Tag Archives: Independant Film

COFFEE-HUGGER 2: FRENCH PRESS, Tribute to Eric Rohmer

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My concept behind the Coffee-Hugger series is to create short films based on the making of coffee. The idea is for the films to be amusing, personal and almost voyeuristic in nature, which is quite a departure from my usual work. “Coffee-Hugger 2: French Press” is the second in the series and the solo coffee maker is joined by another character, trumpeter and composer Tim Hagans. This short also tributes the films of Eric Rohmer, which are for me the essence of summer. If watching “Coffee-Hugger 2” inspires you to have a cup of coffee and watch a Rohmer film, then I have succeeded.

I am completely enamored of the films of Eric Rohmer and have been guilty of trying to disappear inside of them for years. No matter how many times I watch “Pauline at the Beach,” even though I realize that intellectually and artistically, the tale the filmmaker has told has come to its perfect ending, I am compelled to yell at the screen as Pauline closes the gate “No, don’t leave…why are you leaving?” and I turn to whomever I am watching it with and say “why are they leaving, I don’t understand why they are leaving?” Usually my viewing partner is Tm Hagans and luckily he loves Rohmer’s films and has patience with my asking him a question year after year for which there is no answer. So real is the film life for me that I can not bear for story to end, or really understand why anyone would leave life in that country house by the sea with its brimming hydrangeas, tranquil chair-creaking conversations about love, and bowels of coffee sipped in the garden.

When watching Rohmer’s “Le Rayon Vert,” I can not help but cry with Delphine when she encounters what she has been longing for throughout the entire film. The film takes its title from le rayon vert, which is a rare phenomenon in nature whereby the last ray of sunlight that the naked eye can perceive, the green ray, is visible briefly during the setting of the sun on a completely clear day. In the Jules Verne novel of the same name, the sighting of the green ray will result in the viewer knowing their true feelings and those of the people around them. This concept is discussed by characters in Rohmer’s film, overheard by Delphine, and incorporated beautifully into the narrative of the story. “Le Rayon Vert” is for me one of his greatest and truest films. I referenced it in an evening-length work I created in 2005 called Desesperadaos, a suite of tangos ranging from the gypsy to the avant-garde with music by Thomas Helton. The poetry in between the dances makes reference to the search for the green ray and the final movement was called “Tango Rayon Vert.” Rohmer’s spectacular film was subtitled “Summer” in English when released in North America, rather than “The Green Ray” which would be the literal translation of the French title. If you are looking to rent or purchase the film, it is listed under the title “Summer.”

For those readers who may be curious, and perhaps not familiar with Rohmer’s work, I have described some of the references below.

  1. The beautiful and plaintive melody played by trumpeter Tim Hagans is the song from “Pauline at the Beach” that all the main characters dance to at one time or another during the film. The music is uncredited in the film and I have never been able to find it anywhere else based on the album cover that appears briefly on camera…the title on the cover appears to correspond to a completely different piece of music. So it is quite a mysterious and magical fragment of music.
  1. The lovely hand written date cards, which Rohmer filmed and inserted to communicate the passage of time in many of his films, is tributed in the beginning of “Coffee-Hugger 2.” I chose August 5th because that is the day that Delphine meets someone very special in “Le Rayon Vert.” If you watch Rohmer’s date cards, there is a slight camera shake, which somehow adds to the sweetness of them, as if to let the viewer know that there is a living and breathing person that wants to tell them the story.
  1. Rohmer’s films are almost always filled with shots of people on vacation at the beach. If there isn’t the sea and sand and waves, it is almost not a Rohmer film. In addition to footage of people at the beach, “Coffee-Hugger 2” has some shots directly down into the water, tributing the beautiful shots in “La Collectionnuese” where the characters stare down at the seaweed and gentle waves as they ponder their relationships to each other.

There are also many tiny references, such as the hydrangeas which Pauline can not help cupping when she passes by, and the white bowls that hold the coffee. I welcome your communications on Eric Rohmer and his films. “Coffee-Hugger 2” is meant to inspire and share the discourse and love of the work of this amazing director.

