Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Dolphin Pressure from 8,342 Miles Away

Monday, September 27th, 2010

In September, Jeffrey Taylor hung this dolphin banner outside Green Cafe

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Taiji, Japan is 8,342 miles from Idyllwild, California.  Yet, the distance is not stopping one Idyllwild resident from doing his part to pressure the Taiji government to stop their 20,000 annual dolphin slaughter.

It all began in March when Jeffrey Taylor, from Green Cafe, showed “The Cove,” this year’s Academy Award winning documentary, to about 25 residents, which included professors, scientists and animal activists. It was part of his weekly “Cafe Cinema” series that he’s held in Idyllwild for 10 years.  Many of his friends couldn’t bear to see dolphins killed onscreen, yet, those who went said it wasn’t such a graphic portrayal, and getting out the message was key.

“The Cove is a stunning heist-like story that is half Jacques Cousteau and half James Bond,” said Taylor. “A ‘dream team’ of activists venture to Japan to expose the secretive work of fishermen who slaughter dolphins so they can sell the meat nationally and abroad.”

Ric O’Barry, who rose to popularity with “Flipper,” the popular TV show about dolphins in the 1960s, said that he became an activist when he saw that dolphins would rather die than be in captivity.

O’Barry collaborated with Louie Psihoyos in creating “The Cove” documentary to get the word out of the 20,000 dolphin slayings that are held each year from September to March in Taiji, Japan. In a small cove, 26 local fishermen herd dolphins in from the sea by forming a line of boats and making noises with metal poles. The process is known as “oikomi.”

“Dolphins are keenly sensitive to noise,” O’Barry said in the movie. “They are afraid of the noise and swim to the cove to get away from it. There, they are herded into nets and the bottle nosed dolphins are sent to marine parks like “Sea World,” while the other dolphins are slaughtered with spears.

Since showing 'The Cove,' Jeffrey Taylor has continued the fight

Since the showing, Taylor has not been quiet about the Taiji dolphin slaughter. He regularly visits web sites dedicated to dolphin preservation, and e-mails updates to his friends and customers. Among the information that he’s sent include news reports about the toxic levels of mercury in Taiji;  O’Barry’s recent trip to Toyko; a You Tube video account of a young woman who swam in the Taiji Cove; and a slide show by Leilani Munter, a dedicated volunteer.

All of the portrayals show worldwide support of the ban on the dolphin killings. When O’Barry visited Toyko (because nationalists threatened him in Taiji) with 100 other supporters, he had a list of 155,000 signatures from supporters all over the world.

Some of the supporters are from Idyllwild, and, like Taylor, are unwilling to give up the fight.

In September, the start of the dolphin killing season in Taiji, Taylor hung a banner outside his Green Cafe office in Idyllwild. It was a birthday present from his artist girlfriend. It depicts a torso of a smiling dolphin swimming in a sea of red with the text, “Stop the Slaughter, Taiji.”

Taylor hopes to pressure Taiji from killing 20,000 dolphins

“At first, I was worried about posting a political banner outside my business,” said Taylor. “But then I realized that most of my customers agree with the message.”

However, many Japanese do not know about what is going on in Taiji, and would likely not approve of it. In the documentary, tests prove that dolphin meat has toxic mercury levels, and is not good for human consumption. In fact, in the May 10th issue of the Japan Times (another article sent by Jeffrey Taylor), the National Institute of Minamata Disease (NIMD) stated that many Taiji residents have unusually high levels of mercury in their systems.

Even with mercury poisoning, Taiji’s 3,000 residents remain defiant. They say that killing dolphins is no different than killing cows or pigs, and people should mind their own business.

But the more people know, the more they want to help.

In the comment section after an article about O’Barry’s trip to Taiji, one woman wrote: “After watching ‘The Cove,’ like many others, we felt helpless about the dolphin killings in Taiji, Japan. My daughters asked me if we could sell all of our things and go to Taiji in support of the dolphins. I told them that we would sell what we could and send the money to the conservation groups.”

In one You Tube video, O’Barry was asked by a reporter, “What can people do to help?”

“Don’t buy a ticket to ‘Sea World’ or any other dolphin show,” O’Barry said. “It’s a 1.6 million dollar business, and its all about supply and demand. If people won’t pay to see the dolphin shows anymore, then the fishermen will stop capturing and killing them.”

