Posts Tagged ‘Film’

Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell, Directors: LIFE IS LOVE

Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell are the co-founders of the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, CA.  This year they have produced their own film, LIFE IS LOVE, premiering at Cinequest on Wednesday, March 5th.  

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of LIFE IS LOVE, from concept to financing.

HH: My wife, Roz, heard Somaly Mam speak in Hong Kong, when we were dating, and sent me an email about how moved she was by this woman whose philosophy was “life is love.” Roz brought me a business card. Inspired by that email, Kathleen J. Powell and I decided to do a Cinequest Picture The Possibilities (youth empowerment) session in Cambodia…As we developed this, Kathleen and I had the idea to do a feature film on Somaly Mam and her amazing young heroes, which she calls her Voices For Change YouthMarcela Villegas Castenon (line producer and PTP manager) and Kathleen put the relationships together and created the opportunity to make a very special movie. Kathleen and I decided to donate our time to the movie, since we believed very deeply in the stories of these women, and the rest of the costs of the movie were covered via donations from friends, family, PTP supporters and companies.

2Q: Cinequest is hosting the World Premiere of LIFE IS LOVE.  Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?  Does the “home turf” aspect make you more comfortable or more nervous?

HH: Kathleen and I started and run Cinequest because our first feature film (she produced and I directed) gave us a phenomenal experience at the Venice Film Festival and beyond. We wanted to give that back to other artists and to add the technology/empowerment component. What started off as a film festival focusing on discovery and empowerment of artists has led through time to a company with three divisions focusing on the empowerment of artists, innovators, audiences and global youth. PTP is the year-round youth movement where we give youth the tools, processes and inspiration to create their dreams from art to science.

KJP:  It feels incredible to bring LIFE IS LOVE before an audience.  This film is about amazing young heroes that have survived horrors most of us could not possibly imagine.  It is such an honor to be able to bring their stories, their words, their feelings to the world.  If this film were to help one victim realize they too can stand up, survive, and help others, than it will all be worth it.  I think the reaction to the film will be powerful.  I don’t believe it is a film that you can watch and forget about next week.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making LIFE IS LOVE?

HH: The film was an incredible blessing to make so there’s probably thousands of best experiences from the rich visual opportunities in Phnom Penh to the incredible women who shared their stories with such vulnerability and warmth. One of the ‘best’ experiences has been how much they’ve all inspired us from the initial encounters to the crying (many times) and joy in the editing room engaging with them further. A personal best was shooting in the rice fields of Cambodia on my birthday with these wonderful women and the team of Life Is Love. The ‘worst experience?’ Although I run a film and innovation company, I can’t say that the business side of releasing a movie is very easy for any artist.

KJP:  Every moment of the film shoot was rewarding.  We were shooting in the middle of August, it was 115 degrees in the shade.  Forget about trying to fix your hair or put on makeup. There was no complaining and you never thought about it.  We were with AMAZING young women that were sharing their stories.  Every interview we did, I sat there and cried.  Even if another language was being spoken, I could look in their eyes and feel throughout my entire body their pain, their joy.  I did not need the words translated, I knew.  And then when the camera was switched off, and we all were able to recompose ourselves, there was laughter.

My worst experience was the deep understanding I now have of the horrors young children, babies have experienced.  What was done to their childhood, to their bodies, to their foundation as a human being.  That understanding will never go away … and I would never want it to.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

HH: If you are willing to take a journey into the darkest and most inspirational sides of the human experience…all in one setting.

KJP:  We all experience trauma in our lives.  Some more than others.  From the loss of a loved one, trauma to our bodies, a lost job or relationship, we all are on these journeys thru life.   I LOVE the world of film because it allows you to step outside of yourself and go on a journey, to a place you have never visited, to somewhere that can only be imagined, to another culture, experience, world.  What a great honor that is, to be invited, even if only for a short period of time, to walk in someone else’s shoes.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won an Oscar for LIFE IS LOVE.  Give us your acceptance speech.  

