Tag Archives: Latino

On Tour: Brookville, NY

24 Mar

March 15, 2016 | REBEL | Brookville, NY

1 LIU Post Ad

It’s not every day that your film is advertised on a highway – I was pleased to see that Long Island University was advertising it’s screening of REBEL alongside Brahms, Mendelssonh & Shumann.  I felt in excellent company.

2 LIU Post Ad

I visited with several classes gathered together during the LIU Post “common hour” to talk about gender and sexuality and identity issues. A number of students were curious to understand how Loreta Velazquez, the cross dressing woman soldier of the American Civil War, identified herself sexually and in terms of gender.

Loreta talks about “making love to women” during the period she was passing as a soldier in the war. She dressed as a man and courted women during her time spent in town in between her service to the Confederacy. It is natural to wonder whether she was gay.  There are a couple of reasons I don’t impose that interpretation on her identity, although her sexuality is open to question since she does not discuss any intimacies in the memoir.

First, we must be careful not to presentise Victorian language – “making love” in the Victorian period could mean that a couple sat on a bench talking, rather than their sleeping together.

Her stated reason for cross dressing was that she wanted to access the power and the freedoms offered men of her time, not that she wanted to be an actual man.  And she states that she courted women because it would have been suspicious for her not to since that was expected of the men of her time when “off duty” and so it was a form of gender “cover.”

When she says she wishes she had been born a man instead of a woman, the context is that she is bemoaning the limited choices available to women as opposed to men. When she describes  courting women, she states she is doing so as a ruse to hide her gender.  When she discusses her liaisons with men,  she admits to being romantically involved with them. Although she may have been misrepresenting her real feelings in the memoir, Loreta deliberately presents herself as a heterosexual woman who marries multiple times, likes men, and has children.

3 Gender Sexuality Identity classes

4 Maria And Susan

That evening I met with dozens of film students at a lovely reception organized by the head of the LIU film department, the marvelous Susan Zeig, who produced two classics of Puerto Rican historical documentaries, Plena is Song, and Manos A La Obra.  So many were eager to enter the workforce after graduation and I talked to them about career choices.  The most important thing I felt I could share was not just about being a good student or making good films, but about connecting with others in the film industry, attending industry events, and making sure that they maintained relationships with their filmmaking cohort and with industry colleagues as they developed in their career.  In film, as in so many industries, it’s all about connecting to others in your industry!

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Post by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Maria Agui Carter.

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On Tour: Bethlehem, PA

21 Mar

March 8, 2016 | REBEL | Bethlehem, PA

As I drove into Bethlehem I was greeted by the giant industrial abandoned warehouses and machinery rising hundreds of feet hulking over the gentle hills of Bethlehem, a town once prosperous from an American industrial steel industry no longer dominating the global market.  Bethlehem Steel’s warehouses and Plant now stood silent, but was once the builder of famous US landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State building.

My host, the energetic and welcoming Deborah Sacarakis, head of Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts center, toured me through these industrial ruins to show me the ongoing revitalization of these buildings into art centers, clubs, and even a nearby Casino.  But we were there to screen REBEL and Lehigh had been preparing the students for my visit!

2Zoellner Arts SculptureThe campus of Lehigh University is a picturesque jewel in the center of, but removed from the town with quiet greens and historic buildings.  We screened REBEL in the Zoellner Arts Center, a sleek and modern building bursting with performance spaces and theaters, classrooms and study spaces.

1Baker hall screens REBEL

A lively discussion followed the screening with students and townsfolk staying afterwards to talk about the film.  Several people asked questions about what motivated me to make REBEL. I would say it is my boundless curiosity for the stories that shaped our past, especially untold stories, and exploring how they inform and create the societies that we live in today.  It was a particularly great day to screen this film, as it was International Women’s Day, March 8, and a great day to think about one of the women who had lived through this pivotal moment of American history.  Loreta writes about being a soldier and spy in the American Civil War.  But she also writes that war is not a solution to anything.  To paraphrase Loreta:

“War fare inevitably breeds corruption, and the longer it lasts, the more does demoralization spread among all classes of society…right thinking people would be apt to hesitate more than they do… about encouraging appeals to arms for the settlement of national and international differences.”

So in this post, I will need to digress from my own film, to share what I learned about one community that believed in worship and tolerance of differences, in this fascinating town of Bethlehem.

3Maria at Zoellner entrance

I love history and this town is steeped in it, most fascinating to me was hearing about the Moravian community that had settled and founded Bethlehem in the mid 1700s in the colonial era.  Deborah had been raised going with her family to Moravian church services, and took me to see the historic section of town that still contained many of the public houses erected by the early Moravian settlers.

Once a communal society, the Moravian Church is considered the oldest Protestant denomination in the world, and were founded in 1457 in Europe by followers of a Roman Catholic priest named John Hus who would be burned at the stake for his efforts to reform the Catholic Church a hundred years before Luther’s Reformation.  His followers would eventually emigrate, seeking to build a new, more tolerant society.  Bethlehem would become the central governing organization for all of the Moravian communities in North America.

