s a hard thing to talk about.

Sujewa
OK

Mark
I don’t know. I am glad to talk about it. It happens of course after I’ve come to DC. I came to DC, started school, and I spent much of the summer of ‘85, "Revolution Summer", in Central America, which was appropriate for me, and what happened (pause), it’s one thing to read about things in books, and I’ve read lots of books. I came to, I guess I have to start talking about DC, the first step in this was coming to DC, I though I, you know, I’ve read a lot of books about the inner city, the gap between the rich and the poor and so forth, let me tell you, I learned more painful lessons in like three days of living in Washington, DC and just experiencing that dramatic gap then I have in years of reading about it. And it was, it was really heartbreaking. So that’s part of what’s going on as I come in, well, if you can imagine I was that impacted by coming from my small town country background to Washington, DC, imagine suddenly I find myself in Guatemala, in the middle of one of the more terrible wars of the century in our hemisphere. I mean literally a couple of hundred thousand people were probably killed. I was there near the end of the most brutal period in the whole time, I mean the period like ’81 to ’83, ’84, just horrendous. This is according to Guatemalan governments own figures: hundreds of villages disappeared off the map during this time, now that doesn’t mean everyone there was killed but they weren’t taking them off to the health spa, and there were of course hundreds of thousands of refugees in a relatively small country, seven million total population. So you’re talking about two hundred thousand people dying, that equivalent of, i don’t know, millions dying here in this country, so a tremendous (pause)...

Sujewa
Loss?

Mark
It kind of goes beyond words. I entered into Guatemala into a climate of fear that I never encountered before. I wasn’t a big fan of the police here, and I’d seen some not so fun things happen, but in Guatemala people went out of their way to avoid the police.

Sujewa
They might kill you.

Mark
Yeah, well, exactly. And you just didn’t want...what little people would say about the government was to try to stay away from it. And you try not to say anything or do anything that possibly could draw attention to you because attention is not good. Anyway, that’s the context and I actually went to the archdiocese, the cathedral in Guatemala City with the intent of speaking to folks who worked there because the Catholic Church was really the only institution that was protected enough to be able to do any human rights work. That’s how brutal things were. Two of the leaders of the only other human rights group there which was a support group for the relatives of the disappeared, which there were of course thousands, had been murdered just months before I came, in terrible ways. And so there was a lot of pressure on and a lot of threats directed at the Church and I stopped in to see what the Church was saying about this. I met with somebody, they were very careful about what they said but they made it clear that forces near the government were the sources for all this. I mean you would see all the time all these bodies turning up in the papers and they wouldn’t be identified and their killers wouldn’t be identified and it would be passed off as if they were killed by unknown men or they were victims of a robbery. But you basically knew that it was all political killings.

Sujewa
I saw the same thing in Sri Lanka in ‘89.

Mark
Well I bet, there’s terrible struggles there.

Sujewa
Death squads sponsored by the government to put down the oppositions.

Mark
And that’s the Tamil Tigers?

Sujewa
Well, in Sri Lanka in ‘89 when I saw two dead people on the side of the road, kinda similar to what you experienced, the government was fighting the Tamil Tigers, an extremist separatist group that came out of the minority Tamil community, and there were also, from the majority, who are the Sinhalese, a guerrilla group called the JVP, Janatha Vimucthy Peramuna, a Marxist inspired group that once tried to violently overthrow the government in the early 70’s and failed. The JVP were fighting the government once again in ‘89, so the government decided to deal with the JVP threat by carrying out killings to scare people, young men mostly, from joining the JVP. And death squads would kill young men in the country side and let the bodies lay in intersections as a warning. So the bodies of the young Sinhalese men I saw on the road side at a Sinhalese village in ‘89 got there because of the government death squads.

Mark
Well, exactly, which is interesting. I am going to jump out of the story I was telling to bring back to what you are talking about, which is like religious imagery. This is something that most people don’t realize, when you see the image of Jesus on the cross, like the cross has come to represent something now, not necessarily always good, but it is entirely removed from what it meant at the time. Because at the time crucifixion, and the symbol of the cross itself, was precisely the symbol of the most horrific tortuous public humiliating death the Roman Empire could devise. That’s why they did it. They did it just for the same reasons that death squads in Central America did what they did or what you’re talking about in Sri Lanka. The point is you kill somebody, you kill them in an awful way, and you do it publicly and it sends a message, which is don’t fuck with us. Because you will get this. And that is what Jesus on the cross represents. He was one of thousands tortured and executed by the Roman Empire precisely as a punishment for sedition, for being seen as a threat to the Empire and to discourage other people who might be so foolish. So there’s a radical, I would say revolutionary, basis in the Christian religion in its inception and in its founder. So, political killings were carrying on in Central America, and it had kind of risen again, and the church had actually become one of the few voices defending the poor, the people who were being oppressed, and in Guatemala it was primarily the native population, the Mayan Indians. So anyways, I am there for this meeting, it’s a fairly short meeting, it’s a friendly meeting, basically I find out what I pretty much know, I thank him and then I walk out the cathedral through the back door. Now I had come in maybe half an hour, 45 minutes before, and there was nobody out there. I come back out the back door and there’s a body there. And I, just riveted for a second on the body, but then all of a sudden I see ten feet away two policemen with like mirror sunglasses and these big boots just standing there. I mean, I don’t know what, to this day I still don’t know what was going on there but they had a couple of street urchin kids like shining their shoes, like there’s this dead body standing here and the police are sitting here, they obviously don’t seem to care very much. My interpretation in that split second is they have killed this person and left him here to leave a message, part of their message is being put through right now by the fact that they’re just standing there, they’re getting their shoes shined! How much more impunity, how much more arrogance could the authorities have and in that moment I found myself out of the shoes of a privileged North American white male, well educated person, and saw just how powerless people were in the face of that kind of a threat. And I was just a coward, I didn’t say a word, I don’t know what I could’ve done, there were things probably I could’ve done like if I’d had gone back, who knows? I don’t know. Now the bottom line is I didn’t do anything, I put my head down, I got out of there, and I didn’t talk about it for a couple of years. And it was a good experience to have in the sense that it showed me what the stakes really are.

