ANATOMY | Film | Films | Leicester | Music | Music | Painting | Poetry | Portfolio

House of Her – An International Women’s Day videocast

By on 8 March, 2017

Hello, cuties. I’ve been doing so much stuff these months I seem to have neglected this blog. Gonna break the silence and share this luffleh press release by the luffleh House of Verse. Luffleh.

“House of Her”

Leicester’s female performers and artists come together in new video for International Women’s Day

Over 15 female artists, performers, writers and musicians have come together to create a compilation of performance pieces to celebrate International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017.

Produced by House of Verse curator Jenny Hibberd, the video offers a kaleidoscope view of the issues and thoughts of Leicester’s female artists, and what International Women’s Day means to them.

“After a conversation with fellow poet Asher X, we realised that only one fifth of the House of Verse performance collective are female and we wanted to think of something we could do together to big up the ladies. Realising it was soon to be International Women’s Day was mega inspiration to create this multi-woman video.”

– Jenny “Hibword” Hibberd

Artists contributed one-minute pieces, offering uplifting, empowering or challenging messages in response to International Women’s Day. With everything from performance poetry to hula-hooping, the video shows a variety of perspectives and represents the many talented female artists making work in Leicester today.

“Wo! Man. You glow, man. Kind of everywhere. You know? You brimming, flowing, human beam. You light-packed fateful gleam. You dream.”

– Hibword

Released on 8 March, the video will be shared on House of Verse’s website, social media and Youtube accounts.

Many of the artists featured in the video will also be performing at Moonshine Word Jam, an International Women’s Day special at The Exchange Bar on 9 March. See the Facebook event here.

House of Her: Celebrating International Women's Day 2017

Happy International Women's Day you divine beings <3Enjoy this kaleidoscopic compilation of female artists, performers, writers and musicians to celebrate ^_^Produced by Jenny "Hibword" Hibberd.Contributing artists in order:00:05 Rhiannon Jayne Townsend01:05 Lulu Rose May02:30 Danni Spooner03:30 Asher X (Ash Er)04:41 Mellow Baku06:06 Amber Woods07:23 Rosa Fernandez08:23 Anatomy (Cynthia Rodríguez, Emily Rose Teece, Adrienne Jones, Leonie DuBarry-Gurr)09:24 Natalie Beech10:27 Punky Hoops (Rae Lloyd)11:27 Hib Word (Jenny Hibberd)13:18 Emily MerchantMusic credits: Erykah Badu – AppletreeTove Lo – Habits (Stay High) – Hippie Sabotage RemixOdesza – White Lies (Instrumental)Links:www.houseofverse.co.ukwww.facebook.com/thehouseofversewww.instagram.com/house_of_versewww.twitter.com/thehouseofverse

Posted by House of Verse on Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Produced by Jenny “Hibword” Hibberd.
Contributing artists in order:
00:05 Rhiannon Jayne Townsend
01:05 Lulu Rose May
02:30 Danni Spooner
03:30 Asher X
04:41 Mellow Baku
06:06 Amber Woods
07:23 Rosa Fernandez
08:23 ANATOMY (Cynthia Rodríguez, Emily Rose Teece, Adrienne Jones, Leonie DuBarry-Gurr)
09:24 Natalie Beech
10:27 Punky Hoops (Rae Lloyd)
11:27 Hib Word (Jenny Hibberd)
13:18 Emily Merchant

Music credits:
Erykah Badu – Appletree
Tove Lo – Habits (Stay High) – Hippie Sabotage Remix
Odesza – White Lies (Instrumental)

Links:
www.houseofverse.co.uk
www.facebook.com/thehouseofverse
www.instagram.com/house_of_verse
www.twitter.com/thehouseofverse

Continue Reading

Film | Films | Internet | Media | Mental Health | Poems | Poetry | Spoken Word | World

The Tube of You

By on 22 July, 2016
All these tubes are yours. Image: MorgueFile.
All these tubes are yours. Image: MorgueFile.

Dunno if I’ve mentioned it already, but when my therapist found out I was trying to do “poetry stuff”, she told me to film myself and upload the videos on YouTube. It sounded terrifying. I mean, I’m going to therapy and stuff. Why would I want to be so “exposed” to mockery and disdain? That’s why I uploaded most of my film work and footage to Vimeo instead. No chance of sick comments, very niche, from filmmakers to filmmakers. Plus, none of that soul-selling copyright nonsense. I didn’t know YouTube let you register your films under Creative Commons!

