Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

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

Oscar Nominated Shorts now showing at Camera 3

At Camera 3

On February 24, millions will sit down in front of their televisions to watch the 85th Academy Awards. Many viewers will have seen Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Silver Linings Playbook, and they have their opinions for which should win. But every year there are a couple categories that most people have had no chance to view: the Shorts. And how can you enjoy a win or gnash your teeth at a loss, if you’ve never seen the films?

Short films are not silly ventures made by filmmakers with no ambition. Most of them pack a punch equal to Les Misérables + Django Unchained x (Director Noms – Affleck). All the talent, drama and emotion that you see in a full length film can be stuffed into 15 minutes that leave you drained from laughter, sadness, or the wonder of what you just learned about the world or humanity. And yet the majority of filmgoers never get the opportunity to see the best of the best.

Enter Camera 3, where every year they show the complete collections of the Oscar Nominated short films. There are three different groupings: the Live Action Shorts, the Animated Shorts and the Documentary Shorts. For only ten dollars you can see the entire category of films.

You can’t call yourself a film lover or an Academy Award junkie if you haven’t seen the nominated shorts!

For tickets and time/date info:
2013 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films (Warning: “animated” does not mean appropriate for children)
2013 Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films (Final Week!)
2013 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films

Stephen Elliott at SJSU this week – You’re invited!

The Adderall Diaries

It appears we’re a little short on posts here at Metblogs, but never fear, I’m here to bring some excitement to your lives.  Er, I’m here to tell you about someone who will bring you some excitement to your lives…  Anyway…

Author/Director Stephen Elliott will be at San Jose State University tonight for a book reading and Q&A, and tomorrow will be screening his new film (about the porn industry – oh yeah, I have your attention now!) at the university on Wednesday evening.

Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books including the memoir The Adderall Diaries, which was named best book of the year in Time Out New York, and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of 2009; the novel Happy Baby; and the erotica collection My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up. In January 2009 he founded The Rumpus, now the most popular online-only literary magazine. In 2011, he directed his first feature film, About Cherry.

Co-sponsored by The Rumpus and the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center

November 13, 7pm: Reading and Book Signing, MLK Library Room 225/229
November 14, 8pm: Screening of About Cherry, SJSU, Sweeney Hall Room 100

Photo by Katherine Emery

Note: About Cherry is Rated R. It contains nudity, drug use, and adult situations which may make some viewers uncomfortable. A preview may be seen here.

The screening on November 14 will be immediately followed by a panel discussion featuring writer/director Stephen Elliott, Dr. Tanya Bakhru (Women’s Studies), and Professor Harry Mathias (TV, Radio, Film & Theater).

I was able to speak with him for an hour this afternoon and found him utterly charming, intelligent, and quietly charismatic.  Don’t miss this great opportunity to not only see a great new film (starring James Franco and Heather Graham) but to speak to a fascinating, multi-talented creator of art.

Now playing

I bet the hero’s name is Ralph.

Interview with local filmmaker Vijay Rajan

Journey Through Fire

Vijay Rajan is co-owner and Chief Creative Office of Siren Song Productions, a media services company and original film studio based in San Jose.  Having journeyed all the way from Virudhunagar, India to become a graduate of Santa Teresa High School and San Jose State University, he is now also well known throughout our own Cinequest Film Festival as an accomplished director of short films.  He is now in the process of filming a very important full length documentary, Journey Through Fire.  Journey Through Fire is a brutally honest and intimate documentary about a young woman who was raped by her brother and his friends throughout her childhood. It is not about what happened to her; it is about who she is now. This harrowing film promises to be unlike anything you have ever seen before – and hopes to inspire support and understanding for those who have endured the unthinkable.  I spoke with Vijay last week about the making of this documentary and how the community can help.  What came out of that is the following long interview which I just can’t see a reason to edit down.  It’s an important film, and I think Vijay gets his message across in this interview.