In his blog dated Sunday, September 26, 2010, Ric O’ Barry wrote:

“It’s with a heavy heart that I write today’s post. Despite all our efforts and despite the worldwide condemnation of the cruel dolphin slaughter, the Japanese government remains defiant and has allowed the first dolphin kill of this season at Taiji.

“This defies all logic, both because of the brutal inhumane abuse of dolphins and because it is now proved that the dolphin meat is poison — containing dangerous levels of mercury.

“Throughout the first month of the season several captures have taken place with select dolphins retained for export to zoos and aquariums. The rest of the pod were released back into the wild. However, a few days ago one group of 15 Risso’s dolphins was brutally killed and taken to the slaughterhouse.

“I can’t tell you how angry this makes me. And I know it makes you angry, too. Many of you will be frustrated, but I don’t want you to lose hope. I also am more convinced than ever that our campaign to generate worldwide pressure for an end to the slaughter is right and must succeed.

“We must be vigilant and turn up the heat. The Japan government’s defiance must not be allowed to stand.

“Change does not happen overnight, and we have only just started to get the word out to the Japanese people.

“We are working to keep people on the ground in Taiji to monitor the Cove and report back to the world. Take a look at this video done by one of our dedicated volunteers, Leilani Münter.”

“Taiji will stop their annual dolphin slaughter only when world pressure hits them in the pocketbook,” Taylor added. “One thing we can do is stop buying Japanese products. If 10 percent of Americans stopped buying Japanese products, I’ll bet Taiji would stop killing dolphins.”

For more information, visit www.savejapandolphins.org, and www.takepart.com. And if you want to receive Jeffrey Taylor’s dolphin updates, e-mail him at webmaster@greencafe.com.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All Rights Reserved.

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‘Paranormal Idyllwild’ Film Set

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Idyllwild Arts student filmmakers are looking for ghosts. They are working on a short documentary called “Paranormal Idyllwild,” about ghosts and spirits that haunt our town.

On May 29, the second night of the student Film Screenings at Idyllwild Arts, they gave a preview of this unfinished documentary. In it, they interviewed two employees from Idyllwild Arts, and one local inn owner.

Raye DeRoss, the school’s operator/receptionist, who is also a dorm parent, said that she has heard noises and voices in the dorm that she lives in. However, whenever she would go to investigate, no one would be there. This has happened more than once.

The inn owner described pretty much the same thing. Everyone seems to have heard a lot of random noises, but no one has actually seen a ghost.

Well, maybe someone has. A former student said that he saw a young female ghost with long brown hair and a white robe hovering over a well on the Idyllwild Arts campus. This happened at night, long before he was expelled. His friend, who still attends the school, believes him.

“We need more ghost stories,” said Becca, a junior theater major, who was helping her friend, Bree, the documentary’s writer, find more content.

“We tried Googling ghosts in Idyllwild, but nothing comes up,” Becca added. “But we know there’s more ghosts stories in Idyllwild.”

In the “Haunting Idyllwild Homes,” a post on this blog site from January 2010, an unidentified woman describes her ongoing battle with a ghost that haunts her Idyllwild home. It is driving her crazy enough to move out.

Becca said that she didn’t want to interview that woman because she’s a renter.

“We need to be able to show the inside and outside of the house,” Becca said. “If we were to show it on film, we might make the person who owns the house mad at us.”

If anyone (who is not a renter) is interested in telling their ghost story, call the Moving Pictures Department at Idyllwild Arts, at (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org. But wait until the film students return in September.

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Student Documentary Screened at ShortFest 2010

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Idyllwild Arts film crew from "The Piano Virtuosos"

By Marcia E. Gawecki

On May 28-29, the Idyllwild Arts Academy screened five short films, and trailers for three documentaries. The students work was well received by those who attended, including the media. The school plans to send the short films to area film festivals for review, however, some films don’t start getting attention until almost a year later.

Case in point: “The Steinway Virtuosos,” a short documentary produced by Idyllwild Arts students last year (2009), is now being screened at the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival on June 22-28. ShortFest 2010 will present more than 300 short films from 40 countries.

IA students Amelia (L) and Joel (R) interview a grade school student in one of the piano labs

ShortFest 2010 is known worldwide for its extraordinary community of filmmakers it attracts, and the quality and scope of its programming. In 2005, an Idyllwild Arts student, Alexis Echavarria won the “Audience Choice Award” for “18 Minutes,” a short film about the last 18 minutes of sunlight on earth. The 16-year-old student died before the screening at ShortFest 2009, but a student award has been set up in his name.

