14 December 2007

Northland Tales

It's been a while since I've written, and of course I want to tell you all about my fabulous adventures in Santa Fe. But first I am reminded that it is time to recount my trip to the New Hampshire Film Festival in October, because I just saw Southland Tales tonight, and there's a story there.

On the tail end of our drive to Portsmouth, New Hampshire in October, my friend/driving buddy Linda and I were treated to a brief rain shower followed by a full half rainbow that lingered in the sky for a good five minutes or so. It was spectacular and it seemed to bend in our
direction and point us on our way. It reminded me of my drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and how welcome the beautiful sunset (and my convertible) made me feel. I was receiving the same cheerful hello from New England, where leaf-peeping was in full swing and I couldn't be happier to be heading for this watery harbor town. I arrived, checked in to hotel and festival, and headed for the opening night film, starring NKOTB Joey McIntyre, who, since I don't watch reality shows (there, I admitted it), I remembered most recently not for his dancing prowess but for his turn on Broadway in Wicked which I had seen when my friend took me and his mom from Indiana out for a night on the town - and what a night for sure - but I digress.

Being one to seize on kitsch whenever possible, I did wrangle my way into a chit-chat with Mr. McIntyre for a bit at the party before some
young(er) ladies circled him and told him about how much they had worshipped him and how they *screamed* when they saw him live. He looked toward me for my story, prompting me to throw my arms up in a mea culpa "I was a David Cassidy girl!" which promted the same Mr. McIntyre to look right through me and suggest a threesome to the other two. Oh, and did I mention that he had just mentioned his pregnant wife? I kid you not. Baby boy was born last week. I snapped this picture before I moved on. That's me and him, I swear. Moving on....

Working my way around the room, I found some other great folks. I could not resist approaching a guy in a (here it comes, thanks for your patience) Southland Tales T-shirt. Donnie Darko fan that I am, I knew he wasn't Richard Kelly, but couldn't figure out who in the name of
Drew Barrymore would have the audacity to wear such a T-shirt in public. Turns out, it was Mark Constance, the 2nd AD on the film who claims it was a blast to work on even though no one knew what the hell was going on. I of course wanted the skinny on my beloved Buffy, and was pleased with nothing but positive accounts of Ms. Geller on set. There's Mark proudly sporting said T-shirt. What a trooper.

Anyway, my screening was the next morning. A gaggle of cousins and friends old (and new) from Massachusetts kindly drove up for the occasion, as did my father and his wife who sadly spent a little too much time on Parking Lot (oops, I mean Interstate) 84, to come out and support me. The screening went well for what it was (I'll say no more about the festival's touted 'venue' expansion because, well, I'm a Buddhist, goddamit) and I am grateful to Lama Norlha Rinpoche's sangha in New Hampshire for getting the word out and having such a great attendance at the screening. And what a wonderful town Portsmouth is, and what a restaurant the Friendly Toast is! A toast to the Friendly Toast! And to Linda who will be starting Three-Year retreat very, very soon.....wow!

And as for Southland Tales, well, everything you've heard is true, but seeing is believing and I do believe it'll be spending some time in my DVD player someday, right next to its baby brother Donnie Darko. Whoever gave Richard Kelly the budget to make that is a saint and I love them! But he sure knows how to make you work for it, so it's late and I'm wiped out from that crazy 2 1/2 hours of hijinx and Liquid Karma (and Wally Shawn making out with Bai Ling!!!!!) so I promise you my next installment of WHAT IN THE WORLD... from beautiful Portsmouth, as well as tales from the southwest, real, real soon.

27 October 2007

Right Back Where We Started From...

Arrived in SFO on October 5 (stick with me, we’ll catch up eventually) at the tail end of the day, but with plenty of activity still ahead of me. And as luck would have it, my cheapo car rental company didn’t have any more Hyundai compacts available, so I was granted the keys to a (drumroll) . . . red . . . convertible . . . Mustang! Rode that beauty over the Golden Gate Bridge into Mill Valley during a spectacular sunset, feeling like a rock star. Vancouver who?