HH: I’d use the platform to expose more people to Cinequest Picture The Possibilities and the incredible future we all will have because the new generations can create a better world than the one we currently have…if we help them and let them.

KJP:  In the end it is never about how much money you have in the bank, how many companies you launched, how many awards you have won.  It will always be about your connection with other people.  Did you help someone take that next step?  Did you open a door for them to walk through?  Did you inspire them not to give up?

See LIFE IS LOVE at Cinequest!
View the Trailer!







Originally published at

Three mini-reviews from Cinequest


POLIGAMY:  A harmless, cute little comedy about a man who is a bit hesitant about his girlfriend Lilla’s pregnancy.  Soon after she gets pregnant he starts waking up to different women in his bed… only they all claim to be his girlfriend Lilla, and his best friend keeps confirming this is true.  What is going on?  Well, he soon figures out how to enjoy this little “problem” he has, until he realizes that he sort of misses the original Lilla.  I give it 3+ out of 5 stars, only because there’s nothing terribly groundbreaking.  But I did thoroughly enjoy myself, Sándor Csányi is quite charming as the confused András, and there is a bevy of beautiful women.  If you’re looking for a well made light comedy, this is it.


Everything Will Be Fine

EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE: I’m not even going to TRY to explain this film, but I give it a qualified 4 out of 5 stars.  It’s a conspiracy thriller that has a million twists and turns, involves political intrigue, war atrocities, filmmaking (of all things!!), adoption, and a love story.  It also had a great set of opening credits.  Unfortunately, exhaustion from previous night’s festivities caught up to me during the film, and I started dozing in and out for awhile.  There were so many twists, turns, and questions, that when I finally woke myself up I wanted to leave early because there was no way I’d catch up at that point.  But the exit door was across the theater, so I stayed in my seat.  Luckily, some answers started coming soon, and finally a whole lot is explained at the end.  I give it 4 out of 5 because I liked the surprising ending, and I liked that I was totally stumped throughout the film.  But some audience members who stayed awake were not so happy about being totally confused.  Still, I say take a chance – but make sure you’re awake enough to pay attention!!


80 Days

80 DAYS: My first 5 star film of the festival (besides those I’ve previewed early).  This film is beautiful, poignant, heartbreaking, romantic, and awesome.  If the three stars – Itziar Aizpuru (Axun), José Ramón Argoitia (Juan Mari), and Mariasun Pagoaga (Maite) – had been there at film end I am confident they would have received a standing ovation.  Axun and Maite knew each other as young school girls, and had developed a close bond.  But after having no contact for 50 years they suddenly meet again while visiting others in the same hospital.  Maite has lived her life knowing she was a lesbian, but Axun had been married from a young age and had never considered anything else.  As the feelings develop between them, it is poor Juan Mari, the husband, who will have to deal with the consequences.  It was a very touching film, and should appeal to LGBTQ or straight, men or women, young or old, almost anyone can relate to something in the film.  I loved it.

All three still have more showings coming up, click each link to find the schedule and prices.


Interview with Joseph Sims, cool Aussie with a heart full of …blood.

Local filmmakers aren’t the only ones coming to Cinequest this year.  Joseph Sims, director of the Tarantino-esque film BAD BEHAVIOUR is coming all the way from Australia!  I was able to preview his film which is spectacular and racking up the praise from all over the world.   Here is my interview with him:

Joseph Sims

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of BAD BEHAVIOUR, from concept to financing.

