Page 1

Daria! Premiere Issue November 2005/April 2006


Premiere Issue

AR T & ACTIVISM: A SPECIAL ON AFRIC A DICK AND JANE DELSON ON

TOR ONTO PICTURES ’ NE W FILM, IT S AFRIC AN FILM AC ADEMY AND VISION FOR A WEST AFRIC AN PR OFESSIONAL FILM INDUSTR Y P. 42

EXCLUSIVE ! FR OM IDEALISTIC POLITIC AL ACTIVIST IN 1960’S ITALY TO SAVVY FILM MOGUL

BR UNO PISCHIUT TA P. 24 BY DEBORAH GILELS

DISCO VER THAIL AND The King Maker “ CREATES NE W GLOB AL OPPOR TUNITIES FOR THAIL AND ’S FILM INDUSTR Y ”

DAVID WINTERS P. 20 BY JANE DELSON

C ATCHING UP WITH NICHOL AS ME YER, DEBOR AH GILELS HIGHLIGHT S HIS PR OLIFIC C AREER P. 10


EDITOR’S PAGE

Daria about DARIA! and this issue’s features

I

was born and raised in Romania for well over half of my life. A few years ago, I moved to North-America and it all started to take shape: the concept of the magazine, the right environment, the will and, most importantly and the most determinant factor, the support, trust and encouragement of one dear friend and business associate. The idea to do it? Oh, well, that came a few years earlier, while I was still in Romania. Daria! is not aiming at changing the world, but at influencing the opinion of those who have the power, possibility and will, to do just that by getting their attention on the topics, the people and the films featured in its pages. I am talking about international art and entertainment, fashion, music and the business of film. One thing is for sure – most of what you will read in Daria!, you would not read anywhere else. Right now the purpose of DARIA! is to get the attention of the world’s film and TV executives on different subjects and to become a “liaison” between Hollywood and great talent and products that are not yet in full light. This summer, Bruno Pischiutta and I have been Executive Producers of Punctured Hope. We shot the picture in Accra – Ghana under Bruno’s brilliant direction. He taught us all a lesson of great talent exercised with elegant style, the class of patience and thoughtfulness for others, the real meaning of “mentorship” and, throughout everything, the perseverance and

fierce determination of completing the film. He conducted the film’s direction as a mission and we all understood and appreciated his artistic vision. The cast and crew of the production put it best when speaking of Director Pischiutta: “You really also taught us and made us believe that truly, the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenges and controversies...” (Elsie Kadiri). Are the difficulties of making this film worth detailing today? No, as the result and accomplishment of a mission is all that matters. It is worth to say, however, that without this one man, the film industry would have missed a masterpiece – Punctured Hope – and the world might not have come to know the biggest form of slavery practised today against women – Trokosi! In West Africa I did my best to see, to try to understand and to help, whenever possible, as much as possible. But did anybody need my help? YES and NO, at the same time. “Yes” because with so very little, in our terms, so very much can be done. Also because when one understands the flaws of a governing system while not being directly involved in it, it is much easier to make an assessment and to discuss possible solutions. “No” because nobody needed my help to be happy, to laugh, to cry, to play, to enjoy life. Maybe, I needed their help to show me the essence of human kind, to remind me of the pure, simple but fulfilling existence. Maybe it was I who benefited most from the experience and from the priviledge of being there. I will never forget the joy of life! I intend to be back in Ghana soon and I am already working with Bruno on his next film to be directed and shot in Ghana. Our foundation will develop the village where the film Punctured Hope was shot and our Film Academy is growing every day! D

DARIA!

3


OUR STAFF

Daria!

Dick Delson

Dick Delson, a die hard New York Yankees baseball fan, has been doing public relations/publicity campaigns for major motion pictures for longer than he cares to admit. Throughout his years in the industry, he has garnered more than 200 Academy Award nominations for his clients and won more than 60. He and his wife, Jane, never have major disagreements over anything except baseball. A New Englander,she is a Boston Red Sox fan.That's like mixing oil and water.

EDITOR Daria Trifu

ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR Dick Delson

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Jane Delson

BUSINESS EDITOR Daniel Spelling

Jane Delson

Contributing Editor

Jane Delson is a partner in her husband’s Los Angeles-based public relations agency, Dick Delson & Associates. She is an accomplished classical equestrienne and the proud mother of a spectacular Lipizzaner gelding, Patton, with whom she has done numerous demonstrations of dressage and European long-reining.

LOS ANGELES CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Daniel Spelling

ASSISTANT EDITOR Sabrina Johnson

CREATIVE DESIGN

Published by International Film Properties, Inc.

Business Editor

Overseeing the business beat for Daria! is a man who refers to himself as ..."a bona fide business fanatic." Daniel Spelling is the CEO and founder of Spelling Communications, a buttoned-up corporate public relations and marketing firm that has been swimming with the sharks since 1986. In fact, his firm has represented some pretty big fish indeed, including iconic brands like BBDO, Blockbuster, EDS, Intel, KPMG, Merrell Dow, Tag-Heuer, Univision, Upjohn ...and about a hundred more.

Deborah Gilels

Corporate Imagination

Entertainment Editor

He's served on numerous industry advisory boards, including Variety's Showbiz Expo, the IDG EnterTech Expo and the Hollywood Reporter's Post LA Expo. He's also at ease behind a podium, speaking frequently at professional and educational venues like The Private Equity/Emerging Growth Conference, The Strategic Research Institute and USC Annenberg School for Communication. In this issue, Spelling rolls up his Brooks Brothers shirt sleeves to write a profile on the genesis of Toronto Pictures, Inc. "This was a fun first assignment, " says Spelling. " Toronto Pictures is one of those companies that's teetering on the tipping point of prominence. Writing about them felt like handicapping a big winner at Santa Anita."

PRESIDENT Daria Trifu

Advertising & Inquiries: corporate@filmail.com

Deborah Gilels

Contributing Editor-Los Angeles

Having started both a movie channel and a celebrity talk show called Majestic TV in Japan and Korea in the past 2 years, contributing editor, Deborah Gilels arrives at Daria! with a resume that also includes executive posts at Twentieth Century Fox,Warner Brothers and PFG Entertainment. She was the Executive Producer of Bearing the Torch, Politics & the Games for ESPN, and was a producer on the action film Pentathlon for LIVE/Artisan Entertainment. Gilels formed her own production company and had the luck to get Robert Duvall attached to the first project she optioned, a book called Dr. Gully’s Story. She went on to have producing deals at Disney and New Line Television. She takes the readers on a journey into the incredible life of producer/director Bruno Pischiutta.“I came of age in the 1970’s and my idols were the very men he learned from in Italy - DeSica, Fellini and Visconti. So, exploring his roots ended up being the ultimate vehicle for me to revive my own passion for movies.”


BEHIND THE SCENES

"Punctured Hope" 2005 - Actor/Costume Designer Seayram Esamboye and Lead Actor Belinda Siamey; Director Bruno Pischiutta & crew; Assistant Director Tony White Meribe and Pischiutta (beneath the light); Lead Actors Belinda Siamey, Michael Tuffour-Ampem and Pinnock Asiedu (Frost); Bruno Pischiutta, Actors Joseph Jones, Bright Tefe and Ruffy Quansah Jr. (far right); Pischiutta with Actors Ruffy Quansah Jr. and Bright Tefe; TuffourAmpem (in yellow shirt), Siamey and Asiedu (in front seat)


"...?" "...Maybe..." 2002 - Lead Actor Christina Macris catching a glimpse through the camera view finder with Bruno Pischiutta by her side; Maybe actors rehearsing with Pischiutta; Macris and Pischiutta moments before "action".

"The King Maker" 2004: Lead Actors Cindy Burbridge and Gary Stretch (Alexander); Battle scene; Make-up break for Cindy; Lead Actors John Rhys-Davies (The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), Cindy and Producer David Winters enjoying a moment of break on set.


Daria!

Features 24

Multi-talented maverick,

Bruno Pischiutta,

tells Daria! Contributing Editor Deborah Gilels about his bittersweet journey from idealistic political activist in 1960's Italy to savvy mogul, running his own movie studio in North America.

Premiere Issue

40 Special on Africa 41

Filming in West Africa.The making of Punctured Hope - a successful journey.

48

Irrepressible Survivor: Lead Acress of Punctured Hope, Belinda Siamey, reveals her true life story as portrayed by the movie, to Contributing Editor, Jane Delson.

53

A pictorial portrait of a “Picture Perfect” village, Kpobikope - The shooting location of Punctured Hope.

56

Toronto Pictures Film Academy, Accra - Ghana, is today a reality with over 60 film students, specialised in all aspects of the business from film acting to producing, writing, sound and camera.

Movies 36 “...?” “...Maybe...”

- Edgy and timely, Bruno Pischiutta’s “…Maybe?” asks all the hard questions.

20 The King Maker -

David Winters Sees New Global Opportunities for Thailand’s Film Industry

14 Dead Love - Toronto Pictures' “Dead Love” crosses dimensions of life, love & death.

10

Catching up with Nicholas Meyer

Business 60

Toronto Pictures: a profile in ethical filmmaking

Rising Star 9 18 34

Film Actor Samantha Wings

3 4 4 6

Editor’s Page

Film Actor Andrew Priestman Composer David Brandstatter

Our Staff Credits Behind The Scenes


Samantha Wings Toronto native Samantha Wings was born on February 14th, 1987. At the age of twelve she enrolled in the Barbizon School to train to be a model. Through Barbizon she was introduced to IMTA (International Modeling Talent Association) where she decided to explore the possibility of becoming an actress. Soon after, she was chosen to enter an international competition that was held in Los Angeles. There, she not only received recognition as a model, but was also commended for showing strong acting potential. When she returned home from Los Angeles, Samantha came to realize that she had a serious passion for acting and decided to pursue it as a career.

After a long search for the perfect agency/production company Samantha discovered Toronto Pictures. By taking Bruno Pischiutta’s Film-Acting course, Samantha gained a better understanding about the film medium and the entertainment industry in general. Now, with Toronto Pictures’ help, Samantha is one of the leading characters in Virtary – Stories of Lost Virginity. She has signed a six-year contract with International Film Properties. She looks forward to performing in many meaningful and successful projects for them and is looking forward to a bright future as part of Toronto Pictures eclectic stable of talent. Along with acting, Samantha’s other hobbies include dancing, and drawing.


by Deborah Gilels

Catching up with

Nicholas Meyer Taking his cue from the great French director Robert Bresson, Nicholas Meyer strives to make the public want what he wants

n his three decades in the entertainment industry writer/director Nicholas Meyer has helped immortalize Kirk and Spock with his work on three Star Trek movies, directed films starring, among others, Tom Hanks and Pierce Brosnan, adapted his first novel The Seven Percent Solution into a screenplay and got nominated for an Academy Award for it, then went on to direct a controversial HBO movie, The Day After, that would ultimately influence then President Reagan to negotiate with Gorbachev, thus ending the Cold War. Yet this profoundly talented and humble man will insist that this is only what he has accomplished “so far.” Taking a break from adapting Michel Faber’s bestseller The Crimson Petal and White for Paramount, Meyer sits with Daria’s Deborah Gilels to discuss the highlights of his prolific career, the present depressed state of the film business and the kind of films he hopes will be made in the future.

