faces of new americans

Artist Activities

9/30/2010

We shot full three days Friday-Sunday. On Friday, the hill where we shot was windy, moody and overcast…Just as we wished it to be. The cast, Aditi Kapil and Gabriele Angieri were wonderful to work with. Jon Springer turned out some real nice footage. On Sunday, we also had an interesting moment of lighting when our experiment added an unexpected layer of meaning to the scene.  This was definitely magic!

The most difficult part of the production was filming three live snakes over a short amount of time.  They are cool animals but don’t necessarily follow directions well.

I’ll start editing today…I love this part….

Here are some production stills of the three day shoot.

9/15/2010

The casting is completed and we are rehearsing on the run. The scheduling for the Hour of the Dark production is getting very intense: Coordinating everyone’s availability and the logistics are turning into a real challenge—I am working with one assistant and one intern to pull everything together and we are shooting next weekend!

One of the locations is a hill which is used by deer hunters and I am trying to figure out a way to work around this…the Science Museum, which owns the property, has been very gracious in letting us use the land and making possible the necessary communications with the lead hunter. The most difficult part is the weather. We have decided on an overcast light for the final scene.

9/1/2010

The screen play is done and the working title Somewhere Out There has changed to Hour of the Dark. I have begun casting for the film—finding ethnic looking actors in Minneapolis is always challenging. I am holding my breath!

I had a pretty good exchange with Jon Springer who is going to be the cinematographer for this film. We have decided to shoot Hour of the Dark with the Canon 5D Mark II camera. In addition to running some tests, we are discussing the lighting and the general aesthetics of the film. This is actually a very rewarding part of making films for me.

The screen play is done and the working title Somewhere Out There has changed to Hour of the Dark. I have begun casting for the film—finding ethnic looking actors in Minneapolis is always challenging. I am holding my breath!

I had a pretty good exchange with Jon Springer who is going to do the cinematography. We have decided to shoot Hour of the Dark with the Cannon 5D Mark II camera. In addition to running some tests, we are discussing the lighting and the general aesthetics of the film. This is actually a very rewarding part of making films for me.

8/18/2010

While working out the film treatment, I have answered the question of “what is it about?” Coming to film from a visual arts background does not automatically make you a storyteller. I have been analyzing a lot of my favorite directors’ films, in particular Bergman, Tarkovsky, and Godard.

Along side viewing  films, I have also been reading a lot of poetry and literature that addresses terror, injustice, and oppression. These are a few books among the many that have inspired me in the past few weeks: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and other poems, Anna Akhmatova: selected poems, especially the “Requiem,” T.S Eliot’s The Wasteland, and Haim Gordon and Rivca Gordon’s Sartre and Evil: Guidelines for a struggle.

More on the film in the next blog…

8/4/2010

My film treatment for Some Where Out There is gradually evolving.  I really want the film to make sense to an American audience since the film is inspired by Iranian uprising of summer 2009. This is a bit tricky since the world’s attention and admiration for Iranian protesters came to an abrupt halt with the death of pop icon Michael Jackson.

This has been always a big struggle for me as someone not native to this country. How to communicate a topic that I understand best, but is foreign to an American audience? Of course a highly narrative treatment may intrigue many but I believe film is highly visual medium and must not be treated like a novel. I am also very committed to developing my hybrid style of filmmaking, drawing from my Iranian heritage and western influences.



7/22/2010

Multicultural education

This was the topic of today’s Teaching Artist Journal (TAJ) Resource Exchange design team meeting.  The gathering was organized and facilitated by Barbara Cox, the Arts Education Partnership Coordinator at Perpich Center for Arts Education and Becca Barniskis, teaching artist and Resource Exchange Editor of TAJ.

First, teaching artists Lea and Carla talked about their experience as artists of color in the schools. Both were eloquent and passionate about the need for more dialogue about race in the classroom. Carla felt sometimes she is chosen for the job because the school needs a “chocolate colored” artist in the classroom. The assumption being that this is an adequate way to address issues of race in their school. Even though she is a classically trained dancer, she finds it amusing that her dark skin somehow casts her as a “hip hop” artist in this setting.

