Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘film’

My Mother Was Murdered

Excerpt featuring Lee Mun Wah. From Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

lee-mun-wah“Your mother’s been murdered!” The woman who gave you birth is dead. Her life intentionally ended by another man. This was the cold reality Mr. Lee had to face in 1985. Feelings of fear, anger, rage and revenge soon replaced the numbed existence of shock. Instead of letting these intense, understandable reactions control his life, Mr. Lee searched for answers. He began to reach out, to confront and explore the ingrained, unconscious attitudes that lead to hate and violence, and discovered a way to shift the imbalances of power, heal the wounds and open our hearts.

As a seminar leader, speaker and filmmaker, Mr. Lee’s work has been highly visible, effective and utilized throughout the nation. His first film Stolen Ground, about racism towards Asian-Americans, won special merit at the San Francisco International Film Festival. His second video, of a weekend encounter group for men, The Color of Fear, won the 1995 National Education Media Award for best social studies documentary and has been used in thousands of organizations and businesses to deal with and discuss prejudice, bias and race. 

LEE MUN WAH:

I was born in Oakland, California at a time when people were living in mixed neighborhoods. I had a real glimpse of what a community could look like with all different ethnicities. My parents were very poor, though as a child I didn’t know that. Some of the distinct things I remember were that there were very few Asians in my classes and very few or almost no Asian-American or African-American teachers. When I noticed this consciously it became a real loss.

I was born into a very alive, dynamic family. I always thought that all Chinese families were like this. It wasn’t until later that I realized my father was a very unique man who really believed in going out in the world and creating what you wanted. He influenced me greatly in that way. My mother was very warm and personable; very intimate and in that way created my sense of family, of being close to people.

A lot of these life experiences prepared me, without my knowing, for the type of work I do now, when I talk about the country having a national relationship. It’s about how a family treats each other. I don’t think it’s just a sense of family, it’s also part of our Asian, Chinese culture . . . that we’re there for one other . . . that we respect and honor each others needs . . . the warmth, security and safety of a family . . . being up front and honest . . . trying to be a good person in the world and with those you meet. A number of people have that in there culture as well, but I don’t think many have made the connection of family into a larger community, in a global or workplace perspective and I think that is the missing link.

The American thing is often, “Me, me, me!” Business is first and task oriented and not loyal to workers. When business is down or they’re “restructuring” and they lay you off, they’re actually saying, “You are no longer needed, the company is more important.” It isn’t about taking care of the people who work for you but about having them compete with each other. I don’t run my family or workplace that way. And when I go out into the world that’s something I work for, to change that paradigm.

I don’t think you can legislate an end to racism. You have to have a change of heart. That’s why I talk about a relationship. It’s the only real connection we have. Often, we don’t act until there’s a crisis. What we need to realize is that the crisis is happening every single day and there’s always something you can do to address it.

We’ve never understood culture in this country. We think it’s the food, the costume or the holiday, but we don’t touch what it really means to us on a spiritual, emotional, ancestral way. When the American Indian tells us that it’s not enough to pass the sage around the room but to really understand where that comes from. To understand the relationships and the way we treat each other; that it’s really expressed in our movements, in what we don’t say, the way we hold each other, the way we wait for and acknowledge one other. We don’t take the time to really look, to really experience. Americans want everything fast . . tangible. The American Indian is right when they say, “You want my customs, my rituals and my land, but you don’t want me.” What we do is we use people and cultures. We use them when it’s convenient, for a service, for artifacts. Rarely do we take the time to understand how we relate to each other.

We don’t look into the realm of what we don’t know. I think that’s the part I’m talking about. When I do workshops I have people look around the room, listen to silence; listen to what’s not being said, to bodies that are talking all the time. We usually don’t listen to the nonverbal, to the energy in a room, to the impact of our ancestors that have brought us to this place. We are very present and future oriented but don’t pay enough homage or respect to the past. When are we open to learn from other cultures . . . to integrate values from other cultures? When companies say they’re multi-cultural or multi-racial I ask them to name one cultural factor they’ve integrated, that they see as practical, as useful, that they use every single day.