I


INTERVIEW

D

eborah Gilels: You’ve been a player in the movie business for 3 decades, what highlights of your career are most special to you?

Nicholas Meyer: Well, I would have to say the most special “so far” – I don’t like to think of myself as retired (laughs). Clearly the highlights for me were my breakthrough novel The Seven Percent Solution and the film that came of it – my Oscar nomination, my directing debut with Time After Time, my involvement with the Star Trek movies, the television anti nuclear film The Day After. Certainly a high point for me was going to India for Merchant Ivory and making The Deceivers. And there have been other highlights that are in a way more private which is to say I’ve written screenplays that I’m extremely proud of that may never have gotten made or may have been made badly. DG: Which films and screenplays are you talking about? NM: Somersby, The Human Stain, or just some of the ones that never got filmed at all…there was a screenplay I wrote about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. DG: When you wrote the novel The Seven Percent Solution, what drew you to Sherlock Holmes and the Sigmund Freud angle? NM: As a kid I loved reading the Sherlock Holmes stories and like most kids when I plowed through all sixty of them, I started to make up stories of my own. My father was a psychoanalyst in New York and his work, solving people’s problems, seemed to me like detective work and after fifteen years of mulling that one over, I came up with the idea of Holmes meeting Freud. He and Arthur Conan Doyle might well have been aware of each other – Arthur Conan Doyle had been to Vienna for six months studying ophthalmology – and Freud had embraced the use of cocaine as an anesthetic with two eye doctors in Vienna…well that’s a lot of coincidences so I found myself wondering what could I do with all these coincidences and went from there. DG: How did you get involved with the Star Trek movies? NM: After I directed my first film Time After Time, I was trying to get another project off the ground – a novel by Robertson Davies called Fifth Business - to no avail. I was obsessed with it and didn’t want to do anything else. Then, a friend who was an executive at Paramount said, “You know if you want to learn how to direct you should keep directing instead of staying at home like a spoiled child waiting for your dream project to be financed – there’s a producer on the lot at Paramount named Harve Bennett who I think you would like – and he’s in charge of putting together the next Star Trek movie.” I asked her if that was the one with the guy with pointy ears, when she said yes, I

told her no and then she told me stop being an asshole and sit down with him. So I did and I found out that I liked him a lot, I still do, and he showed me several episodes of the original television series and the first Star Trek movie and it reminded me of the Captain Hornblower books by C.S. Forester, about an English sea captain during the Napoleonic Wars and his adventures –to me this was Captain Hornblower only in outer space. So, I had a point of view going in and was not inhibited by reverence because I never had watched it before. DG: And then what came next? NM: The Day After - a movie about nuclear war. I was called a traitor on the editorial page of the New York Post and they also said that I was trying to do Yuri Andropov’s work for him! The movie almost didn’t get on the air - it was very cut up and censored and all the sponsors had fled so there were no commercials. Who knew that movie would change Ronald Reagan’s mind about a winnable nuclear war as his memoirs acknowledge it did – he then went and negotiated with Gorbachev – all because he saw the movie. In doing the movie I was actually hoping to help unseat Reagan (laughs), but instead helped him change his mind. DG: In 1985, you directed Tom Hanks and the late John Candy in the comedy film Volunteers. What convinced you to direct a comedy? NM: Volunteers was sent to me as a screenplay. I read it and laughed like hell. I have a philosophy, which is that I never really want to do the same thing twice. So when I was presented with the screenplay of Volunteers and Tom Hanks and John Candy were cast, I thought oh great let’s just go and do this. DG: How did you end up directing The Deceivers? NM: My agent got an offer from Ishmael Merchant for me to direct The Deceivers, and I had actually read the novel by John Masters. In fact, I read all his novels and really liked them. The Deceivers was grand fun and just an extraordinary experience in India and to be making that movie and Pierce (Brosnan) and I have remained friends ever since. DG: What drew you to adapting The Crimson Petal and White and paring down all 800 plus pages? NM: When I read it, it seemed like an unexpurgated Charles Dickens novel – it was all that Dickens couldn’t write because he really couldn’t write about fallen women. And it had the kind of happy ending that I could really get behind because I thought it was so earned, and I just remembered looking at that book when it was delivered and thinking I was looking at Mt. Everest because it was so big – but when I started reading it and couldn’t stop!

DARIA!

11


INTERVIEW DG: How has the business changed since you began your career in the 1970’s? NM: Well, I’m afraid they’re not changes for the better. With the absorption of movie studios by corporations the economics of making movies have changed enormously and so have the personnel and as a result, finally, so have the movies. So the first thing that has changed is that many of these companies in swallowing each other up have acquired such vast debt that the only use they have for movie studios is to try to fund the debt - so they aren’t interested in making movies anymore, they are only interested in making money. There’s a race to the bottom and if you keep appealing to the lowest common denominator you disenfranchise the older, more educated, more affluent part of the audience in favor of teenagers and you keep on insulting them with stupider and stupider movies, wind up movies and movies that are about nothing…so you sort of dilute the culture and you make movies that nobody wants to see, which is I guess what happened this summer. DG: A lot seems to have changed even since the mid-90’s when I was a development and production executive – movies I sold back then or produced would probably not even be made today NM: Now, the people making the movies or deciding what movies get made have no involvement with movies per se, they are the henchmen of the corporations and answerable to the corporations. There is no development department, there are no scripts in development – that’s all changed, that’s gone – there is no attempt made to find or recapture the broader audience or to be ambitious – these days to be ambitious is to be pretentious. It’s very interesting what has happened in my neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles. A defunct 50’s movie theater that was abandoned was taken over by the American Cinemateque – and they’ve started running good movies. And the place is packed every night. Saturday night I went with 10 friends of mine to see Some Like it Hot.

CREDITS And the place was packed and the whole theatrical experience of going to the movies, not sitting there with three people in the theater or watching some comic book - but seeing something that was simply hilarious and brilliant and it was like we were in a time warp. I saw The Godfather there, I saw Gone With the Wind – I even saw my film The Wrath of Khan there two weeks ago and every night that place is packed with people who are starving to see a good movie. So, it seems that what’s changed is that movies themselves have disappeared – now to go to the movies is to go to a windup toy – and its a sort of check your mind at the door and you see something that you don’t want to see. They seem largely joyless, formulaic, synthetic, and of course as part of a reflection of the political climate that we live in – very self censored. DG: Now, you’ve written and directed a wide range of genres that include thriller, sci-fi, action, drama and comedy. In today’s film business, I think it’s a lot more difficult for a filmmaker to work in so many different genres – do you agree? And, if so, what advice can you give to a young writer who thinks he’s equally capable in a myriad of genres?

Writer filmography • Crimson Petal and White,The (2005) (screenplay) • Human Stain, The (2003) (screenplay) • Fall From the Sky (2002) (TV) • Prince of Egypt, The (1998) (additional screenplay material) • Informant, The (1997) (screenplay) • Voices (1995) (written by) • Sommersby (1993) (screenplay) (story) • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) (screenplay) • Company Business (1991) (written by) • Fatal Attraction (1987) • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) (screenplay) • Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (screenplay) (uncredited) • Time After Time (1979) • Seven-Per-Cent Solution,The (1976) (also novel) • Night That Panicked America, The (1975) (TV) (also story) • Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders (1974) (TV) • Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973)

Director filmography • Creation (2005) • Vendetta (1999/I) (TV) • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) • Company Business (1991)

NM: Well, in my experience, if the work is good enough people don’t care who wrote it and they don’t care what it is and if you write a screenplay that is really terrific it will certainly at the very least provide you with some kind of entree – provided you get people to read it.

• Deceivers, The (1988) • Volunteers (1985) • Day After, The (1983) (TV) • "Faerie Tale Theatre" (1982) (TV Series) (episode "Pied Piper") • Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982) • Time After Time (1979)

I had a conversation the other day and was talking about an idea for a film and somebody said, “Well, who is going to go see that?” I said I am and then told him my philosophy: I write the books that I would like to read – I write or direct the movies that I would like to go to – but I do not try to second guess the opinions of millions of people that I do not know or have never met – I make a different assumption – as Robert Bresson once said – “my job is to make the public want what I want.” That’s the best advice I can give a filmmaker. D

Actor filmography • Awaken the Giant (2004) .... Big Time Producer • Making 'Murder on the Orient Express' (2004) (V) .... Himself • Star Trek 25th Anniversary Special (1991) (TV) .... Himself • Mae West (1982) (TV) .... George Raft

Producer filmography • Happy Endings (2005) (executive producer) • Collateral Damage (2002) (executive producer) • Informant, The (1997) (executive producer)

12

DARIA! Premiere issue

• Odyssey, The (1997) (TV) (executive producer)


TM

photography & design rick gould

“LIFE IS A JO URNEY. BETTER TAKE A GREAT BAG.”

handbags hand made in venice,ca. www.bethspringer.com


MOVIES

by Jane Delson

Dead Love

Toronto Pictures’ “Dead Love” Crosses

L

ife is transitory. Love is transcendent. In “Dead Love,” we learn this lesson through the interactions of two young acquaintances, whose encounter crosses the dimensions of life, love and death. Visionary filmmaker Bruno Pischiutta’s films are noted for their use of introspective, probing dialogue to unearth his characters’ innermost feelings. From angst to ecstasy, he pokes and prods at his characters’ respective frailties until they ultimately reveal to us their most private musings. In “Dead Love,” a couple in their early twenties – “Kate” (Christina Macris) and “Jeff” (Gabe King) – meet by chance encounter when Jeff is escaping from a friend’s party that he finds unsettling. Walking late at night in a nearby cemetery and

14

DARIA! Premiere issue

pondering why his friends don’t offer him any sense of camaraderie or real companionship, Jeff is startled by Kate who appears spontaneously from behind an aged tree. They exchange pleasantries, and Jeff inquires about Christina’s presence in the cemetery, noting it is an odd place to take a walk alone at night. She counters that he is hardly in a place to ask that question, as he is doing the precisely same thing. Suddenly, they begin to share the mutual pleasure and solace they find in the stillness of the old town graveyard. When Jeff offers that he has begun to find it an effort and a “burden” to try and get along with his college-aged peers, Kate expresses empathy, noting that it’s better being alone than enduring meaningless relationships. She serves up numerous innuendos that lead us to suspect


Dimensions of Life, Love, Death… she has become an apparition and is not the animated and very lively Kate we first encountered in the introductory scenes. Speaking about her own life and relationships in the past tense, she piques Jeff’s curiosity and confusion, as he picks up every oddity in her syntax and questions her about them. More revelatory conversation ensues between the two young people, and Kate shares that she has seen Jeff walking alone at night very often. He queries how she might have seen him, when he has never spotted her and – little-by-little – she informs him that she is, in fact, a ghost, having died in a recent car crash at the hands of their mutual friend who was driving recklessly. Needless to say, Jeff is stunned by this shocking revelation. But rather than dismiss Kate as “crazy,” he quietly takes in the

seriousness of her speech and somehow manages to find credibility in her emphatic statement that she is truly a ghost. He is even undaunted, seemingly mystically drawn to continue conversing with Kate. When Jeff confesses to Kate that he finds her attractive and asks if he can meet her again, they acknowledge that the dimensions of time and space should literally be keeping them apart. But Kate tells Jeff the story of an elderly woman who, though remarried, still visits the grave of her first husband every week and talks to him to find comfort and peace. She explains to Jeff that it is clear they are communicating at some spiritual level, and that the transcendent language is Love. That message is eloquent enough to impart, and his film finds quiet closure as Kate and Jeff agree to meet again in the cemetery the very next evening. D

DARIA!