Followed their presentation, we looked at a 19-minute video from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

The topic of her talk is the danger of a single story.  This is powerful presentation that weaves quite a few personal stories to make her point about stereotyping. Using the Critical Response Protocol, we discussed the content of her talk.

Even though the protocol is an excellent tool for focusing group discussions, we still did not have enough time to address all the questions raised by Adichie’s presentation. Such as how do we sort through the many true and false stories about a controversial topic? What should be the ground rules for talking about difficult issues of race? What motivates people to invest time learning about other cultures and race related issues?

At the end, there was a strong consensus that the topic is vast and there is a need for more dialogue.

I personally feel that the subject matter is not only immense but the road to discussion very thorny. It might be easier to teach students critical thinking tools to analyze the structure of power and its hidden agenda than talking about race.

The other choice is to use art to provoke dialogue. From my classroom experience, young students are far more capable of discussions about race than the educators. These days, they have had more real life experience with other ethnicities than the parents’ generation. As one high school history teacher once told me, the majority rules and others need to learn to melt into the pot. This consideration is a great entry point for dialogue. Many young people who participate in my classroom discussions don’t agree with the history teacher’s assertion.

I believe classroom is a great arena for discussion about the important subject of race. This issue is presenting itself more boldly in public discourse and political debates as white people increasingly are asked to share their inherited privileges with other minority groups. Being a white-olive-skinned and not part of the majority culture, I occasionally have found myself caught in the turbulent waters of race in America. It is all too common for reverse racism to manifest among people with different shades of dark skin. This is but one example why multicultural education is a difficult topic. As Carla mentioned at the beginning, the physical presence of artist of different ethnicity in the classroom does not in itself confirm a commitment to dialogue about cultures and race.

7/7/2010

My short film, Poem for the Sea will be screened  Wednesday, July 21, 2010 – 7:00pm as part of the monthly Cinema Lounge event, presented by IFP/MN.

If you can’t make it but still want to see this film you can check it out on my website: www.jilanikpay.com

Cinema lounge is located at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. It is a place to see short films and independent filmmakers schmooze and make nice.

6/23/2010

For the past several weeks I have been reviewing materials I gathered for my project and am reworking the step-outline for my film. My research material ranges from text to photographs and video. They capture bits and pieces of the heroic nine month struggle of the Green movement in Iran.  Revisiting this pile of information and images is both overwhelming and emotionally taxing, so I am hitting a bit of a creative block. While on creative pause, I am reading Albert Camus’s short stories.

Camus’s characters fascinate me. They never realize a state of perfect reconciliation between the cultures they live in and adopt. Their loyalties are divided and they are at painful odds with people around them. They long to be reborn and become free of suffering, but they have only themselves to rely on.

My archetypal characters run into a similar dilemma because they choose to cross borders and leave their home behind. This is where I think reading Camus might spark new insights as I am reexamination my narrative structure. It is a bit like taking side roads instead of the familiar. It keeps me in anticipation of what I might come up with and whether or not it will translate to the audience. An important part of filmmaking to me is finding a visual language that is expressive of the social and cultural influences in my life. I am a bit uneasy to see what this will bring me. But what is new, I have been on the edge since I landed in America.

6/9/10

I will post every couple of weeks on this page.

Currently I am in the pre-production phase of a new short film, Somewhere Out There, supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board.

At this stage, I am working out the film treatment. It is the first in a trilogy of films which intimately explores the theme of cultural memory. Each film focuses on the emotional landscape of a protagonist confronted by an event or issue that impacts the culture she inhabits and/or inherits. As outsiders, they respond on a human level, looking inward for answers.

This quote by one of my favorite writers  Milan Kundera captures the essence of this project.

Politics unmasks the metaphysics of private life; private life unmasks the metaphysics of politics.

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