Monthly Archives: May 2018

“PARTITIONED HEART”— Dealing with Grief

“PARTITIONED HEART “

Dealing with Grief

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I have never thought much about the emotion of grief but this nine minute short film caused me to spend time thinking about it. I realized that grief is such a strong emotion because it deals with love, or rather the loss of a love that will never be experienced again. We have all gone through it and we will again and again and probably the only thing that makes us feel better is time but that is also relative. In fact, I am not sure that we ever get over it—we simply live with it by pushing to a place in the mind where it rests forever. I can’t imagine anything more grievous than a parent’s loss of a child.

Rob (Travis Mitchell), is a father who while grieving over the loss of his son, Daniel (the voice of Malik Uhuru), is revisited by him via a mysterious computer program. This program allows Rob to converse with his son’s soul. At first it is comforting for Rob to be able to maintain some kind of relationship with Daniel who sees it differently. Daniel wants his father to show a sign of love and this is devastating for Rob. Of course, I will not share here what that is but I will tell you that the amazing performance of takes us on an emotional journey of just nine minutes but during which he experiences happiness, horror and denial almost at the same time.

The pain that we see here is so real that we feel it ourselves and that is a credit to the director, Matt Morris. Grief is a difficult emotion to show much less in such a short time. I must also mention that Uhuru’s performance is also stunning especially since we only hear him. We never know the cause of Daniel’s death but we sense that the father/son relationship was sincere and close even though they did not always agree. We definitely feel the love that shared and the pain that comes after loss. As I write this now, it is right after I saw the film and I feel a lump in my chest and tears in my eyes. Not many films affect me so deeply especially one as short as this.

 

 

“SAVING BRINTON”— Man With a Mission

“Saving Brinton”

Man With a Mission

Amos Lassen

“Saving Brinton” is a tribute to a dedicated cinema fan and historian, and to the work he has done to save an essential piece of the past and cultivate its story for the future. Thirty years ago, former history schoolteacher Michael Zahs, of Washington, Iowa, was gifted a collection of old film memorabilia from the estate of Frank and Indiana Brinton, a husband-and-wife team of entertainment impresarios who were responsible for bringing fun, news, and views of distant lands to audiences across the heartland of America in the days before radio, TV, and easy international travel.

The Brintons didn’t just show the short films that Thomas Edison and Georges Méliès and others were making in the late 19th century: they created entire evenings around those films by using music as well as “magic lanterns” (which created the illusion of movement from still pictures). Somehow, the collection that landed with Zahs didn’t only include old films but also documents with the details of the business and posters and advertisements for their shows, and much, much more. The collection is an look into early pop culture.

All of this sat in a barn on Zahs’ homestead for decades because no one was interested in it until just a few years ago, when the University of Iowa was happy to add this to its libraries. (It’s still in the process of being digitized but you can already watch some of the films online.)

Then documentarians Tommy Haines and Andrew Sherburne come into the picture and, introduce us to the Brintons and the Zahs. “Saving Brinton” is so much more than about rediscovering a nearly lost piece of history; it’s about what it takes to make certain that history doesn’t get lost in the first place. Zahs is a hero, a man who rescues what needs rescuing (dogs, kittens, church steeples about to be demolished).

We see him as he travels the nation and the world with a Méliès short that had previously been thought gone forever. ( Since the collection has barely begun to be catalogued, there may be many more “lost” films in it.)

He presents evenings of Brinton-style entertainment in an opera house in Ainsworth, Iowa, where the Brintons themselves once put on shows and at the State theater back in Washington (Iowa), the oldest operating cinema anywhere on the planet. Zahs is bringing the Brintons back to the world.

“THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE”— A Life Devoted to Fashion

“The Gospel According to André”

A Life Devoted to Fashion

Amos Lassen

André Leon Talley stands out  as a 6’ 6” African American man. He has a deep booming voice and has spent his life breaking down barriers. He was raised in Durham, North Carolina in the segregated south. He remembers the degradation of Jim Crow laws and watching the Civil Rights Movement play out. As a child, Talley had rocks thrown at him on a college campus as he was walking across town to pick up the latest copy of Vogue magazine at a news stand. Talley sought and found solace and refuge in fashion magazines and books. He read about fashion icons as he watched the pulse of modern fashion. In an interview with one of his high school teachers he recalls a grey Dior-inspired skirt she had some forty-plus years ago. Anna Wintour, a close friend of Talley’s and colleague at Vogue, admitted that her fashion history wasn’t strong when she started at Vogue and she relied on Talley for that knowledge.