15


wendytabb.com ELEGANT, PLAYFUL, CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY


Monaco International Film Festival A Celebration of Non Violent Films “We, the organizers, believe that in today's world of terror and with the constant visually violent reality being presented in the media we need to balance it out by having a non violent approach in our festival.” “Our philosophy is to showcase quality films that do not contain gratuitous violence,” notes Dean Bentley, Co-Founder and Programming Director.“Our leading corporate sponsor for this year's festival, Toronto Pictures, has established its own strong reputation as an independent production house of like-minded films. We are proud and privileged to have them partner with us in our efforts to expand the impact of non-violent films globally.” Commenting on his company's sponsorship of the 2005 Monaco International Film Festival, Bruno Pischiutta notes,“At Toronto Pictures, we are strongly focused on the production of films that educate, enlighten and provide provocative impetus for political, social and cultural change. The Monaco International Film Festival is a perfect environment for showcasing our films.”

“The non-violent theme of this festival reflects our corporate commitment to eliminating superfluous violence in filmmaking. We live in an admittedly violent world,” reiterates Daria Trifu. “In no sense are we opposed to the responsible representation of 'real-life' violence, per se, or to films that examine violence with integrity and illumination. Rather, it is the sensationalism of violence that blatantly and irresponsibly panders to box office revenues with which we take strong issue.” The Angel Award is a symbol of PEACE, HARMONY and POSITIVE energy. “As an artist you have a certain responsibility towards the world and you must accomplish what you feel is needed presently.” (Rosana Golden, Co-Founder and Executive Director)

FESTIVAL DATES: DECEMBER 8th to 11th 2005 Contact the Festival: T/F + 39 0184 266 354 - Cell + 39 329 344 6377 rosana@monacofilmfest.com - bentley@monacofilmfest.com www.monacofilmfest.com - www.cinemaagainstviolence.com


by Deborah Gilels

Andrew Priestman This 26-year-old former athlete is now a heartthrob of the future


RISING STAR From an early age, Andrew Priestman has been a “go-getter” and can’t remember a moment where he wasn’t trying to be the center of attention. By the time he was three, he was riding freestyle BMX bikes, snowboarding and skiing. After high school he trained to be a stuntman, but when his body could no longer take the demands of the job, turned his sights to an acting career. Now, this star of tomorrow discusses his past, present and future with Daria! Contributing Editor Deborah Gilels

D

eborah Gilels: Hi there Andrew. Please tell me about your childhood – growing up in Ontario, Canada -

Andrew Priestman: Hey Deborah! I’m happy to tell you about my (laughs) checkered past. Well, here it is. I grew up in the small town of Acton, Ontario, about forty-five minutes away from Toronto. From an early age, I was definitely a “go getter”. There wasn’t a moment that went by that I was not trying to be the center of attention. At the ripe old age of three, I was riding freestyle BMX bikes, snowboarding and skiing. My parents reluctantly gave me the appropriate nickname of “Taz”. They placed me in every possible sport they could think of, allowing me to have an outlet for all of my energy and aggression. During high school, I joined the snowboarding club, where my aspirations of becoming a professional athlete started to grow. DG: What was your next step after you graduated from high school? AP: I attended Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. Then, when I was nineteen, I packed my bags and moved to Whistler B.C. to pursue my dreams. I worked as a professional snowboarder and tried my hand at freestyle motocross. Several severe injuries later, I came to realize that I really wanted to do stunt work, which included not only snowboarding, but jet ski’s, snowmobiles and motocross too! The thrill of becoming a stunt man in Hollywood films was the new career I craved. DG: Wow! That’s awesome. Then what happened? AP: After three years of hard training and many dead ends, my body could no longer take the demands of the job. DG: So is that when you turned to acting? AP: Well, I actually started when I was a child, by playing background characters in several movies but then I moved on to other things. Years later, right after I compress fractured a

vertebrae in my back during a freestyle MX show I met Bruno Pischiutta. He immediately sparked my interest in becoming a successful film actor. So, I dove in full-time, 2 years ago, when I was 24, knowing that this path would be a very challenging one. Except this time, I felt that there were no limits, mentally and physically, to my success and satisfaction. DG: Great. Well, I can vouch for Bruno – he’s the best! He’s a man who always goes for his dreams and encourages others to do the same. Now, look at how things are manifesting for him – AP: I agree. With all that in mind, I have signed a six-year contract with International Film Properties, and will work under Bruno and Daria’s guidance. I’m really looking forward to performing in many films with both of them, including leading roles in Virtary and Glicine. DG: What other films have you been working on? AP: I have just finished a Feature film in NYC, called The System Within. As the only Canadian Actor in the film, I play Lead FBI agent Crouton. I worked along side Actor Robert Miano (Donnie Brasco, Laws of Deception), Hawthorne James (Five Heartbeats, Speed , Seven) and EMI rap star Chingy. This project was the brainchild of Tariq Alexander, a former model turned actor and producer. It is scheduled for release this fall. DG: Andrew, thanks for your time and for sharing so much about yourself. Any parting thoughts? AP: I feel privileged to have a chance to add some facet of entertainment to movie lovers all over the world. To me, like Bruno, it only makes sense to follow your dreams, not to have your dreams follow you. Becoming an actor is a powerful position to be in, in many ways, but I want to touch and encourage people. Acting is not a road to fame for me, but a road to fulfillment. D

DARIA!

19


David Winters Sees New Global Opportunities for Thailand’s Film Industry An Entertainment Industry Veteran Turns to Thailand to Produce an English-Language Epic By Jane Delson


MOVIES

The King Maker

D

avid Winters is a TV and film industry veteran of over 50 years’ standing. As a child actor, he appeared in many television shows and Broadway productions, including “West Side Story,” originating the role of Baby John. He later appeared as A-Rab in the movie version, recreating the special "Cool" dance sequence choreographed for him. In Hollywood, Mr. Winters established himself as an exceptional choreographer, teaching dance to actors such as Ann-Margret and Raquel Welch. He also choreographed many major films, including five Elvis Presley films and Barbra Streisand's “A Star is Born”(1976). In 1967, he choreographed and guest-starred in “Movin' with Nancy”, earning the first of many career Emmy nominations. In all, David Winters has directed and produced over 200 shows, specials and movies, including the award-winning “Once Upon a Wheel” starring Paul Newman and the musical “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1973 TV) starring Kirk Douglas. For Excellence in Television, Mr. Winters has won the Christopher Award and the coveted Peabody Award. Firmly established in annals of the American entertainment industry, he is also a preeminent spokesperson for the film industry in Thailand, where his latest movie, “Welcome 2 Ibiza” won the Bangkok Film Festival Audience Award for Best Picture, November 2002. Today, he is about to release his latest production, “The King Maker,” an historical Thai epic of Shakespearean dimensions, filmed entirely in the English language. It is the first film to be shot in Thailand that is oriented toward a global audience…a precedent Winters hopes will attract more and more professional film-makers to the Asian country he has come to embrace, both culturally and professionally. “The King Maker” is based on a true story set in Sixteenth Century Siam, and recounts the tale of a ruthless Queen who sets about to murder her husband and son to install her lover on the throne. Directed by Winters’ partner, Lek Kitaparaporn, a native of Thailand, and written by Sean Casey, a young British writer whose work Winters describes as inventive and intense,

1. Clockwise: Gary Stretch (second from left), John Rhys-Davies and Cindy Burbridge; 2. Gary Stretch 3. Gary Stretch and John Rhys-Davies 4. Gary Stretch

1 2

3

4


The King Maker - Production Photos


MOVIES

“The King Maker” stars Emmy-nominated John Rhys-Davies (“Shogun,” “Lord of the Rings,” “The Princess Diaries”), Gary Stretch (“Alexander,” “Final Combat”) and actress and super model Cindy Burbridge (“Miss Thailand,” 1996). The evil Queen Sudachan is portrayed by noted Thai actress Yoe Hassadeevichit. Beyond its inherent dramatic appeal, “The King Maker” is lavishly costumed and filmed on stately sets, which Winters asserts would be prohibitive if shot elsewhere. “Because of its importance in the film, we had the set for the King’s bedroom priced in both London and Thailand. The quote for the Britishbuilt set significantly exceeded $1,000,000; the Thai quote for an equally brilliant set came in at just over $25,000,” he states. “It is this cost factor across the board, in both production and post-production which renders Thailand so competitive as an international production site. Add to that its magnificent countryside and resplendent architecture, and Thailand is all the more compelling.” Winters hopes “The King Maker” will open new vistas for Thailand’s film industry infrastructure, which he describes as exceptional. He strongly believes that the absence of Englishlanguage films produced in Thailand to date has been a significant contributing factor in the lack of professional film-making interest in Thailand exhibited by both U.S. and Europeanbased producers and directors. “Traditionally, the Thai film industry has catered to its resident Thai audience which, while entirely natural, has had an inhibiting impact on interest from foreign film-makers. We’re confident that the elegance, grandeur and sheer film magnitude of ‘The King Maker’ will cause U.S., Canadian and European film-makers alike to reconsider Thailand as a prime production site for their next projects. Our experience could not have been more professionally rewarding, and we have been able to produce an extraordinarily complex film, which, had it been shot elsewhere, would easily have cost over $32,000,000 or more.” The film industry in Thailand is hoping that Winters’ powerful endorsement of his production experiences in this country will give rise to more production business from overseas. “The King Maker” will be introduced to the global market at the American Film Market in Los Angeles (CA) in November. D

1. Gary Stretch 2. Noted Thai actress Yoe Hassadeevichit

1 2


He became an instant celebrity in 1977 with his provocative film Compagne Nude, almost 30 years later this multi-talented maverick continues to tell the hard-edged stories that need to be told and does it on his own terms

Bruno

by Deborah Gilels

Lead Actress Belinda Siamey and Bruno Pischiutta on the set of Punctured Hope 2005


Pischiutta In the old days, even his friends anticipated “another bloody film of Bruno’s” fearing there might be a volatile reaction much like when a theater showing his first feature film, Compagne Nude, was burned down. Fiercely independent and highly intelligent, Bruno Pischiutta understood from the onset of his brilliant and eclectic career that his mission was to change the world for the better through the content of his films. So, instead of making action films and thrillers that would have brought him much more commercial success, he dedicated his life to helping society’s downtrodden and vulnerable, tackling difficult subjects such as teen suicide, bulimia, alcoholism and sexual slavery in West Africa. This year he will release a Retrospective DVD, showcasing scenes from his most important films. Here, Pischiutta tells Daria! Contributing Editor Deborah Gilels about his bittersweet journey from idealistic political activist in 1960’s Italy to savvy mogul, running his own movie studio in Canada, Toronto Pictures, that has just gone public.

