Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Welcome to the Circus Documentary

Welcome to the Circus, a documentary directed by Courtney Coulson, will premiere at the 2015 Portland Film Festival. The film covers one month during which the circus professionals from le Lido du Cirque Toulouse France, meet and train with the students from The Palestinian Circus School in Palestine. The goal is to be ready for a mobile circus tour for the children of Palestine. The mobile cirque will travel to several cities, ending with a final performance in Jerusalem. Only one student has a blue card, allowing travel in and out of Jerusalem. The rest will have to apply for permits. There are checkpoints from one city to the next: as one performer says, each can be different day to day, hour to hour. The film touches gently on the ongoing chaos that is the West Bank, using visual cues, and the scenery passing outside the bus as the performers move from Ramallah to the scheduled cities. We see through the eyes of circus students: eager to learn, embracing the physical and mental stretch that is circus performance. Coulson is the cinematographer and director, and she uses the final hours of preparation to convey the uncertainty of West Bank life. At 4 a.m., seven hours before the first staging, a juggling act needs revision. We see the troupe training for A Walk to the Moon, a choreography that becomes an analogy for all the performers actually getting to Jerusalem. Noor, a student of the School, begins as our guide to the overarching story: a tale of uncertainty, limits, glimpses of what could be possible if only: all with the energy of youth and determination and hope. Noor is studying to be an accountant because he knows there must be work as well as circus. The le Lido performers are our on-screen eyes, as they, like we, experience for the first time the West Bank through the hearts of young Palestinians who share the love of artistry and athleticism that is circus. Keep an eye on the comic genius of the chef at the school-priceless filming. Welcome to the Circus will be screening at the Lake Erie Arts and Film Festival later in September. Follow the documentary on facebook for more opportunities to watch this extraordinary film.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

!Women Art Revolution Review

Image Copyright 2015 Lynn Hershman
September 1 to 15, 2015 will be a Directed by Women Global Viewing Party. You can party too, in your own home by watching some of the films on the Directed by Women website. You can follow on twitter @DirectedbyWomen. I started partying early. Thursday I got my copy of !War Art Revolution and watched it that night. Lynn Hershman Leeson had a video camera and she used it to record thousands of hours of the women artists who came through her living room during the Feminist Art Movement. The documentary is breathtaking in its scope, coverage, music and story. Guerilla Girls, Vietnam, campus police violence, historical context from the late 60s, early 70s, women artists missing from art history. Hershman's voiceover sets the stage "the personal became political and the very personal became art." There is footage of the debate in the U.S. House of Representatives about a bill introduced to ban Judy Chicago's 1979 art installation The Dinner Party from exhibiting in Washington D.C. A bill, begob! The heartwrenching quote from one woman (I'll post her name when I watch the documentary again.)

I don't think feminism successfully changed the structures through which art is made, sold, displayed, written about.

The 2013 documentary Finding Vivian Maier makes this clear in present tense. An exhibit of Maier's photographs was offered to major museums that declined for reasons we all now know as what I call assplaining. We don't exhibit dead artists, we already did a woman exhibit, our schedule is locked.

There is still work to be done.

Here is an excellent review of !War Art Revolution by Elisabeth Subrin. You can watch the documentary on iTunes: include the exclamation point or it won't show up. I want more of this type of film, and I'm going to get those. Directed by Women will be my source for watching and learning more about women filmmakers, and consequently women's history. There are 7,429 women directors in the database so far, and you can help build the resource list. There are 6,493 films by year, and you can help grow the knowledge base. Grow the love!