Talley is something of a news junky and he tracks the progress of the 2016 presidential election throughout the filming of the documentary. The film ends in November 2016 with Talley and the rest of the world coming to terms with the results of that election. In most of the film Talley speaks about the way he was raised and the necessity of braking barriers in a matter of fact way. When he speaks about his grandmother, however, his tone and mannerisms change. She worked as a domestic maid in a dorm to support them and she gave him the freedom and courage to be what he is today. He and his friends talk about how there was a lot of pressure on the African American population to be the best and this was the only way that there would be upward mobility.

the greatest strength of director Kate Novack’s documentary is Talley himself, who when on screen performs wonderfully at whatever we see him doing. his own master of ceremonies, whether at dinner with friends, sitting on his front porch in White Plains, observing a fitting, or revealing some of the more painful details of his past. He possesses great ability to contextualize his experiences both past and present that makes Novack’s frequent shifts to other voices seem distracting. There are exceptions, such as Fran Lebowitz, who explains her time at “Interview” magazine with Talley through anecdotes but Novack keeps dragging her focus back to the industry perspective as a whole.

Talley’s youth in a lower-class African-American family is a “black superhero” story and his legacy helps redefine perceptions of black masculinity and power. Talley’s idea of fashion as an “escape from reality” is treated by Novack as a flight of fancy and not as the freeing of one’s mind from the constraints that separate upper and lower classes of wealth.

This is a straightforward documentary mostly composed of straight-to-camera interviews, historical footage, or on the street footage. But it is fascinating to watch because Talley and his life is fascinating. The clothes in the film are wonderful and we see many clips from fashion shows throughout the years along with fashion spreads from magazines full of beautiful clothes.

Talley admits to a few of his fashion mistakes over the years and most of the time we see him in draped in expensive coats or his colorful caftans and large jewelry (that have become his signature dress). He is nearly seventy years old now and the film takes a look at fashion throughout the decades and some the key signature pieces and designers. We see black women in the 1940s who used their weekly church trips to express themselves with their clothes and hats and go through the disco seventies and through 2016 when the film was shot. The interviews are made up “who’s who” of the fashion world, including Marc Jacobs, Manolo Blahnik and Isabella Rossellini.

Talley struggled to get to the top of the fashion world. After leaving the segregated south he had to work hard to get himself to a position of power. He used his intelligence, sense of style, and charisma to get him there. He tells us that he is offended when people say he slept his way to the top or did anything other than what he did to get his level of success. We see his strength and how he used it to get to where he is and that some of those cruel memories still are for him.

This is the story of one man breaking down racial barriers and becoming a success in a time when African Americans had few opportunities in the fashion world. Talley brought a new perspective to fashion and never backed down when people questioned it. He is loud, boisterous, colorful, intelligent, and funny. Beyond being a documentary about a fashion icon, “The Gospel Accord to André” is a look at how strong people dealt with great odds at a time of great division and racial tension in America. We get a whole new meaning on the expression ‘larger-than-life’. He is one of a kind and there will probably never be anyone like him in the future.

“Moment of Truth” edited by Jamie Stern-Weiner— Whose Truth?

Stern-Weiner, Jamie, editor. “Moment of Truth: Tackling Israel-Palestine’s Toughest Questions”, OR Books, 2018.

Whose Truth?

Amos Lassen

It has been more than a century since the Balfour Declaration and more than 50 years since the Six-Day War in 1967, and a full decade into the siege of Gaza (as this editor prefers to call it but then she also names her book “Moment of Truth”— I guess that means which side you are on since no one is neutral) and the Israel-Palestine conflict rolls on. Now pay carful attention to the construct of this next sentence: “Amidst a growing sense that the Palestinians’ long struggle for self-determination has reached a crossroads, if not an impasse, this volume takes stock, draw lessons from experience, and weigh paths forward.” (This “volume draws lessons”— from whom? When a book is one-sided the question of research and honesty is paramount. What I see as paramount here is milking a situation to make a few coins quickly.)