The turning point for me (after my mother was murdered) was when I wrote a play in which I acted out facing my Mom’s murderer. It also helped to look at the context from where it came. I tried to find and talk to the man who killed my mother, to no avail. On the day we finished The Color of Fear he was sentenced to life in prison. He’d killed four or five other women in addition to my Mom. Before that I had continued trying to contact his family. It turns out that some of his relatives lived in a home we’d been renting. It was really shocking. I talked to the woman who lived there and she said a cousin of hers had killed someone as well. When she went to his trial she had to leave because all she could see was “The little boy I’d grown up with”. She told me, “You may never know why he did it.”

Had my mother not been murdered, I’d never had made the film (The Color of Fear). I began to really see and sense that perhaps there was a meaning to this. It serves my healing and in many ways it’s healing for this country as well, because surely if I can go through this then others can open their hearts and have compassion as well. I’m not so sure hatred or guns or bars do any good . . . it only makes fear larger. Fear is not something you can protect yourself from, you have to walk through it.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

Story of Buddha’s Wife

BuddhasWifeThe publisher told me that Kindle versions of my novel Buddha’s Wife is on sale for a week, starting today.

Here is the direct link: BUDDHA’S WIFE Here’s the Amazon description:

Buddha’s Wife is a novel about compassion, inspiration and forgiveness. Thousands of books, texts and stories have followed Siddhartha’s teachings and his path to becoming The Buddha, but little has been written about his wife Yasodhara, their child Rahula or their relatives, until now. Yasodhara was the first woman in Siddhartha’s life, but not the last to follow in his footsteps. Why did he call his son “a hindrance” and believe women were a trap of desire and attachment “not fit to follow or understand my teachings”? How did Yasodhara and the nuns fight for equal treatment and rights? How could The Buddha have such compassion for others, yet be so scared of intimacy, emotion and love?

SCREENPLAY:

For the film version, we have the script, two well-known actresses attached, as well as a wonderful director. If anyone knows a producer, production company or investor interested in helping to bring this story to the screen (a contemporary drama in the screenplay version), please get in touch.

Feminism Behind Bars

TheGreyArea_DVDinhouse_V3.inddThe Grey Area: Feminism Behind Bars
A film by Noga Ashkenazi
US, 2012, 65 minutes, Color, DVD, English
From Women Make Movies

THE GREY AREA is an intimate look at women’s issues in the criminal justice system and the unique experience of studying feminism behind bars. Through a series of captivating class discussions, headed by students from Grinnell College, a small group of female inmates at a maximum women’s security prison in Mitchellville, Iowa, share their diverse experiences with motherhood, drug addiction, sexual abuse, murder, and life in prison. The women, along with their teachers, explore the “grey area” that is often invisible within the prison walls and delve into issues of race, class, sexuality and gender.

The number of women in prison has grown by over 800% in the past three decades, two thirds are mothers and are incarcerated for non-violent offenses and more than 80% have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their lives. THE GRAY AREA is an important look into the complex factors behind these statistics and how feminism sheds light and brings hope to those incarcerated. This is an excellent film to prompt discussion in women’s studies, courses that include prison reform or violence against women, American studies and sociology.

Read about The Grey Area and other films at WOMEN MAKE MOVIES

The Warmest Color

9781551525143‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ by Julie Maroh
Reviewed by Paige Cohen
From Lambda Literary 24 October 2013

The long-awaited English translation of Blue is the Warmest (Arsenal Pulp Press), originally published in French as Le bleu est une couleur chaude, is a deeply compelling story, in large part due to its thorough exploration and attention to character. The graphic novel is told almost entirely in retrospect, as the formerly blue-haired Emma reads through the diaries of her deceased lover, Clementine. The diaries begin in 1994 France when Clementine is a fifteen-year-old sophomore in high school and continue over a decade into the future, though they focus largely on the rocky development of her and Emma’s relationship when Clementine first begins to discover her attraction towards women and struggles to accept her sexuality. With close-minded conservative parents and only one gay friend to confide in, the teenage Clementine internalizes her desire for Emma, caught in a wonderful and terrifying limbo that many queer youth are likely to relate to, one between discovering lust and feeling ashamed by who you lust after, between falling in love and self-hate.