Monday, August 10, 2015

All the Ladies in the House

Character dolls are done, except for waiting on a shirt for Lore. Still no Stellar Repo that I can envision well. I like Avian, the leader of the bird planet where Stellar was raised. Got good use of a piece of white fake fur! And mangling the cloak worked out to be the best garment solution - just turned it inside/out and tattered it some more. I won't make Stellar's BFF, the gas giant because, well how do you make a jellyfish that will stand up by itself? Can't make it yet, but I have some ideas. Sold a load of old Barbie stuff to clear my mind. At the end of every flurry of activity related to writing the stories is just that: writing. There is no substitute for sitting down and doing the work. I've run out of excellent creative excuses. Give me another day, and I'll have another list. Writing a list is writing, right?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

An Accidental Collector

I'm not a doll collector, although I once had so many my beloved roommate Cheryl and her mother made a full size nanny for my not-doll-collection. Accidental collecting takes no talent, no devoted searching and no functioning thought process. One Christmas I asked my family what's with the cows? and my sister said, "don't you collect cows?" No. But here was a cow collection. Cow slippers, cow spoon caddy, cow napkin holder, culminating on that Christmas with lyrics have yourself a merry little Christmas. Cow. End of that, and I became the ex-accidental not-cow collector. I have my grandmother's baby doll, who I've written about before. As new people came into my life, that one doll became the collection for which my roomie made the babysitter. My ex-step-mother-in-law made me a Cabbage Patch doll. Ugly thing, but there it sat next to Grandma's doll. People saw 2 dolls-thought bingo-gift giving option. Brakes on that: I became the ex-accidental not-babydoll collector. And so it goes. I got my first Barbie when I was 33. I still have her: we're not nostalgic with one another, she's just around. Then Barbie turned 50. Lots of controversy about body image and such, and I thought: we got older, why didn't Barbie? She was actually younger than me, but not by enough to have retained that weird body intact for 50 years. So I started rescuing damaged, chewed, crazed-hair Barbies. And I aged them and sold them. Fully kitted with reading glasses, a Women Who Weren't Born Yesterday membership card, and a bottle of Feel Good, 'script written by Dr. Olive Another. While on the hunt for new victims for the boiling pot (one had sideways bent legs and the only way to straighten was to plunge into boiling water. I swear I could hear her screaming) and the face scraping, I discovered Jason Wu and his exotic Fashion Royalty girls. Veronique Perrin. Kyori Sato. Adele Makeda. These were extraordinarily beautiful (unlike the daftly grinning Barbie) and had fantastically detailed clothing. And stories! An elaborate back story for each character. I couldn't afford the Urban Geisha Kyori Sato who was my favorite, or any Veronique Perrin. But I brought Adele Makeda home-no clothes and have tried since then to get her original outfit back. I just missed last month on eBay by $1.00 in the last 2 seconds! I hope I never meet the woman who took the Via Veneto complete outfit home to her house. I bought Kyori (2004) finally in 2014 and promptly broke her neck. I wrote sobbing about that on this blog. I just switched out her body. The new body doesn't fit the $#%^! shoes. Dad has been enjoying this head-swap - I came out of the kitchen with Kyori, plastic bag over her head, upside down in a cup of boiling water. Now you're waterboarding them? Dad asked. Since Kyori's neck was broken, when I took her head off I couldn't get the knob out, so if you shake her, she rattles like she's got a screw loose, which is fine with me, who also has a screw loose. That should have been the end. But no! I went after a Veronique. And I got her. Not one of the hideously expensive 2004 lot, but a 2014 Nocturnal Glow Veronique. Didn't care for the dress, or the accessories, so those are now on eBay. But this doll. She is a handspeak which I knew nothing about. She comes with an extra pair of hands, for ease of dressing, but geez. I can pop heads off dolls, and scrape off faces, but removing limbs is a new step. I bought a different Veronique outfit - Full Spectrum. The earrings wouldn't go in Nocturnal's ears-I had to clip the post. The ring doesn't fit on Glow's hands, and when I tried, it scarred the plastic. And her hands! The nail polish is sloppy, and the mold on the extra set is just awful-flash around each finger. I'll have to jewelry file fingers and repaint nails. And this new body's legs are square. That's just not right. I thought I was going to sell Adele to support these new purchases, but no, she's staying. Her workmanship is superb. Just got today the new shoes I thought would fit Kyori. Nope. But I'm DONE. I'll sell the shoes, and try for another pair some day far, far away. Kyori's new body has a lovely French pedicure, and she's just fine barefoot. I mean really. And here are the Trio. Adele has her shoes off in comradeship with Kyori (my niece got me a pair of Louboutin shoes for her a couple years ago. YUM!) I made the leather pants and sculpted the hat Adele is wearing. Ahhhh. So I guess now I'm a recovering accidental-on-purpose doll collector. Sort of. For now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Directed by Women Email to Michigan Film Office

September 1-15, 2015 will be a Directed by Women Global Viewing Party, celebrating the voluminous work of women directors from 1896 onward. We invite your organization to appreciate the contribution of women directors, the history of the gender to the development of film and to just have a bloomin' good time watching movies directed by women, and encouraging others to do the same.