His mother has not forgotten Idyllwild Arts and has been generous over the years. In Oct. 2009, she dedicated “Alexis Annex,” a building on the Idyllwild Arts campus, in his name.

“She also donated all of the computers that we used to edit the films this year,” said Dr. Ira Abrams, from the Idyllwild Arts Moving Pictures Department.

Teacher and students in a piano lab sponsored by The Steinway Society

“The Steinway Virtuosos,” the 2009 student documentary, is about a piano contest sponsored by the Steinway Society of Riverside County, a nonprofit organization that helps put music back into California grade schools what government funding has cut over the years.

Ruth Moir, founder and head of the Steinway Society of Riverside County, said that she hopes that her organization will help to nurture interest in music in grade school students. They have set up a “piano lab” targeted at students from third to fifth grade, in which they learn to play on pianos at school and read music.

The Steinway Society also has an outreach program for talented piano students in which some receive piano keyboards to practice at home. Marcos, a grade school student featured in the documentary, came to the Steinway Society by accident. He was called into the principal’s office for tardiness, and saw a piano there. He asked if he could play it, and impressed the principal, who immediately called The Steinway Society.

Emily discusses the next steps with her crew

Up until that time, Moir said, he was playing “by ear” on a broken down old keyboard at a home that he shared with his single mother and sister with special needs. The Steinway Society gave him a new keyboard and music lessons, and within a year, he has learned to read music.

When the Idyllwild Arts crew came to interview him at his home near Palm Desert, he performed “I Will Always Love You,” a song he created for his grandmother who had just passed away. The strength and intensity of his playing hushed them into silence.

Kitty (L) won the Steinway Competition that is featured in the documentary

The documentary crew consisted of Amelia, Emily, Joel, Ben, and Scarlett. Two of them graduated from Idyllwild Arts on June 5. Emily plans to study film, while Amelia wants to try acting in front of the camera in her native Vancouver. Daphne or “Kitty,” who won the piano competition that was featured in “The Steinway Virtuosos” documentary, will study piano in college in the fall.

Other Idyllwild Arts music students and faculty who appear in the video include: Doug Ashcraft, Nelms McKalvin, Ie-Seul, Georgina and Timmy.

When Amelia, the producer, graduated this year, she was unaware of the screening at ShortFest 2010, but knew about its potential to appear on public television.

“Guess I’ll have to wait until it appears on TV,” she said. “That would be pretty exciting.”

Scarlett, who edited “The Steinway Virtuosos” as well as five films this year, said it was one of the most difficult to complete. She was working day and night, right up until the screenings on campus last year.

“It changed direction three times,” Scarlett said, as she groaned, remembering. “It was about the Steinway Society, and then the competition. But, in the end, we were pretty happy with the way it turned out.”

Abrams said that he hopes to attend ShortFest 2010, along with others from the Idyllwild Arts Moving Pictures Department, but the film festival is held during their summer break.

“‘The Steinway Virtuosos’ will be shown in a package appropriately called, ‘Performance Anxiety,’ which screens on Saturday, June 26,” said Dr. Abrams. “There will be nine shorts starting at 1:30 p.m., so our documentary will start an hour later, roughly at 2:30 p.m.”

For more information on ShortFest 2010, visit www.psfilmfest.org, for “18 Minutes,” visit www.alexisechavarria.com, and for attending Idyllwild Arts, visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Annual Student Film Screenings a Hit

Monday, May 31st, 2010

(from L) Juwan sings, Caleb plays trumpet, as Gerry Billings laughs

It was like the Academy Awards, only that it was held two nights in Idyllwild, CA. The red carpet was rolled out, and stars lined the sidewalk, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Only they were the directors and producers of the student films. Attendees eagerly waited outside, dressed in formal attire. By 7 p.m., the line wrapped around the parking lot. To keep everyone calm, a jazz band played in the corner, and $1 refreshments were served.

It was Saturday nigh, May 29, and the second night of the annual Film Screenings from the students in the Moving Pictures Department at Idyllwild Arts.

Isaac Webb, head of the Moving Pictures Department, welcomed everyone, which included students, family, friends, alumni, Idyllwild residents, and perhaps some mucky mucks from Hollywood (who were invited).

He introduced his staff, including Ira Abrams, Jerald Billings, Will Springer, and Betty Bailey. And even thanked the dorm parents, the housekeeping and cafeteria staff, the security guards, and the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra. All of which were kept up late for film shootings, or had to rearrange their schedules to accomodate the film students.

