The sixth annual Bentonville Film Festival may have adjusted its month and its format, but the festival’s dedication to sharing underrepresented perspectives, in front of and behind the camera, is as prominent as ever. Through a hybrid of virtual events and drive-in viewing opportunities, BFF soldiers on in its pursuit of equity and inclusion. Here, six filmmakers highlight just four of the 68 films that will be showcased — available to stream on-demand for the duration of the festival through the BFF Film Festival platform. ‘We were sexually frustrated’: did it work out for people who texted an ex in lockdown? | Relationships | The Guardian
Oahu schools will temporarily move to online classes only when the school year starts — and the neighbor islands could follow suit.
The sixth annual Bentonville Film Festival may have adjusted its month and its format, but the festival’s dedication to sharing underrepresented perspectives, in front of and behind the camera, is as prominent as ever. Through a hybrid of virtual events and drive-in viewing opportunities, BFF soldiers on in its pursuit of equity and inclusion. Here, six filmmakers highlight just four of the 68 films that will be showcased — available to stream on-demand for the duration of the festival through the BFF Film Festival platform.
The films offer just a glimpse of the variety being presented at this year’s festival, but each also plays into the Bentonville hallmark of inclusion in its own way, shares John Wildman, the festival’s PR spokesman.
“Yes, ‘My Darling Vivian’ has a little local touch,” Wildman begins, “but it also brings to light an unheralded and little known story of Johnny Cash’s first wife. ‘The Donut King’ is not just directed by a woman but is one of the all-time and enjoyable tales of an immigrant who succeeded in the U.S.
“‘The Planters’ and ‘Thin Skin’ are both not just incredibly creative and entertaining films, but just as importantly, they are prime examples of the indie filmmaking spirit, and the kind of films that Bentonville film fans depend on this film festival to pull the curtain back on as a counter to the usual multi-plex big studio movies we get during the rest of the year.”
‘My Darling Vivian’
Director: Matt Riddlehoover
About: Turning the documentary lens on Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash’s first wife and the mother of his four daughters.
Q. Rare, beyond the truly hard-core and in-depth Johnny Cash fans, is more than a cursory knowledge of the relationship between Cash and his first wife Vivian Liberto. When you have that kind of canvas of discovery to work with, where did you choose to start? And what was a genuine surprise that you discovered during the course of making the film?
Riddlehoover: Out of necessity, I started by poring over the wealth of primary materials that I had access to. Family scrapbooks, home movies from the 1950s and 1960s, the thousands of love letters Vivian and Johnny wrote to each other — it was incredible. From there, I went to Vivian’s own memoir to create the outline for the interviews with her daughters. The story told itself; I just needed to listen. The thing that surprised me the most was that these four women, Vivian’s daughters with Johnny, all had the same upbringing, but they had very different childhoods. It was fascinating.
Q. Johnny Cash became a genuine icon in the music world for a number of reasons. Beyond his music talent, what came out during the exploration of his and Vivian’s relationship and marriage (and his career’s beginnings) that, from a distance, is very telling on that front?
Riddlehoover: There was a letter Johnny had written to Vivian when he was overseas, before they married, in which he perceived that she had an inferiority complex. This wasn’t something she had opened up to him about. I was stunned by the level of sensitivity in him as a 19- or 20-year-old man. It’s prominent in the home movies from the 1950s as well — he’s clearly in love with Vivian and fawning over his young family. It’s a side of Johnny Cash I don’t think the world has seen and was news to me as well.
Co-writers and directors: Alexandra Kotcheff and Hannah Leder
Competition: Feature Narrative
About: A dark comedy about a reclusive telemarketer grieving the loss of her parents who forms an unlikely friendship with a Jesus-loving vagrant with multiple personalities.
Q. The “crew” for this film was only the two of you. How exactly did that work? Who ran the camera, did lights, sound and everything else while the two of you were both in the scene together?