D

eborah Gilels: You have a very rich and textured background, starting with your roots in the infamous political theater established by Dario Fo. You learned to make movies from masters like Fellini, De Sica and Visconti and then became a household name after riots ensued upon the release of your first film. Today, you are the master mentoring a new generation through your thriving film studio. So, I want to jump right in and talk about your new film, Punctured Hope, the true story of a young woman named Edinam who was sexually abused and impregnated by a fetish priest – then smuggled out of her native Accra. Once relocated, she returned to school to study law, and now fights to free other young women enslaved in the same situation! How did Pastor Kingsley Sam Obed and this important project find its way to you? Bruno Pischiutta: The Pastor wrote to me after he saw that we were going to do a movie about lost virginity in America on our website. He told me that we had no idea about lost virginity and sexual enslavement as it exists in West Africa and explained that he had written a script about it. At first I was skeptical, but then I asked him to send it. It was not perfect, but it was good. This was at the beginning of 2004. Soon after, we decided to collaborate on the film’s script and on the film. I went to Africa and saw the atrocities first hand. I then decided to move forward with the project knowing that casting the actors and hiring most of the crew from that area, along with the story itself, would be both a great challenge and a significant achievement to pull off. DG: What aspect of Edinam’s journey appealed to you the most? BP: She looks extremely young and is a representation of the new Africa. The old people represent the past and the young rep-

resent the future. Edinam is now a law student but she was a slave. She had the strength to raise herself up. I find her story very inspirational. DG: You have a long history of making cutting-edge films on topical issues. What made you decide to dedicate your life to films of this nature? BP: Because film offers the possibility of mass education along with, of course, entertainment. There are a lot of people who make action films or thrillers, and that’s fine for them. I like to present a certain view of things. The power that a filmmaker has on a viewer is 100 times greater than the one a politician has on the people he addresses from the TV screen. Of course, we filmmakers are not politicians or scientists. It’s easy to make films with guns and difficult to show things like bulimia and the West African slave trade. Because of Punctured Hope being made, the leaders of the American black community will now have a greater ability as well as the responsibility to push the politicians to change laws and life over there. DG: Who are the filmmakers that made the biggest impression on you as a youth growing up in Italy in the 1950’s and 60’s? BP: Well, Fellini was one of the people I learned a lot from watching, also Visconti and DeSica. DG: You can guess my next question, but here it is — how did you meet Fellini and did you consider him to be your mentor? BP: Not a mentor, Fellini was one of the biggest presences – coming with a different approach – art and fantasy. I met him when I was studying film and was creating a play about the underworld of Rome. The people I put on stage were real DARIA!

25


1

2 3

1. Bruno Pischiutta on the set of Life's Charade 1987 2. Pischiutta on the set of Punctured Hope 2005 3. Pischiutta and Daria catching the sunset on and off camera in Africa - Punctured Hope 4. Pischiutta with Assistant Director Tony White Meribe, Daria & Lead Actress Belinda Siamey on the set of Punctured Hope

4


1. Pischiutta with actors on the set of Punctured Hope 2005 2. The director with Lead Actors Kevin Konway and Josette Garramone on the set of Life's Charade 1987 3. Philomena "Philo" and Bruno in the village of Kubikope, the shooting location of Punctured Hope 4. Lead Actor Belinda Siamey taking direction from Pischiutta Punctured Hope

11 2

3

43


THIS PAGE: 1. Punctured Hope 2005 2. Bruno Pischiutta and Daria 3. Belinda Siamey, Joseph Jones and Pischiutta

NEXT PAGE: 1. Bruno and Director of the documentary The Making of Punctured Hope, Alicia Russell celebrating at Bruno's "30 Years in the Professional Film Business" anniversary party in Accra - Ghana. 2. Alicia, Actor Monica Osei Tutu and Bruno

1 2

3


prostitutes and gangsters. Everyone came to see them perform – including Fellini. We took young kids from the inner city and changed them, taught them not to steal and some even became interested in film. It was an incredible time. DG: Who are your favorite American filmmakers? BP: In America there are some incredible directors like Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard. I really liked A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man. DG: What is your opinion of the “blockbuster” film? BP: Today many young people are confused and think all films should have the concept of “amusement park” because they watch blockbusters and they don’t understand that this is only one thing to do with a film. The box office does not always move the culture of the people forward. In my opinion, Star Wars is “amusement park”, American Graffiti is a great movie. DG: Please describe your involvement in the political theater scene of the 1960’s in Italy? BP: It was a dramatic time in Italy, before the onset of the Red Brigade. I auditioned for the group run by Dario Fo, the largest in Italy, was accepted and then after a year or so went on to form my own group. This was a traveling theater company– also political in nature. We went from place to place, putting up the stage, performing the play, then debating about the play with the audience for a few hours after the show. I did this for 2 years all over Italy and in other places in Europe where clusters of Italian immigrants lived. DG: In 1970, Nanny Loi cast you in his film Rosolino Paterno: Soldato and you worked with some great American actors like Martin Landau, Jason Robards and Peter Falk. How did this happen? BP: At the time, I was acting in an Italian theater company in Yugoslavia. There were many American and international movies being shot there and they looked for Italian looking actors who could speak a few words of English. I fit the bill. DG: Around this time Billy Wilder cast you in Avanti – what do you remember most about your experience working with him? BP: I was cast in Avanti a year later in Rome. I got a really close look at how American movies were filmed. I also got to watch Billy Wilder direct Jack Lemmon, which was a big thing to see at the time. Another great memory from the time in Yugoslavia was when I was in a film called Uomini contro, directed by Francesco Rosi. I got to do a scene with Alain Cluny, the great actor who played the piano player in Fellini’s La Dolce vita. What an experience! DG: In 1977, you burst onto the Italian movie scene with your first film Compagne Nude. Why were there bomb threats in the theaters where it was playing? BP: Compagne Nude was my first feature film. It was very provocative –they burned down a theater in Venice where it was playing – in other theaters they cut the screens. A bulletin went

1 2


Retrospective DVD on the films you made over the past 3 decades. Which of your films will be featured? BP: Last Meeting in Venice, The Comoedia, Life Charade, Maybe, Dead Love and Punctured Hope. DG: In 1980 you made The Last Meeting in Venice, a film that examines the downward struggle of an alcoholic Vietnam veteran who comes to Venice to spend his last days. What impact did the war have on you and how did Italian audiences receive your film? BP: The film was very well received. The main character had been in Vietnam as a journalist with the Marines. So the war was in the background and the movie is really about a topflight writer dying of alcoholism in Venice. The storytakes place over the last 5 nights (remember Dostoyewsky’s The White Nights?) of his life leading up to the last night, which is death. The film is shot in such a way as this could be a dream or reality– the audience can devise their own interpretation. By the way, along with writing, producing and directing, I also played the part of the writer. out all over Italy about the film, the media began to speak and, soon after, the theater was set on fire as a statement of complaint about the film’s content. The movie is a story of women in a chauvinistic society and it obviously rattled a few chains. If you want to push culture to the edge, someone will always be unhappy… There was a rape scene in the film that was inspired by a true story. It affected people so much that many left the theater during the screening of that scene. I did not feel artistically free in Italy so eventually I moved on. DG: The next film you made, Isola Meccanica, is about conmen kidnapping a girl for ransom. Was there a real incident that inspired your screenplay? BP: It’s not a real story, but one that I created. A kidnapping generates a spiral of violence that grows bigger and bigger. Then the world of the kidnappers meets the world of the crazy people who live on the tiny island where the story takes place. DG: How did the experience of your first 2 films differ in terms of audience reaction and critical acclaim? BP: (laughs) Well, there was no critical acclaim but I became instantly famous because of the reaction to Compagne Nude. That film was written about in all of the newspapers and talked about constantly on radio and television. DG: Wow. That’s an interesting debut – to say the least…Later this year you will be releasing a 30

DARIA! Premiere issue

DG: Well, you have remarkable energy and talent. I’m not surprised. In your next film, The Comoedia, an adaptation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, what is your interpretation of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven? BP: Dante’s was a Catholic society, so he had a crisis of faith and then was brought on a journey to regain it. My hero is a 60’s longhaired hippie in New York City – he’s become a dysfunctional heroin addict ever since his girlfriend was killed in the Vietnam War riots. Now, he’s a lost soul, going from bar to bar. DG: How did you meet your famous editor Ruggero Mastroianni, the brother of international icon Marcello Mastroianni? What was your collaboration like?


BP: I had a great friendship with Ruggero. He and Marcello were gentlemen. After I edited the film, my distributor suggested that I use Ruggero to help with the final cut. He asked me for my ideas and did not just impose his will on the film. He was a great guy and a great editor, but he would not make the trailer for the film because when Fellini asked him to make one for 8 1/2 he did such a terrific job that it was used as the ending of the film! DG: From what I can tell, there were many “firsts” connected with this film. It was the first time you shot outside of Italy and also this film was almost the first music video in the worldBP: It was supposed to be the first music video in the world and Pink Floyd was going to do the music. But Pink Floyd did The Wall instead. I had not done a movie in America yet and I was finally able to shoot some scenes there. In 1981 at the New York International Film and TV Festival the movie took the Bronze Award

– it was third out of 3,800 entries. DG: It was during this time period that you decided to relocate to Toronto. Why there and not Hollywood? BP: First of all, in Toronto there is a big Italian community. It’s also a comfortable place to live. The competition isn’t as big as in Hollywood. At the time, I was not ready for Hollywood – I needed to learn a lot of things about America: how movies were financed, how to hire an actor, etc. There’s no way that I would ever have gone to Hollywood without anything behind me. DG: What made you decide to create your own film studio in Canada? BP: Most of the big talent from Canada is working in Hollywood because in Hollywood films are done for the world market. If a movie is good, it is good all over the world, not just Canada. The kind of content the Canadian government approves of is the kind of movie that nobody wants to see. So, Toronto Pictures became a film factory – we cultivate our own talent, write our own scripts, and our goal is to make 2 to 3 films a year that can be successful all over the world.

PREVIOUS PAGE: Top right: Bruno Pischiutta as "John Thory" in Ultimo Incontro A Venezia, 1977 THIS PAGE: Bottom right: The Comoedia original poster 1980

DG: In 1987 you wrote and directed a film called Life Charade that deals with teen suicide – a big problem then that still exists today. What was the reason you decided to make this film? BP: Teen suicide is a subject that I’ve always been interested in. Today there are 5,000 teen suicides a year in Canada and 50,000 in the US. It’s a phenomenon that is painful, but not inexplicable. The film is in color but every frame ends in black and white frozen frames. If you put together the black and white frames, you will understand why the leading character committed suicide. He leaves messages for the people around him and if they are able to understand his messages, they can save his life. Nobody prepared him to deal with the adult world and that’s the principal reason for his suicide.


DG: Dead Love, a comedy/fantasy short film, is a big departure from your usual fare. What made you decide to get involved with it? BP: I did not write it. It is a short film that was inspired by a Chinese and Indian legend. I only directed it so I could showcase Christina Macris, who went on to play the lead role in my next film, “?” “Maybe.”. I decided to put this on the DVD with one of my feature films. In the new DVD market, you can showcase a short film that is very different from the major attraction. A short film like this alone on a DVD would never sell. DG: In 2003 you made a film called “?” “Maybe” that deals with 20 something’s and eating disorders – again you hit the pulse of society with a topical and prominent psychological issue facing so many of our young people. What led you to write this story? BP: The film is about bulimia. 13 million people are addicted in the US. If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs you know how you can help yourself. Bulimia is more secretive and complex. Young people who are bulimic feel a lot of shame. If you put a film about this subject on the screen, bulimic people won’t feel alone. I really believe that bulimia has its roots in the family. Often, the father or mother treats the daughter or son like they are never good enough and this attitude generates the disorder.