They were a religious community that welcomed and Christianized American Indians and Africans and eventually established over 30 mission towns I found this historic drawing of Moravian missionary baptizes Munsee-Delawares Natives, from the Historical Society of Philadelphia.

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Deborah took me to the cemetery, where you could find the names of Indian and African members of the community buried alongside the white settlers.

5Moravian Cemetery

Moravian children would stay with their parents until 18 months, where they would then be cared for in nurseries, the boys and girls living together until four, when they would be separated into communal living groups called Choirs.  There were Boy’s Choirs and Girls Choirs where they lived together until 19, then either men’s or women’s Single Brethren Choirs.  Married adults then moved into Married People’s Choirs.

Members of the same choir ate, worked, worshiped, slept in dormitories, and attended school together.  The Moravians established schools, where they educated both the men and the women (unusual for the time) and encouraged industry as well as “Lovefeasts” where music and drink and religious worship blended together.

In the Choir system, the entire congregation depended on each other to fulfill the goals of the church as a whole. Rather than receive money for their work, members were supplied with food, shelter, an education, community support, and a place to worship. It was not until 1762 that members began operating their own businesses and were able to lease Church land for their own family homes.  The Choirs still stand, as well as beautiful schools and libraries built by this tolerant and communal society, with Bethlehem standing as the center of all the Moravian communities.

Although the communal societies are no longer operating, the Churches still exist, and Deborah explained that when her Greek father moved to Bethlehem and started working in the Steel industry, he wanted to join a Church and the Moravian church was the closest in their neighborhood, so she would be introduced to this fascinating society.

I wish I could show you pictures of the beautiful old historic structures, but it was so dark by the time we drove around the Moravian architecture that I didn’t take any.  You’ll have to visit for yourself!

Post by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Maria Agui Carter.

On Tour: Newport News, VA

21 Mar

March 10, 2016 | REBEL | Newport News, VA

1Maria on Newport Campus

As I was checking into my hotel, my host John Nichols, head of the Newport News College Film department waited to take me to whisk me to campus speak to a Women’s Leadership class.  These students came from all disciplines, from economics to history. Among other things, they had been studying the ongoing diversity debates that have been raging in industry news in the past year.  They wanted to talk about why women were so shockingly underrepresented in the film industry.

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As a Latina writer (less than 2 % of all writers in the Writer’s Guild are Latino) and a woman director (less than 17% of films are directed by women), I know firsthand the difficulties in finding opportunity, funding, and executives to greenlight projects that I’m trying to make. I have worked in advocacy and professional development for Latino filmmakers for over 17 years and served four years as the Chair of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.  I am now a Trustee and advise on strategy and development for the organization. I am also a longtime member of Women in Film, a woman’s industry trade group with chapters around the country, and of the New York Chapter of Film Fatales, a group of women directors who have banded together to create opportunities and support one another, in an industry that has not supported our work as well as they should.

3DGA directors by gender and ethnicity copy

The statistics are so bad for women in our industry that this year, the Federal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating possible Anti-Female Bias in the Hollywood industry. According to a DGA study, women currently receive only 16% of the episodic TV directing jobs, and last year directed less than 5% of the major studio releases.

Spurred by a group of female directors who urged the ACLU to take up their cause, the ACLU then filed a complaint with the EEOC (The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a Federal Agency). This could be a first step towards a class-action lawsuit against the industry, exploring sexism, racism, and wage-ism (unfair underpayment of women compared to men).

4UCLA Bunche Ctr percent white actors 2

The numbers are noticeably worse for racial minorities in front of and behind the cameras.  The #OscarsSoWhite campaign has received a lot of attention, urging a boycott of the Academy Awards televised show because not a single actor of color was nominated in the male or female Leading Actor categories.  That is not surprising given that less than 10% of all roles go to actors of color.  Winning a golden statuette can vault an actor to stardom, add millions to a movie’s box office and boost a studio’s prestige.  The Oscars are not just another prize to stick on a shelf, they translate to increased income and box office, and increased opportunities for all the winners in all categories, from directing to composing to writing films. Most likely because of this controversy, this year saw Oscar viewing ratings down 16% according to Variety, a big hit to the Academy of Motion Pictures, which is the most watched show on television after the Super Bowl.  Reduction in viewership means reduced advertising income, and the Academy has swiftly responded to protests by vowing to include more diverse members in its ranks of about 6000, which now stand at over 94% white members and 76% percent male members, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.  To illustrate how stark this disparity is, I share a photo sent by a friend on my facebook page, of all the nominees for the 2016 Oscars.

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Diversity, is in fact good for business.  Although it was originally very difficult for me to find support and funding for my film about an exploration of the story of Loreta Velazquez, a Latina woman soldier of the American Civil War, a film that was also to be written and directed by a Latina, when PBS posted the announcement of the upcoming film on their Facebook page with a photo of my actor portraying Loreta Velazquez, it was shared by thousands within the first few hours.