Bad Behaviour was originally an extension of a short film I made called Smiling Faces. It taught me a lot but in the end the film was a bit crap. The really cool idea behind it seemed to have been spoiled due to me over-stylizing and messing with shit that didn’t need to be there. The editor on Smiling Faces was a guy called Steven Caldwell and whilst we edited it he encouraged me to start writing a feature. We both seemed to be at a point in our lives where we wanted to commit to a large project. So in early 2009 I set about writing what eventually became Bad Behaviour. I met with Kris Maric who would later come on board as the second of the three producers right before going back to the UK where I finished the screenplay. It turned out pretty awesome and we managed to persuade some bigger names to come on board through Kris. I executive produced and raised all the financing. I originally thought it was going to be a $20,000 uber low budget kinda thing, but when we got John Jarratt (who in 2005 played Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek which found him worldwide recognition and friendship with Quentin Tarantino) and Dwaine Stevenson (from another Aussie cult movie called Gabriel) I was able to raise more money. I’ve worked as a bookkeeper as a means to an end since I left school and was able to pitch the project to some clients. Suddenly we got a nice chunk of cash to get this thing made and from there it snowballed.

2Q: It appears that the film has been screened at other festivals; how has it been received? Do audiences respond differently at some festivals than they do at others?

We’re now known as ‘that film where the scary man blood-voms into that chicks mouth’ which I’m extremely proud of. Who wouldn’t be? We wanted to shock audiences and stand out – which is generally what every film maker wants to do so it was our intention to take it as far as we could with every aspect of the film: the drama, the violence, the humour, the dialogue. (more…)

Interview with Jarrod Whaley, director of THE GLASS SLIPPER

And a third repeat Cinequest local! Jarrod Whaley moved to Palo Alto from Tennessee two years ago, just in time to premiere his first feature, HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE. This year he is back at Cinequest with THE GLASS SLIPPER, a film that also stars several Bay Area locals.

Jarrod Whaley

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of THE GLASS SLIPPER, from concept to financing.

In college I read a Flaubert novella called Un Cœur Simple (A Simple Heart in English), and was quite taken with the austerity of both the central character and the narrative style. Flaubert’s Felicity is a kind of pious naïf who fails at every turn to take charge of the trajectory of her own life; she eventually slides into the deepest depths of penury–and then death–because she trusts that the “Holy Spirit” (whom she confuses with a stuffed parrot) will save her. It’s a rather fatalistic story, and it lacks the typical character arc of almost all Western literature. She doesn’t change; she doesn’t learn (which is not at all to say that the reader can’t learn from her mistakes). I think most of us end up living a similar kind of life in one way or another, and that the standard structure of our narratives might therefore have a certain willful falseness at its core.

I’ve wanted to adapt the novella into a film for about seven years, and The Glass Slipper is the end result of that. Mind you, my film is almost nothing like the novella- there’s a character called Felicity, and I’ve certainly taken some cues from Flaubert in creating her, but there’s much going on in my film that’s completely unrelated to the ostensible “source material.” A large part of the film deals with another character who fails also to improve his lot, and we watch his family crumble while he flounders around. This thread is entirely mine.

Though we’ve recently, through more traditional channels, secured additional funding with which to finish the film, the lion’s share of the actual production phase was funded via a Kickstarter campaign. I’ve found it to be not only a great source of funding, but also an incredible way to build a community around the film from day one.

2Q: You were at Cinequest last year with your first feature which you had filmed in Tennessee. What differences were there between filming in Tennessee vs. Palo Alto, CA? Pros and cons? (more…)

Interview with Jeremy M. Inman, director of SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN.

Jeremy M. Inman is another local filmmaker making a repeat visit to Cinequest. A Fremont native and SJSU alumni, Jeremy brought his film to Cinequest last year for a rough draft preview. This year, film complete, he returns to premiere where the fans already love him. This is our interview:

Jeremy M. Inman

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN, from concept to financing.

SHPC was born out of my desire to tell a comic book-inspired story on an indie budget. The content is ripe with potential for dynamic visual storytelling and is inherently dramatic. I knew that choosing SHPC as my first attempted feature would give me plenty of opportunities to display my range as a director both visually and emotionally.