Kotcheff and Leder: Through magic! For real though, it was just the two of us running the camera, setting up the lights and sound. Doing our own hair and makeup. We would set up our shots on tripods and do test shots, hit record and run in the frame. We rigged shotgun mics to apple boxes with gaffers’ tape when framing wouldn’t allow for mic stands. It was an unusual, insular process which ultimately allowed for maximum creative expression.
Q. It took 127 days to shoot “The Planters.” That’s a long shoot for even a mid-range studio film, so can you offer some insight into what went into that shoot schedule?
Kotcheff and Leder: Ultimately, the great length of the shoot had to do with the fact that we shot the film without a crew. With only four hands and legs, there was only so much we could get through (and accomplish) in a day. What might take a full crew a day to shoot would take us a few days.
Q. Every film shoot has its tough moments where it looks like all is lost until someone keeps the ship sailing, so to speak. Which one of you more often would cheer both of you back into action and keep it going? Or did that role alternate between the two of you throughout production?
Kotcheff and Leder: One of our actors (Phil Parolisi who plays “Richard Cox”) liked to call us “Hanzandra — two bodies, one brain.” We really functioned as a unit. It was a true seesaw. When one of us was having a tough day, the other would be the motivator. It flip-flopped quite evenly. We’ve known each other since we were 8 years old, so there’s a real synchronicity to our ways!
Director: Charles Mudede
Writers: Mudede, Ahamefule J. Oluo, and Lindy West
Competition: Feature Narrative
About: A film adaptation of Oluo’s Off-Broadway hit musical play “Now I’m Fine,” about a harrowing period in the comedian and musician’s real life. It’s challenge enough to hold your family together and keep a grip on everything without literally having your body fall apart at the same time.
Q. This is an adaptation of a popular and critically successful stage production. Can you describe some of the elements that worked wonderfully in a live theater setting that needed to be changed or developed for that same material to work for on-screen audiences?
West: To me, the biggest challenge, and the most rewarding one, was translating the live music of the stage show to the screen. When you’re in the theater with that brass orchestra, it’s overwhelming; it gets in your bones. Trying to transmit that feeling through a camera, in a narrative setting, required a lot of innovation and coordination and brilliant work from the crew. We shot all the musical sequences live — you’ll never see an actor pantomiming along to a pre-recorded track — and that’s just almost never done in film, especially low-budget indies. The fact that we pulled it off, and I can feel the same emotional surges watching the movie that I get from the stage show, is such a joy.
Q. When you are telling your own life story — and have told and literally performed a version of that life story for some time — it takes a tremendous amount of trust to allow a director, a writer, cast members to perform their versions of people from your life in some very different ways. How difficult was that? Or did you find it freeing to release that hold?
Oluo: Trust is the most important part of any creative collaboration. If you can’t trust the person you’re working with, then you’re never going to get the best out of them. But it’s not just trust in regards to their artistic abilities, it’s also trust in how they see you as a person and in how they see your story. And when I say trust, I don’t mean it in a “I have your back till the end, you can always rely on me” kind of way. I mean it more in a way that says, “I’m going to listen to you, and I hope you listen to me, and I hope we can put our egos aside and try to make something beautiful.” This is what I always felt with my creative collaborators on this film.
Q. The relationship of music to movie storytelling is so intertwined that there are classic film images that would never replay in our minds without that accompanying soundtrack. Your music was also the bedrock of the play prior to the film. How was the music approached here — a set soundtrack to lay images over in a way, or was that also reimagined along with everything else?
Oluo: Because I had spent so long working on the music for the play “Now I’m Fine,” and I was very happy with that music and those themes meant a lot to me and they felt really tied to the story, I didn’t feel the need to construct new music from scratch. In fact, I thought to do so would be in contrast to the feel of the film. So that left me with a body of existing work which I could radically re-adapt to fit this new thing. With the burden of creating new pieces taken off of my back, it freed me to think about new and different ways that I could have the score interact with the film, and because I was so familiar with that music, it was very easy for me to interpret it in a multitude of ways. Some things for the score were written before we even finished filming, and some things were sketched out before the final recording session just two days before the lockdown order for covid. For me, the goal was to have an abundance of music, and abundance of music built through an abundance of approaches. And I feel like that was very successful; I don’t think there’s another score like this in film.