Mill Valley, place of legend. It was an honor to have been selected for the festival, and I was tickled pink to be there. Arrived just late enough though for all the restaurants to be closed, so I finagled my way into the Ang Lee tribute dinner, which was a lot of good food and lively chatter. No lust or caution though (tank you, I’ll be here all deh veek). Did reconnect with Janis Plotkin, who in 1998 programmed my short doc Mah-Jongg:The Tiles That Bind in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and set me on the filmmaking odyssey I’ve been on since. It was great to see her, and to briefly catch up on the last nine years which had landed me back in California and her at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Having her be a part of this new fest tour of mine felt like coming home.

The next day, I threw myself into film watching and postcard pushing. Made a few local friends even as I fretted about my screening the next morning, fearing an onslaught of political questions, which my film decidedly and deliberately doesn’t address. Was there a place in the hearts of committed Free Tibet-ers (which I assume Marin County is packed with, and more power to ‘em), for a film about the rural, 85% of the people who will in fact be free if/when Tibet is free, but for now don't have it nearly as bad as their city-dwelling counterparts?

YES! And phew. For a Sunday morning at 11am, we had a great turnout to the Throckmorton Theatre. And again, a lively Q&A with a smattering of politically-oriented questions but a majority of thought-provoking ones about life at the top of the world (where I was sitting at that point!) Celebratory lunch (sense a theme?) followed with my father’s old elementary school buddy Bill and his family, and my old college…uh….friend, Eric (speaking of a whole other story…), and my dear friend and field sound recordist Caleb who had flown up from LA for the occasion, even though he still hasn't really forgiven me for not taking him to Tibet. Good times.

Monday morning, Caleb and I were off to Napa, topless, on special invitation to visit the exclusive Grace Family Vineyards. I had encountered Dick Grace when I was looking for a wine sponsor for my Brooklyn Film Festival World Premiere party, and googled ‘Buddhist Winery’ on a lark. Lo and behold, there he was! Wine donations at that time were not an option since his costs $800 a bottle (gulp – or rather, slowly sip and savor) but we chatted for a long time about all things Tibet and that greater part of the world, where he himself does exemplary humanitarian work. How better to spend a morning than in the company of such a kindred spirit. Lunch with Caleb at a beautiful patio’ed restaurant before our triumphant return south to the Oakland Airport to meet his plane. Talk about the profound to the ridiculous.

I wish I could continue to write about the wonderful momentum at the festival and the exciting adventures that continued apace. However, bad news from home brought me back to earth and to the east coast earlier than expected. Won’t take you there with me, but will pick up on what happened next very soon.

Onwards and Upwards...

So where was I? Ah, yes...still in Vancouver, awaiting what turned out to be an additional two sold-out shows. Go Vancouver! A word though on the second screening, where I had the chance to reconnect with an old friend, James Wilson. James and I met when we part of a renegade faction of volunteers during 9/11 that set up a Tent City along the West Side Highway and didn’t budge for 12 days, effectively and efficiently doing what the ‘official’ bureaucracy couldn’t – doling out supplies, hot food and coffee, and *humanity* to the rescue workers.

That’s a whole other lonnnng story, but the bottom line is, James and I met on the side of the road under the worst of circumstances and became friends at the tail end of his three (?) years in NYC as an actor/student, and then he moved back to Canada – Vancouver to be exact. So my festival visit was also a reunion for us. And even better, I found him in the midst of heavy rehearsals for a new play he was directing for his own reACT Theatre Ensemble. Break a leg, James!
James joined in the festivities at a post-screening celebrational dinner with Eva (my Swedish hostess extraordinaire), Elvira (my now friend-for-life via Halifax), Graham (my Q&A leader extraordinaire), and of course Carla, my editor turned official festival sidekick.

The following morning, the sun was ablaze for the first time since the day I arrived, which was just the airport send-off I needed to remember that fair city with all the fondness it deserves. We shall meet again, I’m sure.

14 October 2007

Passing Gastown

With deepest apologies for my negligent lack of writing, and with promises for new entries in the very near future, here is a little trifle to tide you over. This is Episode 3 of "What in the World...", a series of videos made during the festival tour of DAUGHTERS OF WISDOM. This comes direct from Canada during the Vancouver International Film Festival. Enjoy!

02 October 2007

"What in the World...." Volume 2

Welcome to my next installment of 'What In The World..." in which yours truly delivers riveting entertainment from her film festival tour....And now, live from the Minneapolis Airport en route to Vancouver....

