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.
Jeffrey Scudder, assistant professor of art at Southern Oregon University, creates dynamic presentations with exquisite imagery for his lectures and performances. An internationally known figure in the art world, Scudder holds a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Yale University. He teaches in SOU’s Emerging Media and Digital Arts program, telling stories with pen and paper, while instantaneously capturing and creating post-expressionist images, with a host of newly developed computer software. We met at Case Coffee Roasters on Siskiyou Boulevard.
EH: Tell me about your productions.
JS: Since I come from computer art, I do a lot of performance without computers, a lot of drawing and telling stories. I transform things. I change from one image to another: A morphing image with a morphing story. Lately, I have been doing a lot of drawing with sound. Performing while drawing and talking simultaneously. These are modernist ideas of connecting drawing and sound.
Sometimes in order to understand what’s happening with computers or technology, you have to use a different medium to describe it. You want it to be in the background so that you can focus on the conversation.
People don’t usually think of computer art as something that requires a physical presence. I’m spearheading a movement to create more intimacy through computer art. I’m often drawing on paper, but I’m talking about video games. I am creating a form of intimacy by not actually playing the video game. Instead I’m talking about ideas using another medium.
When I perform, I like to create a setting, like a chamber music performance. I use a lot of candles, there’s music playing, sometimes snacks. I like the audience to feel that they are part of the action so that people feel at ease, so that they are ready to take in images and let things happen.
Anne and Gary Lundgren’s feature film “Phoenix Oregon” recently premiered at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. It was the Lundgen’s fourth feature film, and it was filmed in rural Oregon. Their other films were “Black Road,” “Redwood Highway” and “Calvin Marshall.” We visited at their studio on East Main Street in Ashland.
EH: Are your films thematically linked?
GL: I think they all are. There’s definitely a main character that is unhappy, not being fulfilled by life.
AL: I think there is a lot of grace and love for all of these characters. They have passion and are wanting more.
GL: Wanting more out of life or wanting certain doors to open that are not opening. I think “Phoenix Oregon” is the same kind of story. A midlife crisis: two guys feel the clock ticking. They are not living the life they want, so they have to do whatever they can to change it, and take those risks.
Bruce Bayard will present his video collage, “Triptychs,” in “Apocalypse,” a media art exhibition curated by Richard Herskowitz and Scott Malbaurn, at the Schneider Museum of Art during the Ashland Independent Film Festival. I met with Bayard at his Studio on A Street in Ashland.
EH: How does your film relate to the theme of apocalypse?
BB: There is the underlying theme of apocalypse in all of my work. There are concerns with climate change, and what kind of damage we are going to be facing over the next few decades. There are elements in the work that are bringing up what we’re doing to the planet and the environment. I call it fouling the nest. I think that climate change that’s going on could potentially be apocalyptic, if we don’t start throwing some serious effort at mitigating what’s going to be happening.
The film that I’m showing is non-narrative, stream of consciousness, and as you look at it, you’ll have to put together your own sense of what’s going on in the film. I’m not creating the film with an exact narrative in mind, and I’m also letting things evolve randomly. The images that I’ve chosen have to do with our environment, our situation, our relationship with that environment, and the climate change that is coming at us. Continue reading Bayard explores apocalypse in video exhibit→
Leo Gorcey Jr. and his wife, Krista, are producing a film based on Leo’s book, “Me and the Dead End Kid.” The book chronicles Leo Gorcey Sr.’s theater and film career, the Gorceys’ unique family relationship, and the dramatic events leading to the original Broadway production of Sidney Kingsley’s “Dead End.”
The film is in development with plans to shoot in the Rogue Valley. I visited the Gorceys in their attractive Ashland home.
Shakespeare scholar Michael P. Jensen has taught the Bard’s work at Southern Oregon University, lectured at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and published dozens of essays, articles and materials for television and radio. He recently met me online to give his views about the feature film “Anonymous.” The film discredits William Shakespeare as a playwright, and presents a contentious chronicle of the Elizabethan era.
MPJ: The film “Anonymous” is about to lower the world’s I.Q. about the authorship matter. It claims that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, was the author of William Shakespeare’s plays.
EH: Why do people doubt Shakespeare’s authorship?
MPJ: This was hard for me to explain until Sarah Palin made her visit to Old North Church, the Paul Revere church. When questioned by reporters, she repeated history as best she remembered. She mangled it because she did not really know the subject, yet spoke as if she did. Those who doubt Shakespeare’s authorship do exactly this. They mangle the facts, yet speak as if they know what they are talking about.
They say that Shakespeare could not have written his plays without a university education. They say that Shakespeare’s will does not mention his books; therefore he did not have books, and maybe could not read. It is true that Shakespeare did not attend a university, and books are not mentioned in his will. But other playwrights of his time did not attend university; and most extant playwrights’ wills do not mention books. If these are proof that Shakespeare was not a writer, then it is proof that the others were not either. It’s absurd.
Doubters make up these fake problems because they don’t know how to do this kind of scholarship. You don’t look at Shakespeare and find a problem. When you study all the playwrights you find there is no problem. Shakespeare is pretty typical. Doubters probably are not smart enough to know they should investigate it this way.
Instead, they try to find Edward de Vere’s biography in Shakespeare’s plays (which is unreliable). Hamlet was captured by pirates, and so was Edward de Vere. Baptista, in “The Taming of the Shrew,” has two daughters. So did Shakespeare. Dozens of people have been proposed as the true author, on the basis of biography. This is a dead-end approach.
All documentary evidence affirms that Shakespeare wrote his plays and poems. No evidence supports anyone else. Edward de Vere’s fans rationalize problems caused by his death in 1604. “The Tempest” could not have been written before 1610 because it paraphrases a letter, written in July of that year, by William Strachey about a shipwreck; it uses other sources from that time.
Computer analysis of linguistic tendencies reveals Edward de Vere as a very bad match for the author of Shakespeare’s plays. Facts do not seem to matter to these true believers. There is a superb Shakespeare authorship website by David Kathman and Terry Ross that will answer most questions:http://shakespeareauthorship.com.