Image: MorgueFile
Image: MorgueFile.

Then, Pangaea World Poetry Slam came. Submit your videos, people can vote, you may win money, and will definitely get to be known internationally. However, you have to upload them on YouTube. Nowhere else. Get naked. Also, there are some cool free workshops on Hangouts that will help you to improve your game.

Thank you, Pangaea, for making the impossible, possible.
Thank you, Pangaea, for making the impossible, possible.

So I followed my therapist’s advice and here goes nothing! The official Cynthia Rodríguez YouTube channel. I’ve been uploading pieces for Pangaea once a week for the past three weeks, and will upload one very likely next week. From live footage to just talking to the camera from interesting places to full-blow film montage, I’m just looking for different ways to share stories and messages as they might benefit, amuse or *inspire* others. It’s already helping me improve and become less camera shy, and people have already started doing their own spoken word/films and looking for open mics to share. Sharing is caring!

Last week’s delivery was “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. I want as many people as possible to see that one because the world needs you, obvs. Before that, it was footage of “Pepper Spray” from the open mic at Coventry Pride.

This week, the weather was so nice I sat on the grass at Victoria Park and relaxed a bit. I was so chilled out that I ended up filming and uploading my entry for Pangaea right there and then. An old-ish poem, from three months ago or so. It’s called “Frivolous”, and I wrote it after the Open Stage at The Y where I read a lot of my hardcore pinko shit and then came the adorable Anna My Charlotte with an ukulele (she plays harp too! <3) and said she would see a bit frivolous after all my stuff, and then proceded to sing and play the most charming and nostalgic stuff ever. The perfect songs to play in the park on a peaceful sunny day.

So yeah, follow, like, share, whatever, and if you have videos and words, share them to the world!

Continue Reading

Film | Nottingham | Poems | Poetry

Film Haiku

By on 7 July, 2016
Image: Morgue File.
Image: Morgue File.

On Monday, I went to Nottingham for a workshop with Leanne Moden in preparation for the Words for Walls contest organised by Nottingham Uni. Since the workshop was hosted at Broadway Cinema, most of our freewriting exercises were film-centric. This was the first one: writing one or more haikus about some of our favourite films without mentioning their names and letting people guess. Here are mine, and now I will ask you to guess from each plot which films I’m talking about. Answers in the comments section, please. 

1.

He had just one job,
but his car proved that he was
a real human being.

2.

Village of the damned?
Get ready for these bad boys:
have a Cornetto.

3.

“Slicing up eyeballs”.
Pixies said what I had to.
Forgot piano.

4.

My voice for these legs,
alas life under the sea
was better than this.

5.

Back in our homeland,
sing “This Corrosion” to me.
All alien robots!

6.

“I did not hit her”.
“You are tearing me apart!”
Catch the football now.

Still angry about the state of the world, but here’s some light fun as a method of self-care. 🙂

Continue Reading

Film | Leicester | Lifestyle

A Dozen Summers

By on 24 September, 2015

adozensummers-onesies

It’s been a while since we’ve had a great coming-of-age movie. Between the innocence of Stand By Me and the nihilism of Breakfast Club, bildungsroman comedies in the late twentieth century made us feel connected, less isolated during our most awkward stages, cherishing our days of youth while bracing ourselves for an uncertain future. Yes, the new millennium is not short of tweenage adventures on silver screen, but there has to be a sweet spot between the apparent frivolousness of Mean Girls and the literal kick to the stomach of This is England. Something to soar our spirits as our wings start to melt due to emotional Global Warming. That’s where A Dozen Summers comes into play.

adozensummers-gang

The first feature directed by Canadian wonder Kenton Hall, A Dozen Summers is a feel-good film that stays real to the harsh facts of life without losing its sense of adventure. It’s the story of a summer in the lives of Maisie and Daisy McCormack, pre-adolescent twins on a quest to make their own movie as they navigate their relationships with friends, family and society in general.

adozensummers-interrogation

The story is, at all times, told from Maisie and Daisy’s perspective, after they “kidnap” an off-voice narrator (Doctor Colin Baker) who was aiming to tell a children’s tale as a distant observer, the same way David Attenborough talks about wild animals. These very wild animals are on the loose, and now you’re going to witness their truths with a little help from dreams, metaphors, parodies and heavy, heavy editing. For once, the control is at their fingertips, and they’re not afraid to use it.