Sujewa
The lengths the bad guys would go to.

Mark
And also to some extent that I am a part of the bad guys, ’cause you know I came there wanting to be on the side of the poor people and I saw this dramatic disparity between the rich and the poor. Hello, I am one of the rich, and I still haven’t really sorted out what all that requires from me, but I did know that it required a lot from me.

Sujewa
So what were the activist work that you did after you returned to DC?

Mark
I felt like a fraud in graduate school, the next thing I know is that I’m organizing an Amnesty International chapter there, not really the thing most people did. It’s an interesting school, folks from all over the world, in a way a very elite school, you are also there with career professionals from embassies, from the FBI, from the CIA, from different militaries, there was a guy from the Honduran military there, a nice guy, basically you’re being trained...

Sujewa
To lead the empire?

Mark
Yeah, you’re, you know, to be relatively minor functionaries in the empires machinery. Some of the people would actually be players in that, so, if you want to go into the foreign service, to get security clearance, you probably do not want to be doing some of the things that I did, bottom line is, my experience in DC, certainly my experience in Central America, made me feel like I couldn’t do that, go in that direction that graduate school was pointing, which is fine, people should follow their heart, and I started to figure out where my heart laid. And it wasn’t in serving the empire, you know. I had friends who went into that world and I wish them well , if they were sincere, I’d rather have them there then Oliver North, who I did encounter. The Reagan administration was in office and they did briefings for us and some other I guess aspiring elites in some other schools and the White House around Central America and I encountered Oliver North there, boy, what a jerk.

Sujewa
(laughter)

Mark
An arrogant ass, but anyway, enough about Oliver North, I am sure he is created in the image of God and a really precious human person, but he is not really a very nice guy from my point of view. Anyway, that was happening, and then there was this whole other thing, which again I have to talk about punk because as I am progressively getting disillusioned with the adult world I am starting to encounter the underground, the punk underground. Now, admittedly, some of the parts of that punk underground not only weren’t about activism, they weren’t really even about life. They were pretty much on a death trip, and that was pretty depressing, but the positive thing was I met a bunch of the other folks, like kind of the Dischord crowd who were brewing up this Revolution Summer thing and I met some other folks who helped start this punk activist collective Positive Force and that became a very important venue for the mixing of my interest in the arts and my interest in radical activism.

Sujewa
So the idea for Positive Force came from that community and not necessarily something that you brought to DC?

Mark
Well, the idea was there, implicit in the fact that I was an activist, an activist inspired by punk. I’ve come for the first time in my life to a big city punk scene and I don’t see much activism. What would be more natural for me to say then, well, hell, I am going to start something like this, and there were other people who kind of felt the same way and it was just one of those times where kind of the stars line up or whatever and things happen and you don’t really understand it until far after. And that’s the way it should be, you are there in the moment and you should try to do what’s real, what makes sense to you, what seems honest, and that’s what I did and at the end of my two years in school Positive Force became the center of my life and it continues to be a very significant part of my activist life.

Sujewa
What did you do after graduate school?

Mark
Positive Force is totally volunteer, so, you have to have money to survive. I already knew this but I understood it more profoundly once I was out of school and realized 1/3 of my day was going to be spent at a job, so I have to do a job I believe in or my life is not going to be good, I am not going to be happy, no one is going to be happy around me because I would be a beast. So, I did a little bit of work-study stuff at the library of my school. When I left there I worked at a really cool radical bookstore called Common Concerns. That started feeling like a little too constricted, not challenging enough, so I ended up working as an outreach person for People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Ironically, I didn’t work there very long, that was my step clearly not only into the animal rights world, I mean I had been involved with animal rights stuff with Positive Force, but this was a big step in that direction and it was a really powerful experience but it actually didn’t last very long because soon I was offered the job of being the co-coordinator of the Washington Peace Center, a small organization, which was arguably the single most important little peace and justice organization in the city. Because its kind of the hub of all of this, this clearinghouse, this thing that connects all these communities, the justice and the peace and service, the radical activist community, together here. They’ve done good enough of a job that they’ve gotten burglarized by the FBI (laughter). They actually were a part of a class action suit and won a settlement from the FBI for the violation of civil rights and civil liberties in that whole affair. And so coming to the Washington Peace Center was exciting for me. When I came there we were largely focused on international issues and I had had a couple of visits to Central America which was powerful in forming my activist life, and I also went to the Middle East. I went to the Middle East as a representative of the Peace Center during the first Intifada, very powerful stuff. But part of what was happening was that I was feeling like the Washington Peace Center didn’t seem to do much to bring about peace here in Washington. So I began to, together with a co-worker there, to just kind of start steering the Peace Center towards focusing on what was happening in DC.

Sujewa
What was happening in DC?

Mark
What was happening in DC at that moment was, beside the fact, the basic thing in DC: DC is a city that is majority black and the main power is in white hands and it’s also the most affluent metropolitan area in the whole country, single most unequal in terms of distribution of wealth, you got neighborhoods like Shaw which are adjacent to Capitol Hill and the White House, the centers of power and privilege in the whole world, and you encounter levels of infant mortality which are at "Third World levels", you encounter in parts of those neighborhoods where the major economy is illegal drugs and at that time a horrific explosion in the number of murders had occurred.

Sujewa
When is this?

Mark
We are talking now in ’88, when I come to the Peace Center, and during my first full year in DC there were 148 people murdered in the city. Almost inevitably it was poor, African-American males. It was similar folks doing the shooting, but, basically what it pointed to was that there was something really scary, out of control here and I thought it was really out of hand when I came here. It was like clearly these people are expendable, that’s why there wasn’t more of an outcry.