1. You have chosen a difficult subject with JOURNEY THROUGH FIRE.  Explain to our readers a little more about this documentary.

Sometimes in life you are given the chance to participate in something life-changing. That was the choice presented to me almost a year ago when I discovered that a good friend of mine had been raped by her brother and his friends for several years during her childhood. I was fascinated by her psychology, by the way she saw the world – how much of that was influenced by what she’d been through? And how was she able to rationalize acts of violence committed against her in adulthood? How was she able to still be compassionate?

These are difficult topics and not something that most people want to face. I never felt as if I had a choice. I turned on a camera – and that was the beginnings of the documentary Journey Through Fire.

To be honest, though, I had no idea how difficult a process this would be, not only emotionally for myself, but interpersonally, conceptually, artistically, and in recognizing the large amount of discomfort and apathy that exists towards such a brutal and harrowing topic.

If a survivor of the unthinkable can face these things, however, why not a filmmaker? Why not an audience? And aren’t the most inspiring movies the most harrowing, anyway?

2. Where did you meet the subject of this film and how did you come up with the concept?

For the sake of her safety, I’m not going to answer the first part of the question. She’s already been very courageous in coming forward and speaking her story and to give the details of how I met her just puts her out there further than we’d like.

But I will say this. When I first met the subject – and others have echoed this sentiment – what they are most floored by is her vitality. She is always laughing, she is bouncy, energetic, enthusiastic, and happy. I honestly was quite attracted to all of those qualities. She’s got this light in her eyes that’s really quite something.

When you think of a survivor of something like this, you think of someone who’s in a sense destroyed by it. Alcoholism, drug dependencies, at the very least depression. Not being able to hold down a job. She is none of these things. For her, what happened to her was a normal childhood. She shrugs it off. And that’s what so insidious about what was done. Its effects aren’t obvious. You have to look deep, dig deep, and then you begin to see the huge psychological effects. This is after all the woman who was walking down the street with me, stopped under a street-lamp, and innocently, heart-breakingly, asked, “Is it molestation if it happens only once?”

But for a filmmaker, that was the challenge, perhaps even the attraction. Can a film see deep inside a person’s mind? Can we really see and understand the depths of a person in a documentary? Look not just into what she’s saying but who she is?

And that’s just her story. What happened to her and how it happened and the effects of it continuing to her life now and the effects it has on those that love her — this is such an intricate story. When I began filming this documentary, I could not have predicted the twists and turns this year has taken. I knew it would be complex, but my God… I feel like it’s been much longer than a year. Living in this world, thinking these thoughts, has been a gauntlet.

Yet the constant through it all has been her. What makes this documentary unique is that I love the subject. I really do. She has been one of my closest friends. And seeing her fortitude and her exuberance, the excitement that she feels when she watches Phantom of the Opera, or gets scared of glass elevators, or talks about Tom Hiddleston as an actor, these “normal” things, these things that are her, they’re the light. I’m smiling as I say this because I just referred to her ridiculously irrational fear of glass elevators as “normal.” But that’s her. That’s my friend.

Journey Through Fire

3. Besides financing, what has been the biggest obstacle/problem in making this film?

Getting people to deal with the subject. It’s discomforting. It’s tragic. It’s depressing. But you have to wade through all of that to get to the light. This is an ultimately inspiring story – if for nothing else than it has inspired a movement, small as it is now, but growing every day. I get responses from people every week speaking about how the teaser trailer (now available at has moved them. Yes, there have been those who have said, “I wouldn’t watch the movie. It’d be too hard.” But I’ve also heard from those who want to commit, who want to champion, who want to stand up. i:Scintilla, the popular independent Chicago-based band that is scoring all of the music – all for free unless we get distribution, by the way – they’re champions. I admire them so much. I’ve had other survivors speak to me, share with me, open up to me.

When you let something sit in the dark, you actually become a part of the perpetuation of it. Getting people to deal with this subject has been difficult, but I feel that if you come through it, you don’t feel demotivated or depressed, you feel inspired. You have to know the people, the survivors and the supporters. There’s no way these people could leave you depressed. Choosing to look has its rewards.