I grew up reading comic books, so the conventions of the genre speak to me very clearly. Concepts like duality, sense of purpose, conflicts between responsibility and personal desire, and knowing what’s right or wrong are easy to manipulate and relate to in a comic book setting. I think everyone struggles to balance certain aspects of their life; in SHPC, main character Eugene must reconcile the two halves of his personality – one with a clear notion of his duty as a pretend superhero (his “Arachnid-Man” persona), and the other his willingness to give or do anything to be with Emily, his love.

The film started as a short somewhere in the vicinity of four years ago now. I had a clear plan to use the completed short to market my feature-length script (at the time it was already in the works) to Barnaby Dallas. Completing the short wound up not playing too big of a role in the SJSU film department’s ultimate decision to green light the feature, but it helped me shape the concept. The feature script made the rounds at a few festivals; it was a finalist at the CSU Media Arts Festival and it won second place at the Broadcast Education Association’s international screenplay competition. By then the script was vetted enough for Barnaby and Spartan Film Studios to want to produce, particularly since the bulk of the rewriting that would shape the shooting script happened in Barnaby’s screenwriting class (which I took for a second time to ensure that he would have to read the script). (more…)

Interview with Vijay Rajan, director of BASE EMOTIONS

The Cinequest Film Festival starts in one week, and right now there are hundreds of local writers, bartenders, theater operators, baristas, hotel clerks and wait staff (along with thousands of film lovers) who are busily preparing for this special time of year in San Jose.  But there are also quite a few local filmmakers who have been working like crazy to get their films ready for viewing.  It must be a great feeling to have your film premiering in your hometown – and also very scary.  We’ve sat down to interview a few of these filmmakers, and we’ll be posting the interviews throughout the week.

First up is Vijay Rajan, a local filmmaker who graduated from Santa Teresa High School and San Jose State University.  BASE EMOTIONS is not the first film Vijay has brought to Cinequest, and I’m sure it won’t be his last.  This is one of my favorite interviews ever, as it shows how much heart and soul is put into these films, and I think Vijay really represents what Cinequest is all about.

Vijay Rajan

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of BASE EMOTIONS (playing at CQ with The Sentiment of the Flesh), from concept to financing.

“Base Emotions” is a film that came to me at a time when I was really struggling with the question of faith. How do we trust in people when we have been hurt by them? How do we trust in God — if we do — if we have been hurt by Him? I was considering the word “faithless” one day and was struck by the fact that it had two meanings: one of infidelity, and the other of not believing in something. I wanted to write a piece that would bring into direct conflict two characters who each were faithless in those different ways — one who was an adulterer and another who simply did not know how to believe. It just grew from there. Ultimately, it ended up being a character piece about a maddening woman named Katie, probably the first fully realized female character I’ve ever managed to successfully write; I know her incredibly well, and yet she always simultaneously surprises me. She is someone I hope the audience will desire, despise, be repulsed by, feel compassion for, and then ultimately will come to understand. This is because the film is also to an extent about judgment; we judge other people so easily, yet never seek to understand their perspectives, to realign our thinking to their priorities, their punishments, their sense of morality. In the course of one night, all of this plays out. Can the character of Justin, and through him the audience, seek to understand this woman whose behavior just seems to be so contrary to many of our own conceptions of morality?

Once I’d written it, I called up the guys who I’d worked with since film school, and in our various ways, we found our ways into the project. The entire short film, 22 minutes long, takes place in one hotel room with only two characters. In terms of financing, we found a willing partner and executive producer named Quoc Peyrot who believed in the project and basically donated all the camera equipment for the production. In terms of the actors and the set, it was all very low budget; my crew basically consisted of people who were passionate about this project and the filmmaking process. It was during this time that we basically went from being guys who worked together in film school to being a film company. Together, we bought a jib crane. Together, we paid for the location and the necessary supporting equipment. Together, we made the project work.

