“Grandma’s Tattoo’s’: A Riveting Film About the Forgotten Women of Genocide
Khardalian is the director and producer of riveting new film called “Grandma’s Tattoos” that lifts the veil of thousands of forgotten women—survivors of the Armenian Genocide—who were forced into prostitution and tattooed to distinguish them from the locals.
“As a child I thought these were devilish signs that came from a dark world. They stirred fear in me. What were these tattoos? Who had done them, and why? But the tattoos on grandma’s hands and face were a taboo. They never spoke about it,” explains Khardalian.
“Grandma’s Tattoos” is a journey into the secrets of the family. Eventually, the secret behind Grandma Khanoum’s blue marks are revealed.
Not only are most people unaware that 3 million Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians were killed under Turkish rule, but also that 90,000 Armenian women and children were abducted and sold into slavery and prostitution. 90,000 women and children.
“Sometimes secrets hide in the light. A surreal fairy tale about a young girl in Hurricane Katrina.”
“What is The Repass?
The Repass is a darkly thrilling tale of a young girl who journeys into the mysterious world of Haitian vodou to learn the fate of her baby brother lost in the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Entranced, she discovers secrets powerful enough to heal her family or shatter it for ever.
A unique narrative which draws from elements of The Sixth Sense, Alice in Wonderland, and Eve’s Bayou, The Repass is a moving and lyrical story about how a young girl deals with tragedy, and finds a way to pass into her next phase of living.”
From the birth of jazz to the evolution of hip hop; the advents of urban trends to transformative advances in technology, African Americans have played an integral role in molding American culture. Unfortunately, we tend to not be the beneficiaries of our own innovation. Bleaching Black Culture examines the continuum of America’s black cultural appropriation and effects on the African American community.
“I just want to apologize to Mike’s mom, Josh’s mom, and my mom. And I’m sorry to everyone. I was very naive. I am so so sorry for everything that has happened. Because in spite of what Mike says now, it is my fault. Because it was my project and I insisted. I insisted on everything. I insisted that we weren’t lost. I insisted that we keep going. I insisted that we walk south. Everything had to be my way. And this is where we’ve ended up and it’s all because of me that we’re here now - hungry, cold, and hunted. I love you mom, dad. I am so sorry. What is that? I’m scared to close my eyes, I’m scared to open them! We’re gonna die out here!”
Tomorrow actor Jared Leto (left) joins us to talk about playing a transsexual woman during the ‘80s AIDS crisis in the film Dallas Buyers Club.
Leto, on the gamble of making smaller, independent films:
Sometimes [little films] don’t work, they don’t come together, and of course they don’t have the support or they don’t find an audience. It’s a beautiful thing to work with people who are willing to risk it all and I felt that way a few times in my career and certainly felt that way on Dallas Buyers Club.
María, a 17-year-old Kaqchikel Maya, lives with her parents on a coffee plantation at the foot of an active volcano. She is set to be married to the farm’s foreman. But María longs to discover the world on the other side of the mountain, a place she cannot even imagine. And so she seduces a coffee-harvester who wants to escape to the USA. When this man leaves her behind, María discovers her own world and culture anew.
Director Jayro Bustamante grew up in the region of the Kaqchikel Maya in Guatemala and returned there to make his film. He held workshops, asked people to tell stories from their own lives and examined the current living conditions of the Maya at close range. In doing so, he learnt about the special connection the women there have with the rituals of their mothers and grandmothers. The plot picks up the rhythm of a life defined by ancestral beliefs and traditions. An unfamiliar daily routine awaits the audience, far from the globalised world. Ixcanul is not a film about Indigenous culture but one that was developed from within it.
“When it comes to actors, you kind of just ask around. I’ve come
to the point where I’ve got friends in this business and you can find out if
somebody is cool or not. You didn’t have to go very far until you started
hearing amazing things about Adam Driver and Joel Edgerton.”
“These are the kinds of people you want to spend three months of
your life making something with. My crew is so important to me and I’ve worked
with these people on all of these films – they are like my family – and the last
thing you want to do is invite someone into your family who is going to
disrespect them or isn’t going to put the same priorities up front as your
family does. That is the way I feel about all of these actors that I’ve added.”
– “Midnight Special” director Jeff Nichols discussing how he came to cast Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver in the film
As the Emmys illustrated tonight, trans* issues are finally being talked about in popular culture. But it’s not necessarily transforming the film industry. So far. Recently, anothertwo films that each have a trans* character as the lead were released. The Danish Girl is based on a true story, about Lili Elbe, a trans* woman artist who was one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery in the early 1900s. About Ray follows a teenager undergoing his transition and coming out to his family as a youngman. Both Ray and Lili are played by cis-gender actors, and the films were written and directed by cis-gender filmmakers. The response to these facts has been mixed; many people in the trans* community have spoken out against casting cis actors as trans* characters, but some appreciate any representation at all. These movies are long overdue, but they speak to how slow-moving the American film industry can be, in part due to how hard it is to make character-driven (”low concept”) films - usually it takes a “name” actor attached to get green-lit. When we have only a small handful of trans* characters on TV and in movies, a lot is riding on these stories, as they are so rarely told.