And that goes for me too. I would be lying if I said I jumped out of bed every day energized to work on Journey Through Fire. This is draining material some days, especially when it’s about someone you love, its impact on you, the apathy of the world, and the evil that can exist inside of it. But looking back, I don’t really remember those days. I remember instead the ones where she and I conducted a heartbreaking

interview and then ended the night watching an episode of Game of Thrones laughing at Tyrion Lannister’s dialogue. I remember a professor from my old film school, someone I’ve known and admired for years, telling me on Facebook, of all places, that she too is a survivor and she believes in being open about these things, and then the kind words she said about the movie we were making. I remember Kurt Kuenne, director of the phenomenal Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, signing on to mentor me on the production of this film, because he was so moved by the subject’s spirit. These are people. Extraordinary people. How could the experience of knowing them be negative?

[Read more and find out how to help] (more…)

SJ 48 Hour Film Project “Meet & Greet” TONIGHT.

48 Hour Film Project








The 48 Hour Film Project is a frenetic, crazed weekend for all types of filmmakers.  They get a team together (writers/actors/crew), meet at a designated place on a Friday evening with other teams, and are given explicit instructions: In 48 hours, return with a completed short film (that means write, shoot, edit and score it).  To make it even more fun/frustrating, they are given a specific character, a specific prop, a specific line of dialogue and ordered to follow a specific genre – all information they only find out that Friday evening.  Usually within a week the films are shown in an actual theater, with a live audience, and judging begins.

Sound like fun? You can be a part of it.  The San Jose 48 Hour Film Project has a Meet and Greet TONIGHT at San Pedro Square Market.  If you’d like to sign up and head a team, if you’d like to join a team, or if you’d just like to come out and meet some really fascinating, charismatic people, head over to SPS Market tonight any time between 5pm and 10pm.  There will be Live music, streamed performances from other cities and the audience premiere for Be My Guest episode 6.

And best of all?  ABSOLUTELY FREE.

Director Todd Solondz at Camera 3, July 21!

DARK HORSE at Camera 3

Todd Solondz

THIS SATURDAY! Legendary independent filmmaker Todd Solondz, the acclaimed director of dark comedies such as WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE and HAPPINESS will be at Camera 3 for a Q&A session, following a screening of his new movie DARK HORSE.  The movie will be at 3pm, the Q&A is at 4:30. Tickets are matinee price–$7!

Cast: Justin Bartha, Christopher Walken, Selma Blair, Zachary Booth, Mia Farrow, Jordan Gelber and Donna Murphy
Synopsis: Abe is a schlubby 30-something loser who still lives with his parents, half-heartedly working in his father’s office and spending all his time buying Thundercats toys on eBay. Perversely, however, Abe is not without confidence and when he meets heavily-medicated depressive Miranda –- who has also just moved back in with her parents — he thinks he’s found a kindred spirit and proposes on their first date. “Solondz brilliantly — triumphantly — transforms what might have been an exercise in easy satirical cruelty into a tremendously moving argument for the necessity of compassion.”–New York Times

Running Time: 84 Minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Donut Nation is donut history

I just caught this video through a friend who’s a cousin of the director:

Director David Angel Rodriguez’s obsession with donuts showed itself earlier in his career when he one way or another inserted a donut into most of his paintings, photos, and other art projects. At one point he painted an entire gallery pink to transform it into a donut shop take-home box. Finally, he became such a donut expert that his friends convinced him to make this video. For many years, the only copy of the video was on a VHS tape in a random box, after he lost the original editing files during a move.

What I love most about the video is the footage from Lou’s Donuts, which was an institution on Santa Clara Street for many years (before my time in San Jose, though), until the landlord ignominiously bulldozed the building to build a Walgreen’s about 10 years ago. David got some of the footage from the owners of Lou’s, who used to show it in a back room devoted to World War II and donut memorabilia. Other footage was taken specially for the film at Lou’s, Krispy Kreme, and Queen’s Donuts, another local favorite.