 

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Interview With Yunuen Perez Vertti About IN THE HEART OF WOMEN


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Photo by Arlene Bowman

On Sunday December 28 at 8 p.m. ET, ARTCAST Season 2 premieres Episode 8: IN THE HEART OF WOMEN, a new documentary short by filmmaker Yunuen Perez Vertti. Filmed in Vancouver, IN THE HEART OF THE WOMEN is about West Coast Women Artists, a collective of indigenous artists whose goal is to build on artistic skills, share knowledge, and preserve traditional teaching through art. Featuring Arlene Bowman, Haisla Collins, Doris Fox, Lori Fox, Rose-Marie Francis, Veronica Iza, Chrisse Oleman, Jacqueline Quewezance, Jacqueline West, and Georgina Wing-Klema.

I interviewed Yunuen Perez Vertti about her new documentary short, IN THE HEART OF WOMEN.

MB: I have known you and your work as a filmmaker for almost 15 years. What struck me about you when I first met you was your energy and enthusiasm for all art forms, not just film. Dance, music, poetry, visual art…they all seemed to resonate equally with you. I see that multifaceted side of you as strong as ever, which makes it always exciting for me when I have the opportunity to work with you. How did you approach your collaboration with the West Coast Women Artists Collective?

YPV: I do love all art forms, I think of art as a whole tree as opposed to lots of branches. I usually get my inspiration for documentaries from people’s stories and I seem to be attracted to people that make art. When I learned about the West Coast Women Artists Collective, I was curious about their contemporary approach to indigenous art, but when I met them, their personalities and stories where inspiring to me. Since I moved to Vancouver I’ve been trying to infiltrate myself on the arts circle, and learn about the art scene here. I didn’t have much knowledge about indigenous art and I thought it would be interesting to learn about it from the perspective of these women, and their stories where so powerful, it was hard for me not to create a documentary.

MB: The film is very positive and focuses on the nurturing environment that is created by these artists coming together to form a community. One gets a feeling that the film is of the present and the future, and not the past; this to me is one of the qualities that makes this film so strong. Even the quote you begin with speaks to moving forward. There are, however, some serious issues alluded to by some of the women in their interviews. Were there stories you chose not to include in this short, and if so, why?

YPV: Yes, when I started shooting the documentary my focus was on the art and the forming of a collective by these women. However, as the shooting when on, a lot of personal stories came afloat, and it was obvious to me that these women had difficult but important stories to tell. When I started post production it was difficult for me to pick and choose the stories I was going to include. I decided to stay with my original plan, and focus on their art and their coming together. I didn’t want to show incomplete stories; they were very interesting stories, but I felt I had to do more research to present the full story. Like any other indigenous group in the world, in Canada the story is not different, there is a long history behind a lot of the indigenous people’s issues, and unfortunately a lot of pain.

MB: Do you have plans to expand this short in the future into a full-length documentary?

YPV: I would love to make it a full length documentary, of course time and funding will play a role on making that decision. As of now, I’m planning on shooting at least until they have their first exhibition in February.

MB: Some of the artists were very open and articulate, and some were more reticent. One of the most poignant statements for me came from a woman who did not speak very much on camera, but when she did it was so eloquent. How did you go about getting the artists to speak to you, especially the ones who might have been shy to speak on camera.

YPV: Actually, I was surprised on how quickly they opened up to me. But yes, some of them were more open than others. From our first meeting I understood that there would be some difficulties in getting them to talk to me on camera, so I worked hard to make them feel comfortable talking to me before I put them in front of the camera. Anytime you are doing interviews, you try to make your subjects comfortable. I understood that most of the women from the collective had never had the experience of been interviewed. For some of them, it was an exciting moment, and for some of them, it was clearly a nerve racking moment. I tried to understand their personalities and honor their requests as much as possible to make it easy for them to feel relaxed.

MB: Do you think an understanding of the social context of women from a different culture is essential to our progression as a society in general?

YPV: Definitely, we live in a global world, and now more than ever things that happen in other countries or societies should matter to us, because they affect us directly or indirectly. I believe progress for any society has a direct relationship to women’s progress and development. Frankly, I wish we didn’t have to talk about women’s progress and development anymore, but the reality is that there still a lot of work to be done, around the world, in regards to women.