Here is a list of contributors to this volume so please carefully note the names and count the number of Israelis to the number of Arabs and yes, do not forget scholar Norman Finkelstein who has been run out of every school h has ever held a position with and is a self appointed Jewish anti-Semite who denies the Holocaust which his parents survived:

Musa Abuhashhash, As’ad Abukhalil, Mkhaimar Abusada, Gilbert Achcar, Ghaith al-Omari, Ghassan Andoni, Usama Antar, Nur Arafeh, Shaul Arieli, Arie Arnon, Tareq Baconi, Sam Bahour, Sari Bashi, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Suhad Bishara, Nathan J. Brown, Diana Buttu, John Dugard, Michael Dumper, Hagai El-Ad, Richard A. Falk, Norman G. Finkelstein, Neve Gordon, Ran Greenstein, Yoaz Hendel, Jamil Hilal, Khaled Hroub, Amal Jamal, Jan de Jong, Leila Khaled, Raja Khalidi, Rami G. Khouri, Lior Lehrs, Gideon Levy, Alon Liel, John J. Mearsheimer, Jessica Montell, Rami Nasrallah, Wendy Pearlman, Nicola Perugini, William B. Quandt, Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Glen Rangwala, Glenn E. Robinson, Nadim Rouhana, Sara Roy, Bashir Saade, Robbie Sabel, Dahlia Scheindlin, Daniel Seidemann, Michael Sfard, Muhammad Shehada, Raja Shehadeh, Sammy Smooha, Mark Tessler, Nathan Thrall, Ahmed Yousef, Ido Zelkovitz.

What a fine well-balanced group. Now since the book dispenses hate so well, I’ll just quote it all:”

 

“Moment of Truth seeks to clarify what it would take to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, to assess the prospects of doing so, and to illuminate what is possible in Palestine. It assembles an unprecedented wealth of expertise—encompassing political leaders, preeminent scholars, and dedicated activists from Israel, Palestine, and abroad—in direct critical exchange on the issues at the heart of the world’s most intractable conflict. Has Israel’s settlement enterprise made a Palestinian state impossible? Can the Palestinian leadership end the occupation? Is Israel’s rule in the Palestinian territories a form of apartheid? Could the US government force Israel to withdraw? In a series of compelling, enlightening, and at times no-holds-barred debates, leading authorities tackle these and other challenges, exposing myths, challenging preconceptions, and establishing between them a more sober and informed basis for political action.”

 

Jamie Stern-Weiner, the editor of Moment of Truth: Tackling Israel-Palestine’s Toughest Questions, publishing next week says “Two million people have been herded into one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, denied the prerequisites for a functioning economy, pummeled with the most sophisticated military equipment on earth, and left to rot. 

Yesterday, May 14, as many as 80,000 people in Gaza marched upon the perimeter fence to protest their imprisonment. 

Their motivation was eloquently expressed by Olfat al-Kurd, a 37 year-old mother of four who works in Gaza as a human rights activist:

Israel has been holding Gaza under blockade for more than ten years. Some of the young people participating in the protests, and being wounded or even killed by soldiers, do not know what it’s like to have running water and a steady supply of electricity. They have never left Gaza and grew up in a prison. 

There is no real life in Gaza. The whole place is clinically dead. 

The younger generations are crushed by the hopelessness and death everywhere. The protests have given us all a spark of hope. They are our attempt to cry out to the world that it must wake up, that there are people here fighting for their most basic rights, which they are entitled to fulfill. We deserve to live, too.” Did I see her mention that Caza has become an incubation rook for terrorism? Did she mention how many terrorists from Gaza have killed innocent Israelis? Yet she maintains this is a balanced picture.

 

“The demonstrations were overwhelmingly nonviolent, as they have been since the Great Return March began some seven weeks ago. Israel responded with a massacre: 52 dead, including five children, and some 2,500 wounded. A senior Human Rights Watch official described their murder:

This is about individual snipers safely ensconced hundreds of feet, even farther, away, targeting individual protestors and executing them one at a time.”