There's no place like hem

I am writing now from a beautiful apartment off of Commercial Drive, a strip of health food stores, vegetarian restaurants and cafes west of Downtown Vancouver. Wonderful Eva, one of the Swedes I met the other night, graciously offered her apartment as she left the city yesterday for her home two hours north. It was a sad parting for me and Jennifer the fish - she of course stayed behind at the swanky hotel, but I feel like I've left the lap of luxury but won the lottery. Took some doing this morning, but enjoyed a round trip quickie ride on the *sea bus* over to North Vancouver to get keys from my future sister-in-law, and then the *sky train* out to my new home (transportation here is SO Sesame Street!)

Following that adventure, I had to scurry back into downtown for a full hour chat about DAUGHTERS on the Smiling Yogi's radio talk show over at the local Coop Radio (think WFUV - or WHRW for you Bingalings). I was daunted by the hour format but then we had so much to talk about that we even skipped the last PSA she was supposed to play. It was really a great hour of talking serious spirituality, which of course is not what I usually get to chat about regarding the film. Great interview, Farah, thanks!

Got back in time to see the second three astounding eps of Jennifer Fox's "Flying: Confessions..." which landed my new friend Sofia and I in a long wander around the city and eventual cafe stop engaged in a discussion of gender and identity. Did I mention it was a full day?

So now it's raining pretty hard, for a change, but I just feel so cozy sitting near the fireplace surrounded by the requisite Dalarhäst (the red Swedish horses) and Kn
äckebrod (read: Wasa Crackers) and yellow and blue painted viking figurines found wherever Swedes are housed. There's no place like hem.

29 September 2007

Debut of our new and improved (and shorter) trailer

...When It Drizzles...

They said it wouldn't last, and it didn't. Arrived in Vancouver yesterday in the glaring sun and 70 degree temperatures. Today, it was back to the rain (always back to the rain), and 55 degrees cool. Still, I've fallen hard for this city, and the cineastes who dwell here.

Kicked off my arrival yesterday with a ride in from the airport from a driver who is...drumroll...a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker, who of all things, is off to Sweden shortly to start shooting a cooking show. Little does he know that 20 years ago, yours truly herself fancied
making her own cooking show when she was sailing across the Mediterranean with a gaggle (flock?) of Swedes, trying to invent new ways to cook pasta in a galley kitchen. My Swedish trajectory continued (as it always does) at a fancy party thrown by Telefilm Canada. Thanks to a local filmmaker I met at a late-nite party in Halifax, I was introduced to some wonderful fellow documentarians, including two Swedes who were surprised at my status as the 8,000,0001st person who speaks Swedish. Well, one of them has a brother who is a Swedish Buddhist living in Stockholm (I already said 'yes', he just hasn't asked yet!)

But that's not why you called. The greatest news of the last 24 hours is that we had a sell-out show this morning at 10:30 am, which was a huge surprise to all. I had been gently warned not to expect much on the morning of the festival gear-up weekend following a rolicking late-night party. But the place was packed for the screening. And again, it was followed an insightful, politics-free discussion of the film and the incredible women who occupy it. Canada, where have you been all my life? You get it. Can't wait until Thursday so we can do it all again.

Oh, and I suppose you're wondering who that is swimming around in the photo. That's Jennifer, my roommate here at the Pacific Palisades Hotel. She hangs out next to my complimentary yoga 'kit'. She joined me this afternoon on my way back from the screening after I found the *perfect* laptop bag I've been seeking for the last 6 months...it's vegan 'leather'. Did I mention I love Vancouver?

22 September 2007

What in the World...Is A Haligonian?

"WHAT IN THE WORLD...." is a new "webi-doc" series of short documentaries I will be creating in every city I visit on the festival tour. Here's my entry from Halifax. Enjoy!

21 September 2007

Coincidences....or We're Not In Halifax Anymore

Had the delightful pleasure of sharing the ride to the airport with Albert Maysles on Tuesday morning (is that three days ago already?). We had actually met the day before at an intimate breakfast chat put together by the National Film Board of Canada which gave some of us filmmakers the chance to listen to his tales of an exemplary life of filmmaking over croissants and coffee. Turns out we have a whole series of strange coincidental connections to each other, not the least of which is that his son is currently over in Tibet making a film in the same region that DAUGHTERS was shot. I enjoy him, and I believe we're going to see each other soon in New York, which is a delightful thought. But now I'm back in New York. Hit the ground running at the IFP Market, which is it's own confection of desperation, hope and Heineken. It was good to see old friends and meet new ones.