32

DARIA! Premiere issue

If more people understand what bulimia is, there is a stronger possibility of curing it. This all starts by talking about it. So that’s the main reason I made this film. DG: So, here we are in 2005. What will your next project be after you finish Punctured Hope? BP: I will make a film in China that I’ve been working on since 1997. I hope to explain China, the super power of the future, to the western world. We are afraid of the things we don’t know. There are a lot of things that Americans don’t know about China’s 5000-year history. DG: What do you hope to accomplish in both the business and artistic aspects of your career in the next 30 years? BP: Well my business has gone public today and that’s a real achievement. I want to keep creating films that are interesting. After China, I have a film I want to shoot in Romania about child prostitution. I want to make films that are shot in the appropriate place for the material and with people who are from that place. We are intent on making nonviolent films. We are absolutely independent. The budget of Punctured Hope is $5.8 million, the film that will be made in China has a budget of $50 million and so I will have to cast some big Hollywood stars in the film. D


RISING STAR by Deborah Gilels

David Brandstatter For him, the score has to embrace the movie from beginning to end, reflecting the development of the story, tailored as close to the plot as possible.“Actually film music is very similar in structure to opera – except that in modern films the actors rarely sing.” 34

DARIA! Premiere issue


T

his year, David Brandstatter will begin his collaboration with Toronto Pictures on their upcoming productions Punctured Hope and Virtary – Stories of Lost Virginity. Prior to the first film’s commencement, he sits with Contributing Editor Deborah Gilels to discuss composing for film, his family background, the technological state of modern film composing and his plans for the future.

David: If you receive dailies from the set without sound or music, you get a picture of how vital the audio aspect of a movie is. Music and sound can ruin a film, but they can also create that certain “magic” which makes a movie a worldwide success. Could you imagine Star Wars without humming at least one of the famous themes?

DG: David, when did you first encounter your passion for film music? David: At the age of 6, my parents took me to the theatre to see E.T.! I really loved the movie and the music even more. My parents bought me the soundtrack recording with John Williams´ music. I listened to it so much that they decided to buy me another soundtrack. Since then I loved film music – I grew up with Star Wars, Indiana Jones and many other wonderful scores from that era.

David: First of all I read the script to get a picture of where and when the movie takes place and to find connections between the characters, their background and motivation. This procedure already creates the first musical drafts in my acoustic mind. I tend to lean on Wagner´s “Leitmotif” technique, to establish “musical identifiers” through melodies or instruments, which are representing elements within the movie, like places, characters, or emotional states. Actually film music is very similar in structure to opera – except that in modern films the actors rarely sing.

DG: What is your musical background?

DG: When you are working, what equipment do you use?

David: First of all, my family was my musical background. My grandfather was a bandmaster in Budapest, my grandmother was a violinist, my aunts are opera singers, and I started to play the piano very early, at the age of four. Besides that, for many years I had to listen to my sister, Regina, practicing the violin, which was difficult for me. Now she is a successful soloist performing with the leading members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and teaches at the University of Music in Graz. I started to compose when I started to play the piano. I only wanted to play my own compositions, which was not always appreciated by my teachers. Years later, I recorded my first orchestra film score when I was studying film music and audio production in Salzburg.

David: I’m excited about the astonishing developments of software in the past few years and I’m currently used to composing on several networked Gigastudio machines with Steinberg Nuendo as the sequencer, using my custom instrument library combined with instruments by East West, Vienna Symphonic Library and Sonic Implants. This is a great setup to compose MIDI Mock-ups before recording real orchestra over a timelocked sampler-score. If the budget fits for real musicians, we at Rebrand Productions have access to two huge recording stages. Our studios are also equipped with Pro Tools Systems for mixing, recording and audio postproduction.

DG: What was your largest, or most important project so far?

David: As the founder of Rebrand Productions, I’m looking forward to composing scores for new and interesting movies. Let’s see what the future will bring.

David: Because there is always a difference in production size and tone, it’s always the current project I’m working on that is the most important, and there are some great projects coming up for me - so I’m very excited about the future. I’m especially looking forward to my collaboration with Toronto Pictures this year. DG: What do you think about music in relation to a film?

DG: How do you work once you start a new movie, how do you develop your ideas?

DG: What are your plans for the future?

DG: A personal question – are you married, or still available? David: I spend most of my time on business and I am hardly ever home before 2a.m., so I don’t think I’m an ideal partner. So better keep your hands off composers! D DARIA!

35


MOVIES

by Jane Delson

...Maybe? JUST RELEASED ON DVD

T

he eighteenth century British author and lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, astutely observed that “Hunger is never delicate.” His contemporary, William Hogarth, depicted hunger and gluttony alike, in graphic engravings that speak to the issue of appetite…both unappeased and over-stated…physical and emotional. It is about appetite that acclaimed filmmaker Bruno Pischuitta’s drama “…Maybe?” centers, and like Johnson’s observation and Hogarth’s engravings, his explorations of appetite examine both absence and over-abundance. In his powerful drama, filmed on location at Toronto Pictures’ state-ofthe-art studios, Pischiutta scrutinizes

Edgy and Timely, Bruno Pischiutta’s “…Maybe?” the esoteric topic of appetite from many perspectives, utilizing a cast of young men and women of widely varying social, economic, cultural, ethnic, political and sexual orientations to test his hypotheses about the commonalities of hunger and satiation. The appetites with which Pischiutta’s cast collide are as divergent as the young men and women who experience confusing and contradictory feelings about them. A desire for fulfilling sex and intimacy. A hunger for lasting commitment. A yearning for independence. A longing for a strong sense of personal identity. Adrift in their early twenties, each character must find his or her way through the conflicting maze of cultural morays and “norms” that 21st century society embraces as “acceptable.” And each must decide where he or she fits on the continuum of acceptability.

36

DARIA! Premiere issue


Written in Pischiutta’s typically deft style, “…Maybe?” unfolds as a series of vignettes, each focusing on a personal or interpersonal issue. The characters interact in intense conversations, using one another as a litmus test for unearthing their true feelings. Pischiutta allows them to flow seamlessly from one vignette to another, where their further interactions with other characters both compliment and contrast with previous self-discoveries. For Kay (Christina Macris) – the leading figure among the circle of friends who constitute the cast of “…Maybe?” – the dilemma is deciding if her two-year relationship with Mark (Adam Garynes) offers her enough by way of fulfillment and a dynamic future together. Kay desires a more worldly future than she believes Mark envisions for himself, and throughout the film, her conversations

anxious references to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The characters’ lives are further complicated by fears of contacting STDs, and their concerns for one another relative to the topic are revelatory of their love, compassion and true concern for one another. Another unique and painful personal issue is explored in “…Maybe?” as, for the first time in a major feature film, food, per se, takes on a symbolic significance in the conflicting emotions surrounding emotional growth and stability. Bulimia, a once-taboo subject not unlike anorexia, is seen in the fresh light of the camera, and the devastating physical and psychological effects of the disease are captured with candor and compassion. For one young woman, “Ellen” (Nelida Nin), who falls prey to the insidious and often fatal eating disorder, binging and purging are a frantic expression

of misplaced self-identity. Beset by low self-esteem exacerbated by an inattentive male friend and a controlling father, Ellen’s feelings of loneliness become inextricably bound up with her selfimage and a self-loathing conviction that she is undesirable because she is fat. Secretive purging begins to put her physical and mental health in a state of rapid decline. Only when her younger sister intervenes with the help of Kay and their circle of close friends, does a confrontation with reality take place…and even then, Ellen’s perception of the mirror’s image is wildly disparate from her body’s dimensions in actual fact. “…Maybe?” derives its unique title from the many questions its central figures ask of one another and themselves. While urgently seeking definitive “answers” about relationships, values and goals, they come to a more mature

Asks All the Hard Questions… with others…an older woman, a former boyfriend, her male and female contemporaries…help her sort through her confusion and lead her to a lifealtering decision about her relationship. Just as “…Maybe?” explores sexual satisfaction and its impact on the depth of emotional intimacy in relationships, the more basic issue of sexual identity is examined so well. For Elliott and his female friend Sandy, there is confusion and frustration, as Elliott looks to his innermost feelings and his strong physical attraction to his closest male friend. Kay, too, experiences conflictive feelings about her sexual identity as she examines her potential future with Mark. A chance intimate encounter with her friend Brenda adds to her ambivalence. Interspersed in all of the dialogue about intimacy and gender identity are

DARIA!

37


MOVIES

realization that there really are no absolute answers and that their most compelling questions can best be answered with an unsatisfying “…Maybe?” and unsatisfying it is. Early on in Pischiutta’s film, a young man asserts, “You have to know what you want.” But in this intrinsically complex screenplay, knowing what one wants is the dilemma. Finding what one wants proves even more elusive. Gradually, the characters come to terms with the fact that acquiring maturity and wisdom to cultivate a satisfying life requires life-long personal and interpersonal introspection and evolution. Collectively, they discover it is a never-ending process, and the revelation poses an abrupt and rude awakening that crosses all their backgrounds and beliefs. Working closely with a group of fresh, young actors, most of whom are seen on the screen in “…Maybe?” for the first time, Pischiutta has used an “actors’ studio” approach in developing his cast. Numerous and intensive workshops and rehearsals were scheduled prior to the film’s actual shooting, and his meticulous focus on detail and performance nuance demonstrate that his preparation was time well spent. Pischiutta, who not only wrote the screenplay but also directed, edited and produced the film, is passionate about its message. “To be twenty-something and middle-class in North America today is not an always-

38

DARIA! Premiere issue


enviable place to be,” he asserts. “While every conceivable ‘advantage’ society can offer our young people is readily available to them, the sheer pace and complexity of their lives often preclude any real enjoyment of the mere process of becoming a young, responsible adult.” The candor shared among the film’s characters is reflective of the way young people converse with one another, today; there are literally ‘no holds barred.’ Pischiutta has captured that raw conversational tone in his screenplay. Our society is traveling at such a rapid pace, we have literally accelerated the maturation process for teens and young adults. “…Maybe?” applies the brakes a bit, and offers us a provocative, thoughtful glimpse into the truly complex issues these young adults must deal with everyday.” “…Maybe?” is a film carefully constructed from script to screen. The music, coordinated by Robert Duncan, further establishes both mood and pace for the movie. Toronto Pictures recently held the world premiere of its new feature film “…Maybe?” at the Web Cafe, sponsored by Film Festivals Entertainment Group and Intel, in the Palais des Festivals in Cannes (France). The film has since netted Pischiutta “The Visionary in Film Award” from the Bahamas One World Film Festival. D

DARIA!