“As the Red Cross warned that Gaza’s health system was ‘on the verge of collapse’, straining to cope with the mass influx of casualties, President Trump tweeted: ‘Big day for Israel. Congratulations!’ 

Today, May 15, will likely see Gazans in unprecedented numbers attempt en masse to break free of their cage. The danger of further slaughter looms large, demanding that supporters of justice and international law around the world take action to restrain Israel’s bloodletting and educate themselves about solutions capable of ensuring that such atrocities do not continue.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“ELIS”— A Life Cut Short

“Elis”

A Life Cut Short

Amos Lassen

Elis Regina was one of the best loved singers in the history of Brazil. She only had 36 years but in that was a 25 year career and she was celebrated around the world. The new biopic, “Elis”, barely mentions her time as a child star and instead begins with into her late teenage years, when she was singing in bars to make ends meet while dreaming of much bigger things. Andréia Horta, who has a remarkable physical resemblance to the singer in her later years wonderfully portrays Elis who was known for her voice yet struggled with a lack of stage presence.

Director Hugo Prata brings us the mood of Brazil in the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties, when social values were becoming increasingly liberal but the right wing military government was moving in the opposite direction. It was a dangerous time for artists, and though this is not overplayed in the film, there is a single scene that is chilling to watch. An interrogator makes reference to Elis’ infant son illustrating the kind of pressure many found themselves under. At that time, it was also a highly creative period despite this. Elis is warned that she must keep up with the times when she’s barely into her twenties. In the latter half of the film, Horta presents us with a fiery character, moving between relationships, producing children, growing increasingly frustrated with the music business and the fickleness of a public that was all too ready to believe she was selling out. She gets harsh criticism from those who consider her moodiness self-indulgent and egotistical and this helps to keep events in proportion. It also looks at how society treats its creative talents; whether wanting Elis to be exuberant and happy or achingly soulful, people seem to pay no attention to the impact of all this emotion, and there’s a sense that they may simply not have recognized the toll it was taking.

RGB tiff image by MetisIP

Born Elis Regina Carvalho Costa, she went by just plain Elis and released several confusingly eponymously single-named albums. She had the misfortune of coming on the scene shortly after the military putsch put a freeze on recordings sessions, but her talent would not be denied. Initially, she was a country naïf from the south, who sure could sing, but under the tutelage of producer/impresario Ronaldo Bôscoli, she incorporated seductive elements into her stage presentation. This worked so well that he became her first husband. Jazz musician-arranger César Camargo Mariano would be her second husband.

Elis was proud of her success. She sang samba, bossa, BPM, and even rock. It was her popularity that kept her out of prison, but the increasingly radicalized singer would be ironically slammed by the left when she agreed to perform at a ceremony for the military junta. The climax of the film comes with her attempts to re-establish her dissident credentials. We also see about twenty-minutes of a grouchy, self-destructive Elis, who isn’t much fun and we might consider this to be one of the problems with biography-based films that are often locked into not especially cinematic conclusions because of the historical reality.

Biographical dramas about musicians usually follow a familiar trajectory and that is true here as well. “There is the early explosion of success, the mid-career struggle with inner demons, and finally the redemptive third act that is eventually cut short by physical or emotional baggage rooted in the second stage.” The redemptive part here is shorter than usual but that was her life.

Andréia Horta is absolutely wonderful as Elis and the music I wonderful. Truthfully, I had never heard of Elis until I saw this film and I am now quite a fan. It is sad that there is no more music coming from her.

“MY LETTER TO THE WORLD”— The Seasons of Her Life

“MY LETTER TO THE WORLD”

“The Seasons of Her Life

Amos Lassen

“My Letter to the World” is an examination of the life and work of one of America’s greatest  poets, with world experts and renowned scholars helping to unravel the enigma of Emily Dickinson, who has spent the 130 years since her death being pigeonholed as a mysterious recluse.

Directed and co-produced by Solon Papadopoulos, this documentary takes us on a journey through the seasons of Emily Dickinson’s life in mid-1800s New England. The film explores her experiences and relationships via her impassioned letters and poems. As new theories come to light about both Dickinson’s life and poetry, experts bring their often conflicting opinions to the screen.