Sujewa
They were being left alone to kill themselves.

Mark
Yeah, and it was not even worth focusing on, folks in Capitol Hill can see Shaw out of their office windows, I could, I worked in Capitol Hill briefly, part of my time in school, but for them it might have been a million miles away. And at that point basically the crack explosion had happened, which was throwing a lot of relationships out of whack in neighborhoods like Shaw, leading to dramatic upswings in the murders. You can look back and see, it’s almost like making a cake: you got the marginalized population, right next to the super privileged population, systematically denied access to wealth and all the things they are told that would make them worthy persons, add in, on top of this poverty, desperation and obvious inequality, add in guns, which are just available like candy, toss in this crack cocaine thing, opens up these new avenues to getting this wealth that you are systematically denied otherwise, and then just kind of stew, leave them there to kill each other basically, or to go to jail, which was the other thing that was happening, and its almost like it was set up to happen that way. I mean I wouldn’t go that far but I do think that the systems dynamics tend to chew up certain expendable people, these were some examples of that. As this was unfolding, going from 148 people killed in 1985 to, by the end of the cycle by 1992, it was close to 500, the murder rate more then tripled.

Sujewa
Yeah, I remember that.

Mark
DC became the murder capitol. I did some work trying to draw attention to this and seeing it as a peace and justice issue that the Peace Center should work on, but it began to feel for me still like I was a little too distant from it. And after working with the Peace Center for a year, it’s an organization that I totally respect and I think it’s very, very important, but I just felt called to something else. And we got a job announcement from the Emmaus Services for the Aging and I went to work there doing direct services. I was and am an outreach worker to low-income mostly African-American women elderly, here in the Shaw neighborhood, which I live on the edge of now. And that has been a really, really transformational experience for me as an activist, which very much informs how I view the work in general. Just as I see the experience in a new context, my experience growing up in the rural working class really, impacts how I view activism needs to be done in order for it to be something that is not just merely counter-cultural-this kind of inherently marginalized in-group-but that it actually has the potential for drawing together disparate groups and building a movement that can actually challenge entrenched corporate power. And in a certain sense my trajectory was putting me at tension with some of the versions of punk which are very much about that in-groupy kind of thing. Like you’re holding out in your subterranean enclave against the world. That has its value, but its a limited value in terms of actual transformation.

Sujewa
You could be punk in that subterranean enclave way while you’re growing up, and then you should move beyond.

Mark
Exactly. And hopefully you can remain in touch with that community and bring in these other experiences so that the community itself continues to grow and flourish so it can be a place that is a jumping off point, a home community, that nourishes resistance and activism and education in radical ways. And through Emmaus I got involved with another organization, actually two, that became very powerful for me. One is Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS) because as I work here in this neighborhood I started encountering street sex workers, initially didn’t know how to related to them, so I just kind of ignored them, that became harder to do when it was somebody who I knew by sight, who I knew was trouble and, like most street sex workers, very vulnerable. She got murdered, and that got me to rethink. Emmaus actually allowed myself and others who were working there to in effect step out of the role as Emmaus employees and become HIPS volunteers when we encountered these folks and hand out condoms, and cards with HIPS hotline information that can help them on getting support and advocacy and ultimately a route out of the street sex trade. It helped in terms of the neighborhood, because people understood what we were doing. So HIPS was another big step in my activist world. And also, it’s a complicated subject so I won’t go into it very far, but it also brought me in closer touch with faith based activists who I encountered in Central America in particular and known through a lot of their work and was increasingly drawn to that and through a kind of a particular friend who was very influential on me ended up joining arguably the radical Catholic parish here in the city, St. Al’s Parish which is right on the edge of the neighborhood that I work in. And fully embracing that part of my past, which has a revolutionary legacy, the fact that the revolution that was being annunciated there, through the life and teachings of Jesus was radical beyond my ability to live probably but it seemed like a beautiful world to strive for. So, those were a lot of the different things that shaped me as an activist and to this day I honor all of those things, like the kind of the radical secular organizing folks like the Peace Center might represent, the counter-culturists, the artists-activists like Positive Force, the faith based folks like the Catholic Worker or Liberation Theology folks, my inspirations from the feminist community in the activism there, like HIPS. And a lot of that is being brought together in the building which is actually...

Sujewa
By my old house! 10th & O NW.

Mark
Right, which is going to be the recipient of the royalties from my "Dance Of Days" book, which is the Flemming Center, a cooperative project of Positive Force, and most centrally the Emmaus Services for the aging. Right now construction is on the way and hopefully by September of 2002 it will be up and running and hopefully it will be an outpost for radical arts stuff. Positive Force will be there, we’ll have a gallery and an archive and a creative space, we’ll have direct service stuff, the Peace Center will be there, Catholic Worker bookstore will be there. Also the Brian Mackenzie Infoshop. You’ll have the Catholic anarchists on one side of the wall and the secular on another side of the wall (laughs). And an office space, at night, will be a performance space where you can show movies, have concerts, have political meetings, have poetry readings, all sorts of stuff. A building with a lot of powerful possibilities. Because I think there is a common spirit between all of these groups and we need all of these elements, we need the arts, the creative element, we need the direct service stuff, because as much as we want the revolution, the revolution is not going to be here tomorrow. To ensure a long-term vision of transformation you need to make sure people are being fed, clothed and housed in the short term. Hopefully the Flemming Center will bring a lot of people together across cultural and racial and faith lines and it will create in a small way precisely what we need on a larger level.


Thanks Mark!