adozensummers-twins

The twins are no Lindsay Lohans. There’s no illusion and no stereotypical twin jokes about wearing the same outfit, holding hands at all times and finishing each other’s sentences. The girls, played by real-life twins Scarlett and Hero Hall, are autonomous people with diverse life interests and even different growth patterns. While Maisie has crushes and spends ages buying jeans, Daisy’s most heartbreaking concern is that they’re not making a horror movie instead. A ghost girl who eats all the teachers? I’d watch that, honestly. Twice.

adozensummers-makeup

Kenton is their father on and off-screen, but there’s no whiff of favouritism either way. The same level of professionalism can be seen through the entire cast, young and less young alike. Many things can go wrong with underage/vulnerable talent, but those children set an example and show a broader range of performances than a few Academy Award nominees.

adozensummers-model

This is not just a children’s story. From constant subplots and stillness, we learn that growing pains never cease. The adults go through their personal journeys, hidden from those who look up to them. When the kids leave, there is sighing, smirking, staring at unknown distances. Grown ups are left to their own devices, now with permission to stop pretending that they’ve got their wits together. Between classes, the teachers reflect. When the noisy students leave the shop, the attendant can’t seem to cope with sudden silence. The mother, played by Sarah Warren, fights this constant loneliness through a string of peculiar romances. The father, on the other hand, only seems to find solace in the big nothing. When his children go to school, he tells the camera to go on then, keep filming the girls, not him. After all, it’s their story. Right? Or is it everyone’s story?

adozensummers-squirrel

For a brave little indie family film, A Dozen Summers seems to be reaching places. It has been shown at festivals in places as distant as the US, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ukraine and Chile. For the past couple of months, it has been commercially screened in theatres all over the country and, after a successful weekend in late August at its hometown in Leicester, it’s coming back this weekend for a limited time at the Phoenix. Several external locations were shot in the Cultural Quarter, so it’s fair and necessary to see the results around here.

adozensummers-whistle

What are you waiting for, then? Support local, indie, transnational, immaculate storytelling for all ages. It’s finger-snapping good.

Continue Reading

Arts | Beliefs | Film | Short Story | Zines

Buena Vida Presenta: First Crush

By on 1 July, 2015

Buena Vida Presenta First Crush

About five years ago, I wrote a short story in Spanish and turned it into a zine. It was the first in a series called Buena Vida Presenta, in which I was meant to live my fantasy and write as a career and as the only thing to do in life. A good life indeed. The story was called Santa Belleza, and it was about the way a struggling family of Mexicans in Los Angeles prayed to their favourite film star to cure their child from a terminal disease. Spoiler alert: it sort of worked.

Without even thinking about plots and arch themes, I wrote a very-delayed second story for the series. The first one entirely and originally in English, and the first one to be available both online and offline.

This one is called First Crush, and was created after a conversation with Farhana Shaikh and Ishi Kahn-Jackson (also known as Ishi Kahn-Cancún to the clueless who love the seaside) at Creative Coffee. Someone confessed they had their first celebrity crush well into their adulthood, and someone else told them not to feel embarrassed about it, as “you are never too old to have your first celebrity crush”.

The protagonist in the story knows this, but is still a bit embarrassed. She’s old, she’s been married and widowed, and she has never been with anyone but her husband. Still, one can dream, and that’s what she does while being part of a race against oblivion and obsolescence she has been running all of her life.

To conveniently download this short story/zine, just click on the image above or click on this text right here. It will take you to the PDF on my Drive, so you can download it, print it, read it and such.

I have printed a few physical copies, and you may probably find them around your favourite Leicester hangouts. Otherwise, just ask me next time we meet in person.

Continue Reading

Bristol | England | Film | France | Glastonbury | Leicester | Screenwriting

Patty Cake, Patty Cake (Glastonbury Film Challenge)

By on 26 June, 2015

glastonburyfilmchallenge

Making films, although exciting and generally satisfying, is no walk in the park: it takes discipline, organisation, team work, and lashes and lashes of creativity. All of this, usually within a deadline. But what if that deadline is shorter than average? What if you have to write, arrange, produce and edit your film within five days, with no chance of preparing anything beforehand? That’s what some of us did for the Glastonbury Film Challenge.