“The film process takes a community to make,” Webb said.

Lastly, he thanked the film students, whom he said were now “bonded together” for artistic excellence.

“I admire their work and their work ethic,” Webb said. “And they have made me a better person.”

Before they screened the five short films, they introduced the trailers for three documentaries that were not quite finished yet. The documentaries included: “Who am I?” one student’s search for her missing father in Israel,  “Paranormal Idyllwild,” about ghosts and spirits that haunt this town, and “Kenza,” about one teen’s brave struggle with a spinal cord injury.

“Documentaries are sacred ways of introducing the human condition,” Abrams said.

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Two Screenings for Five Student Films

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Poster for "On the Bright Side" student film

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The trailers for the five student films are already up on You Tube. The entire student body at Idyllwild Arts got to see them last week.  Now, everyone in Idyllwild can see all the films in their entirety at the “Moving Pictures Screenings” on campus this weekend. Like the Academy Awards, black tie is optional.

The five student films, all ranging from eight to 18 minutes in length, showcase the writing, directing, producing, editing, lighting, and camera work of the students in the Moving Pictures Department. Moreover, some of them even scored and acted in the films.

According to Malcom, a film student, the five short films include: “Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” about high school dancers; “Shortcomings,” a comedy about a teen with a small whatchamacallit; “Practice Room Nine,” a horror movie; “The Other Side,” an art film that no one can really explain; and “On the Bright Side,” a comedy about an optomistic teen unwilling to break-up.

Besides the five films, there will also be trailers for some documentaries that didn’t get finished this year, added Malcom.

Marietta, who wrote and is producing a documentary about fashion designers, said that sometimes it takes three to five years to complete one. Her documentary started out featuring her mother, a Russian fashion designer. However, as a senior, Marietta wasn’t concerned about someone else finishing her work next year.

“Two students from our crew will still be working on the documentary,” Marietta said. “And I’ll come back to help them edit it.”

“Because you’re the only one who speaks Russian,” said her friend, Sofia.

“No, the  last part of the documentary will be in English,” she added.

“The films are better this year,” said Scarlett, who worked on nearly all five of them.

"The Other Side," is dubbed an "art film," because it's hard to explain

She said that “Shortcomings” and “The Other Side” were the most difficult to get out of the can. Mostly because of the weather changes.

Carter, a theater student who was one of the leads in “The Other Side,” said that it was freezing when they shot some of the scenes.

The students had built a “rain machine” and they were scheduled to shoot on one of the coldest nights of the year. Any delays in shooting “The Other Side” would put other films behind, so they had to push ahead with it.

“I was shivering a lot,” Carter said. “But it looks like I was just emotional on film.”

She said that it was harder to “play dead,” and not shiver.

“Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” Dhaivat’s 18-minute short film about ballet dancers, started out as a Kung Fu ninja fighters movie, with lots of death and fight scenes.

“But then Isaac (Webb, chair of the Moving Pictures Department) and I realized that the only ones on campus athletic enough to carry off a fight scene were the dancers, so we had to change it a bit,” he said. (See “Kung Fu Ballerina” post from April 20).

"Shortcomings" is about a guy with a small whatchamacallit

Most of the actors in the films are theater, film and dance students from Idyllwild Arts, including Dakota, Miracle, Ellen, Carter, Mykal, Kia, Juwan, Luke, Lea, Oscar, Jamie, Dylan and Laura, among others. Ana Lia Lenchantin, an Idyllwild resident, plays the ballet teacher in “Prima Ballerina Assoluta.”

Many Idyllwild landmarks will appear in the student films, including Fairway Market, the dance studio and dorms on the Idyllwild Arts campus, and homes in Idyllwild.

“We’re going to put out the red carpet,” said Laura, who wrote, directed and scored “On the Bright Side,” a short about a ridiculously optomistic guy who won’t allow his girlfriend to break up with him. Laura also played the female lead in another film, “Shortcomings.”

The Moving Pictures Screenings will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 28 and 29 at the IAF Theater (in the Bowman Building) on campus. All screenings are free and open to the public. Both evenings will show the same five films. For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171. Check out the “IAA Trailers 2010” on You Tube.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Hobnobbing with Stars at Film Noir Fest

Monday, May 17th, 2010

(from L) Jeffrey Taylor, June Lockhart & Charles Schlacks at the Film Noir Fest

In 1955, he won an Oscar for his portrayal of a lonely, homely guy named, “Marty,” against Hollywood heavyweights Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Frank Sinatra and James Dean. He starred as a gangster in “From Here to Eternity,” but Ernest Borgnine was best remembered for the 1962 TV series, “McHale’s Navy.”