The Stop All This Violence & Killing Blog-A-Thon/Humanitarian Activism Blog-A-Thon

All these wars & fighting & killing around the planet is making it difficult for us to be happy. So, those of us interested in peace must speak up, talk, tell, push, yell, maneuver & force combatants and killers and other people who use violence to try to achieve their objectives to stop. So, a project: eternal anti-violence blog-a-thon: people around the planet blogging about ending violence, celebrating anti-violence success stories, blogging about great strategies and examples - courses of action that take people away from killing & maiming & violence as a conflict resolution tool. Also blogging about related issues: ending poverty, hunger, etc. - dealing with stuff that leads to frustration & violence. This project might lead to some good things. Project starts today. Open ended, no closing date set at the moment. I am going to blog about the topic as often as I can, several times a week. If you post something related to ending wars/fighting/killing, and ending the use of violence as an acceptable course of action in human affairs or about a related humanitarian activist & or positive development topic, let me know, will check it out & might link to it if it is totally or mostly in line with the goal of the project (that being making a positive contribution to making the world a less violent & more livable & enjoyable place). Thanks.

- Sujewa

Fishing With John essay at Criterion

I still need to see Fishing With John. Maybe Potomac Video has it, they've had pretty much everything else I've looked for lately. Looking forward to seeing the Tom Waits episode and the Jim Jarmusch episode. Check out an essay about the show here, at Criterion's website.

- Sujewa

July 1971 Playboy interview with John Cassavetes

It's a 13 page document, lots of good stuff to read.

Here is a sample:

"After that, we took Faces to Montreal and Toronto, where it did well, and then screened it for the Venice Film Festival committee. We got admitted to the festival - and walked out with five awards. We then sold the film to the Walter Reade Organization, which released it here and in Canada. And, surprise of surprises: I had an artistic and financial hit on my hands - this time in my own country. Proving to me that it was worth all the nonsense I went through. Proving to me that moviemakers don't have to spend their time doing garbage they hate. And when Husbands performed the same way Faces did, it gave me the opportunity to line up just about whatever projects I may want to do without having to sweat the money. Unbelievable as this may sound and for whatever it's worth, I'm doing just what I want to with my life and on my own terms, without any hassling whatsoever. And never have I felt so correct about myself, so secure in myself. I believe in miracles."

Check it out here.

- Sujewa

Monday, April 23, 2007

Somebodies sounds interesting

Heard a tiny bit about this film, am in the process of learning more about it. Roger Ebert had some very nice things to say about Somebodies, check it out here, from early '06, from Sundance.

UPDATE: This looks like the official website for Somebodies.

And here's the blog, written by Somebodies director Hadjii (yeah, he only uses one name).

About Hadjii, from Somebodies website:

"Writer/director/actor/humorist Hadjii was born and raised in Brunswick, Georgia. He graduated from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication with a BA degree in Telecommunications Arts. In 2004, he was a finalist in the Image Film Festival Perfect Pitch Competition with his pitch for his original screenplay “My Father’s Business.” His 2002 short film “The Making of Brick City” won 2nd place at the 2002 Peach City Short Film Festival and was featured in the 2003 Hollywood Black Film Festival. He was also a semi-finalist in the 2002 Hollywood Black Film Festival Storytelling Competition, and he was an invited panelist discussing the state of African-American film at Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival in 2004. Earnest Hardy of the L.A. Weekly praised Hadjii’s work for its “potent mix of irreverence and social consciousness.” Somebodies is his first feature. He is currently completing his first novel, “Staged Persona: A Manual Biography” and his second feature length screenplay. He is an adjunct instructor at the University of Georgia where he teaches writing for film and television."

About the film, from the same site:

"Somebodies is a coming-of-age comedy about Scottie, a twenty-two year old African-American college student in Athens, Georgia, who’s just living life as it comes. He and his roommates Six, Marlo, Tory, and Jelly live the good life as college students – finding a balance between education, partying, women, and flat out fun. But eventually Scottie’s nonchalant approach towards life, combined with his love of a good time and appreciation of a “cold one,” lands him in some hot water. Fortunately, Scottie is lucky enough to be surrounded by people who care about his well-being and who are willing to offer their help, support, and advice. Unfortunately, all of these people happen to be one sandwich short of a picnic."

Sounds good, looking forward to checking out the flick at some point.

- Sujewa

what's the latest Man Push Cart?

i just know that some indie band is gonna steal that name. that aside, looking forward to seeing the award winning indie flick Man Push Cart. according to this website, the flick is out on DVD in a couple of european countries and DVD availability in the US is coming up. check out the news here.

- sujewa

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Entourage plus more realism/sadness/darkness = Unscripted, another awesome HBO show

HBO continues to put the rest of the filmed entertainment making industry to shame with their awesome shows (Rome, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc.). How does HBO keep coming up with hit after hit (actually, i am not sure if the HBO shows i dig are really "hits", but HBO does keep cranking out some very excellent work, as far as my eyes & brain are concerned)?

Anyway, if you are an Entourage fan and you want to see more along those lines but perhaps with characters with less access to Hollywood success & more struggle, then check out HBO's show Unscripted. It is out on DVD (probably has been for some time, i just saw 10 or 12 episodes for the first time yesterday). Unscripted follows a young actor & his friends, all actors (unlike in Entourage), as they tackle Hollywood. The tone is less light, more dramatic. There is a lot of fun & funny moments in the show also. But generally, Unscripted is darker than Entourage. But very good, check it out, nice way to fill the time between new Entourage episodes.

Oh yeah, of course it would be nice to see one of these HBO young-actors-trying-to-make-it or making it type shows feature a couple of minority actors in lead roles (Arri's assistant doesn't count, not cool enough, also a minor character). Surely all the new talent trying to make it in Hollywood are not "white". Keep that in mind Mark Wahlberg (Entourage exec producer), George Clooney & Steven Soderbergh (Unscripted exec producers) & HBO people. Thanks.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Heartfelt Good-byes to James Lyons at indieWIRE & Filmmaker

About James Lyons (1960 - 2007), from Filmmaker Magazine's blog:

"If you didn’t know Jim personally and just recognize his name from movie credits, then you most probably remember him as an editor. His credits include four films by Todd Haynes – Poison, Safe, Velvet Goldmine and Far from Heaven – as well as Spring Forward, The Virgin Suicides, Silver Lake Life, and, most recently, A Walk into the Sea: The Danny Williams Story. The latter, a documentary by Esther Robinson about her uncle’s relationship with Andy Warhol and The Factory, won the Teddy at Berlin this year and receives its U.S. premiere at Tribeca this month. He was also an AIDS activist and educator."