I was lucky enough to be chosen for Roger Ficq’s team, based in Leicester and mostly consisting of cast and crew from Seven/Five Productions. The French director has a fascination with the West Country and its folkloric mystique, and saw this as a source of inspiration and an opportunity to connect communities and expand possibilities.

The Glastonbury Film Challenge began on 16 May. At 11 am, each team got a random title and genre to work with for the next five days. It could have been anything: horror, action, dark comedy, romantic comedy (we feared this one in particular) or eco-chic — whatever that meant. The genre we got was eco-noir, in no way more common than anything else. A hippie mystery? A private detective who instead of smoking eats celery sticks? A version of Drive where the driver runs his errands on a velotaxi? It was up to us. We were only given two pieces of the puzzle and we would have to come up with the rest. The other piece was the title: Patty Cake, Patty Cake.

pattycake-writers
Laura Homer, Mike Yeoman, Roger Ficq, Natalija Voskresenska and John McCourt.

The writers team — led by John McCourt, ignited by Mike Yeoman and seasoned by Laura Homer and yours trufax — then had one day to develop a three-minute script. We started with a shower of ideas coming right and left, with some guidance from the director himself and the cinematographer and editor, baby genius Tom Young. By around 4pm, we had a story concocted, a list of quality actors featuring some crew members, and a venue.

Sunday was all about filming. Off the Fence were kind enough to let us borrow Upstairs at the Western, the small indie theatre they rent on the first floor of this beloved local pub. The strident stage lights beaming on the dining table in the pitch black room set the perfect environment for our spooky soirée.

pattycake1

Producer Eve Harding (I’ll Be Waiting) played the cynical chairman of Red Spring V.C.C., a vegan society of sorts. Members had to wear masks, remain quiet and share their concerns one by one. When Vinnie (comedian Vinnie Vitriol, The Wrong Floor) joined the club, his optimism swiftly evaporated as the club mocked him for questioning another member’s (Hinal Karavadra, We The Blind) concern about philanthropist Patty Hannaway cutting down trees to build houses for the homeless and stabbing Mother Earth in her “bounteous bosom”. They may have been stern with their love for vegetation, but as they enjoyed Sophiya’s (Sophiya Sian, A Dozen Summers) homemade cake, Vinnie found out with disgust that they weren’t exactly that strict about their plant-based diet.

pattycake2

Rest of the cast included still photographer Manoj Anand (Pacemaker Productions’ Bully), writer Laura Homer, sound recordist Matthew Leeson, and Karl Cross as the “nosy” butler.

pattycake4

Young did a superb job with a variety of cameras, as well as managing me with a GoPro and Jon Ellison with a camcorder, in order to recreate the surreal and “deform” environment that Ficq was looking for. Grant Paton (The Harms of Hate) led Leeson with sound, and runners Tom Caterer and Hitesh Pandya helped with the clapper board and behind-the-scenes photography respectively.

pattycake3

The following three days where for mastering, editing and collecting the boring administrative stuff, including cast and crew release forms and moments too intense to include on any behind-the-scenes special. Biggest kudos and respect go to Ficq, Young, Harding and assistant editor Natalija Voskresenska for making sure Patty Cake, Patty Cake was admitted on time for the challenge.

Groot Jr. hits the road!
Groot Jr. hits the road!

One Saturday we were just conceiving the movie, and the next Saturday we were on Ficq’s car on our way to the Glastonbury Film Challenge awards night. To make the hours of driving and long-weekend traffic worth it, we spent the afternoon discovering Glasto and getting to feel the vibe Roger loves so much. Now we love that vibe too. It is indeed a very magical place: while your usual High Street has Tesco’s and Topshop, Glastonbury’s High Street smells of incense and has yoga clubs, white magic apothecaries, ancient pubs and an official Goddess temple.

Glastonbury Goddess Temple
Glastonbury Goddess Temple.

On the skirts of the Tor, you can drink iron-drenched water from the White Springs before and after climbing the hill for extra energy. Rumour has it this was the mythical island of Avalon, and it’s now a peaceful place where you can sit down and contemplate what could have been King Arthur’s territory.

The Tor.
The Tor.

There are physical highs and there are mental highs, and the Glastonbury Film Challenge screening was the latter. It was like stepping into a parallel universe where you see your usual hideaways and friends replicated into different regional versions. The Red Brick Building is a melting pot of creativity, support and inspiration a bit like our Phoenix Cinema. Veterans guide rookies through the path of movie making like they do here at Seven/Five. Even the Bocabar has a cute and friendly bar staff like in the Phoenix.