“Coming out” and “first love” stories seem like difficult territories for any author to navigate as they have been told time and again and are challenging to portray in new and interesting ways. Though the plot of Blue is the Warmest Color is not necessarily new, it is specific to the experience of its characters, and the writing is without a doubt at its strongest when it is filtered through Clementine’s unique perspective.

This rings true in a beautiful scene that takes place twelve pages into the novel when Clementine agrees to go on a date with a cute boy from school after being pressured by her friends. Maroh’s delicate and comprehensive drawings, detailed only in shades of gray, portray Clementine walking through an outdoor plaza in apprehension of her date. In the hand-written diary entry visible in the corner of the illustration, Clementine writes, “My heart beats fast when I think about what’s going to happen.” This line not only reveals Clementine’s state of mind, but it is also written in a voice that is particular to her character. While a different fifteen-year-old girl might say, “My stomach hurts,” or, “I can’t stop sweating,” the words here belong to Clementine and they resonate because they read as true. In the following illustration, Clementine looks ahead into the crowd of people rushing past her. The gray shading gives way to a speck of blue in the distance – Emma’s hair barely visible over the dark shoulders of the passing people. This is the first time that the two girls see one another, and in this instant, the prose fade completely, allowing the reader to focus only on the visuals which reveal Emma through Clementine’s eyes. That night Clementine dreams of blue hands moving all over her body. No words are necessary. We are simply in the moment, experiencing lust as Clementine does. The majority of the novel succeeds in a similar manner as this scene.

The writing is just as successful in depicting the confusion and turmoil of Clementine’s coming out as it is in its depiction of her falling in love. In several scenes, Clementine is shown curled in the fetal position, or hunched over the pages of her diary, the gray walls of her bedroom closing around her. She writes, “I feel lost, alone, at the bottom of a pit. I don’t know what to do,” or, “…I hate myself and I bury myself in the ball of fire that is screaming to get out of my guts.” While these lines might seem affected in the voice of a different narrator, they read as honest in the voice of Clementine, as if she is expressing her emotions as best as she is able—perfectly capturing her loneliness and her desperate want to be free of angst and to gain peace and acceptance. These moments interweaved with the happier moments when Clementine is able to accept herself or the peaceful moments when she is wrapped in Emma’s arms—moments made rich with descriptions such as, “I felt as if light were running through my veins”—beautifully render the complexity of her character, and of human beings in general. These scenes suggest that while there are no permanent states of happiness or peace, there are moments when happiness and peace are absolute.

Read entire review and other stories at Lambda Literary

Judy Blume’s First Movie

Judy Blume Talks Screenwriting and Adapting ‘Tiger Eyes’ to the Silver Screen by Vicki Salemi on June 7 from Media Jobs Daily

In Tiger Eyes, Judy Blume’s new movie based on her 1981 novel – check that, her first movie – the best-selling author collaborated with her son and filmmaker, Lawrence Blume, to bring it to the silver screen.

tiger-eyes2

After a recent screening concluded in Manhattan, she explained to the audience, “We always said if we were going to work together on a project, it would be Tiger Eyes. It was Larry’s favorite.”

There were some concerns, however, about translating one of her books onto the screen. She revealed, “It just needs to be emotionally true to the story and the characters and we didn’t want to make a schmaltzy movie.”