Rodriguez is “between websites” at the moment, but is planning a new film project for the near future.

Coming Up: Cinequest 22

Cinequest 22, the San Jose international film festival, opens next week and continues through March 11.

Tuesday, February 28, is opening night. The opening night film is The Lady, featuring Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Burmese political opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The screening, at the California Theater, will be attended by director Luc Besson, and there will be a post-screening party at the recently opened Hyatt Place San Jose.

For the next 11 days, the festival will present full programs of film at the Camera 12, the San Jose Rep, and the California Theater. Other special events interspersed with the regular program include silent film presentations, four Maverick Spirit awards to enterprising film-makers, a special presentation of youth-produced films from around the world, and more. Sixty of the films will be making their world, North American, or U.S. premiers at Cinequest.

I’m looking forward to seeing Let the Bullets Fly, a new comedy/action film featuring one of Hong Kong’s great actors, Chow Yun Fat. This “homage to Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa” looks to be a lot of fun. The film will be shown as a special event at the California Theater on March 6.

The festival closes on March 10 with a screening of Terence Davies’ film The Deep Blue Sea. It’s a World War II-era drama about a women who must choose between a dashing but self-centered RAF pilot and the secure, but less exciting, man she’s already married to. Finally, March 11 will be Encore Day, giving a second chance to see some of the films that lead the balloting for the festival’s viewer’s choice award.

Photo: The Good Son, playing Feb. 29, March 1, and March 4.

Always something to do on weekends in San Jose

Besides Hillbarn Theatre’s production of Social Security (review below) there are three other worthy events we recommend this weekend.

at The Retro Dome




Becoming Britney starts tonight at the Retro Dome, and what could possibly be more fun than “a snarky musical adventure” about Britney Spears??  I’ve been hoping to see one of the Retro Dome’s live shows for awhile now.  Metblogs will be there tonight and hopefully have a review up in the morning.  You can see pictures from previous shows here.

Becoming Britney
The Retro Dome
February 10 thru March 11





La Traviata

And for slightly more high-brow entertainment (I’m happy to enjoy the gamut!) Opera San Jose is presenting La Traviata starting Saturday night!

She’s a beauty: A famed courtesan, glamorous, yet fragile. It is 1889 Paris and the celebrated Violetta Valéry has thrown a lavish party where she meets the young admirer Alfredo Germont. He has long loved her, and she is so taken with his sincerity that she abandons her life of luxury and retreats to the country to be with him. But when met with the disapproving eye of Alfredo’s father, Violetta regrettably agrees to end the affair and go back to Paris. A jealous Alfredo denounces her, but when he learns of her sacrifice he returns to beg her forgiveness, only to discover she has but moments to live.

Verdi’s romantic tragedy La traviata is overflowing with some of the most unforgettable music in all of opera. His melodies, rich in passion and drama, made him the master of his time and this legendary tale of love and sacrifice has touched the hearts of both the opera novice and long-time opera lover for generations.

Even for an “opera novice”?  Methinks the opera is talking to me, and this Opera Novice cannot wait to dress up and enjoy the show Saturday night.  Come along!

La Traviata
Opera San Jose
February 11 – February 26


Miss Representation

Miss Representationa very important film about how the media portrays women, had its broadcast premiere on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in October of 2011.  But if you missed it then, you can see it Saturday night at 7pm at Presentation High School.  This event is being sponsored by the American Association of University Women. Suggested donations for tickets is just $20 for adults and $10 for students (you can even write a check payable to AAUW/LAF). Proceeds go to the AAUW Legal Advocacy fund.

Click here for more information about the film and a trailer.   One quick look at the trailer immediately shows how important this film is (and how ridiculous our media can be without us even noticing).  Take your daughters.

We love events where you can see a great film AND have the price of admission go to a worthy cause.

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