“MOSAIC— “Her Story Begins When Her Life Ends”

“MOSAIC”

‘Her Story Begins When Her Life Ends’

Amos Lassen

“Mosaic” follows two timelines; the relationships between a successful children’s author (Sharon Stone) and two different men (Garrett Hedlund, Frederick Weller) in her life, and the attempt four years later to find out who murdered her. This mini-series seems to have everything going for it from a fine cast to the excellent direction of Steven Soderbergh and the secrecy surrounding the plot. well before the show has even premiered. Then there is the accompanying app that allows viewers to see the story from multiple character perspectives. as it unfolds. All of these things piqued my interest to the point where I was completely sold on the show before I even saw the first episode.

The plot centers around the character of Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone), who is a famous children’s book author that lives on a large property in Summit, Utah. Her land is potentially worth millions based on geological findings and has now become the focal point of rival businessmen in the area although she dos not know this. They set out to force her to sell her property through deception and subterfuge, but before that can happen she goes missing and is presumed dead. What follows is a murder mystery That spans four years and involves a con-man fianceé, a hopeful artist who is living with her, the local sheriff and the aforementioned businessmen.

Everyone is a suspect as the pieces begin to slowly fall into place episode by episode and while that might sound intriguing it is all pretty slow. The story is interesting at times but a lot of the development was is quite boring and slow. Each episode excels at revealing a small piece of the conspiracy a little at a time which made me want to keep going in order to get to the end but once the result arrived, it just did not work. I was left me with many questions because so many threads were left unresolved. It was, as if, the viewer is supposed to be confused. The potential to be an intriguing murder mystery that keeps the audience guessing with each new episode is there but as it is now it doesn’t work.

The series main distinction is the way in which its story is told. Director Soderbergh’s whodunit introduces us to Olivia Lake, the author of a classic children’s book and a celebrity in her small, snowy town of Summit, Utah, but she’s lonely and looking for love. She thinks she’s found it when she meets handsome newcomer and aspiring artist Joel (Hedlund) but just as their relationship sours, she meets another handsome newcomer: Eric (Weller) who has hidden financial motivations behind his charm offensive. When Olivia turns up dead, it’s up to detective Nate Henry (Devin Ratray who steals the entire series) and Eric’s sister, Petra (Jennifer Ferrin) to unravel the mystery that’s tearing Summit apart. 

Something is missing when looking at the central mystery. Sharon Stone is still a star and effortlessly holds focus and Paul Reubens who plays her best friend is excellent. But the male foils set up to make us wonder which of the two bumped Olivia off are colorless and underwritten.

THE GREAT SILENCE”— A First-Class Spaghetti Western

“The Great Silence” (“Il grande silenzio”)

A First-Class Spaghetti Western

Amos Lassen

Quite basically, “The Great Silence” is the story of a mute gunfighter defends a young widow and a group of outlaws against a gang of bounty killers in the winter of 1898, as a grim, tense struggle unfolds. But it is much more that just that. Director Sergio Corbucci made this film in 1998 and it is one of the most critically acclaimed spaghetti westerns.. Set in the Utah Territory during a bitter cold winter at the turn of the last century (1899), the film follows a mute gunslinger appropriately named Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who faces off against a gang of blood-thirsty bounty hunters led by their vicious German leader, Loco (Klaus Kinski). The pair are memorable protagonists/antagonists— Silence is cool, calm and silent and Loco is ruthless and cunning and talks too much. Watching them onscreen together is an engrossing experience. The ending is what the film is sensational and it is what the film is known for (among other things).

There is a sense of despair and hopelessness throughout and n Corbucci’s world, the lines between right and wrong are blurry and the good guys don’t always walk away unharmed. It’s a bleak, brilliant and violent vision of an West without morals. The film features superb photography by cinematographer Silvano Ippolito and a haunting score from Ennio Morricone.