We may have not won, but we didn’t come back home empty handed. Getting to know the talented locals and watching their interpretations was a pretty rich experience. Kids as raw and gifted as TOP LOAD‘s special effects master Michael Corrigan. Actor-director adventures in small teams like Marina Hann did for Eternal Love of a Broken Mind. Or people from further north, like Sweden’s Robert Bengtsson and Best Film winner The Rabbit Hole. And what about other people’s solutions to the eco-noir dilemma? The big winner on Best Script and People’s Choice Award was Jon Callow’s blunt and truly scary The Fischer Enquiry, filmed under the same genre. Certainly more eco than ours.

The Fischer Enquiry, by Jon Callow.
The Fischer Enquiry, by Jon Callow.

It was quite flattering when Phil Smith, master of ceremony and Challenge organiser called our movie “unusual”. Other contenders said it was “weird” and “dark”. Few things are weirder than Glastonbury, and for this challenge, it was a particular prowess, considering that there was a film about a Psychic Poodle. 

The Psychic Poodle! ♥
The Psychic Poodle! ♥

If you or a loved one is at the Glastonbury festival this weekend, tell them to go to the Hub. The Glastonbury Film Challenge selection is being shown on loop all day and night, including our dear Patty Cake, Patty Cake.  Tell everyone you know to come and see us. If you can’t, we’re on YouTube for your personal enjoyment.

Continue Reading

Bristol | Canada | Film | Leicester | London | United Kingdom

MLE: I Spy for Realzies

By on 6 May, 2015

mylittleeye-poster

Sometimes, when a door closes shut, a window opens wide. But what if it’s a secret window into a world of lies, mystery, heartbreak… and puppets? That’s more or less the premise of MLE, a feature film written, directed and starred by Sarah Warren. Believe it or not, based on a true story.

mylittleeye-sarahwarren

Actress Julie Robert (stop it, guys) comes to London all the way from Canada with her so-called best friend Camila (Julie Sype), guided by the promise of acting in a movie about vampire mermaids. When the project is canned due to lack of funding, a series of unfortunate events culminate in Julie nearly running over Bella, a beautiful businesswoman who instead of unleashing her rage — for now — offers her a job as a spy. Her mission: to find out what Bella’s stepdaughter really does with her father’s allowance money.

mylittleeye-parents

Julie is an actress, so she treats this as an acting job. She needs the money. Her family back home still believes she’s meant to be a star and she lets them think she’s still working on the movie. Through a conversation with her mum, she comes up with the perfect pseudonym, and the perfect title for this film.

mylittleeye-mle

Thus, Emily (MLE, My Little Eye, you get it) meets Joy (real-life BFF and production powerhouse Deidre Garcia) and finds out they are pretty much soulmates. They bond over their love for cake and their passion for making puppets; and their connection is very real. So what starts like a fast way to make ends meet and replenish that money jar in her landlord’s fridge turns into an ethical conundrum and, as things get darker and darker, a mission to save her new friend and her family.

mylittleeye-deidregarcia

MLE is a story of downfall and growth, where the initial goal of fame and fortune eventually switches to something else. Something our star not only wants, but needs. No, it’s not a job in a decadent environment that treats her like rubbish. It’s not a bearded knight on a bicycle, although he’s cool and he’s a gamer like her. Julie’s idea of becoming “somebody” gradually waltzes away from the lights and the microphones, and now rests on a balcony along with her toys. Her aim is now to be herself and be accepted as she is, in a world where uniqueness and friendship are harder to find than fame and fortune. Of course everything else is still more than welcome, but it’s no longer a priority.

MLE-Masks

The images are cute, and the film looks like it was filtered on Instagram. Like a Sweet Sixteen party curated by Wes Anderson. However, it couldn’t be further away from all those twee little movies. It does not intend to look cute, and the plot and characters do not intend to be quirky. They just are. Just like those basketcases (like yours truly) who feel awkward at parties surrounded by mansplaining feminists or who play grown up at job interviews or who didn’t learn how to ride a bicycle until well into their 20s-30s. It’s not “look at me being an adult baby”, but more like “look at me trying to navigate the world and become a functioning adult without losing myself completely”.