I have done work in the past I’ve been proud of, but “Base Emotions” is really the first project for our company — Siren Song Creations. And it’s really an honor to be able to say that now that it’s finally done, it will be having its world premiere at a film festival that is just a block down the street from where we filmed it at the Fairmont Hotel, and maybe three blocks down the street from the school where we as a group learned our craft and met each other. We are about as local as local filmmakers can get; yet we take a certain pride in the fact that our work is absolutely universal in quality. We just believe in the strength of storytelling. You can sink millions into a movie, but I hope our film — low-budget as it is — just has characters and a situation that will churn something visceral in our audiences, something uncomfortable but familiar, and something ultimately hopeful. I mean, it’s a question all of us deal with in our lives, right? How do we forgive?

2Q: You have attended Cinequest several times before as both filmmaker and film viewer. Explain your favorite parts of our film festival.

God, I love Cinequest. That’s the truth. I’ve had some bad years in my life recently, and Cinequest helps to (more…)

Welcome to the 2nd Annual San Jose Short Film Festival

If you’re having a difficult time waiting for Cinequest 2011 (March 1!) or if you’re just looking for an excellent way to spend a few hours this weekend, the 2nd Annual San Jose Short Film Festival is for you.  Held at Camera 3 downtown this Saturday and Sunday, you will be treated to several short films per session and even have a chance to speak to the filmmakers when it’s over.

Yes, to be clear, this is not a short film festival, this is a festival of film shorts.  This means all films are 15 minutes or less, and some are as short as two minutes.  There are two different groupings of films: Program 1 has 16 different films, and Program 2 has 13 films, and there is a great variety of genres and types of films to see.  Everything from drama to comedy to Sci Fi is represented, and I enjoyed almost every film of Program 1 on Thursday evening.  But the best thing about film shorts is that even if you don’t like one particular film it is over in 15 minutes or less!  And then you’re on to the next one!  Program 1 is about 2 hours 30 minutes long and Program 2 is just under 2 hours, and both have a good variety of shorts with some crossover.

Some highlights from Program 1:

BLUEBERRY is the charming story of a darling young girl whose mother has left “on holiday”.  One day her father, who has suffered from “allergies” ever since mummy left, takes little Daisy to the pet store.  When they come home with their new pet, Blueberry the snake, the story really begins.

WINNER BEST SHORT FILM is actually the title of one of the shorts, and is the hilarious story of a man who is sure he will be successful in the industry based on the results of his recent award winning short film.  This film will be fully appreciated by anyone who is in the film business, who has tried or failed to make their own short film, or who has had to sit and watch endless screeners of bad films.  But truly the audience of film lovers last night were laughing themselves silly.

SHELDON is the sad story of a washed up television show puppet, fresh out of rehab.  With no one willing to give him a second chance on film, what choice does he have but to accept the offer of a celebrity wrestling match?

COCKPIT: THE RULE OF ENGAGEMENT is an excellent Sci Fi entry taking place in 2103 when humans are battling creatures who have perfected mind control.  When one fighter returns from battle claiming he never had any contact with the alien mind controllers, should he be believed, or should he be destroyed to protect the human race?  The moral question in this short makes it an excellent Sci Fi pick.

In my opinion, short films are always a great choice, and with $8 for a ticket that allows you to see 13 – 16 films, you can’t beat the price.  If your mind isn’t made up yet, keep in mind that Camera 3 contains the awesome Psycho Donuts in their lobby AND they serve alcohol.  Pop corn, donuts, wine and beer, and two hours of great film…  what better way to spend your weekend?

San Jose Short Film Festival
Tickets $8
Camera 3
288 S. Second Street
Program 1
Saturday, December 11th, 4pm
Sunday, December 12, 4pm
Program 2
Saturday December 11th, 1pm
Sunday December 12th, 1pm

There is also a FREE Film Forum (at their Festival Headquarters: 110 Paseo de San Antonio) from 1pm – 9pm TODAY (Friday, December 10) with filmmaker interviews, equipment and product demonstrations including Red Cameras, DLSRs and sound equipment, plus a terrific panel discussion where you get to ask the questions from their panel of film experts (starts at 6:30pm) and discuss the state of indie filmmaking in the Bay Area.