On Thursday night, May 13, Borgnine attended the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival as its guest commentator. He’s now 93.

The B movie that starred Borgnine was called, “Pay or Die,” from 1960. He played a police lieutenant who battled extortionists in New York’s “Little Italy” neighborhood.

“Ernest Borgnine was bright, and funny and entertaining,” said Jeffrey Taylor, of Green Cafe in Idyllwild, who has attended the Film Noir Festival for the past 10 years. He was a good friend of the festival’s originator, Arthur Lyons.

“He came right up and shook my hand,” added Taylor. “He seemed more like 60 than 93.”

Anne Robinson gets cozy with Jeffrey Taylor of Idyllwild

Besides Borgnine, the Film Noir Festival’s lineup of guests included June Lockhart, Julie Garfeild, Ann Robinson, Don Murray and Tommy Cook.

The best part of the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival, added Taylor, was hobnobbing with the stars. They provided onstage interviews, autographs and cocktail parties. “Anyone who wanted to, could come up and talk to them.”

He said he’s been to other Film Noir festivals where the stars are secluded or wisked offstage right after the show.

“I hope they always keep that special element,” Taylor said.

At this Film Noir festival, he met and got autographs with all of them. Then he hangs the autographed playbills on the walls of his screening room in his office where he hosts weekly “Movie Night” that feature Film Noir films.

“I like everything about the festival,” said Rosemary Barnhardt, from Idyllwild and Palm Springs. Her comments were included in an article in the Palm Desert Sun newspaper on Friday.

Like Taylor, Charles Schlacks, Jr., an Idyllwild resident, considers spending all day in the Camelot Theater watching old crime dramas the best form of a vacation. He took four days from his printing business to come. He proudly wore a black T-shirt from 2008 that repeats Lyons’ favorite line about Film Noir, “It’s all in the story.”

Each day of the four-day event, there were star interviews and autograph signings. The first day was Borgnine, who was a big hit.

The next day, Friday, May 14, Alan Rode, head of the Film Noir Festival for the past two years, brought up Borgnine again.

“I got up early this morning to read the paper (the Palm Desert Sun), to see what they said about us, and who was already there, but Earnest Borgnine,” Rode said. “He was reading the paper and signing autographs for veterans.”

Setting up: June Lockhart and Alan Rode talk onstage at the Film Noir Festival

According to the imdb web site, Borgnine spent 10 years in the Navy after high school, and portrayed military personnel throughout his long career, namely “McHale’s Navy.” Apparently, he is still beloved by many of them.

“He wanted me to tell you that he had a great time last night, and really enjoyed himself here at the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival,” Rode said, as everyone applauded.

That Thursday, Anne Robinson was the special guest at the 1 p.m. show called, “The Glass Wall” from 1953. It was directed by Maxwell Shane, and starred Vittorio Gassman, Gloria Grahame and Robinson. It was about an immigrant who was wrongly denied his visa entry into New York City.

Later, June Lockhart was the special guest for the 7:30 p.m. show, “Bury Me Dead,” from 1947. It was directed by Bernard Vorhaus, and its cinematographer was John Altman, and starred Lockhart, Cathy O’Donnell and Hugh Beaumont.

After the show, Lockhart took the stage with Rode for a 15-minute interview. She was funny, witty, intelligent, and remembered many details of the show and its stars.

She said that the business suit that she wore during most of the movie was way too big for her, and they fixed it with lots of safety pins attached to her underwear.

June Lockhart signs Charles Schlacks' Film Noir book, as fans wait their turn

Lockhart remembered Altman’s lighting throughout the film, because he insisted on getting rid of all of the overhead lights.

“Some of them on the set didn’t like him because it put them out of jobs,” she said.

However, Lockhart especially liked Altman’s lighting when it changed on Beaumont’s face.

Towards the end of “Bury Me Dead,” when it was evident that Beaumont intended to harm Lockhart, Altman moved the lighting from Beaumont’s face to only his eyes. It had a sinister, werewolf effect.

Lockhart kept tabs on her co-star Beaumont, who died in 1982. Later on in his life, he became an ordained minister and grew Christmas trees.