So how did each of these films approach the subject matter? The Danish Girl was directed by Academy Award Winner Tom Hooper, who has been fairly quiet about the movie. The movie is also based on a true story, so it has been less in question for issues of representation. In contrast, About Ray’s director Gaby Dellal has spoken extensively about her filming process. She says of Ray, “She’s not pretending to have a deeper voice. She’s just a girl who is being herself and is chasing the opportunity to start hormone treatment. So to actually use a trans boy was not an option because this isn’t what my story is about.” This is confusing–if Ray is pursuing hormone treatment, and presenting as a boy, and the movie is described as being about a trans* boy in his early transition, why does Dellal use she/her pronouns when referring to Ray and call him a girl? Is it because Ray has not undergone hormone treatment or surgery? Earlier in the same interview Dellal says that she wasn’t aware of trans* issues three years ago, and it seems to us that she clearly still isn’t very aware. To suggest that a trans* boy pre-transition is a girl is wrong, transphobic, and incredibly harmful. Many trans* individuals never undergo surgery, and don’t have to go undergo any kind of hormone treatment or surgery to be trans*, to identify as the gender that they identify with.
One of the main issues is that current entertainment being produced about trans* people usually focuses on early stages of transition. Many directors and casting agents cite this as a reason for casting cis actors–because that cis actor can play the character pre-transition. This suggests that while a cis actor has the ability to move through different genders, a trans* actor does not. It also speaks to a greater issue of transition and the idea of ‘passing’, which suggests that in order to really complete your transition you must pass authentically (whatever that means) as the gender you are presenting as. Passing is not an end goal for every trans* person, and doesn’t have to be. As Feministing writer Jos Truitt said after Jared Leto won Best Supporting Actor at The Golden Globes for playing a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club, “…the fact that a man in drag is playing a trans woman, perpetuates the stereotype that we are men in drag.”
Clearly, there are some exceptions. Just Emmy-awarded Transparent is generally lauded as a great step forward for representation for the trans* community, largely because Jeffrey Tambor, as a cis man, did a lot of research to understand the life he was playing. The show won a Glaad Media Award, and in this second season of Transparent, currently wrapping production, Soloway hired trans* writers, directors and more trans*actors to work on the series. She has trans-friendly rules on set, including gender-neutral bathrooms, all of which is totally unprecedented. Tonight, creator Jill Soloway received the Emmy for Outstanding Directing of a Comedy Series, and used her time on stage to give a passionate speech about legalized discrimination against trans men and women, speaking from her own experience with her own trans parent.
Who Cares About Actresses asks: Will the group represented in your movie (or TV show, web series, etc) have access to your movie, and if so, will they like what they see? This might seem like a strange question; one cannot guarantee that. Not everyone is going to feel represented by the one or two characters you’ve created. But as a filmmaker creating a story around societally marginalized characters, you have a harder task at hand thana lot of other creators. Someone making a film about a white man falling in love with a white woman doesn’t have this problem–because the vast majority of films have heterosexual white people in it, so heterosexual white people can look to countless places to see themselves; there are hundreds of movies where they could relate to the characters’ lives. Simply because these people are underrepresented, it is more important that your few characters are accurate and true to that group. Who Cares About Actresses believes that we all have that responsibility, as conscientious artists, to be true to our characters and our stories. Hopefully, someday, as identity and representation becomes more fluid and difference is embraced rather than feared, these essential needs to see oneself mirrored in the culture won’t be as urgent as they are today.
Harry Hennessy revisits the “greatest independent film of all time”, Reservoir Dogs
Lauded by many as the greatest independent film of all time (and in this humble reviewers opinion one of the best of all time, period) “Reservoir Dogs” catapulted Tarantino to fame, introducing the genius to the greater public (we are immensely grateful) and giving us the first glimpse of his distinct and flawless style of film making. The psychological-crime thriller follows the events succeeding a jewelry heist gone wrong, beautifully framing the four surviving criminals and their bosses descent into tragedy through suspicion, fear and violence.
The ideas of trust and moral conscience recur constantly, and are vividly portrayed in the film: the robbers are unified and torn apart by their bonds of loyalty, respect, and mutual distrust of others, with a foundation of lies and manipulation leading to their inevitable downfall. Mr. White (portrayed by Harvey Keitel) impressively sums up the role of “old school” mafia man, heavily influenced by his almost Sicilian principles of honour among thieves and trusting nature ironically contrasted against his immoral actions and the last pull of his trigger finger (if that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will). Michael Madsen as the enigmatic and psychopathic Mr. Blonde is everything we are told as scared children about the world of crime (evil men doing evil things just to watch the world burn), and in most films would have stolen the show with his twisted and haunting nonchalance, if not for Tim Roth, a revelation as Mr. Orange.
By far the most striking motif in the movie is the criminal morality. Throughout the film, Tarantino creates a blatant disregard for basic social norms and a compliance with intrinsically wrong acts accepted as the norm itself. The comparatively naive high moral standards of Mr. Orange accentuate the complacent horrors of this world, and the confusion and torture those of pure mind endure when faced with these realities. His inner turmoil and shock at those around him is masterfully portrayed, and his outer turmoil and shock is beyond perfection - indeed, Roth’s transformation and, ultimately, portrayal of the angst and regret every man experiences before death is legendary (if the film hadn’t been independent he’d have an Oscar right now, but that’s a rant for another day).
In what soon became his trademark, Tarantino exposes violence bluntly and honestly in a brazen act of harsh reality rarely welcome in cinema, but which perfectly suits this gripping underworld tale. His stunning dialogue paired with his cunning non-linear storytelling slowly develops the piece and each intricate character - and besides, the dialogue is, quite frankly, cool - above and beyond what any other screenwriter can do. This harrowing tale stresses the love any man can feel irregardless of disposition and morality, and shows us how in our bleak and violent world, good always succumbs to evil, all in the classic Tarantino style. If you haven’t seen it yet, get your act together post-haste.