Sunday, April 6, 2014

Romantic Humanism

Romance is beautiful. Love is beautiful. But it's also messy, complicated and heartbreaking. We often tell love stories through the "beautiful lens." Through a pro-human love is ultimately worth it all because it's beauty outshines the ugliness of it all. I like that. It works. But it's not real and satisfying and stories like that don't push us to fight for more. They aren't inspiring. They are good for bed time stories, that trigger emotions that make it easier to sleep. But they aren't food for the soul.

When it comes to creating a documentary, I want to make sure my project doesn't reflect the romanticism that many Americans have when it comes to understanding the Chinese immigrant experience. I want them to get the nitty gritty truth that they avoid when they choose Grant Avenue over Stockton Street. Living in this neighborhood as an immigrant is hard. It's difficult. You're constantly battling a compassionless system that would rather see you struggle and celebrate your trumps than deal with the the bitterness in you that it causes.

It's hard though. Because the people I'm representing or pulling stories from don't want the dirty laundry to be exposed. They, like all people who are a minority, prefer stores of triumph and grit and strength verses one of helplessness and constant defeat.

So here is my stance or my challenge: to push away from romantic humanism toward a more realistic depiction of humanity in efforts to feed the soul with my art. Perhaps I'll even tip over into naturalistic tendencies…but who knows?? More truth. More honesty and more art.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Black cinema & "Being Mary Jane"

I can tell that this story was meant to push black cinema in a new and more critical direction. I think it did the job. Newer themes were brought up in a more main stream setting: black female identity/beauty, cultural image of the black woman, light vs. dark skin tones, the black family, career vs. love and our failure at love. Maybe none of this is actually new. Discussing them through the lens of such a high profile main stream actress on BET is. 
But I think it was too short. It brought up a lot of questions and not enough answers. I realize that what I saw was simply the first episode of much, much, longer series to watch but I hope that the rest of the season satisfies. I'm beginning to understand why so much of black cinema doesn't sink in with universal audiences. They don't land the plane some where. The director is afraid to take a firm stance on a theme….for whatever reason. There are plenty of great films out there by African American directors that are truly wonderful. But lately, I feel like what we are watching only scratches the surface of what we as a community can truly convey-what we must convey. The African American story is a universal story. There is so much to glean from, so much to expose, so much to celebrate, so much to work with that it's a shame when we only approach these conflicts on the surface. I love the opening image of her cleaning up all her positive thinking stickies. It's a correct reflection of how we (career minded present day modern girls) keep going. And it's kind of sad that our energy stems from that instead of love. Looking forward to more.

From Screen to Stage: Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh has a new play up "The Library" and Hilton Als highlights some of the challenges that Soderbergh faces as a story teller in going from film to the stage. One of the interesting thoughts that Als points out in his interview with the director is

"At what point does your take on the world become destructive to yourself, and other people? We all have a blind spot towards ourselves, and other people."-SS

This is so true. His new play about the "refracted reality" of a young woman is something of interest to me as it deals with perspective and differing points of view. After seeing a few plays recently, I'm beginning to take interest in live performances. I'm beginning to see how amazing live theater can be and beginning to understand how to create POVs and character arcs when all I saw before were just talking people walking around. Pacing, the line drawn between eye contact, body movement and the lack there of, set design, all play much more of an important role in theater than it does in film and it's exciting. You never know what you're going to get. If actors don't listen to each other and perform in the moment, you'll feel it and know it. It's wonderful. You don't have the safety net of editing.

The challenge therefore is what Als highlights at the end of the article: "That's what I have to do, make the audience feel they're looking at someone closely, but on the stage."-SS. That's a huge challenge. I still need to see many more plays before I can begin to understand how that is done, but it's cooking. It's a challenge and I'm toying with the possibility of going with it one day.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Blue is the Warmest Color: A Critical Review

I have a lot of problems with this film. But let's start with the positive. Lea Seydoux is mesmerizing and it has nothing to do with her blue hair. There is a scene where Adele's character finally encounters Emma (played by Seydoux) at a lesbian bar and it's Emma who is nervous! Her performance shows that she is totally smitten with her. She has the upper hand and the higher status being older and being an "experienced lesbian"-if you can even say that. And yet she's nervous. It's beautiful. Lea's character is three dimensional in the most wonderful way. She's butch, but she doesn't come from a poor family life, negating the stereotype that we come from bad homes. The look in her eyes as she engages Adele is worth all the effort. She's a dream actor, the kind a director can just stare at for hours knowing that everything they think and do will translate on screen. I really would welcome the opportunity to work with her.

Now on with the negative. The sex scenes?? What was that?? The positions the director had them in reflected heterosexual sex in more ways than it reflected the latter. Apart from the self-gratifying scene in the beginning with Adele's character, the scenes came off as a straight version of what the director (who is male) imagines or would like lesbian sex to be. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so much of a problem had we not had the final scene in the coffee shop. This film makes lesbian come across as impulsive and horny people who know no bounds and seek to gratify all their sexual desires at the expense of the people around them. Thank god Emma goes back to her partner at the end!

And finally, do we honestly need another story about the curiosity of a straight girl?? It's overdone and usually not how it goes. We are gay because we are gay and we know it. Adele's performance as this straight girl was so frustratingly flat that  I almost begged for the camera to go back to Emma. Kechiche should have pushed her harder. He should have asked more of her. She hid nothing. She just looked dead the whole film. Part of being a gay person, and not sure if this will ever change, is the need to hide how you feel. You hide how you feel with straight people, you hide how you feel with someone you're attracted too. The fear of being misunderstood and being stigmatized for feelings unwanted is too risky. And that should have come up with the argument with the high schoolers but it didn't. She was just flat.

With all that aside, this film is definitely an achievement. Just the sheer fact that it exists and it's in theaters getting notice is so promising. Now it's time for lesbian women like me to create stores with more depth, to pick up where this film leaves off and to begin to transform anew what people know about our culture.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Documentary: Areas of Focus

A few area's I'd like to focus on getting b-roll footage on my Chinatown doc are:

  • Stockton street, opening and closing of markets
  • Woo woo park
  • Fung Ah alley
  • Stockton Tunnel
  • Grant Avenue
  • St. Mary's Park
  • Washington Park
  • Fortune cookie factory
  • Cameron House

Lay Over

I'm beginning the writing process on this super low budget short film titled "Lay Over." It's my version of the "Before Sunrise" films by Richard Linklater. I want to show two people play with fire as they go on a journey through San Francisco. My only big problem is story development. What story is there in those kinds of films?? Is it how they fall in love? Is it how they stay together? They are constantly talking!!?!?!?!?! So what visual elements can I bring to the story?? Adele's song "Someone like you" comes to mind whenever I think of Layover.

"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead." -Adele

I don't want this film to hurt. I want it to be bitter sweet. I want the revisiting of a memory of the past or of an experience of the past to be nostalgic and fulfilling. I want it to remind the characters and the audience how sometimes people can come into our lives for just a moment and leave foot prints in our hearts forever. Cheesy, I know. But good. And true.

Chinatown: A Documentary

I've decided to create a documentary on Chinatown in San Francisco. Everyday I see tourist come and marvel and the other worldly existence of such an unique neighborhood as this. Everyday I wonder if they really see it. Or do they end their trip at Grant Avenue.  Stockton street begins the journey in real Chinatown. I want to create a documentary that leans toward direct cinema of this wonderful neighborhood. I want it to focus on youth development, living conditions, and the possibility for new beginnings-the very idea that draws so many people away from their homes to this country.