When Rode asked her about her family upbringing, Lockhart surprised the audience by saying, “Thomas Edison introduced my mother and father.”

Rode asked her about her long career, which included some beloved TV shows, such as “Lassie,” and “Lost in Space.”

During “Lassie,” Lockhart said it was difficult at first to speak to the dog on camera.

“They would have a trainer with a treat on either side of you,” Lockhart said. “And when I’d speak my line, and then I’d have to wait until Lassie would speak and the trainer would give her a treat. But, after awhile, you’d learn to tune out the trainers.”

Although Lockhart appeared in 200 episodes of “Lassie,” Rode said its director wasn’t too pleasant to work with.

“He was gruff, and not always kind,” Lockhart admitted. “He”d always say, ‘Get the dog and the girl.”

After the interview, fans crowded around Lockhart to speak briefly to her and get her autograph. Many of the photos they had her sign were from her “Lassie” and “Lost in Space” days. Schlacks had her sign a Film Noir book, and Taylor had her sign his playbill.

As luck would have it, a woman walked right in front of my camera as I was taking a shot of Lockhart and Taylor.  He turned around, “Did you get it?”

I moved around trying to get a better position as Taylor stood next to her. The flash didn’t go off. I motioned to Schlacks to sit next to her.

“What’s happening here?” Lockhart asked, as I fumbled with my camera. I asked if she’s pose for a picture since  I missed it earlier. I changed my batteries, said a silent prayer, and snapped the picture.

“Oh no, you don’t,” Lockhart teased. “I wasn’t ready. I think I was looking down.”

So I took it again. “Now, make sure that you’re happy with it, or we’ll take it again,” Lockhart said. “There’s no rush.”

I looked at the photo, and it was perfect. I glanced around at the others who were waiting patiently, and bowed out quickly, blushing all the way.

I think she meant what she said. June Lockhart was not only a smart, beautiful and talented women, but she was also incredibly nice.

For those who like hobnobbing with really nice stars from the old B movie crime dramas, be sure and come to the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival next year. For more information on its lineup, visit www.filmnoirfest.org and www.greencafe.com.

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Kung Fu Ballerina

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Dhavit Mehta, writer & director

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Dhaivat Mehta loves Kung Fu movies. He’s seen them all at least five times, has got quite a DVD/VHS collection of his own, and can carry on a hefty debate with his classmates on what the best Kung Fu movie is.

“It’s definitely not ‘Kung Fu Panda,'” he said with a groan (referring to the 2008 animated movie by DreamWorks). And they went on to talk about the old masters, such as Bruce Lee and David Carradine, and which films had the worst dubbed lines.

So it’s not surprising that this senior Idyllwild Arts film major would want to write a Kung Fu, or Chinese martial arts, film.

“Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” his 18-minute short film about ballet dancers, started out as a Kung Fu ninja fighters movie, with lots of death and fight scenes, Mehta said.

“But then Isaac (Webb, chair of the Moving Pictures Department) and I realized that the only ones on campus athletic enough to carry off a fight scene were the dancers, so we had to change it a bit,” he said.

The show’s title, “Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” Mehta explained, is an Italian title for a professional ballet dancer.

“We researched it, and it’s a title of utmost respect for an international ballerina with a promising career,” he said. “The title fits our movie.”

“There’s lots of beauty to be explored with dancing” he added, “but we kept some Kung Fu elements, such as a sensei.”

The sensei, or wise dance instructor, is played by Ana Lia Lenchantin, an Idyllwild resident, who hails from Argentina and has acted in a several movies before.

“The dancers act as Lenchantin’s disciples,” Mehta said, “and kneel down before her. You’ll see that in lots of Kung Fu movies.”

Ellen King is one of the dancers in the "chick fight"

“There’s also an awesome chick fight, and it’s not held on the dance floor, but in the dorm room,” he added with enthusiasm.

Those three “chicks” that fight in his film are are dance majors Dakota Bailey and Ellen King, with Miracle Chance, a theater major at Idyllwild Arts.

Bailey was seen in the lunch room last week sporting a black eye. No one batted an eyelash.

“Doesn’t it look great?” Bailey beamed. “It has been so much fun working on this movie. I think I’m going to explore acting more in college.”

Laura Holliday, another film major, created the black eye for her with a “pro bruise kit” purchased online.