mylittleeye-skyscrapers

Another thing that made me click with MLE was the connection between Julie/Sarah and her two homes: keeping composure when Skyping with her parents and finding them weirder and weirder each day, while taking notice on the smallest things that keep Britain weird and citizens take for granted. Panoramic shots of Julie gazing from her terrace into the City, skyscrapers grazing perpetually grey clouds. Slang words like “quid”. Driving from the right seat. Rude gestures. Bunting. Even the ugly London stuff like people shouting random insults at you. Everything is so peculiar, and nothing is more peculiar than living in what seems to be a permanent state of liminality. You just enjoy the ride and eat your cake after your 1, 2, 3, 4 veggies — as long as the cake ain’t a lie.

mylittleeye-puppetdouchebag

The film was backed by a successful Kickstarter campaign, where nearly 200 people donated over £20,000 to the cause. Of course no one would say “no” to this adorable douchebag puppet. I promise you he gets better in the film. Now I want to give him all my money. Also, his sister puppet is even lovelier.

MLE‘s première in Leicester was last week at the Phoenix, but if you find it at your nearest cinema, go watch it. I swear it’s less sickly than the trailer, and it has quality songs by Bristol’s own Clayton Blizzard. Stay for the credits to hear/listen/pay attention to “Julie’s Theme” and for the full version of the “Canadian” Cake Song. 🍰🍰🍰

Continue Reading

England | Film | History | Leicester | United Kingdom

I’ll Be Waiting: filming

By on 24 February, 2015

Photo: Jesse Nandra.

Photo: Jesse Nandra.

Nearly a couple of weeks ago, I was involved in filming a movie as part of Seven Five Productions. It’s called I’ll Be Waiting, and it’s a short film about those lives lost during the First World War, not only in the bunkers and the fields but in the towns back home.

Still: Jesse Nandra
Still: Jesse Nandra

It tells the story of Mary (Vaiva Jankauskaitė), a young girl waiting for her betrothed Arthur at the railway station once the Great War is over. Even if he doesn’t come on the first train home, Mary remains loyal to her promise and keeps sitting down on the same bench every day, restlessly, as her resources and health — but not her hopes — vanish day by day.

Laura Wilkinson, Eve Harding, Roger Ellis and Alexander Donald. Photo: Jesse Nandra
Laura Wilkinson, Eve Harding, Roger Ellis and Alexander Donald. Photo: Jesse Nandra

This is the first film directed, written and produced by Eve Harding; an actor previously seen in short and feature films such as Shelter by Tom Young, the Australian Drown by Dean Francis, and Red Glasses by Sheena Karia, Meera Sakaria and Krissy Varia. With Laura Wilkinson (Finding Richard, Red Glasses) keeping things under control, Roger Ellis (Shelter, Brotherly Love 2015) and Alexander Donald (Failing, The Green Door) capturing the scenes for posterity, Jesse Nandra (Molecular Audio) taking pictures on set and behind the scenes, and Peter Collins (Flawless, My Pretend Friend) recording sounds with his beloved boomer, Eve knew she was in a great place — and with the best people — to take this idea into fruition.

But what did I do, you may ask. I was Second Assistant Director/Clapper Loader. You know, the fun bit. The one who does this:

Clap clap. Photo: Jesse Nandra.
Clap clap. Photo: Jesse Nandra.

With the Great Central Railway’s blessing, we recorded the whole film in the now unused Rothley railway station. Filming only took a couple of intense days, but it was an everlasting experience for all of us involved, experts and rookies (yours truly part of the latter). The perfect mix of professionalism and friendship was floating in the air, and everyone’s individual talents were cherished equally. It was not only an opportunity to share our abilities and be part of the jigsaw, but a brilliant way to practise in action and learn new skills and information.

Pete Collins. Photo: Jesse Nandra.
Pete Collins. Photo: Jesse Nandra.

It was wonderful to be surrounded by people not only passionate about filmmaking, but about history and our society yesterday, today and tomorrow. The staff at Rothley station, specially Andrew Morely, were kind enough to let us portray the spirit of the times in a very faithful manner. They even let us film and record a train — several times! — for more realism.

All aboard! Photo: Jesse Nandra.
All aboard! Photo: Jesse Nandra.

As Eve and Laura would say later, ours was a Dream Team. And a dream adventure too. Something I would repeat over and over again, regardless of the physical and mental exhaustion afterwards. Filming is almost like giving birth, and I believe our baby — Eve’s baby, rather, and we were surgeons and midwives — will be a very beautiful one.