Speaking of which,
here's a photo taken at 4am in and around the environs of SoLita (when did that happen?) where I had the pleasure of wandering around post-Market HBO party with a mixture of both. To wit: a novelist/script doctor/distributor (stay tuned for a big announcement next week); a fellow documentarian and all around brassy dame cut from the same cloth as yours truly (see her film at Film Forum in January! that's an order); a fabulous Danish actress new to NYC by way of Paris in high heels painful to even look at, and a certain DP/Techno-Guru who randomly turned up at Spring Street Natural where our gaggle supped, and absorbed into us as organically as Spring Street Natural itself, and who quite coincidentally (there's that word again) but no less profoundly happened to be the very same DP/Techno-Guru I had actually called from a satellite phone on top of a mountain in Tibet when our lens crapped out (a story to which said fellow documentarian could only rightfully quip 'oh, everybody does that'.)

All that to say...there's no place like home, and Vancouver, here we come!

17 September 2007

Thank You, Haligonians . . .

. . . and the staff of the Atlantic Film Festival, the volunteers, my driver/tour guide Chris, the Dartmouth ferry captains, Debra Ross and Tynette Deveaux, Ann Shaftel, Andrea the CD superhero, and all who spread the word and turned out for the film and were such a captive audience. And speaking of audience, here's a clip from EastLink TVs live coverage from the great screening tonight at the Empire 8. A full house except for a few seats in the front row (but who wants to sit there anyway).

It was such an enjoyable conversation with the audience afterwards. Thank you for the insightful questions. The nuns of Kala Rongo are exceptional women, and I was delighted to share my portrait of them with you. And for the guy who asked if yaks are friendly, this one's for you.

16 September 2007

We've been blogged!


A Perfect Day for Greenaway

Just returned from the Peter Greenaway luncheon at the Atlantic Film Festival, and as usual he has my head spinning. I met him when he spent an afternoon at AMMI in New York screening Pillow Book way back when, during which he advocated heavily against film adaptations of books. Grossly simplifying his views -- Books are books, and by design are a text-based form of storytelling. Films are films and should have their own distinct non-textual form of storytelling. And never the twain should meet. Today, he took it further to say that most people don't know how to read a film, which is why they remain so heavily based on recognizable narrative structures, which he thinks, and I agree, stifle the form. Which is why I love documentary and the expanse of possibilities of form it brings.

DAUGHTERS OF WISDOM lacks a traditional 'arc' structure of narrative and character where something 'happens'. Rather, it requires a viewer to settle in and be transported to this special place. From the feedback I've gotten, audiences seem to be very appreciative of the 'experiential' quality of the film - how the film unfolds organically the way it would if one were to be plunked down in the middle of Kala Rongo Monastery and left to explore. A Columbia University student whose class I previewed the film for even said 'Thank you for not making a film that shoves agenda down our throats. We crave subtlety', and her classmates nodded in agreement. Fantastic.

Yet apparently, the distributors I've spoken to so far who all think the film is beautiful and special and worthy of an audience, also say they don't know how to 'sell' it. Ugh. I am so fortunate that my collaborators helped me make the film I wanted to make. I don't want to make my next film about precocious penguins ballroom dancing on melting ice caps. So I'm left wondering -- will I ever, like Mr. Greenaway, be able to make the films that I want to make, in forms that don't fit 'commercial' structures, without having to eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life?

15 September 2007

Just arrived in Halifax

I have wanted to visit Halifax for a long time. Maybe it's the final 'x' that lured me, maybe it's that the locals are called Haligonians and that's just special. I don't know. My short film MAH-JONGG: THE TILES THAT BIND screened several years ago at the Atlantic Jewish Film Festival, but that wasn't the moment. DAUGHTERS OF WISDOM here at the Atlantic Film Festival is. And now I'm in my hotel room and it's raining and pouring and I am begging this city of my dreams to become a bit more welcoming so I can go out and enjoy it. See you when the sun shines!