Here is the link to indieWIRE's tribute page to Lyons.

Here is a paragraph from Spring Forward's director Tom Gilroy's entry regarding Lyons, from the indieWIRE tribute page:

"Although Jim was a dear friend and peer, he was, in many ways, the closest thing I ever had to a mentor. To me, he was the complete embodiment of PUNK, with all its rebellion, mixture of high and low art, D.I.Y.-sensibility, political activism, working class ethos and identification, at once macho and sympathetic, opinionated yet soft-voiced. He was utterly unpretentious, a person who recognized and simply assumed his undeniable place in the culture's continuum. I felt I could take him everywhere and would always be proud of him. He taught me more about film than anyone, and he always answered my requests for advice with unlimited time and insight and love."

Read the rest of Gilroy's thoughts here.

Very sad to hear that someone so talented, creative, and loved by many in the independent filmmaking community, has died.

- Sujewa

Notes from a Jon Jost screening

Long before I became a DIY filmmaker, around 1990-91, I checked out a book by Rick Schmidt called Feature Filmmaking At Used Car Prices from the Gaithersburg, MD library. In it was a mention of one Jon Jost - super independent & self-reliant filmmaker. And of course by the time I first read about Jost he had been making real indie/DIY movies for probably longer than I had been alive. So, after all this time, it is great to hear that Jost is still going strong; selling lots of DVDs at well attended screenings full of passionate audience members and tackling complicated and important topics with his movies (most recently Homecoming, and La Lunga Ombra - read about both at this LA Weekly article). Read about the experience of attending a recent Jost screening at Jerry Lentz's blog.

Here is a sample from the post:

"Jon Jost was everything I expected and more. He looks like a Social Studies teacher I had, but acts like the Wood Shop teacher we all loved because he wasn't afraid to tell us about how stupid the Principal and Teachers Staff was and he showed us how to make bongs and potato canons.

I was moved by the 9-11 story of three Italian women unable to deal with their feelings and unable to explain it all away with talk. A heated debate broke out in the Q&A after the film. I was still a little numb thinking of my own 9-11 traumas and by the shocking faces of death ending and the call for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, so my lil' "Golly gee, Mister Jost, who influenced you as a filmmaker?" seemed so stupid as more important questions were asked as political anger erupted in audience with members raising their voices at each other."

I think my video store probably has All The Vermeers In New York, a Jost film that I have been wanting to check out for over a decade. Will look for it tomorrow. The fact that he was able to do many of the key creative tasks on that film was one of the reasons that made me want to try doing the same on my movies (i saw the box for Vermeers at a video store in dc & read the credits on it a long time ago, before I shot my first feature). Looking forward to seeing Vermeers & other, more recent, Jost movies.

Thanks GreenCine Daily for the link.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Third World Cruelty: A Human Rights Watch doc on India's Caste System

A number of people larger than half of the total US population, about 160 million people, are forced to live in sub-human/less than second class citizenship (both legally and in all other areas of life) conditions in India right now. Get all the sad and enraging news at this Human Rights Watch document: India's Dalits: between atrocity and protest.

The same article can be found at the website Open Democracy, with comments and related links.

- Sujewa

We grieve with you Virginia Tech

As everyone in the country and probably the world must know by now, a horrible tragedy happened earlier today at Virginia Tech; just a couple of hours from where I write this, at a college with many connections to families & individuals throughout the DC area. 33 people are dead, a senseless loss, and thousands of others are deeply affected by the shootings today. It is difficult to come up with words that seem sufficient, words that are able to properly deal with the magnitude of the loss experienced today by the Virginia Tech community. I am sure that millions of us throughout the country and the world grieve with you tonight Virginia Tech. We wish you the best in dealing with today's tragic events, and many of us will no doubt gladly do what we can to try to make things even a little better for you.

::

LINKS

Here is the link to a blog by filmmaker and Virginia Tech professor Paul Harrill.

Virginia Tech's website

Google search with links to many stories re: Virginia Tech tragedy.

::

- Sujewa

Monday, April 16, 2007

Article in LA Weekly re: Native American filmmaking

Check it out here. Very interesting. Even though most people in America may not have heard about it, lots more Native American indie films are being made than ever before.

Thanks GreenCine Daily for the link!

- Sujewa

Jon Moritsugu's FAME WHORE available for rent on DVD at Potomac Video in Chevy Chase DC :: Review

For all you DC area readers: my favorite video store - Potomac Video near Chevy Chase Circle in DC - now has DIY/real indie filmmaker Jon Moritsugu's excellent & accessible flick Fame Whore for rent on DVD. Here's the link to the store. Below is the review of the film that I wrote & published in this blog last year.

FAME WHORE Review

Review originally published 9/27/06

Jon Moritsugu's 1997 comedy-drama Fame Whore (due out soon on DVD) tells 3 stories: 1) about a tennis pro, #1 in the world - as he often tells everyone, or rather yells at everyone, one of the most annoying characters in cinema, and the turn his wealthy & successful life takes when a French newspaper outs him as being gay, 2) about an artist with very little talent, with I would say anti-talent, for singing attempting to master & create careers in music, video, photography, film and several other mediums of expression, played well & hilariously by Amy Davis, 3) about a lonely & friendless & sweet dog pound manager who has an imaginary friend who is a six foot tall talking dog with bad manners.