“It was really amazing, all the colors that were in there, including blue, black, purple, yellow and green,” she said. “The fight scene took three days to shoot, so I adjusted the colors on Dakota’s black eye each day. By the third day, it was yellow and green.”

Dakota Bailey, seen here at another event, sports a black eye in the movie

To choreograph the fight scene, Mehta had help from Phil Dunbridge, who works in the Admissions Department at Idyllwild Arts, but had a lot of “stage combat” (fight staging) experience in college.

“I really learned a lot from him with the fight scene,” Mehta said. “I told him that I wanted it to hurt to watch that scene, and he listened to me.”

Mehta laughed about some fights he’s seen in old “B” movies, in which the men’s hats remain on their heads.

The list of experts from different departments who helped with “Prima Ballerina Assoluta” grew as production neared. Ellen Rosas, head of the Idyllwild Arts Dance Department, choreographed all of the dance scenes. And Emma Gannon, a senior from the Creative Writing Department, was brought in to help with the dialogue.

“When this became a dance movie with lots of ‘girl chat,’ I realized that I needed some help,” Mehta said. “Emma is great with all kinds of dialogue, and character stuff too.”

Most of the scenes from “Prima Ballerina Assoluta” were shot on campus, including the sound stage, Pearson and Lower Wayne dorms.

After the screenings, Mehta plans to send the short film to a variety of film festivals in the area.

Screenings of “Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” and other short films produced by students in the Idyllwild Arts Moving Pictures Department, will be held at the Rustic Theater on North Circle Drive on Friday and Saturday, May 28 & 29. All shows are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the Idyllwild Arts Academy at (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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“The Cove” Viewing in Idyllwild

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010




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By Marcia E. Gawecki

On Friday, March 12 at 7 p.m., there was a quiet showing of “The Cove,” this year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary, at the Green Café in Idyllwild.

In his e-mail prior to the show, Jeffrey Taylor wrote: “Director Louie Psihoyos took home this year’s Oscar for Best Documentary for his stunning heist-like story that is about half Jacques Cousteau and half James Bond. A ‘dream team” of activists venture to Japan to expose the secretive work of a small community of fishermen who slaughter dolphins so they can sell the meat nationally and abroad.

“As hard as it may be to envision, this sensitive and revealing film is both unflinching and mesmerizing in the activists attempt to get answers a la ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ means. Please don’t let the subject matter deter you from seeing this beautifully-crafted film, either tonight or at a later time.”

“I’m going to tell my friends to see this film,” said an elderly woman, one of 15 residents who attended the showing that night. “There’s only about five minutes of graphic killing that I had to turn away. But they have to see it because the message is important.”

Others in the audience included animal lovers, activists and teachers from Idyllwild Arts and Astro Camp.

“Documentaries aren’t like first-run feature films. They don’t come out in DVD right away. It might appear on TV sometime, but it’s going to be hard to rent or buy it, unfortunately,” he said.

Will Waddell liked "The Cove"

However, Taylor plans to show “The Cove” to Idyllwild Arts students following their Spring Break in early April. Betty Bailey, a film instructor, was excited about the possibility of showing “The Cove” to film students and perhaps the entire Idyllwild Arts student body. She didn’t see the film, but had heard good things about it from Will Waddell, an Idyllwild Arts teacher, who did.

For more than a decade on Friday evenings at his Green Café office, Taylor shows a variety of little-known films, including Film Noir, silents, comedies, westerns, horrors and documentaries like “The Cove.” After the Academy Awards last year, Taylor showed the ‘Best Documentary’ winner about a tightrope walker who scaled two skyscrapers.

“I didn’t expect anyone to show up,” Taylor admitted. “But I thought the message was important. They’re killing mammals unnecessarily.”

Those who braved the movie showing said they were surprised that it was less about a brutal portrayal of the killings, and more of a message about how it all started and what one talented filmmaker and activist did to get the message out.

Richard O’Barry, who rose to popularity with “Flipper,” the popular film about a bottle-nosed dolphin in the 1960s, said that he became an activist when “Cathy,” one of the dolphins from the show, committed suicide right in front of his eyes.

Committed suicide? How is that possible? In the movie, O’Barry said that dolphins are intelligent mammals, like us (but with bigger brains), and each breath has to be taken willingly. He thought that Cathy must’ve been depressed about being held in captivity, and killed herself by not breathing.

“She took her last breath and fell to the bottom of the pool,” O’Barry said in the film. “And a week later, I was sitting in jail after cutting dolphins loose.”