39


SPECIAL ON AFRICA

40

DARIA! Premiere issue


“PUNCTURED HOPE” Art and Activism: Toronto Pictures’ New Film Calls for Cultural Change… Its African Film Academy Fosters the Talent to Make the Call Compelling By Dick Delson

F

or Bruno Pischiutta Art and Activism go hand-inglove. All his films are rooted in compelling issues of political, cultural or social nature. All of his films explore issues in a profusely intimate manner, they raise troubling questions which long for answers and strongly imply the need for enlightenment and ensuing change. His soon-to-be-released feature film, Punctured Hope, shot in Ghana this past summer, is no exception to the rule. While Ghana’s Constitution of 1992 and its Criminal Code both declare all forms of human servitude illegal, the centuries-

old practice of Trokosi the subject of Pischiutta’s arresting new film continues in pockets throughout the West African country. Barbaric in its nature, Trokosi is cloaked in a name which evokes awe and fear. Literally translated as “wife of the gods” in the local Ewe language, Trokosi is the practice where young virgin girls are offered to religious shrines as reparation for the sins real or imagined of family members, living or long-since dead. Current estimates suggest that as many as 20,000 women still live in bondage in Ghana. International efforts to end the practice are on-going, and in the interim, the efforts of relief organizations


2

1 3

4 5 6


7 10

8 9

Punctured Hope 2005 1. Director/Executive Producer/Co-Writer Bruno Pischiutta & Co-Writer Kingsley Obed who is enjoying the sight of a "celluloid" production set; 2. & 11. Ghana Actors; 3. Bruno feeding a goat under the watchful eye of Production Manager Elio Dell'Unto (second from left); 4. Kingsley & Producer Mustapha Adam; 5. Assistant Director Tony White Meribe, Mustapha, Belinda and Production Manager Roger Quartey - Wrap night in the village; 6. Kingsley and Daria; 7. & 9. Village women doing their daily work caught on camera as film's extras; 8. Shrine Girls; 10. Belinda Siamey;

11


1

2 3 5

6


4

7 8

Punctured Hope 2005 1. Actor Ruffy Quansah Jr.; 2. Executive Producers Daria and Bruno; 3. Daria and Producer Mustapha Adam; 4. Daria and Co-Writer pastor Kingsley Obed; 5. School children in class; 6. Shrine slaves sleeping in the open - (lower left corner) Actors Pinnock Asiedu (Frost) and Belinda Siamey (lower right corner); 7. Belinda Siamey and Joseph Jones 8 & 9. Shrine slaves, guards and children.

9


1

2

4

5

3


such as Australia’s AusAID and International Needs Ghana (ING) work diligently to liberate, rehabilitate and re-assimilate Trokosi’s ravaged victims. In 2003, Yvette Turlings of Radio Netherlands reported that she had witnessed a Trokosi slave as young as three years old…noting that Trokosi is an eternal form of penance, with some young women compensating for crimes that are hundreds of years old. When a Trokosi victim dies as many do at a very young age due to the horrific conditions which they must endure another virgin child from her family must be sent to take her place. And that is only the beginning… Punctured Hope’s director, Pischiutta’s passion for the topic of Trokosi is apparent in every frame of his exceptional feature film. “When we first decided to make this movie, we conducted an informal survey of Canadians and Americans to get a better sense of the level of international awareness surrounding the issue,” he notes. “Although we found it disturbing, we were hardly surprised when many of the people

whom we asked, said they believed “Trokosi” must be some form of rare disease indigenous to third world countries. When we shared an actual explanation of Trokosi, people were shocked and horrified to learn that the practice of slavery was still informally endorsed by a twentyfirst century culture. That confirmed the urgency of the film’s message for us.” “When we undertake a project of such political, cultural and emotional magnitude, we do so with a mission that encompasses our craft as serious film-makers with our conscience as citizens of a global community,” Pischiutta notes. “Trokosi is archaic, barbaric, illegal and yet still very much a fact-of-life in West Africa today. A number of international political and cultural organizations have taken aggressive steps to stop the practice, and their efforts are on-going. Historically, art has also always played a pivotal role in mandating social change, therefore we hope to further elevate global awareness of this brutal and entrenched cultural phenomenon through our film.” D

PREVIOUS PAGE 1. Lead Actors Pinnock Asiedu (Frost) and Belinda Siamey; 2. Pinnock (far left) and Belinda (far right); 3. Palace - (first from the left) Actor Michael Tuffour-Ampem and (second from the left) Actor Ruffy Quansah Jr.; 4. Shrine Girls; 5. (second from the left) Chief Priest. THIS PAGE: Punctured Hope 2005 Selection of production shots.


Punctured Hope Reveals the Agony of Trokosi Through the Eyes of an Irrepressible

Survivor by Jane Delson

Throughout a lifetime, every human being moves between levels of belief, acceptance, disbelief and denial. It is the function of our innate sense of self protection and psychological survival.

W

hether one is a victim of horrific war crimes, secretive sexual assault and/or abuse, psychological trauma resultant of accidental or deliberate actions, or merely the incidental target of uncontrollable rage, victimization offers two paths of response: one of non resistance, predicated on hopelessness, or the immobilization brought on by fear. The other response is forceful and strong…directed around the factors of unrelenting hope, courage and vision. For Belinda “Edinam” Siamey of Ghana, that choice was always clear…so clear as to constitute a moral obligation. It is her personal story of innocence compromised by entrenched cultural repression that is the subject of Toronto Pictures’ forth-

48

DARIA! Premiere issue

coming feature film, Punctured Hope, slated for release in the U.S. in the summer of 2006. Filmed just outside Accra in Ghana, Punctured Hope is the heart wrenching story of Ms. Siamey’s torturous experience of Trokosi, the startling ages-old tribal cultural practice that promotes the continued enslavement, mutilation and sexual abuse of thousands of West Africa’s young girls and women. My interview with Ms. Siamey took place in late August when Punctured Hope was in the final stages of production. And despite the distance between Los Angeles and Accra, my conversation with “Bel” could not have been more intimate…both in its subject matter and the gracious candor with which she answered each searing question. Our phone


Lead Actor Belinda Siamey costumed as the "newcomer" slave.


Belinda Siamey

50

DARIA! Premiere issue


interview lasted well over an hour, and at its conclusion, I was leveled by the horrors she had recounted - and more appalled still that this horrific practice continues to haunt the young girls and women of Ghana and other parts of West Africa. To distill Bel’s experiences as a victim of Trokosi takes time and reflection, and I was not at all prepared to put to the page the nightmares she had shared with me until several weeks following our conversation. The degradation, humiliation and terror she endured can barely be imagined, yet alone accurately recounted. But as with survival stories of the Holocaust, within Bel’s story resides the spirit of indomitable courage…and in that courage lies the hope for the thousands of current Trokosi victims who continue to waste away in the dungeonlike shrines of Ghana. It is a story Bruno Pischiutta, President and CEO of Toronto Pictures, knows must be shared with a global audience. Bel’s introduction to the horrors of Trokosi began when she was just thirteen years old…an age when her innocence was abruptly and brutally taken away from her. I asked her to share with me how her victimization came about. The details of her story make almost no sense to the Western mind inculcated with glib assumptions about personal independence and dignity and the role society plays in ensuring that independence and dignity. Essentially, Bel’s family relinquished her to the local shrine and its priests as a sacrifice for the presumed sins of her uncle. Her uncle, as she recounts the events leading up to her sacrifice, found a package of money while on his way to visit a friend. Rather than calling this to the attention of the chief priest, as is the prescribed behaviour in such instances, he kept the money to help his family. Circumstantially, several people in her family were taken ill, and a family member died, leading the chief priest to suspect something was amiss. Believing “the gods were killing members of my family to avenge my uncle’s crime,” Bel explains, the chief priest learned of the found money and accused her relative of thievery.

In keeping with the centuries-old traditions of Trokosi, when a family member has sinned or allegedly committed a crime, a virgin female child must be surrendered to the chief priest and sacrificed to the shrine in atonement. She literally becomes a “wife of the gods,” and the chief priest is their earthly representative. Bel’s mother, who herself was not in good health at the time, collapsed upon hearing from her husband that their daughter must be sacrificed according to the rules of Trokosi. Rather than explaining to his daughter what her uncle had done and attempting to brace her for the event that was about to occur, Bel’s father told her that she would be going to the shrine to help the priests with various chores, while her mother regained her health, and that doing this would please the gods and speed her mother’s recovery. This cowardly ruse left Bel terrified. She explained to me that she was very scared of what was to become of her. “I didn’t know what I would have to do at the shrine, and I didn’t understand how going away from my home and family could help my mother…I was very young, and it was terrifying.” Several days after learning of her imminent trip to the shrine, which had been couched as being temporary in nature, Bel was taken to be sacrificed to the chief priest by her father and her aunt. It was roughly ten miles from their village, and they walked. “All the time we were walking to the shrine I was becoming more and more frightened,” she says. A combination of fear of the unknown and an intuitive sense of foreboding caused her to internalize her fears, and the absence of any explanation – coupled by the stony silence of her father and aunt – only compounded her panic and anxiety. Standing outside the picture of this young child encountering the unknown absent any explanation or compassion from her family, one begins to move inside her private nightmare. The chief priest who “received” Bel as the sacrifice for her family’s crimes was approximately fifty years old. She was left with him – still with no explanation other than that her sojourn at the

shrine would ultimately help her mother regain her health – and it is clear that the first day or two of Bel’s arrival at the shrine remains a literal blur. Not more than three days later, the rites of sacrificial passage began for Bel, and her agony can only be imagined. Her head and pubic hair were shaved, and a primitive and ritualistic clitoral excision was performed openly before attendant male priests of the shrine. It is a scenario predicated on abject humiliation made all the more horrific by physical mutilation. In keeping with the custom, she was forced to drink an unknown concoction of blood and other fluids, intended to make Trokosi victims “faithful and dedicated slaves” and to mitigate against their escape. “That is when the real abuse begins,” recounts Bel. Following her initiation into the life of the shrine, Bel was denied food for several days and then subjected to the constant sexual demands of the chief priest and his priestly minions. “If any of us objected to their demands, we were flogged, starved and raped brutally,” she states. “Sometimes, after the chief priest had had his field day on our bodies, his workers were allowed to make similar demands. At times we might be forced to have sex up to fourteen times a day. The balance of the time, we were expected to perform hard labor in the fields or in the market from roughly 5:30 in the morning until 6:00 or so at night.” Trokosi slaves are never given any medical care, despite being subjected to chronic health problems complicated further by repeated pregnancies, and the delivery of their babies is always carried out in front of the priest, his colleagues and male shrine workers. Still in shock – both physically and emotionally – from the trauma she had been forced to endure during her first weeks in the shrine, Bel turned to another young woman for guidance and understanding. At age twenty-three, the young woman was, herself, a Trokosi slave. Not unlike a prison inmate who explains “how it is” and “what it takes” to survive, she offered Bel comfort and advice as she tried to adjust to the brutal shrine life.

DARIA!