The tennis pro & the multi-media artist characters, their situations, are complex & interesting. Why is the tennis pro dude so ill behaved? Is it all a hopelessly misguided attempt to appear straight? Does he think cursing & fighting & insulting people are the most significant & defining qualities of straight men? The multi-media artist trying to go pro - what's driving her? I guess she is wealthy - even though the film did not state how she came about her wealth, some reviews of the film have said that she is a trust fund kid - but she does seem concerned with making money. Perhaps, other than the possible financial motive, she needs validation from the world & she is trying to get it through mastering & becoming famous for art making. Underneath their desire for fame & wealth, both characters seem to want acceptance, and they seem to expect that their mastery of a sport or hoped for mastery of art/entertainment making will bring that much craved acceptance to them.

Having the story of the dog pound manager in the flick was a good move on Moritsugu's part, as it helps the audience see the situations of the other two characters in a different light, in a slightly more sympathetic light, as in: pity the fools. The dog pound manager is running away from contact with the public, that is contact other than that required by his job. He seems to take pleasure in his job - finding homes for unwanted dogs. He is unnerved when the city decides to get him an assistant.

Is Moritsugu saying that happiness or at least contentment need not depend on fame & public adoration or in making very much money? Perhaps. Maybe all it takes to be happy, as the old saying goes, is doing what you love. While there may be little hope in the tennis star & the artist finding happiness, the dog pound manager's life seems healthier by comparison. This theme, of fame through art & worldly success not necessarily being the ideal path for some characters who desperately crave one or the other is repeated & further explored in Moritsugu's 2003 film Scumrock.

The trouble with fame & wealth is that there is almost always more to be had, and perhaps not having that next level will make a person who wants it miserable. On the other hand, doing something you love and hopefully doing it well is an objective with solid, fixed boundaries.
It would be easier to achieve happiness & contentment if your goal is to do something well because you love doing it, as opposed to doing something so that you can get famous & wealthy. Of course what I just said may not have much to do with the film, but it is related to the topic of desiring fame, so there it is. It also reflects the 80's DIY punk approach to music making (see the new doc American Hardcore (MySpace) for more on that approach), which is a scene that Moritsugu has acknowledged as being a source of inspiration & a model for his filmmaking career.

Fame Whore being a Moritsugu film, I was expecting out of focus shots, jarring editing, shots that linger too long on seemingly unnecessary objects and a noisy sound track. But I was pleasantly surprised: Fame Whore looks and sounds, for the most part, like most other low budget indie flicks, indiewood flicks as opposed to underground flicks, of the 90's or even some low budget Hollywood flicks for that matter. Fame Whore does not look or sound like Scumrock or Mod Fuck Explosion. So, this would be a safe film, out of Moritsugu's body of work, to show to friends who are alienated by non-slick, radically non-Hollywood looking flicks. It will be obvious that Fame Whore is a low budget flick, but it also contains the "correct" type of craftsmanship that most mainstream audience members seem to expect from movies.

At 70 minutes, Fame Whore tells its 3 stories rather quickly, but it does not seem rushed. Also, the film is a model for how a lot can be done with little: I believe only 3 interior locations were used during the whole movie. But the careful use of the interior locations along with the good use of exterior locations has allowed the filmmakers to create a work that is not too limited by its low budget & the accompanying restrictions on using a lot of locations.

If you've been wanting to discover new (or at least new to you) filmmakers, specially real indie filmmakers who are pioneers of, or role models for, the US DIY film movement, then Fame Whore can be an easy & entertaining introduction to Jon Moritsugu. Fame Whore is highly recommended for indie film fans & indie film makers. Also recommended for anyone who thinks that their lives would be better if they were more famous.

According to this interview with Moritsugu, Fame Whore was considered by the Academy for Oscar competition, but was ultimately disqualified since it was projected using 16 MM as opposed to 35 MM, the Academy standard.

- Sujewa

10 Features in 12 Months project changes to 10 Features in 30 Months

To make life a little bit easier for myself, the goal of creating & releasing 10 new feature films in 12 months (see post below) has been changed to 10 new features in 30 months; May '07 - October '09. This change allows me more time to work on getting distribution started a bit better for each finished film. So, a new feature every 3 months. Expect the first of the 10 new features to be available to view at screenings & on DVD in August.

Other upcoming major projects over here at Wild Diner Films:

- Date Number One on DVD starting at some point this month!

- Date Number One July 12 - 18 run in Kensington, MD

- The Kensington Real Independent Film Festival (KRIFF), September 6 - 9, Kensington, MD

Minor Project:

- Microinvesting in a real indie film. In May will figure out who/which project gets the money ($500).

Projects w/ Details To Be Determined:

- Date Number One 1 week or longer runs in NYC, LA, Chicago
- Also DNO for 1 week or longer runs in San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh & several other major cities
- Other DNO screenings throughout the country

* perhaps in May -June I'll have more info. on those projects


- Sujewa

Saturday, April 14, 2007

10 new features in 12 months project

So I got a second day job - assistant manager at a very cool video store in DC, started it last week. This will mean that although my 5 day work week will be much busier, I will have some extra money, a little more so than before, every week (plus health insurance! - mom will be happy :). I've got 2 days off (mostly off) from day job work every week, so that's 8 days a month, definitely enough time to shoot a "no" budget DV feature. There seems to be a shortage of good real indie movies by minority directors, or at least good real indie movies featuring minority & multi-ethnic or integrated casts, and I have a bunch of unproduced scripts & a ton of new ideas for "no" budget features, so, all this equals:

Sujewa's 10 Features In 12 Months Project

Bangor Films' Todd Verow & co. did something similar a few years ago; made several DV features in a short amount of time. So this is definitely doable. The goal is; from May '07 until May '08, make 10 feature length movies. I would have made the goal 12 movies but I know I will be very busy in July with Date Number One's 1 week or longer run in Kensington and in most of mid-late August & early September with The Kensington Real Independent Film Festival (KRIFF), so 10 features in 12 months it is.

Actors & musicians & crew members interested in working on these projects, send me an e-mail (wilddiner@aol.com) or leave a comment.