Dream Team! Photo: Laura Wilkinson.
Dream Team! Photo: Laura Wilkinson.

Continue Reading

Beliefs | Brighton | Coventry | Croatia | Culture | Film | Idaho | India | Japan | Leicester | London | United Kingdom

Transindia: A Documentary

By on 28 January, 2015

Transindia, by Meera Darji

Meera Darji wants to make a documentary about the hijras, the term used in South Asia for people who don’t consider themselves men nor women but contain features of both genders. Usually assigned male at birth, hijras have effeminate traits and present themselves in femme outfits. In Indian culture, they are/were seen as holy human representations of Ardhanari, the composite of Lord Siva and his partner Parvati. Blessed by Rama in the Ramayana, they to go to weddings, childbirth and celebrations to dance and bring fortune and fertility. They were featured in the Kama Sutra, although a vast percentage of them renounce to sexuality and channel their sexual energy into other sacred activities.

Along came the British Empire and its puritan notions of gender. The hijras were seen as “a breach of public decency” and were included on the Criminal Tribes Act along with thieves and murderers. They had to be registered, monitored and systematically disenfranchised by society. Not even the fight for independence and the formation of the Indian Republic destroyed the stigma. Police neglection and brutality against them has increased as part of the aftermath of the recriminalisation of homosexuality and bisexuality in December 2013; and although they were just considered a “third-sex” in April 2014 granted educational and professional rights, they are still considered a “backward” class in society and economy. Now they live in segregated communities, taking underpaid jobs to make ends meet.

Transindia-acceptance

We have information about them thanks to research, film and audio; but it’s not as inclusive as it should. Many documentaries are made from the point of view of an spectator, someone looking from afar and not entirely willing to comprehend what they witness. It’s appreciated that film makers are interested in the first place, but it’s also primordial to give space to people to speak for themselves. To learn about them while giving them a venue for self-expression. Not pestering them nor treating them with tweezers on a Petri dish, but fully immersing ourselves in the environment and letting it take control.

Meera Darji

To make this happen, Meera is flying to India in February for production. She wants to be part of events, attend blessings and social gatherings, interview hijras and their families. Not as a perpetual Jacques Cousteau voice-over, but as a mere vessel of communication. As a platform to expand their message.

Struggle With Life & Race Against Time

Meera has done short films about life in and out of India. In 2013, she directed Struggle With Life & Race Against Time, an emotive documentary in which her grandfather Surendrakumar Bhagat shared his lifestory and wisdom. He talked about how he went from being a typist and living in poverty, to becoming a bank manager and being able to visit his family abroad. The film was screened at film festivals in Leicester, Stockport and Peckham; nominated for the International Student Creative Award by We are One Japan; and was the Overall Winner at Brighton Youth Film Festival.

In the life of Manilal Kataria

Later, on a visit to Ahmedabad, she filmed In the life of Manilal Kataria, on a worker we could call a jack-of-all-trades: he cleans houses, washes cars, attends a small shop on various errands, and cleans cooking utensils on a shower floor. He believes in hard work and human labour; and while machines could accomplish most of his duties, he does everything with precision, dedication, and above all, soul. It was selected for Leicester’s Short Cinema Film Festival, London’s Thurrock International Short Film Festival, RATMA Film Festival, Croatia’s Tabor International Short Film Festival, and several events in the USA, taking home the Best Documentary award at Idaho’s BoVi Film Festival.

Transindia would be her first feature film. And yes, it’s her final project at Coventry University; just like her previous documentaries were also evaluated in an academic manner. Nevertheless, she makes these movies for more than an undergraduate degree or to merely thicken her portfolio: she makes these movies because they are stories that need to be told.

Transindia A Film by Meera Darji

It’s because of this that she’s looking for funding to make this happen. On Transindia‘s Indiegogo page, you can donate as little as £5 and still get mentioned in the credits. The more you give, the more perks you get — a digital copy of the film, a DVD copy of the film, postcards, posters, t-shirts, a personal video of the community, and the possibility of being included as an Associate Producer or Executive Producer. But the best reward will be the existence of the film itself. 2014 was a big year for the trans* community in Western civilisation, and Darji wants to do her part to make something like this happen to Indian society in 2015. To ignite the conversation and spread it across the community.

It would be amazing if you could help.

