Made it! EVAPORATING BORDERS premieres tomorrow, Jan 23rd at 7pm @ IFFR ::: <3 (at Rotterdam)
I’m extremely honored, excited and humbled to be included in this year’s list of 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine, along with 24 other talents. The list profiles a selected range of up and coming film talent and work to keep a look out for. A huge thank you to everyone at Filmmaker for this support.
WATCH ::: Between Colors Of I
Just before diving into the the abyss of post production on Evaporating Borders, I sidetracked a little bit and composed this short hybrid short, loosely based on the recent trip through Morocco.
It attempts to borrow from the Proustian narrator, somewhat elusive, somewhat unknown, fluctuating - he exists in an unknown time period in an undefined space. The voiceover is narrated by a talented musician and a new good friend I encountered on the way Yasser Belaiachi.
Otherwise, this week my short Ben : In The Mind’s Eye screens at the Brooklyn Film Festival - it shares the screen with 5 other intense films, a really strong program. Today is the last day to check it out!
I would skip Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and watch or re-watch the brilliant Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch instead… not that they are connected in anyway, the later is just a beautiful gem I discovered recently.
I’m switching off for a bit and embracing the beast (of a film).
WATCH, Evaporating Borders Excerpt ::: https://vimeo.com/65610353
It’s an exciting time. My whole summer is dedicated to the post production of my first feature length documentary and definitely the most ambitious of all my work thus far.
It has been an interesting journey and it continues to be.
Over the years I’ve developed quite an obsession with the Essay Film in the vane of Chris Marker, Agnes Varda, Alain Resnais, Allan Sekula, Harun Farocki. The process allows for exploration and search, it’s an investigation that doesn’t necessarily resolve. And it happens to be the most effective way I can express myself in film. I’m exciting about exploring and pushing those possibilites with this Evaporating Borders.
Two films that I found inspiring recently, both over 30 years old are Alain Resnais “Hiroshima Mon Amour" and Sergej Paradjanov's “Color of Pomegranates”. Very different films, but both adventurous, daring, explorative, visually compelling and reflective. Reflecting on memory, tradition, culture and identity.
WATCH Our ::: New Times Op - Doc
There’s been quite a lot going on, a busy time and so a while since my last post. In February we wrapped production on our upcoming feature documentary Evaporating Borders, and launched its beautiful website.
In the meantime, the New York Times commissioned a short piece based on the material from the film and published my Op-Doc in April. With the controversial subject matter and the extreme economic issues in Cyprus, the short produced an exciting and heated conversations on Facebook and other social media outlets. As hoped for!
While the journalistic approach is not my preferred style of communication, in which a complex story is squeezed in a condensed format, the platform does act as an incredible tool to relay the message and talk about issues that are otherwise tossed aside.
And talking about issues that are tossed aside, a must see film is The Act Of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer, catch it at the Human Rights Film Festival in New York in June. Joshua’s introduces a new way of documenting, a new way of communicating both in contact with people and through film. The film enters the minds of the perpetrators, makes us like them, draws us into an insane world of bizarre layered multiple realities, imagination and appearances…it’s as much about the Indonesian genocide as it is about ourselves and the art of filmmaking and telling stories. Simply brilliant.
And on the fiction side, Noah Baumbach’s new film Frances Ha is a hilarious adventure, beautifully co-written by the director and Greta Gerwig, my new favorite actress. Loved this film, which my be even more fun and closer to heart for us New Yorkers.
Catch it at IFC!
WATCH ::: https://vimeo.com/58313887
While working on my new film, a long form documentary that addresses displacement, tolerance, refugees and people migration and mainly takes place in Cyprus…I took a little trip to Israel and Palestine. Most asylum seekers in Cyprus are Palestinian, some have never even been to Palestine.
I was curious to find out more about the land… conscious of the privilege I have to explore my curiosity,
while they will never be allowed to come near their homeland.
During my brief visit to Palestine, I met Avram, also known as John…He chatted for a few hours. Here are his thoughts.
Over the winter holidays, I also took a short detour to Morocco…an intense and beautiful country also polluted by the remnants of colonialism. More visuals and thoughts from there in the next post.