December show round-up

December is a lighter month in terms of scheduled shows, but that just makes it easier to attend them all!
These are the shows Metblogs plans to attend and review this month:

Backwards in High Heels
The San Jose Repertory Company
November 24 – December 19
The remarkable life of the legendary actress Ginger Rogers comes to life onstage!
This intimate musical dances its way through Ginger’s life with unforgettable music, show-stopping dance numbers and a captivating story that chronicles her journey from hometown to Hollywood and from one love affair to another. Best known as Fred Astaire’s dance partner, Ginger defied her overly-protective mother to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and one of the industry’s first women to demand equal pay. Funny, moving and a visual feast, Backwards In High Heels is a toe-tapping, swirling, gliding account of her ambitious public and private life.

A Wonderful Life (Musical)

A Wonderful Life (MUSICAL)
Hillbarn Theatre
December 2 – 19
Frank Capra’s film classic has been brought to vibrant theatrical life through the remarkable collaboration of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner Sheldon Harnick and Grammy and Emmy Award-winner Joe Raposo. The story of George Bailey and his wonderful life in Bedford Falls remains a timeless fable of dreams, disillusionment and the power of love. An uplifting chronicle of the extraordinary lives of ordinary folk, A Wonderful Life exhilarates the mind and heart as it celebrates the innate goodness in us all.  Memorable songs include One of the Lucky Ones, In a State and Christmas Gifts.

San Jose Short Film Festival
Camera 3 Cinemas
December 9, 11, 12
If you can’t wait for Cinequest 21 to begin (March 1) here is a great festival that will feed your film hunger: Presented by Emerging Artist Productions, the Second Annual San Jose Short Film Festival is dedicated to honoring and promoting short films while providing an outlet where local and national filmmakers, scriptwriters and all-around movie mongers can showcase their creative talent.

Ballet San Jose
December 11 – 26
I don’t believe we will be attending this show, but no Holiday show list is complete without mentioning our own beautiful Nutcracker ballet.   This triumphant tale of Maria and her beloved nutcracker will delight audiences, young and old alike.  The theater itself is a wonderland of surprises, replete with lavish lobby decorations, a boutique of ballet and holiday treasures, choirs singing carols, the “Pocket Lady” passing out free toys, and characters from the show posing for photos and patrons.  A Not-to-be-Missed Treasure of the Season, and a Gift for the Holidays!


The Stanford Theatre’s 2010 Spring Schedule

Downtown Palo Alto

The Stanford Theatre’s 2010 spring schedule (April 3 ~June 18) is now available. See classic films dating from 1930 to 1948 on the big screen of this beautifully restored theatre.

The Stanford Theatre
221 University Avenue downtown Palo Alto

Parking structures on Bryant Street and High Street.
Palo Alto Caltrain station is within walking distance.

Tickets: Available at the box office on the day of the show.
$7.00 ~ adults.
$5.00 ~ seniors (65 and over) and youth (18 and under).

Stanford Theatre Movie Guide ~ Shows and Times.



STARRING MAJA (PRINSESSA) is a lovely Swedish film about an overweight, unattractive and clumsy young woman who wants to be an actress.  Most of the movie is spent watching her deal with harassment and being used as an object by others for their own purposes, but there is a quite satisfying ending that I found delightful.  I loved the film.

Initially I was not sure I wanted to see this film as friends of mine had said it was difficult to watch.  Indeed it is difficult to see the emotions Maja cannot help but reveal as she realizes the bit part in a TV show she was offered is actually for “fat, grotesque, ugly girl”.  The audience also feels the betrayal that Maja feels as she realizes her only friend was using her as almost everyone else in her life has done. (more…)

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