There were challenges, too. For instance, he mentioned remaining steadfast to the goal of doing ”something about real kids having real life problems and trying to make it as genuine as we could do it.” Plus, the book was written in the first person and “turning that inner emotional stuff into behavior that you can film was complex.” Next, the director put it into a three-act structure and added, “And then I wrote some stuff and Judy fixed it.”

And then fear set in. He confessed, “I like to work in a fearless way but I was afraid of people who read and loved the book saying I can’t believe they ruined it. So I was operating in a little fear of not straying too much away from the book. We tried really hard to keep as much as we could as possible while making it a movie.”

To which point, she quipped, “Did I not say to you all along, Larry, if he doesn’t feed her fruit in the canyon, we’re going to hear about it?”

As for the screenwriting process, the best-selling author explained, “Well, I’m not a screenwriter, this was screenwriting 101. I’ve written other screenplays but I don’t think the way a screenwriter does though I’m learning, but Larry does. Larry knows structure and he comes at it from an editorial, he’s been a film editor so he guided me to do the structure. He guided the structure of the film and I do people and dialogue.”

Read complete story and interview at Media Jobs Daily.

Films That Transform

Films That Transform

Kathy Barbini and Simon Weinberg at Big Boy Pictures have produced two films that are a must see for those who desire personal and communal peace and healing.
boys-and-man-healing-DVD-insert-small
Boys and Men Healing is a documentary about the impact the sexual abuse of boys has on both the individual and society, and the importance of healing and speaking out for male survivors to end the devastating effects.

The Healing Years, broke ground in the field of women’s issues and child sexual abuse prevention. The film has been broadcast on PBS stations nationwide, screened in international film festivals and leading conferences worldwide, and has become an acclaimed film in the field of child sexual abuse prevention for training and education.

healing-years-photo-montage

BIG VOICE PICTURES produces social issue documentaries that give voice to emerging and cutting-edge issues, with the intention of motivating discussion, creating change, and offering new insights and hope for individuals, families, and communities through strategic national outreach campaigns and collaboration with communities and organizations. Their films have received worldwide distribution and recognition.

Story To Script To Screen

BuddhasWifeThe story, as seen at this time. So close and yet so far and so far and yet so close.

Write a book based on the life of the woman (Yasodhara) who was married to the man (Siddhartha) who became known as The Buddha. Rewrite and edit the book a zillion times.

Find a publisher who will publish book, now known as Buddha’s Wife.

Sign contract with Robert D. Reed Publishers for book to be published.

Obtain quotes and advance reviews for novel.

Book published.

Book signings, promotions, connections and marketing for over two years (before and after novel is released).

Meet Navyo Ericsen at book signing. A musician, web designer and film and video producer who wants to bring Buddha’s Wife to the screen.

Work with Navyo for a year trying to find a screenwriter to write screenplay on spec, since we have no funds for film. Several possible, but all fall through.

Decide to write screenplay ourselves and change historical setting into a contemporary story. One of my previous screenplays (Stellina Blue) was made into a film.

Work on screenplay for a year, with wonderful feedback and suggestions from a famous screenwriter/director.

Workable, moving and entertaining screenplay completed.

Write up logline, summary of film and treatment.

Start approaching well-known actresses, executive producers, directors and production companies.

Write and develop estimated budget.

Elapsed time, from book being published to presenting screenplay to others for film (so far) is four years.

Presently, five well-known actresses are reading the script, as are four production companies/executive producers and two directors.

The challenge is to get the film financed without a name actress yet attached and vice-a-versa, to get a well-known actress attached without first having the picture funded.

This is a scene that thousands of novelists, screenwriters and filmmakers find themselves in, so we are not babes in the woods, but it has been an interesting situation with infinite possibilities for Buddha’s Wife to come into being as a movie.

To those in the film industry, this story will be anti-climatic and familiar, but I hope for those just starting out or venturing to put your toe in the water, it provides a little preparation and insight into the amount of patience, persistence and ordered chaos that can await many on the journey to bring their story to screen.

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