Themes here include class struggle, the corruption of the law and violent political revolution and it was released during the turbulent time of the Vietnam War and protests ere happening in America during its filming. The film was never released in American theaters, only on video and later on DVD and now on Blu ray from Film Movement. It has found its niche with a small but appreciative following of hardened cult fans that could handle its tough lessons on law and order. At the end, and this is not spoiler, all the good guys are dead and most of the bad guys remain alive. We see that one man alone can’t fight against the system to make it right and this is contrary to what most of the other Westerns were about back then.

The film’s hero, Silence, is a mute gunslinger, who kills only in self-defense,. His vocal cords were slashed by a sadistic bounty-hunter when he was a youngster and witnessed his parents being gunned down by the bounty hunter working for crooked Snow Hill banker Pollicut (Luigi Pistilli). Since then Silence has hated the bounty hunters who murder and bully the unfortunate under the full protection of the law. He charges $1,000 to those requiring his services to eliminate the bounty hunters. His M.O. is to force the bounty hunters to draw on him, and he either kills them or shoots off their thumbs. When a group of Mormons have been forced to go into the mountains as unwilling outlaws, forced into stealing for survival by Pollicut, some hire Silence to protect them from the bounty hunters seeking them out. His reputation has grown time and he’s hired to get revenge by Pauline (Vonetta McGee).

She became a widow when the deranged bounty hunter Loco and his partner Charlie gunned down her husband after he threw down his rifle and surrendered. Pauline says “They call him Silence, because wherever he goes, the silence of death follows.” Silence eggs Charlie to draw on him and is killed, and he then pursues Loco.

Loco also charges for his services, but only uses the law as a cover for his greed and killing: he’s a madman who would kill either for money or to get his kicks. Loco works for the wealthy and powerful Pollicut and is to put down the Mormon renegades, and Silence works for the oppressed to get justice against the powerful. 

The governor of the territory is aware of the bounty hunters taking advantage of the law and says amnesty will come and the outlaws will leave the hills in peace, but until then he sends his top man Burnett (Frank Wolff),to be the law-abiding sheriff of Snow Hill.

It all builds to one downbeat shootout massacre of at least some twenty people by the gun crazy bounty hunters, as it ends in despair and hopelessness. Justice didn’t come to the territory until decades afterwards.

Trintignant makes the most of his non-speaking part and conveys a dense moral ambiguity lurking within himself. He’s matched every step of the way by Kinski, whose fascist behavior gives the film a disturbing political subtext.

The oppressive snowstorms which punctuate the film provide startling tableaux of men on horseback trudging through the hills; this is a western that actually makes the viewer feel cold.

“MILE MARKER”— 8000 Miles On the Road to Recovery

“Mile Marker”

8000 Miles On the Road to Recovery

Amos Lassen

PTSD is very strange disease and I bet that most of us rally have no idea how terrible it can be unless it happens in our own families. Let me say from the outset that this is not an easy film to watch but it is a very important look at a very major problem. Korey Rowe, who made this film gives us a very real look at PTSD. The film, “Mile Marker” is about Rowe and his two tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, Korey Rowe, along with his former Rakkasan Brothers on their long road to recovery from PTSD. The Rakkasans were the invading force for both Middle Eastern Theater Wars where Korey and his unit were in the midst twice.

This film looks at and investigates new and controversial techniques and methods for treating PTSD and as it does, it gives us a look into the lives of veterans in America today. To make this film, Rowe traveled 8,000 miles across the United States and back from his home in California. His purpose was to check in with his former battle buddies who served with him 15 years ago in the 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Air Assault Division. As he travels, he interviews psychologists and specialists from the National Center for PTSD in White River Junction, Vermont hoping to get a better understanding of the underlying symptoms and associated triggers of those with PTSD.

In investigating the techniques and methods for treating PTSD (such as marijuana), we look into the lives of veterans in America today. Korey was inspired  by his former battle buddy, Jesse Snider, who lost his struggle to PTSD in 2014 and this film gives an authentic portrayal of veterans today in America as they fight combat to overcome drug addiction, criminal issues, and their own personal struggles with PTSD. These are real stories by real people who have lived through and survived this terrible growing epidemic.