51


Known also as female circumcision and female genital mutilation, clitoral excision is one of several forms of genital mutilation which accost the physical and psychosexual integrity of girls and women, and its practice remains unabated. The medical complications which frequently ensue, given the unsterile conditions under which the procedure is virtually always performed and the random tools with which the excisor cuts the body, can cause serious lifelong health complications and - not infrequently - death. Yet such health issues and/or deaths are never attributable to the surgery’s perpetrator…but rather, to evil spirits, angry gods or fate. London’s Womenaid International cites “acute pain, shock, haemorrhaging, ulceration of the genital region, retention of urine, damage to the urethra, anus and adjacent tissue, fractures or dislocations (when a struggling girl is restrained) and a series of bacterial infections” as immediate consequences of such procedures. Making matters worse still (if imaginable) is the fact that many excisors apply such traditional medicines as local herbs, earth, cow-dung, ash or butter, which can readily lead to tetanus and general septicaemia. Long term effects of the practice include difficulty in passing urine, chronic pelvic and urinary tract infections, incontinence, keloid scarring formation and sexual dysfunction, among many others. Obstetric complications are the most frequent health problem, resulting from vicious scars in the clitoral zone after excision. These scars open during childbirth and cause the anterior perineum to tear, leading to haemorrhaging that is often difficult to stop, and although little reliable data is available, it is likely that the risk of maternal death and stillbirth is greatly increased, particularly in the absence of skilled health personnel and appropriate facilities. As damaging as the physiological fallout from such barbaric “surgeries” is the sexual and psychological damage done to girls and women who do manage to endure and survive the procedure. The removal of the clitoris, which is the main female sexual organ, can cause painful sexual intercourse and greatly reduced sexual sensitivity. For most women who have undergone the procedure, genital mutilation, in any of its forms, can cause deeply embedded emotional trauma which may manifest itself in anxiety, depression, loss of trust and on-going fear. Many survivors simply suffer in silence, having no acceptable venue in which to voice their outrage and pain. “I felt totally isolated, totally alone,” says Bel of her shrine existence. And today she continues to feel “locked up inside.” There are few places she goes where she feels comfortable around people and at peace. “Ironically, I’m really only comfortable around people when I’m in a new place with strangers who can’t possibly know about what has really happened to me. And there is absolutely no prospect of my ever establishing a relationship with a man in my life after what has happened to me” she affirms emphatically. “A part of myself can never depart from where I have been.” In 1997, the World Health Organization, the United Nations

52

DARIA! Premiere issue

Children’s Fund, and the United Nations Population Fund issued a joint statement confirming the universally unacceptable harm caused by female genital mutilation, or female circumcision, and called for the elimination of this practice in all its forms. The clear position of the three agencies was presented in the hope that this harmful practice will end when people understand the severe health consequences and indignity it inevitably causes. That Ghana’s Constitution of 1992 and its Criminal Code outlawed the practice of Trokosi on paper, and yet it continues with no end in sight, is testimony to the deeply entrenched nature of this phenomenon and the magnitude of the challenge of ending it. For Bel Siamey, her initial encounter with Bruno Pischiutta and Daria Trifu signaled a rarified opportunity to become a part of that process. “When I first met Bruno and Daria,” she recalls, “it was as if it had been fated. Their mission was to produce a world-class film about the practice of Trokosi, and as it became clear to me that I might become a part of the drama, I knew I had to embrace the opportunity, even though it meant reliving a very painful part of my past.” “Our first encounter with Bel was through Kinglsey Sam Obed, an Evangelical Pastor in Ghana and writer of the screenplay for Punctured Hope. Kingsley had heard the story of Bel’s remarkably courageous escape from the shrine and wrote the screenplay based on Bel’s actual experiences. When we heard Bel tell her story in her own words, we knew immediately that only she could portray herself on camera for us,” says Pischiutta. “Punctured Hope has given me a platform I had never dreamed might be possible for me. It has become a way for me to make a political, cultural and social statement that may help the thousands of young girls and women who continue to suffer as I did. This is my opportunity to be their voice…to say to the global community, this type of sanctioned slavery cannot continue.” Unlike the vast majority of Trokosi slaves, Bel Siamey managed to escape with her life and that of her unborn child. Befriended by a sympathetic teacher from her home village, she and her young woman friend were smuggled out of the shrine deep in the night…braced against the probability that they and their rescuer would be killed immediately, if caught. Shortly after fleeing the shrine, Bel bore a son. He is her legacy of courage and endurance. My interview with Bel concluded with a discussion of what she hoped to teach her son in the years to come and the values she hoped to instill in him as a man. She told me - very deliberately - that she hoped to teach him humility and gentleness. That she wished to teach him how to treat a woman with love and respect. That she wished to teach him how to find peace in himself and offer peace to others. That she wished him to believe that we are all equal, regardless of gender, race, religion, education or economics. That spiritually, “we are all One.” Bel hopes to continue her education and perhaps eventually enter the legal profession. She has already liberated herself in ways few persons learn to do in a lifetime. D


VISION FOR A VILLAGE A Location Shoot Opens New Vistas for a Small African Village

By Jane Delson


“We are returning 10% of the proceeds of the film to Kpobikofe. Our long-term goals include the construction of a school staffed with a full-time teacher, the construction of a small hospital with a full-time doctor and nurses and the development of a utilities infrastructure enabling residents to access power and clean, safe water� says Pischiutta.


W

hen Toronto Pictures first decided to shoot, Punctured Hope, in West Africa, it did so, not merely with the intent of finding an adequate site for the movie’s story line, but also with the hope of identifying a village with which it might become a long standing partner. Just outside Accra, Ghana, such a village was found. Located in the southern part of the Amassam District Assembly of the Greater Accra Region is the remote village of Kpobikofe, about 40 kilometers from the capital. The inhabitants of this village are from the EWE speaking tribes of the Volta Region who migrated in search of livelihood many years back. They are primarily farmers whose crop production levels barely meet the needs of self-subsistence. Those who engage in fishing must travel to another village over 20 kilometers away, as the village lacks lakes, rivers or other waterways for fishing. Not surprisingly, unemployment exceeds 90%. With a population of about 2000 people 500 children, 900 women and 600 men, this small village, located near the heart of a modern capital city, seems locked in a primitive past that is void of all signs of development. The absence of modern medicine has led to a rate of infant and adult mortality upwards of 40%. Voodooism and fetishism are the traditional religious practices, the latter of which became the genesis for Punctured Hope. There is no social infrastructure whatsoever: no schools; no hospitals; no electricity; no source of safe drinking water; no sewage system; no roadways…and, until Toronto Pictures’ involvement in their community, no hope. That began to slowly change when Bruno stepped in with detailed plans of making a movie. Rather than shooting Punctured Hope on a North American sound stages, Toronto Pictures elected to film on location in an actual African village as the expansive “set” for this complex and compelling film. While it became necessary to construct a few sets for the production, the vast majority of shooting was done in the actual homes of village residents, many of whom were extras in the movie. Due to the fact that Punctured Hope recounts the real-life experiences of a young Ghanaian woman trapped in the horrific cultural practice of Trokosi, the choice of such a setting made perfect sense to the director. “Punctured Hope recounts the life experiences of the lead actress, Belinda “Edinam” Siamey, who was, herself, a child in a village very much like the one chosen to shoot the film. Capturing the local ambiance, the colors, the architecture, the character of the community’s residents has added a critical element of realism to the film that could not have been achieved by trying to replicate it on a Western sound stage,” Pischiutta explains.

Going into the project, however, Toronto Pictures envisioned far more for its location site than the mere filming of Punctured Hope. “From the very outset, we worked to create a relationship with the village that would engender a long-term association with our Company and its affiliates,” Pischiutta notes. “Just as we intend for our film to create enlightenment about an on-going cultural practice that endorses the savage enslavement of countless young African girls and women, we hope that our social and economic commitment to this village will afford new opportunities for its people.” Resilience is what Pischiutta found when he brought to the residents of Kpobikofe the opportunity of participating in his project. They eagerly embraced the chance to become part of a process entirely unknown to them. In so doing, they became pivotal in underscoring the film’s credibility in reflecting life as it remains in rural West Africa today. Kingsley Sam Obed, himself a pastor in the Word Aflame Ministries (Accra) and co-author with Pischiutta of the screenplay for Punctured Hope, speaks for the people of Kpobikofe stating, “Several of the village elders confirmed that the coming of Toronto Pictures to this village is the answer to a long held prayer, since no government past or present has ever recognized their existence.” However, providing the citizens of Kpobikofe the chance of appearing in a feature film is not where Toronto Pictures intends to stop. Theirs is a commitment which reaches decades into the future and represents the on-going investment of capital and human resources. “We are returning 10% of the proceeds of the film to Kpobikofe. Our long-term goals include the construction of a school staffed with a full-time teacher, the construction of a small hospital with a full-time doctor and nurses and the development of a utilities infrastructure enabling residents to access power and clean, safe water” says Pischiutta. “We also want to move rapidly to import livestock and basic contemporary farming equipment, so that we can teach modern methods of agribusiness. This is an optimal short-term way of enhancing these villagers’ quality of life, as they have always relied on primitive farming methods in order to feed their families. Newer methods will enable them to cultivate valuable herd animals and grow larger, more valuable crops which will sustain their families in vastly improved ways.” Trifu notes that Toronto Pictures soon hopes to align Kpobikofe with a sister city in the U.S. “Our objective is to enable select, promising Ghanaian youth to gain access to Western universities and colleges so that they can return to Ghana imparting new knowledge in their respective villages. Cultural enlightenment, social growth and development can only occur for rural West Africa when the ‘best methods and practices’ of Western technology are appropriately applied to local needs.” D


Congratulations! AA Productions Producer Mustapha Adam Dear Mustapha, We congratulate you, your cast and your crew for the wonderful job you all did during the shooting of our feature film PUNCTURED HOPE in Accra - Ghana. We look forward to our next film production in West Africa in 2006 and we warmly recommend your company to every producer who wants to shoot in Ghana. All the best to you, Pastor Kingsley Sam Obed, Tony White Meribe and to all the students of the Toronto Pictures Film Academy - Accra. Thank you and all the best, Daria & Bruno Executive Producers

Morris Kuzemchuk Associate Producer

AA Productions • Phone: 011-233-244-830-594 • E-mail: aaproductionltd@yahoo.com


1. Bruno and Academy students on July 28, 2005 following the first Academy address by Bruno and Daria, Accra - Ghana; 2. Facade of the "Toronto Pictures Film Academy" offices in Accra; 3. Daria and Academy students on July 28, 2005.