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Without any budget for marketing, we had over 42 million media impressions in the first month alone.  Single PBS hours have a hard time getting that level of attention even with paid marketing, I would venture to say that contrary to accepted opinion in the industry, audiences are actually hungry for diverse stories that look at our society through fresh perspectives.

The Ralph Bunche Center at UCLA has put out an excellent recent study on the business of diversity in media.  They found that as America diversifies, minority audiences are more and more important. For example, one in every four movie tickets are bought by a Latino in the US.  And as global box office is beginning to bring in a larger share of film income, diversity becomes even more important to success.   Their “2014 Hollywood Diversity Report” asserted that films with a relatively high amount of minority involvement (21% to 30%)  achieved the highest median global box office receipts at $160.1 million while films with less than 10% percent achieved a median of $68.5 million.

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Given how difficult it is for women and Latinos to make our films, I constantly remind myself how fortunate I am to be able to make my films and to share them with audiences.

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Post by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Maria Agui Carter.

On Tour: Jim Hanon at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

9 Oct

Rutgers is huge. There are three campuses, and our film showed at the New Brunswick Campus. Because the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies hosted us we were able to talk about nonviolence in the larger context of the world. They told me several nonviolence stories from Latin America. One of the best things about being a filmmaker is meeting interesting and passionate people, and I always enjoy hearing incredible stories that the public just doesn’t have access to.

What information the public does and doesn’t receive kind of became a central thread in the discussion after the film. Once again, the audience confirmed that Little Town of Bethlehem shared things they simply hadn’t heard before. Powerful things. Whenever people discover there is more to the story it is a natural response for them to ask why they didn’t know.

There were African-American students who wanted to talk about the equality issue, and the Latino students wanted to talk about the similarities of the cycle of violence to gangs. And for the second screening in a row the audience wanted to talk about the Arab spring and the current Occupy Wall Street movement. Yet, all of the questions kept feeding back to what the media reports and why.

One of the things that I always share about Little Town of Bethlehem is that I may not have a lot of hope in politics, but I have great hope in a civil society. Finally I told them if the selective media coverage troubled them we can all do something. For my part, I was fortunate to make a film. For Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation’s part, they sponsored the On Screen/In Person program that allowed the film to be shared at Rutgers. Every one of us can do something, big or small. A common connection of the three protagonist in Little Town of Bethlehem is that they all believe Gandhi’s words, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Post by Jim Hanon, OSIP touring filmmaker

On Tour: Monmouth University, Long Branch, NJ: Simple But Crucial

14 Sep

The people I met when TRUST screened in Long Branch touched on almost every thread Kenji and I wove into the film.

One of the interesting buildings in Asbury Park, NJ.

The afternoon before the screening, Monmouth University Associate Professor Donna Dolphin and I met with Cecilia Reynolds, publisher and editor-in-chief of Nosotros, a monthly newspaper serving Latinos in the NJ/NY area.  Cecelia’s office is in the Center for Immigrant Services on Main Street in working class Asbury Park (Bruce Springsteen’s stomping grounds).  As Cecilia interviewed me about TRUST, the hallway outside her office was busy with kids coming to do art projects and mothers needing medical attention for their sick children.  Cecilia responded to Marlin’s story – lots of women in her community can relate to the abuse Marlin suffered and Cecilia knows how important portrayals of the very Americanized teenage immigrants and teenage children of immigrants are in raising awareness about the importance of passing the Dream Act.  Cecilia is going to screen TRUST, which is subtitled in Spanish, at the Center.  Donna, who is an advisor to the student TV station, is going to get some students to produce stories about the Center and also help Cecilia find interns.

When TRUST screened at Rutgers University last week, Carlos Fernandez, Director of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture, learned I was born in Massachusetts and told me about a project he did in Lawrence Massachusetts, helping the Anglo and Latino arts communities find ways to work together.  One of the first things he did was identify whom to contact – so basic, yet so crucial.  As Donna and I we left Cecilia’s, I felt like we had just taken a similarly basic, yet crucial first step.

That evening, at the lovely Pollak Theater, TRUST looked rich and colorful on the screen.  That theater has a fantastic projection system.  The audience was students and professors from theater, screen studies and communications classes, and people from the community.  When the lights came up, everyone – everyone! – stayed for the Q&A, something Chad Dell, Chair of the Department of Communication says he has never seen happen in his fifteen years at Monmouth.

 Lynn Lehrkinder, psychological counsellor at Monmouth U. joined filmmaker Nancy Kelly for the Q&A.

The questions were perceptive and unusual – someone asked about the structure of TRUST – which deals with time in a non-chronological way more commonly found in fiction films and is something Kenji and I are very proud of.  Someone asked about what it was like to be included in a theater company for all those years.  I loved it.  Every time I walked up the stairs to their space, I was excited and happy, knowing that the APTP-ians would welcome me with hugs, look me warmly in the eye, and then return to being themselves and doing their intense, life-changing work while we filmed.

Nancy Kelly speaks with audience members, including OSIP partner Chad Dell,  after the screening at Monmouth University.

Post by Nancy Kelly, On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker

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