 Korey Rowe’s goal is to explore the truth of the life of veterans and the ongoing struggle with PTSD. He took care of everything about each interview he had including the lighting, the   monitored audio and the focus—he conducted each interview, edited the entire film and secured distribution on his own, ran all equipment maintenance, and drove every mile of the trip without a support staff on a minimal budget and extending timeline. This is the result of his determination.

 The film has already been awarded Best Documentary and Best Cinematography at the Sunny Side Up Film Festival, Award of Excellence at the IndieFest and more. For more information about Mile Marker, visit milemarkerfilm.com.

“In honor of the number 22 and its association with 22 veterans per day committing suicide, Mile Marker will be available on iTunes for presale on May 1st until May 22nd, when the movie will be released. 22% of all gross presale receipts will be donated to the organizations who have partnered with the film to help spread its message. Those organizations include: Hero Grown, MAPS, Weed for Warriors, Vet Cannabis Group, Heart Strings for Heroes, Veteran Health Solutions and The Mission Continues.”

Korey Rowe, currently lives in Los Angeles and is a producer, editor and owner of Prism Pictures, LLC. He served with the 101st Airborne Division 187th Infantry Regiment in the Afghanistan Invasion as well as the Iraq Invasion and lived in the Middle East for most of 2002 – 2004.

“Oh Lucy!”— A Black Comedy About Stereotypes

“Oh Lucy!”

A Black Comedy About Stereotypes

Amos Lassen

Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) is a middle-aged unmarried office worker a Tokyo Office where she is expected to pass the whole of her working life doing the same mundane and monotonous chores every. Her life away from the office is not much better. She lives in a tiny one-room apartment which is packed with the remains of unfinished food and unopened mail.

One day, she gets a phone call from her twenty something-year-old niece, Mika (Shioli Kutsuna) who is desperately broke and wants Setsuko to take over a course of English lessons which she signed up for but can no longer afford, and for which she cannot get her money back. Because she is somewhat sweet on Mika, Setsuko agrees and goes off to the school for a trial lesson.

The ‘school’ is in one of the city’s infamous Love Hotels, and once inside, Setasuko is greeted by John (Josh Harnett), aHH the teacher who insists on being very American and hugging her the moment she walks into the room. His unorthodox methods include the fact that all pupils must take American names (she becomes Lucy) and wear wigs to “acclimatize themselves” away from being their traditional reserved Japanese selves.  At first, Lucy is aghast about this but she soon begins to enjoy it (especially John upon whom she develops an instant crush).

Then when she returns for the second lesson, she finds that John has left the school and gone back home to the US. As if that is not enough, she also finds that Mika has also gone with him thanks to the money that Setsuko had paid her to take over the lessons.

A couple of months later when Setsuko/Lucy gets a postcard from Mika that gives her a return address, she decides to go to the United States herself, ostensibly to find Mika but she is really more interested in finding John. Her elder sister Ayako (Kaho Minami), who is also Mika’s mother, insists upon coming along even though there is not much love lost between mother and daughter.  There is also an undercurrent of bad feeling between the sisters too that goes back to when Ayako stole Setsuko’s only boyfriend and married him.

When they arrive at the apartment where John is living alone and broke, they learn that Mika left. John also does not seem to be as handsome as he was in Japan. Of course, that does not stop the sisters talking him into joining them chasing after Mika, and along the way, the rather desperate Lucy keeps making bad errors of judgments.

A great deal of the humor is, at first, directed at the sensibility of the reserved Japanese middle classes but it then changes and takes aim at the recklessness of surfer types dudes and blue-collar Californians. This becomes a story about culture clash. 

The film was inspired by the writer/director Atsuko Hirayanagi’s own experiences when she first came to study in the US as a student. Shinobu Terajima is wonderful as the reckless Japanese spinster who loses her inhibitions when her buttons are pressed.  Her performance is perfection. The film is really about the tricky art of communication. The film does not depend on Setsuko and company’s newness to America and limited English to deliver easy laughs. Rather its aims are more ambitious and center on emphasizing what can be expressed through difficulties in communication.

The film ends on a bittersweet note as Setsuko finds herself alone and isolated with her future up in the air. She returned home to things worse than when she left and she’ll have to figure out how to live a different life. But of course, that’s nothing she hasn’t done before.