O’Barry collaborated with Psihoyos in creating “The Cove,” to get the word out of the massive dolphin slayings that are held each year from September to March in Japan. In a small cove in Taiji, fishermen herd dolphins in from the sea by forming a line of boats and making noises with metal poles. The process is known as “oikomi.”

“Dolphins are keenly sensitive to noise,” O’Barry said in the movie. “They are afraid of the noise and swim to the cove to get away from it. There, they are herded into nets and the bottle nosed dolphins like the ones in “Flipper” are sent to marine parks like “Sea World,” while the other dolphins are brutally slaughtered.

Jeffrey Taylor thought "The Cove" was important to show

“From September to March, the Taiji fishermen slaughter about 1,000 dolphins a week,” Taylor added.

Their meat is barely edible, because it has high degrees of mercury in it.  At one time, the meat was being given to Japanese school children for their lunches. Mercury poisoning can lead to many kinds of abnormalities, especially en vitro. Since the film came out, the dolphin meat in lunch program has been halted.

But the killing of the 20,000 dolphins has not.

“It’s a little more complex than you think,” said Larry, one of the attendees of “The Cove” showing, who works at Astro Camp, and is also Japanese. “Japan is a small country and doesn’t like being told by anyone what to do.”

He said that he thought “The Cove” showed an accurate portrayal, and didn’t unnecessarily blame Japan for the slaughter.

To make the documentary, the filmmakers went illegally into the cove at Taiji, because they wouldn’t have been allowed in otherwise. It’s a Japanese national park, but “Keep Out” and “No Trespassing” signs are posted everywhere. Furthermore, the fishermen are aggressive in not allowing visitors there during the dolphin-hunting season. Armed with video cameras, the fishermen try and get O’Barry and other activists arrested.

According to the film, anyone can be held in a Taiji jail for 30 days without sentencing.

“Most times, people confess to their crimes after they’ve tortured, which is legal in Japan,” O’Barry said in the movie. He is savvy enough to stay out of jail, but receives regular visits from the mayor of Taiji and the chief of police.

Psihoyos and his ‘dream team’ took high-tech video cameras illegally from the U.S. and brought them in to Taiji to depict the slaughter. They hid the cameras in rocks, on top of the hillside and underwater.

“It was important for us for people to hear the slaughter, as well as to show it,” Psihoyos said.

The crew hid the cameras at night and nearly got caught. Two deep-sea divers who could hold their breaths for 300 feet hid the audio cameras in the cove. Before, they had swum with dolphins and enjoyed the interaction.

Throughout the film, the crew interviewed Japanese politicians who insisted that the dolphin killings were humane because dolphins eat too much of the ocean’s fish, which is depleting rapidly.

“That is so absurd, that I cannot even address that comment,” said one of the representatives at the International Whaling Organization where Japan has presented its case for whaling and dolphin hunting. Dolphins and whales are not depleting the world’s fish population; we are with our massive consumption.

The Japanese government told the Taiji fishermen that they are doing a good community service by killing dolphins, because they are fish-eating parasites.

Unfortunately, “The Cove” doesn’t have a happy ending. In barely six months from now, the Taiji fishermen will continue their annual slaughter of dolphins. “They are nervous, but undeterred,” was the text at the end of the film. Fortunately, dolphin meat, with its toxic levels of mercury, is no longer being fed to Japanese schoolchildren.

What can you do? Visit “The Cove’s” web site, www.takepart.com, or text the word, DOLPHIN, to 44144, for answers. There, they tell you to write your congressmen, donate money and get the word out to others to help stop the slaughter for good.

“I had to show the movie, even if only one person saw it,” Taylor said.

In the weeks following “The Cove” showing, he has remained diligent in getting the word out. He’s put a banner on his web site, www.greencafe.com, which generates about 1,000 hits a day. He also sends weekly e-mails to his mailing list about when “The Cove” makes the news, such as when an LA restaurant was closed for selling illegal whale meat, and when “Heroes” actress Hayden Panettiere visited Taiji recently to meet with Japanese officials. Hayden had appeared in “The Cove” documentary, as one of the surfers who peacefully demonstrated in Taiji.

“Japan would have to do something if 10,000 people descended on Taiji in September,” said a local supporter, who was ready to book her flight. “Babies and animals need our voices, because they don’t have their own. ‘Flipper’ is crying out to us right now.”

For more information, visit www.takepart.com, or text the word DOLPHIN to 44144.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.