You are welcome to quit reading here. But.

Imagine the opportunities. Since the tax incentives ending crimped the influx of film companies working in Michigan, there is a lost horizon in encouraging film directors to come to our pristine, eclectic, diverse and filmic state.

It's indie film world, kids, with no financial juice. Michigan will never be on the radar without the tax incentives, except for desolation-themed pseudo scifi in used-to-be Detroit for blockbusters released first overseas. Detroit has a lot more to offer. Indie films aren't interested in car crashes, city streets closed for filming when those streets are already closed to trash collection and special ed bus routes, desolation porn, or, consequently, the Townsend Hotel filled to capacity. Unless the film gets distribution. Without the blockbusters and the tax incentives and Clint Eastwood and Drew Barrymore, Michigan as a film location is toast. Unless it's the never-ending Transformers franchises. Which, as you know, has moved to Singapore. Disregard.

We want all hotels filled in every filming location in Michigan. Put Detroit in the spotlight for other than desolation, as it has done for itself in celebrating growth. Detroit is alive! Celebrate the indie film world of other sites in Michigan, its diversity of location - the glacial moraines, UP settings identical to Baltic Sea terrain, the pristine shorelines that can substitute for ocean in any weather anywhere (keep in mind that the criteria in filming for ocean is the farther shore can't be seen - Michigan's got that full stop on every coast.)

The grit of Flint, the struggles of Ocean County, the history of Idlewild, the artistic communities of Interlochen/Benzonia, the dunes of Lake Michigan, the historically welcoming gay communities in Douglas and Saugatuck, the quaint and the elegant of the east coast of Michigan, from the Huron estuary to the charm of Charlevoix, the industrial grit of Flint/Bay City/Saginaw, the Civil War quaintness of untouched cities like Three Rivers and Constantine, the storied racial dichotomy of Benton Harbor/St. Joseph and its healing, the isolation of our offshore islands on any coast, and the historical and geologic significance of Drummond Island. Our upper peninsula is shouldered on the Laurentian Shield - the bones of earth, the oldest bedrock on the freaking planet. Think scifi. Think future film. Think women directors this September. Promote the locations. Michigan is diverse. Michigan is singular in her multitudinous filming opportunity. Think real estate. Location, location, location.

Think women. Think women directors in September. The box is closed for blockbusters. Be creative. Women filmmakers are.

Think Anatomy of a Murder, and how long overdue a significant indie-pushed award-winning film done in Michigan is.

Get involved. Attract the business that is growing, engaged, vibrant and economically profound for Michigan.

There are 7,231 women directors listed on

Look at @DirectedbyWomen on twitter and discover why this is a good place to focus attention.

Approach every woman on this list and you've got your Michigan Film Office campaign for the next 10 years.

Get involved. Again.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Film Love

Light and shadow. Imagine night camp 50,000 years ago. The fire sparks and pulses as a storyteller rises to begin speaking the night's tale to the circle gathered. Perhaps the story tonight is the celebration of a birth. Or glorious victory in battle. A promised union happily joined; a quest begun this very day, the outcome unknown, inexperienced youth alone against a hostile world.

Your eyes widen, conjuring the marching legs of heroes in the smoldering logs, you hear the joyous cry of a new mother, see the triumphant arm of a youth raised to the sky as the sparks explode upward, touch the heat of passion with the palm of your hand outstretched.

Humans love story. Storytelling is how we identify ourselves, how we align ourselves with the cosmos, and the way we know what we know of human experience. For millennia the stories were mist and shadow; impermanent imagery except for the devoted storytellers who passed on oral tradition. Artist/storytellers drew scenes on rock cliffs and cave walls-early days of visual media.