MB: Do you think it’s difficult for artists in all cultures equally, or do you think some cultures make it more of a taboo? Do you think it is different also for different genders?

YPV: I think being an artist is difficult no matter what culture you are part of, however, I also think that some issues can be directly related to individual cultures. I think this documentary touches on some specific issues related to indigenous people in Canada. Some of those issues may not translate to other cultures. As far as the gender issue, I think unfortunately in the arts, gender is an issue as well. These women, the West Coast Women Artists are one of the first indigenous women collectives in Canada. And even my industry of film is lacking gender diversity, so yes, it is a very different experience for men in the arts, and women in the arts, irrespective of cultures.

MB: I found Veronica Iza’s song to be very moving, and compelling behind the images of the artists’ work. How did you discover the song?

YPV: Veronica shared it with me, when I mentioned I was looking for music to use in the film. As soon as I heard the song, I knew I had to use it.

MB: Can you tell me about the exhibition that they will be having in February?

YPV: The exhibition will be at the Roundhouse exhibit hall in Yaletown, Vancouver, from February 2 to 11, with a reception on February 7. Most of the women from the collective are producing original work, and the diversity of the group will be reflected through the different art forms. I think, for what I know about them now, the process of putting this exhibition together, independently of how successful it is, in terms of attendance and selling of their art, it’s going to be a huge learning experience for them. It will definitely help them to understand a lot more about themselves and the collective as an entity. I’m curious and excited to shoot that process.

ARTCAST Season 2, Episode 8: IN THE HEART OF WOMEN will premiere on Sunday December 28 at 8 p.m. ET on youtube.com/brangwendance. Episodes are available for viewing any time after broadcast on Youtube.com/brangwendance or brangwendance.org

The Russians Are Back!

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NO STANDING IN ST. PETERSBURG: PETERSBURG, part 1 of award-winning filmmaker Peter Josyph’s serial film, premiered as part of ARTCAST Season 1. We are pleased to present the premieres of the film’s next two parts in ARTCAST Season 2.

ASTORIA premieres on Sunday November 16 at 8 p.m. and FILM AT THE TOP premieres on December 7 at 8 p.m.

The charming Chekovian characters of Elena and Ilya that we experience in part 1 return, now as Elena and Raymond, two New York City actors who have played the roles on screen that we see in part 1. Yes, part 1 is actually a film within a film, but it also sets the stage for the adventures of three actors, a journalist, and a filmmaker, in the parts to come.

ASTORIA takes us into an early-morning conversation between the actor Raymond (played by Raymond Todd) and his wife Olya (played by Anna Istomina) about his ability to do an authentic-sounding Russian accent for his part. His wife, a native of Russia, tries to calmly explain that his accent is not in any way believable.

Those familiar with Peter Josyph’s work in the landmark documentary LIBERTY STREET: ALIVE AT GROUND ZERO, and the lesser known but still outstanding ACTING McCARTHY (featuring interviews with Billy Bob Thornton and Matt Damon), may be surprised by the lightness and humor in ASTORIA and FILM AT THE TOP. These films are funny in the truest and best sense because the human behaviors that are laughable are filmed through the lens of Josyph’s profound compassion for his characters.

As I mentioned in my previous essay “The Lelias,” the feeling of being in the room with characters in a story is for me the ultimate experience when watching a film. This feeling of being privy to a private moment pervades ASTORIA. John Cassavetes believed that a close-up of a face in a film is successful if it makes you want to touch the skin. ASTORIA is filled with close-ups to which Cassavetes would no doubt give his approval. The sound of Raymond and Olya’s voices, the murmuring and singing of Olya, the sound as she flips the pages of the George Simenon book she is holding in her hands, jump out with a kind of soft crispness that makes you feel you are sitting next to them. And maybe you are, because art can indeed take you to another place.

While each short film stands alone, I encourage everyone to watch part 1 before watching ASTORIA. Here is part 1:

Part 2 airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on youtube.com/brangwendance. You can also watch it any time after the broadcast.