1

Film Academy: Making a Valuable Contribution to the Local Economy and Development by Investing in Local Talent By Jane Delson 2

3

P

ischiutta and his colleague, Daria Trifu, elected to shoot the film with an all-African cast, featuring Belinda Edinam Siamey, herself a Trokosi victim, in the lead. Needless to say, shooting the film in Africa was a costly choice in terms of transporting key Canadian and U.S. crew members and equipment. Making that decision led to the problem of finding qualified Ghanaian actors. However, the availability of local actors, many of whom had previously become affiliated with Toronto Pictures’ newly established Film Academy of Ghana, helped to pare down the production costs significantly. This coupled with the opportunity of utilizing the village as an ideal extant set not only offset initial expenses but also greatly underscored Pischiutta’s intent to reflect the culture of West Africa as vividly as possible. The task of culling an experienced West African cast was daunting, but anticipating local limitations in the talent pool, Pischiutta made another bold decision. Carrying forward his vision for a diaspora of global film schools to engender professional cinematography he founded the Film Academy of Ghana, the first such institution in West Africa. The Ghanaian Academy was established through the collaborative efforts of Nigerian African Evangelical pastor, Kingsley Sam Obed. Obed, who wrote the screenplay for Punctured Hope, is an active partner in Toronto Pictures’ efforts


to raise global awareness regarding his native country’s repressive practices and he’s an outspoken personality towards the contribution of social change. The Film Academy of Ghana made possible for many Accra actors to participate in a demanding professional production. Established in May 2005, the Academy “groomed” local cast members to assume roles reflective of their own lives and, at the same time, encouraged them to provide cultural input to further the film’s credibility. A number of the film’s lead cast members, who are professional Ghanaian union actors, are now also associated with Pischiutta’s Academy and they recently participated in the institution’s first Film Symposium. Bruno and Daria are continuing to expand the Academy. They plan to build a professional-grade sound stage, to import state-of-the-art camera and lighting equipment and to create a major West African studio where film-makers from

around the globe will be able to come and produce artistically and financially competitive films for the first time in this part of the world. “Although we are still in the fledgling stages of the Academy’s development, we are positioned to help aspiring actors, writers, directors, producers and other film professionals to achieve their goals in a globally competitive arts environment. For West Africa to have a real presence in international cinema, there is a necessity of having an institution that supports professional cinematic education and career development. We are committed to providing that support.” Daria, who also serves as President of the new Academy, echoes these sentiments. “As cinematic artists representing the continent in general, associates of the Academy now have the opportunity of representing a nucleus of great talent, which can ultimately define the image of Africa that the world will come to know and better understand. It’s an extension

of our firm belief that Art and Activism are intrinsically inseparable.” For the Toronto Pictures family, the core artistic mission of the Company’s films is to introduce and to elevate awareness while, at the same time, influencing political and cultural consciousness globally, regarding issues of the moment, not only in reference to Africa, but addressing human rights internationally. In concert with its efforts to support cinematography in Africa, Toronto Pictures is donating 10% of the films profits to the village where the film was set. This donation will prioritize the provision of enhanced educational, medical and infra-structural improvements to the same village. Targeting a global audience, Toronto Pictures is now in partnership with International Film Properties, Inc., thereby seeking to expand its operations by acquiring equity in selected entertainment industry-based agencies in Eastern Europe. D DARIA!

59


BUSINESS

by Dan Spelling

Toronto Pictures; a Profile in Ethical Filmmaking

T

oronto Pictures, Inc. is a company that is difficult to stereotype, This Canadian-based independent film production house has followed the path less traveled since its inception in 1996. It has stubbornly gone its own way, struggling and succeeding to maintain a vision of producing ethical films that provoke thought, not violence. Targeting a global audience, Toronto Pictures addresses topical, often-controversial issues in dramatic format, often combined with the look and feel of documentary genre. With cultural influences from Europe, North America, Asia and, now, Africa, the company has bragging rights as being authentically international in its scope and recognition, as well as in the provocative themes of its films. It was Socrates that said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” But it may as well have been Bruno Pischiutta, the passionate founder, President and CEO of Toronto Pictures. Not your typical movie executive, Pischiutta is first and foremost an artist; a man with a voracious appetite for life and learning. He is an award winning screen writer, director and producer who has proven to be a prodigy since his childhood in Italy. Bruno’s vision and inexhaustible energy have guided the company from a fledgling start-up through its lean and leaner times to its current status as a company exploding in all directions with creative and business success. Toronto Pictures is on a roll, with multiple projects in various stages of development, production and distribution. Although his full-length filmography would take up most of the pages of this magazine, a partial snapshot of his body of work to date includes numerous feature-length films and documentaries, as

60

DARIA! Premiere issue

well as made-for-television features, halfhour series and musicals. Pischiutta has produced work in North America, Europe and most recently in West Africa, where he just completed directing Toronto Pictures’ newest film, “Punctured Hope.” slated for release in the U.S. in 2006. In addition to directing the film, Pischiutta is also the project’s Executive Producer. CoProducing the film is Ms. Daria Trifu, who is also the company’s Vice President. The themes of Toronto Pictures’ properties tend to be toward controversial social messages which address major issues of our time. Examples of this include the feature film “…Maybe…”, dealing with sexual obsession and eating disorder; “Virtary”, an anthology of stories on lost virginity. The latest project,“Punctured Hope,” is a chilling revelation of modern-day slavery and sexual mutilation that still exists in parts of West Africa. Specifically, the film deals with the age-old tribal practice of “Trokosi” which promotes the enslavement, mutilation and sexual abuse of West Africa’s young girls and women. The film has an all-African cast and a lead actress who is, herself, a survivor of these dreadful practices that have affected millions of African women over the past 300 years. Although the motion picture industry is not usually associated with high standards of moral behavior, Toronto Pictures is determined to be an exception to the rule. Even off the screen, the company adheres to its own strict code of ethics. As business people, their goal is, naturally, to take full advantage of overseas filming opportunities whenever and wherever they can. However, their goal is also to take a non-exploitive approach by giving back as much as possible. Instead of merely going to a place like Romania and Ghana to save money on casting and film-

ing, they aim to also empower those regions culturally and financially. As part of this philosophy of lifting up communities and supporting young talent, Pischiutta funded the Film Academy of Ghana in May of 2005. The first such institution in West Africa, the Academy of Ghana was established to help West African filmmakers to develop professional cinematic education and to promote their career advancement. “Although we are still in the fledgling stages of the Academy’s development, we are positioned to help aspiring actors, writers, directors, producers and other film professionals achieve their goals in a globally competitive arts environment, commented Pischiutta.” “For West Africa to have a real presence in international cinema, there must an institution that supports professional cinematic education and career development. We are committed to providing that support.” Trifu, who serves as the President of the new Academy also reflected on its importance, “As cinematic artists representing the continent in general, associates of the Academy of Ghana now have the opportunity to create a nucleus of great talent who can ultimately define the image of Africa the world will come to know and better understand.” Many of the films cast have participated in the Academy’s first professional film symposium which was held in Accra on July 28th. Furthermore, the company is dedicating ten percent of the profits of “Punctured Hope” to an established West African philanthropic foundation focusing on education, medical treatment and infrastructure improvements for the village where the film was shot. Another aspect of Toronto Pictures’ uniqueness is the fact that it has always found ways to survive and thrive in a


harshly competitive industry. In nearly ten years of operation, it has continually evolved and adapted to changing markets and opportunities. In its earliest beginnings, the Company was set up as a studio; a kind of creative incubator to develop the talents of young and unknown performers and prepare them for a career in film. This business model evolved into that of a combined repertory company and independent production house. Today, Toronto Pictures is a globally recognized production company with multiple projects in various stages of development, production or distribution. The company is also closely aligned with film financing & production company, International Film Properties. Together they are actively seeking to expand their operations even further through acquisition of entertainment industry-based companies in Eastern Europe. Just recently, Toronto Pictures has decided to take its show on the big board…or at least on the Pink Sheets.. As of mid-July of 2005, the company announced a reverse merger with E_SOL International, Inc. (Pink Sheets: ESIT), thus making the avantgardes production house one of the few independent film companies in North America to be publicly traded. Pischiutta and Trifu, were both appointed to the Board of Directors of the new entity. Resultant of the acquisition, Pischiutta will now become President of E-SOL International and Ms.Trifu will become E-SOL’s Vice President. Accordingly, ESOL’s corporate headquarters will be moved to Toronto, the production house’s home base and namesake. Commenting on the reverse merger, Pischiutta remarked, “Toronto Pictures has chosen to become a publicly traded entity in keeping with the long-term objectives of our Company. We have always been committed to profit-sharing relative to our films’ revenues, and our current project in West Africa, where we are donating 10% of the film’s profits to benefit a local foundation, is exemplary of that commitment.” “Our Company is still intent on developing and marketing films that are financially viable, yet violence-free, and we will be releasing five such films this year,” Ms.Trifu adds. “Toronto Pictures’ production slate is full through 2008, but to produce and release high-quality films of this nature requires broad-based financial support. We believe that our reverse take-over with ESOL International will enable us to further these critical goals. We may never become the largest film company in the industry, but we may well become one of the most profitable.” Toronto Pictures has demonstrated its business savvy not only by going public but also in the way it went public. The advantages of an independent production/distribution company attaining publicly traded status are significant, including increased liquidity for investors, greater access to capital markets and the ability to use its public shares to acquire other companies. Also, being public, increases the company’s valuation, since the market value of a public company is typically substantially higher than that of a private company in the same industry with the same infrastructure. As for the method in which the company went public, again we see evidence of shrewd business acumen. Going the route of a reverse merger rather than an Initial Public Offering (IPO) reaped solid benefits for the company’s investors. Since a reverse merg-

er is simply a private company that merges with an existing public company with no assets or liabilities. In doing so, the private company becomes public. Simple as that. Typically the private company changes the name of the public company to its own name and appoints its own management as board of directors. Which was the case with Toronto Pictures. Gone are the big underwriting fees that investment bankers and brokerages charge to roll out an IPO. What’s more, the time required to execute a reverse merger is considerably less than an IPO. And as was mentioned earlier, a reverse merger is a rather simple transaction, which means that Toronto Pictures’ senior management didn’t have to devote a lot of attention to the process and thus were able to focus on the company’s core business and the shareholders’ best interests. As a matter of fact, Toronto Pictures has some pretty good company in that respect. Some of the business world’s most successful and esteemed entrepreneurs have taken their companies public via reverse mergers. This includes media icon Ted Turner, the broad-jawed proponent of self-esteem Tony Robbins and Muriel Siebert, the first woman to ever purchase a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. So, what’s on the near horizon for the company? A film festival in the South of France. No, not Cannes, but close. It’s Monaco. Toronto Pictures is set to be a Leading Sponsor of the third annual Monaco International Festival - Celebration of nonviolent films held in Monte-Carlo from December 8th through 11th, 2005. The prestigious event’s focus on non-violent films would seem to be a natural fit for Toronto Pictures. “Our philosophy is to showcase films of quality that contain no gratuitous violence,” commented Dean Bentley, Executive Producer for the Festival. “Toronto Pictures has established its own strong reputation as an independent production house of likeoriented films. We are proud and privileged to have them serve as 2005 leading sponsor and to partner with us in our efforts to expand the reach and impact of non-violent films.” On its part, the company is poignantly aware of the convergence of its mission and that of the Festival. “The non-violent theme of Monaco’s 2005 Festival perfectly reflects our corporate commitment to eliminating superfluous violence in filmmaking,” remarked Pischiutta. “We live in an admittedly violent world and are in no way opposed to films that examine violence with integrity. It is the sensationalism of violence with which we take issue and seek to avoid. At Toronto Pictures, we remain strongly committed to producing films which educate, enlighten and provide impetus for political and social change. Our sponsorship of this year’s Festival underscores our philosophy as filmmakers and artists.” Both Pischiutta and Trifu feel that the surges of creative and financial success they have achieved are affirmations of this philosophy of ethical filmmaking. Of course, ethical behavior is its own reward. But still, it must be gratifying to be on the receiving end of real-world affirmation. So, it’s appropriate that this brief look at Toronto Pictures end on such a note of optimism and assurance. The little company that could seems to have proven that the race goes not to the swift, but to the morally committed. D

DARIA!

61


Beverly Hills Girl

Trish Paltin 310-772-0211


Daria 2005  

This is the Premiere Issue (2005) of the art, entertainment & business magazine Daria!

Advertisement