On a filmic note, Sundance just wrapped and published a list of winning films, perhaps some to look out for.
In the meantime, I finally saw Women On A Verge Of a Nervous Breakdown, Pedro Almodovar's brilliant imagination at its best. Besides the super intelligent narrative dramaturgy, there are various levels of cinematic gems, from colors, compositions, camera movement to symbolic use of objects and devices. Delight!
And one more delightful gem is Tsai Ming-liang’s short film Walker that won at Cannes last year, you can watch it in its entirety online. Patience is the word. We’re working to break and challenge the 30 second attention span.
WATCH IT HERE : https://vimeo.com/53804072
In April I took a little trip down the Mexico. I purposely left the camera at home and brought only a sound recorder and the sick addictive device that is the iphone. The idea was to not spend the entire trip behind the camera lens but to discover what could be created as an alternative…So, I resorted to my other (neglected) loves, illustration, photography and animation. It”s what a day in a small Mexican town felt like.
I’ve been deeply impressed by two films recently, one fiction and documentary.
Leo Carax's Holy Motors is a must see, a very Brechtian approach to filmmaking. The viewer is never relaxed into a passive indulgence, but is continuously interrupted by new possibilities. The film is densely layered; it addressed our voyeuristic society, our need for sensationalism, how and why we are entertained. It very much comments on acting, roles and audience.
At the same time watching it, the viewer is trying to decipher between multiple realities, that on film and their own. What is real and for who?
What is beautiful and who decides it is so? It also brings to mind the idea of hybrid identities and as Audre Lorde would say, the possibility of being and assuming multiple identities at the same time.
At the other end…
In his 10 advice tips for aspiring filmmakers, the brilliant Russian documentary filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky says “Don’t film if you want to say something – just say it or write it. Film only if you want to show something, or you want people to see something. This concerns both the film as a whole and every single shot within the film.” Michael Glawogger's Workingman’s Death is a perfect example. The film covers volumes with its succinct simplicity. Just brilliant.
WATCH HERE ::: http://vimeo.com/50014012
I ventured off to Pozega, a beautiful small town in Serbia where summer nights are cold and people are warm. While there for a 10 day film workshop InterDOC, we stayed at Hotel Pozega. Each meal was heavy but brilliantly flavored by Milena’s colorful presence. We caught her just before she took off on her Greek vacation. My partners in crime here and new fantastic friends Isabella Rinaldi and Ana Lucia Ordonez lend their skillful hands. Otherwise the workshop with Zelimir Zilnik and Dragan Elcic were brilliantly insightful.
Otherwise, most of my time was spent in Cyprus and working on my feature-length documentary, working title : Five Star Country. The blog updates are not as frequent because of it but will be done monthly while I orchestrate this beast of a project. In the meantime, some inspiring films…oldies, yes…
It’s also cinematic ecstasy.
This one kind of disturbs you from the inside. But ultimately, the creativity inspires and you remember why you love making films.
More for September coming soon.
Across the seas ::: http://vimeo.com/45797403
I’m dwelling in Mediterranean waters over the summer and working on my first full length documentary
that addresses the lives of political refugees and asylum seekers on the island of Cyprus. Specifically, it addresses tolerance, migration trends, nation-states/nation-building, changing global dynamics and collapse of Eurocentrism through the lens of current migration trends in Cyprus. It has been an interesting journey and a surreal one.
In between incomprehensible refugee stories of exile and plight I return to my life and consider my own reality.
It’s a difficult adjustment. But more than anything else, it reminds me to appreciate it all.
Here on a full moon night, we enjoy Xartini’s song…and appreciate the night.
On a filmic note :::
Here’s a brilliant film by Aris Chatzistefanou and Katerina Kitidi that analyzes the crisis in Greece and elsewhere, political agendas and effects of privatization - it features Naomi Klein, Zizek and others. It’s brilliantly executed and free online ::: CATASTROIKA.
And another brilliant project from Greece, a web doc series that dig into all cultural, socio-economic aspects of the country :::
June’s Steel Drum Orchestras ::: http://vimeo.com/45010190
This is very quick and dirty.