Aristotle spoke of the camera obscura- sunlight through a tiny hole projected an inverted image on a surface in a dark room. Fast forward to 1545 when a drawing of camera obscura was published. 1558, Magia Naturalis is published describing a camera obscura with lenses and concave mirrors. 1816. Metal plates coated with chemical emulsion became Aristotle's darkened room.

1902-1906 Alice Guy Blaché directs over 100 phonoscènes, films made for Gaumont's chronophone, and the intriguing history of women peering through lenses to satisfy our intense ongoing hunger for drama, laughter, intrigue, pathos, chills and story, story, story through moving pictures begins with this remarkable pioneering woman's achievement.

The woman in the director's chair coordinates the collaborative forces that would animate the logs we saw in our prehistoric vision. She hires the youth with the raised arm, chooses and supervises the sound engineer who brings us the new mother's cry, guides the set designer for just the right number of stars in the sky and the correct angle of smoke, wrangles the producer, assigns the 1st and 2nd assists, all while seeing the screenplay's story and keeping her own vision true through to post production.

2015. We humans who love story will this year celebrate madly, wildly, lovingly that woman in the director's chair with the Directed by Women Global Viewing Party.

From September 1 through September 15, 2015 there is a party going on, and the world is invited! For those 15 days we will be celebrating women filmmakers around the globe by watching films, discussing filmmaking, and contributing to the knowledge base of women's roles in media historically and today. As of today there are 7,127 women directors listed on the Directed by Women website.

Engaging in this celebration can be as personal as watching a woman-directed film at home, hosting a viewing party with friends, texting afterward; posting photos on tumblr, instagram, Pinterest, facebook, tweeting films watched or film wish lists. Interviewing a woman director for your blog. On a community scale, coordinating events with your local library, school, college, film groups, cinemas. Talk about films directed by women, do some internet research, check out books from the library, encourage group discussions about the wonderful discoveries you make. Worldwide, you can find a viewing partner in a country you're interested in knowing more about and create an international film lovers' festival without leaving your house.

Directed by Women Global Viewing Party is a magnificent chance to awaken to and appreciate the voluminous contribution of women to film, visual media in all its storytelling glory. Let's make this year the beginning of the revelry, and rejoice in the synergy that brings together creative women filmmakers and their devoted global viewers.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

I Support We Need Diverse Books

We grew up with my mom who was outspoken about race. A lot of other things, too, but she corrected racist language used by other people and enhanced those corrections as teaching moments for her children. It didn't work well for changing other people's attitudes, but we were taught equality and came to adulthood believing all people deserved our respect. We moved in May this year, and I went through my mother's file cabinet. She wrote letters, asked questions, involved herself in all manner of important issues. I am more proud of her than ever. She's busy conducting protests in the next world, I'm sure. My siblings started having their own children in the 80s. I have nieces and nephews, and now a grand-nephew. For the first next generation, I borrowed an idea from my mother to collect tree ornaments - one each year - for the new babies. Mom did an add-a-pearl necklace for her goddaughter who wore that necklace to her wedding. I did add-an-ornament. I found out fast it was impossible to find any but a white angel. I was already the book aunt, loving books and wanting to share that joy. I bought books with animals, alphabet letters, colors - avoiding the all-white human representation on the cover and in the story. Books with cultural diversity in the 80s and 90s were hard to find. Now we have another generation. And not much has changed. There are ornaments now. But books have hovered in the same dreadful ratio for decades. Diverse books can be found by searching farther and deeper. One book I bought recently is Little Humans by street photographer Brandon Stanton, recommended by a friend. I gift Patricia Polacco books. She writes and illustrates culturally diverse stories (including In Our Mothers' House) and she is a Michigan author/illustrator. She also depicts older people engaging with young people: another missing human contact in mainstream children's books. We need more diverse books written and illustrated by people who have lived the stories. We need to see ourselves in print and picture. Stories are how we identify ourselves, how we understand each other in the beautifully diverse life of the cosmos. And in our homes.