We shoot the first of the ten new features in May; it will be a comedy about making "no" budget movies, tentatively titled Filmmaking For The Poor (FFTP). The film will be shot in the Washington, DC area.

In April, this month, the Date Number One DVD will be available for sale. I plan on making each new feature available for sale on DVD as soon as they are completed - so, we should be able to see the May feature in June. Screenings of each new feature will happen throughout the year & the months & years to come, when & wherever possible.

Even if the entire project takes longer than 12 months to complete, it definitely feels like a very good thing to attempt.

Will have updates on each film as things get done.

- Sujewa

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die? on DVD at Potomac Video" post link

Explore it all here.

And here is the link to a New York Times review of filmmaker Laurence Jarvik's documentary Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?, regarding the role America played (or rather, sadly did not play when she had the chance to rescue many future victims) regarding the holocaust.

Here is a little bit from Vincent Canby's 1982 review (linked above):

"The film is full of uncomfortable testimony to the effect that this country's leaders were well aware of the form that Hitler's ''final solution'' was taking as early as August 1942, but that any concerted efforts to save the victims were sidetracked until the formation of the War Refugee Board early in 1944."

Here is Laurence Jarvik's blog.

The doc is out on DVD from Kino.

- Sujewa

ps - i work at potomac video now (2nd day job, started recently - will help with all the '07 film projects of mine), very cool dc video store; great collection of old movies, got a section of Jarmusch films, and even a couple of Moritsugu titles!

White Lies, Black Sheep

James "Afro-Punk" Spooner's new film is titled White Lies, Black Sheep. Here is a part of the plot description of the movie:

"A.J.'s real name is Ajamu Talib. His dislike for his African name is the least of his problems, still it says a lot about him. Brooklyn born and bred yet outcast by his peers, his only escape was music. A.J. found freedom in rock n roll. Tight clothes, straightened hair, popular with girls and partying every night, he is fully entrenched, in the debaucherous New York rock n roll scene. For once he feels like everyone else. Well almost. He begins to find that his chosen community, the white rock world, only seems to run smoothly for white rockers. A series of events force him to recognize his friends both exotify him and are in denial of his blackness. Black, but not "really" black. What's a young black rocker to do? "

Read the rest here at WLBS's MySpace page.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The latest indie film movement: Tullyvision

It might provide some very serious competition to Mumblecore. Read all about it here.

- Sujewa

9 questions re: race & indie film in America :: the shorter version/intro to Conversation About "Ethnic/"Racial" Diversity post

For the recent & longer post on this subject, go here.

Otherwise, check out these questions, offer your opinion, & please keep the tone of your comments professional or semi-pro. thanksalot!

9 Questions Regarding Race & Independent Film In America

(and by independent film i mean real independent film: outside of Hollywood/Indiewood, low budget, no-star stuff. mostly festival screened & self-distributed stuff. such as Mumblecore movies, DIY movies, etc.)

1 - Is the US indie film scene/industry "ethnically" & gender wise sufficiently diverse at this point?

2 - What exactly is sufficient diversity?

3 - I don't see a lot of minority & also female indie filmmakers getting a lot of press from indie film blogs & websites (besides mine :), & the occasional indieWIRE article) but is that just perception (as in my eyes only picking up certain stuff) or is there actually a huge lack of coverage on good indie films made by non-"white" US male filmmakers & "white" & other female filmmakers?

4 - Are there films as good as or better than Four Eyed Monsters, Mutual Appreciation, Dance Party USA, Quiet City, Cocaine Angel, LOL, Kissing On The Mouth, Hannah Takes The Stairs, Funny Ha Ha, etc. being made & screened & distributed on DVD right now in the US, by minority filmmakers, and not getting as much press as the ones that were mentioned mostly because the films were made by minority directors & feature minority actors in lead roles?

5 - Aside from writing about the films of our friends, do indie film bloggers have a societal obligation (in the interest of creating a more just & fair society) to seek out & write about, and even champion, films by female & minority filmmakers?

6 - What about sexual orientation diversity? How come Todd Verow (a gay DV filmmaker who makes low budget movies) is not getting as much press as the Mumblecore kids? Or is he? - maybe just not at the blogs & websites I visit.

7 - Is the US indie film scene softly racist & sexist? Or, favors "white" males over all others out of habit resulting from segregation, the nation's heritage of "race" relations, etc.?

8 - Do minority actors have a harder time getting lead roles in American indie & real indie films because the press pays a lot of attention to indie films by "white" directors featuring "white" actors? Does that media preference affect how new indie filmmakers cast their films (The thought, re: how "white" & non-"white" my cast should be, certainly did cross my mind when I was casting Date Number One).

9 - Would American indie films make more money if they featured minority actors in lead roles & thus appealed to several segments of the population? Would Mutual Appreciation have made more money at theaters if the lead character was African-American? How about a dark skinned Mexican-American actor?

- Sujewa

New York African Film Festival panel notes by the Film Panel Notetaker

Here is a sample:

"(MN) There are about 700-1,000 films made a year in Nigeria under the term “Nollywood.” These films are very popular and accessible and are not on the par of artistic/independent films. How can we reverse this trend?

(JA) Not sure you want to reverse it. In fact, Africans were some of the first to be at the table of cinema. Images of Africans exist throughout the archives of cinema. In the 1970s & 1980s, curfews came in place. You couldn’t go out at night so cinemas closed down then. The idea if Nollywood is artistic or not is neither here nor there."

Check out the rest here.

- Sujewa

Hey, Let's Have A Real Conversation About "Ethnic"/"Racial" Diversity In Indie Film!

I am sure it will be fun.

This idea came out of a comment that I just left about Mumblecore & "ethnic"/"racial" diversity at Cinephiliac. Here is my comment, and it quotes a comment left at Cinephiliac by David Redmon (David's words are in quotes):

-----------------------------

David,

Re: "Identity politics is a wave born out of and a reaction to the deadening 60s politics in the US."