Last summer my partner in crime Sarah Hagey and I made a short film on Despers USA,
a full steel drum orchestra from Trinidad. Throughout the summer, various bands gather
throughout brooklyn to practice and prepare for the annual competition in September.
Last year’s winners were Adlib, this is a small excerpt of their performance that Sarah and I
had a pleasure of checking out. The Despers put on a night that featured the best of the best
and asked us to film the event. We haven’t yet had a chance to edit the entire thing.
But here’s a little taste, I was elevated by Adlib and perhaps you will be too.
Be sure to check it out - they transport you into a trance!
Otherwise, I’m currently in Cyprus working on my first feature films and so the posts are less
frequent but are nevertheless coming…I will be posting some interesting stuff over the summer.
In the meantime,
One of my new all time favorite films 5 Broken Cameras.
Absolutely ingenius, done jointly by a Palestinian and an Israeli director.
It’s conveys the problems as you have never seen it before, cleverly and emotionally structured.
Brilliant editing too.
It’s been a super busy year so far. Since last year I’ve been working with Benjamin Moylen on a short film that addresses schizophrenia. It’s not finally complete, in its 13 minutes of length. Here is a very small excerpt from a the film. Ben is a character portrait of a person living with schizophrenia. The film addresses behaviors and challenges associated with the condition and illustrates how it is channelled into an artistic process.
You might enjoy the teaser ::: http://vimeo.com/45010218
On a filmic note :::
Yes, I’m late with this one…but…Michael Haneke's Cache is a must see, (he also just won Palme d’Or at Cannes for his new film Amour)
Brilliantly constructed, it investigates social infrastructures as a direct result of of French colonial practices and
how these translate into the modernity as social tensions, immigration intolerance, phobia of the outsider and pseudo liberalism…
all this through a window of a guilty conscious of the protagonist.
Here’s an interesting interview with the director.
An insightful quote from it :::
”In all of my films, I try to fuel mistrust in our faith in reality. We know nothing about the world, except the things we have experienced directly. And we can examine these things. But everything else we experience through the media. And this functions like Chinese whispers, a piece of information is related from one person to the next. You only have to look at what Bush does with that. I see it as my aesthetic duty to reflect this. It’s no coincidence that post-War literature signalled the end of classical narrative literature. It came from the experience of fascism, and the same applies to film.”
Over Christmas ::: http://vimeo.com/39613317
I took a little road trip to Vermont, to my friend Tennessee Watson and her father Bill.
Their beautiful house on the creek, a “hotbed for radical feminism” was once owned by Aunt Lou,
a jailbird Suffragette, who fought for women’s right to vote in Vermont. Here’s her-story.
I’ve been quite busy developing my next project, feature documentary which I am shooting this summer in Cyprus…loosely based on an interview i did with Simon Khan. In thinking about the structure of the film, I’m exploring non traditional documentary forms, others ways of expressing and telling a story and so I have been researching such works.
I picked out a few highlights from experimental filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha’s book Woman, Native, Other - to stay on the topic of feminism. Her writing is abstract, involved and provoking, as are her films, here are some of her thoughts :
"In this unwonted spectacle made of reality and fiction, where redoubled images form and reform, neither I nor you come first. No primary core of irradiation can be caught hold of, no hierarchical first, second, or third exists except as mere illusion. All is empty when one is plural. Yet how difficult is it to keep our mirrors clean…Theory oppresses, when it wills or perpetuates existing power relations, when it presents itself as a means to exert authority - the Voice of Knowledge…And theory as a tool of survival needs to be rethought in relation to gender in discursive practice… He who represents his own discourse on myths as a myth is acutely aware of the illusion of all reference to a subject as absolute center. The packaging of myths must somehow bear the form of that which it attempts to enclose, if it wishes to come closest to its subject. One cannot seize without smothering,for the will to freeze (capture) brings about a frozen (emptied) object.”
I also recently read an interesting interview with Armenian filmmaker Artavazd Peleshian in which he talks about his “distance montage” method which “creates a magnetic field around the film…it allows you to defeat time…when you reach the end, you’re also back at the beginning…And the effect is that the film revolves; it is “revolution” in a new sense…Orbits are created. Sound and image cross each other, intersect each other, switch, change territories. The sound enters the territory of the picture and the image enters the territory of the sound. You start to see the sound, and you hear the picture”.