Continue Reading

Education | Film | Literature | Novel | United States

Stephen King – Carrie

By on 19 May, 2014

Carrie-Cover

When I was in high school, I wanted to be like Carrie. I wanted to have strong, mental powers to defend myself from the bullies, the teachers, and sometimes from family itself. I wanted to have them on the palm of my hand, unable to escape after one joke too many. I’m pretty sure I’m not the one.

Surprisingly, more and more teens shared this disdain and desire. Not necessarily absolute misfits. A few Halloweens later, this beautiful Suicide Girl chick from university went dressed as Carrie to one of the most decadent parties I’ve ever been to. Mind you, the same party had a bloke dressed like a member of the Ingsoc Thought Police, and I think I saw many Alices in Wonderland, Alex DeLarge and even the Aztec god Tlaloc. Accidentally on purpose, it was a literary themed party. Nobody killed anyone, though. Some people shagged, some people threw up and some people threw up while shagging. Nothing like Brian de Palma’s apocalyptic film adaptation, nor like the straight-to-TV alternate fantasy featuring Angela Bettis, which, quite ironically, we were watching before going to the party.

Angela Bettis in Carrie

It seems embarrassing, but it wasn’t until very recently that I read the original novel by Stephen King. The first film gave me so much life, yet I didn’t know what was printed on paper.

To those unfamiliar with the story: it’s about a teenager who is hated at school and at home. Her classmates treat her like little more than a cockroach, while her fundamentalist fanatical mother tends to lock her in a closet for several hours whenever she commits acts of impurity – such as having her period. When she finds out she has telekinetic powers, her self-defence skills grow in monstrous proportions right on time for Prom Night, where she falls prey to the prank to kill all pranks and… well… let’s say pranks are not the only ones that get killed.

While the book is short and easy to drink in one day, King presents it gradually and slowly, bit by bit, unveiling the facts and rumours behind the second-largest tragedy in post-war America. We get to know the circumstances in which Carrie was conceived, born and raised – her birth story being re-imagined on the latest film adaptation, directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Chlöe Grace Moretz being more Hit Girl than Shit Girl. We read people’s research and speculations intercalated with the omniscient narrator’s telling of events, including every single thought that’s gone through Carrie’s head. We get to compare testimonials and interpretations with the “truth” as it happened. Supposing it did.

Carrie Prom

Can’t help but wonder if the Black Prom happened in real life, on the 27th of May of 1979, would still be remembered today. How would it stand compared to other school tragedies such as the ones in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Red Lake and Sandy Hook? Or, after learning out lesson with the Black Prom, and knowing that children indeed are our present and future, would these other massacres have happened at all? It was a work of fiction, but couldn’t we learn from it anyway and do our best to not give the perfect soil and nutrients to turn it into a reality?

The adaptations have forgotten several things from the book, unsurprisingly. None of them mention the Rain of Stones, perhaps a very large piece of the puzzle of Carrie White’s life. And the genetic background goes unmentioned in motion pictures. So, movie-watchers infer that Carrie’s powers just happened all of a sudden and weren’t around until her first menses.

Chloe's Carrie with piles of books

On the other hand, something I was missing that was not included on the book was some mention of the books Carrie read on telekinesis. On the films we see her diving into piles and piles of them, and I expected some “quotations” or “page selections” from these books in particular. Just like Yukio Mishima included an entire book-within-a-book on Runaway Horses, where lawyer Shigekuni Honda reads The League of the Divine Wind; and this reading, enthusiastically suggested by the young Isao Iinuma, explains the deadly consequences at the end of the story, the entire Sea of Fertility saga, and even Mishima’s own life.

However, contrary to the Japanese author’s example, Carrie was King’s opera prima and not his Swan Song. It was a lesson to learn, but not a testament. And he was not twisted enough (yet) to leave books within books within quotations within annotations like Mark Z. Danielewski in House of Leaves. I am unaware if he actually does it in later works of his extensive catalogue, but this is still a compelling effort for a first book – or for a book in general, full stop.

Stephen King 1970s

Many years after Carrie, Stephen King is still a very influential storyteller, and whether you’ve read him or not, you can relate to his stories in one way or another thanks to his innumerable adaptations for film and TV. Up next, I will be reading The Shining – which inspired my favourite Kubrick film – and Misery – to force myself to keep writing and stop Annie Wilkes from breaking my legs with a hammer.

Continue Reading