Maybe.

" It's a strategy used to criticize any aspect of a genre or movement simply by launching a critique of race, able bodied, gender, sexuality, age, eye color, hair style, clothing, etc etc etc."

OK.

"Therefore, I hope critiques against any so called "movement" can be as original as the movement itself."

Hmmm. That's a difficult one to figure out. In the case of M-core, it is not very original, people have been making low budget indie movies about twentysomethings at least since the early 80's or earlier. Jarmusch's Permanent Vacation displays some Mumblecore qualities.

I guess some people wondering why everyone in M-core is a "white" male, in a country & world with major "race" problem issues/apartheid type stuff/caste system/segregation, etc., is not too surprising.

"Identity politics is not original, but that doesn't mean it's unrelated. It's just rehashing old critiques that make me yawn even though they are sometimes justified."

As far as I know people criticizing M-core re: it being all "white" is a new thing, as M-core is a new thing. But I guess yawning about it is probably OK, at least for you, probably/maybe "ethnic"/"racial" diversity in indie film movements is not an issue that really matters to you or at least not an issue that you care about too much. But I am sure people who care about that issue will continue to bring it up.There is, however, among several minority indie filmmakers that I know, the perception that it is easier for "white" male filmmakers to get press for their work. Maybe true, maybe perception, but an awareness of advantage/disadvantage related to skin color/ethnic group ID in the indie film field does exist.

On the bright side, we are talking about no-budget DIY movies. Something pretty much anyone who really wants to do it can do. Maybe the critics are more frustrated with the lack of ethnic diversity in indie film as a whole & M-core is an easy target for venting that frustration. Also, two of the most successful ($s & press & further distro wise) recent low budget indie self-distributed films are Gene Cajayon's The Debut & Greg Pak's Robot Stories. Both by minority filmmakers. Also, Afro-Punk got/keeps getting a nice amount of press for a real indie film.
But I do think, by and large, the US indie film has a soft segregation type thing going on, maybe. Well, difficult to tell, but sometimes it seems that way. Not too many minority & female filmmakers getting a ton of press from indieWIRE, etc. But maybe things are different in various parts of the country, from scene to scene (the indieWIRE scene being just one of many). Jon Moritsugu told me in '05 that he has seen a lot of minority indie filmmakers making work in the West Coast.

Sean B.,
Sounds good re: the gay, black status of people mentioned.

- Sujewa

-------------------------------------------

And for the full background on this conversation, specifically coming out of questioning the lack of diversity in Mumblecore, we need to check out the discussion in this blog post by Anthony Kaufman.

So, once all that stuff is digested, here are the new questions to think about & discuss:

1 - Is the US indie film scene/industry "ethnically" & gender wise sufficiently diverse at this point?

2 - What exactly is sufficient diversity?

3 - I don't see a lot of minority & also female indie filmmakers getting a lot of press from indie film blogs & websites (besides mine :), & the occasional indieWIRE article) but is that just perception (as in my eyes only picking up certain stuff) or is there actually a huge lack of coverage on good indie films made by non-"white" US male filmmakers & "white" & other female filmmakers?

4 - Are there films as good as or better than Four Eyed Monsters, Mutual Appreciation, Dance Party USA, Quiet City, Cocaine Angel, LOL, Kissing On The Mouth, Hannah Takes The Stairs, Funny Ha Ha, etc. being made & screened & distributed on DVD right now in the US, by minority filmmakers, and not getting as much press as the ones that were mentioned mostly because the films were made by minority directors & feature minority actors in lead roles?

5 - Aside from writing about the films of our friends, do indie film bloggers have a societal obligation (in the interest of creating a more just & fair society) to seek out & write about, and even champion, films by female & minority filmmakers?

6 - What about sexual orientation diversity? How come Todd Verow (a gay DV filmmaker who makes low budget movies) is not getting as much press as the Mumblecore kids? Or is he? - maybe just not at the blogs & websites I visit.

7 - Is the US indie film scene softly racist & sexist? Or, favors "white" males over all others out of habit resulting from segregation, the nation's heritage of "race" relations, etc.?

8 - Do minority actors have a harder time getting lead roles in American indie & real indie films because the press pays a lot of attention to indie films by "white" directors featuring "white" actors? Does that media preference affect how new indie filmmakers cast their films (The thought, re: how "white" & non-"white" my cast should be, certainly did cross my mind when I was casting Date Number One).

9 - Would American indie films make more money if they featured minority actors in lead roles & thus appealed to several segments of the population? Would Mutual Appreciation have made more money at theaters if the lead character was African-American? How about a dark skinned Mexican-American actor?

Interesting & useful things to think about & discuss I think. And all these heavy questions are coming out of people talking about Mumblecore movies; pretty light fare. Very interesting.

OK, start the conversation. Let's see where this goes. Maybe it will take us to a useful place.

Thanks.

- Sujewa

optional:
And to further complicate things:
i use quotes around the words ethnic ("ethnic") & race ("race") & white ("white") because i don't believe that the whole viewpoint that believes in humans belonging to distinct, separate groups marked by skin color & body features, and also point of origin on the planet, is correct or is actually an idea that represents an element of the actual, relevant for human purposes, physical reality of this world (a political & social reality, temporary & made for convenience of the authors/creators of the idea & always changing, but not a physical reality). but, for the purpose of this conversation, full understanding of my view on the existence/lack of existence of "races" is not necessary. many people in the world & the US believe that "race" is a real thing, and that's where we are starting from, for the purpose of this conversation. thanks.

BREAKTHROUGH WEEKEND Teaser Trailer

DATE NUMBER ONE on Vimeo VOD

Indie Film Blogger Road Trip

At DIY Filmmaker Blog's Facebook Page

Followers

BREAKTHROUGH WEEKEND Teaser Trailer on Vimeo

Breakthrough Weekend teaser trailer on YouTube

Good Reads