He closes his the interview with a thought that deeply resonates with me personally when talking about film and ones work:
"I’ve tried to simplify things to get ideas across. But my films are precisely not about language, about verbal communications. The difficulty is that one cannot express with words what one finds in my films. If it were possible to say it with words, the films would be useless. Words cannot express it. One should not talk about films, one should watch them. This is why I have always been against interviews."
Toward the end of last year ::: http://vimeo.com/39156555
My partner in crime Martyna and I filmed, quite a few actions that extended form the Occupy Wall Street movement, namely the student protests and teach-ins.
One of these was organized by Students United For A Free Cuny in which Louis Reyes Rivera, (poet, lecturer, activist, educator, freedom fighter among other things) passed on some of his wisdom from the 1969 Student Take Over of City College to a new generation of young activists.
Rivera has since passed, earlier this month…this film is dedicated to his memory.
Perhaps his words will resonate with you.
On a filmic note :::
I just watched Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Distant - apparently available in its entirety on youtube though i don’t recommend you watch it this way.
The cinematography is mesmerizing (and youtube degrades it).
In watching, in its meditative pace, the viewer feels sucked in - enters another’s life completely.
What I was really inspired by this week was a film by Srdjan Keca, whom I met at the Berlinale Talent Campus last month. His A Letter To Dad is premiering at Full Frame next month. Brilliantly and sensitively crafted… transformative.
Catch it, somewhere.
My wonderful teammates (Laura Hadden , Alex Mallis and Tennessee Watson) won the International Documentary Challenge at HotDocs in Toronto. The way it works is, you receive a theme and genre on a Thursday morning and have 5 days to find a topic, characters, produce and deliver a 4-7min documentary film. It’s fun for many reasons but also because you never know where you will find yourself over the course of the next few days.
So this year, we went back for more and welcomed the brilliant Jay Sterrenberg to our team and found ourselves on a 70 year old oil tanker…We can’t release the film just yet but the still image is a teaser. I love this challenge!
On the film front, I watched a couple of interesting docs that were in a way similar.
The first gives a larger scale portrait of modern day society spanning over 10 countries and the other concentrates on small town Middlefart in Denmark.
Abendland from Austrian filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter, though described as a demonstration of “the empowering, unifying, and alienating nature of technology” to me acts more as a brilliant overview of the European society in 2010s…African immigrants are denied residence, Big brother watches on massive camera arrays in London, annual anti-nuclear activist gathering, Spanish boarder patrol watches for illegal activity, thousands of ravers dance in a techno-liscious stadium…
all very very beautiful filmed.
The other film was The Average of the Average by Dutch filmmaker Michael Madsen (not the actor!). He attempts to define the town through 13 chapters of “average” events, approaching the subject matter as if it was to be exhibited in a museum. And it also happens to be Denmark’s first 3D film.
And to end with here’s what Filmmaker Mag’s Scott Macauley is looking forward to at SXSW.
Just got back…from travels around Europe…specifically the Berlinale Talent Campus.
A really unique experience that I highly recommend…a week of film film film, workshops, meeting and mingling with incredibly talented people from every place imaginable. Inspiring, energizing, educational and super fun. While there I was contacted by Christoph from RADIUS Magazine, a new online publication to produce a short film for them. It features a wonderful Persian dancer Modjgan Hashemian from Berlin. The encounter added a special sweetness to my whole experience…you might enjoy it.
Otherwise, I was a bit disenchanted with the films at the Berlin film festival, in general from the films I saw the quality was poor…however, I did catch a gem, Death For Sale by Moroccan director Faouzi Bensaidiwho is also a character in the film. An intense complex plot with brilliant cinematography, engaging acting and beautiful tunes.
One of the most intriguing workshops was a discussion with Nuri Bilge Ceylan in who (i’m paraphrasing) makes films so as to solve his life situation, to understand something through film, by making a film that relates to something that’s important to him at that moment.