Renee Tajima-Peña received the Ashland Independent Film Festival’s Rogue Award for her “films of lasting significance and current relevance.”
Her films, “My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha” and “No Más Bebés,” were screened on the second weekend of AIFF2020’s three-week virtual film festival.
“No Más Bebés” tells of immigrant mothers who sued doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the 1960s and ’70s.
A Harvard graduate in East Asian studies and sociology, Tajima-Peña is professor of Asian American studies and filmmaking at UCLA. We visited by telephone.
EH: How did you become a filmmaker?
RTP: I was a student activist in high school and college. In college I got interested in filmmaking with other activist students; we did our own videos. We decided to make videos about things we cared about. We did that as part of being activists. It was very rudimentary. Continue reading Rogue Award winner talks about her films →
Filmmaker David Garrett Byars’ monumental documentary “Public Trust” will be shown June 12, at the Ashland Independent Film Festival.
AIFF has moved online and extended the festival to 24 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impetus for the making of “Public Trust” was President Trump’s proclamations dismantling two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in southern Utah. The move stripped legal protections from nearly two million acres of federal public lands.
“Public Trust,” produced by Robert Redford and Patagonia, is cinematically breathtaking in the magnitude and beauty of the landscapes.
Byars’ first feature film, “No Man’s Land,” which depicts the 41-day occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, is now available on Prime Video and YouTube.
EH: You didn’t go to film school, you just learned on the job?
DB: Every time I make a film, I learn more and more. If I do have one skill that makes me uniquely suited to be a director, it’s that I know I don’t know everything, and I need to learn it. I really do count on the people I work with in a very collaborative way to put their fingerprints on the film and make it better than merely the sum of all our efforts.
Continue reading Filmmaker David Byars talks about ‘Public Trust’ →
Filmmakers Deborah Shaffer and Rachel Reichman have produced a masterful documentary, “Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack,” to be screened at the AIFF2020 Virtual Film Festival.
Beginning May 22, we can see the AIFF films over a period of three weeks in the comfort of our homes. “Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack” will be streamed all day Wednesday, June 3.
Audrey Flack, now in her 80s, is an American artist whose works include abstract expressionism, new realism, photorealism, sculpture and drawing.
Both Shaffer and Reichman have had successful careers in the film industry. Shaffer, whose work reflects social and political activism, won an Oscar for her documentary “Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements.”
Reichman’s recent films include “Hitchcock/Truffaut” and “ISIS and the Internet.” We met via Zoom.
EH: Why a documentary about Audrey Flack?
RR: She’s really an engaging person, you are intoxicated by her. She’s a great storyteller. Her work is really bright and symbolic; it’s intense graphically; it’s accessible. You can fall in love with it without having to know a great deal about art, because there is just so much readily there for you to embrace. I had really strong feelings about the art history aspect of it and the art context of it. But there’s a lot of meat there in terms of the period, the post-War era. Continue reading The story behind ‘Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack’ →
Collaborative Theatre Project Director Susan Aversa-Orrego has teamed up with Shakespeare scholar Geoff Ridden to form the Rogue Valley Plague Theatre Company.
At 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, members of the company read and post Shakespeare sonnets on Facebook. About 500 people have joined the group worldwide. About 25 people have performed sonnets, which have been read in order. Sonnet 1 was posted March 30. I visited with Aversa-Orrego and Ridden by telephone.
EH: What’s the inspiration for this theater company?
GR: We’re all locked away, not able to do theater. Obviously, we wanted to keep active, doing something, having a project. We thought it would be a neat idea to do one sonnet every day at 8 o’clock, and to go live on Facebook. You either read the sonnet, or have somebody else read it, while you read along quietly at home. Continue reading Pandemic births Rogue Valley Plague Theatre Company →
For over a quarter century, The Ashland New Plays Festival has presented the work of exceptional playwrights in a fall festival of dramatic readings of new plays.
Now there is Play4Keeps, a free podcast of recorded plays that can be accessed on computers and iPhones.
Over 30 plays have been recorded. Recordings are done in Ashland using local actors, many from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The recordings are expertly produced and narrated by Jim Pagliosotti.
I spoke with Kyle Haden, artistic director of the Ashland New Plays Festival, by telephone.
KH: We started Play4Keeps a year and a half ago to take the next step in what ANPF does: promote playwrights to get their work out there and to reach a broader audience. There are a lot of people outside of this area interested in what we are doing. This is a way to spread that reach. Continue reading Kyle Haden of Ashland New Plays Festival →
Pat O’Scannell is now in her fourth year as director of Musica Matrix, a nonprofit music organization promoting early music in the Rogue Valley.
O’Scannell spent 27 years at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as a singer and multi-instrumentalist, then as music director with her ensemble, The Terra Nova Consort, in residence.
I have had the pleasure of listening to two of The Terra Nova Consort’s superb CDs: “Renaissance en Provence” and “¡Baylado! Music of Renaissance Spain.” I recently chatted with O’Scannell about her love of early music.
PO: This music is incredibly beautiful. I believe that a lot of people haven’t heard early music, or they haven’t heard the type of early music that would appeal to them. We are talking about 600 years of music, going back to the Middle Ages. It rivals any music that was written from the time of J.S. Bach on.
When I think back on my classical training, I’ve loved about 75% of it. There was about 25% that was a bit too bombastic for my taste. My personal taste was toward Chopin rather than Rachmaninoff. I like the delicacy and intricacy of something, where I can hear the individual lines as opposed to something that is very heavy handed. Continue reading Pat O’Scannell on the allure of early music →
Violinist Alicia Svigals and pianist/composer Donald Sosin were scheduled to accompany “The Ancient Law” at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. The 1923 German silent film is based on a true story, in which the son of an orthodox rabbi breaks with tradition and becomes an actor.
With luscious production values and great acting, “The Ancient Law” relates the experience of great theater (Shakespeare) to religious devotion. We chatted one morning about live music and silent film.
DS: It’s an amazing story that people go nuts over, in a way that I’ve not seen before. I’ve played for about 4,000 films. This film produces a reaction that’s over the top.
EH: How does music relate to the structure of storytelling in film?
DS: In classical and pop music, there are different musical forms that are at the composer’s disposal. When you’re working with a film, everything has to be based on what’s going on emotionally and pictorially. Continue reading Music elevates the power of silent film →