‘The Donut King’
Director: Alice Gu
About: The near classic story of Ted Ngoy, a Cambodian refugee, who escaped the Khmer Rouge in the ’70s, made his way to the States and built the unlikeliest of empires based on baking America’s beloved pastry, the doughnut.
Q. The film balances much more than one might be expecting going in. What part of the story became more prominent as you were editing versus when you first began filming and gathering footage?
Gu: Hmmm. Tough question! This was a film that, from the beginning, I knew would be challenging and complex to tell. There were so many different layers to all the different stories — the American Dream story, the rags-to-riches story, the David and Goliath story, the next generation story — and we very much tried to prep accordingly to cover ourselves in telling Ted Ngoy’s story in a rich and robust way. What really became more prominent in the edit was the next generation story, the legacy story. I loved the perspective of what I called, “Donut 2.0,” and all the modernity, innovation and American thought that went into revamping their parents’ businesses.
Q. The use of animation oftentimes can make or break a documentary when it comes to assisting in the storytelling. Can you explain why you felt it was essential for “The Donut King?”
Gu: Animation was essential for “The Donut King.” Ted’s life was and still is, larger than life. Due to war and how expensive photography was at the time, there was very, very little personal archive. Ted’s stories were so filled with detail that I knew the only way we could achieve this visually was through animation. I really longed to find a Cambodian artist, and when I learned of the work of Andrew Hem, I just knew instantly that it had to be his artwork setting our look. Andrew went to Pasadena Art Center, is a prolific fine artist, and is a “doughnut kid” himself. One of my great joys (and challenges) was trying to get all the details right.
Q. “The Donut King” was awarded a Special Jury Prize from SXSW this year. As a filmmaker introducing her very first feature length film into the world — and then having the expected film festival tour of various cities and audiences thwarted to an extent and then re-imagined on the fly — did that award maybe take on an even greater significance in buoying you for the next steps in that journey?
Gu: This year has been quite the ride, and it’s not over yet! It’s difficult to find the words to express all the emotions of the year. We were ecstatic to get into SXSW, gutted to have it canceled, and just ecstatic again upon winning the Special Jury Prize. I’m very proud of the award and so grateful to the team at SXSW for running the competition in spite of the festival being canceled. I think the award has certainly been helpful in getting the film a bit more on the radar. Our biggest fear was for “The Donut King” to end up a “ghost film” that would never be seen or thought of again. To know that we will be participating at the Bentonville Film Festival brings great joy to myself and the team.
Bentonville Film Festival
WHEN — Aug. 10-16
WHERE — Online, 112 Drive-In Theater in Fayetteville, and Louise Thaden Field in Bentonville
COST — $12-$225
INFO — bentonvillefilm.org
Author: Jocelyn Murphy
‘We were sexually frustrated’: did it work out for people who texted an ex in lockdown?
Dressed up for the first time in lockdown, and wearing a full face of makeup, Annabelle Richards went to meet her first love. The last time she had seen Junior St Clair was in the summer of 1992. She was 17, and on a bus bound for London. He was 20 and standing outside Ipswich bus station, bawling. “As the coach pulled away there were tears pouring down his cheeks,” Annabelle recalls, “and I cried all the way home.”
In late March, after reconnecting on Facebook during lockdown, Annabelle met him for the first time in 28 years, outside an office block in Croydon, south London. “We sat on a bench two metres apart and talked nonstop for over an hour,” she says. “We were in awe of the situation. We made each other laugh, like no time had passed. After the meeting, we couldn’t stop messaging. I thought, do I still love this guy?”
It had started with a dream in the early days of lockdown. In it, Annabelle, who is a hairdresser, cut Junior’s hair. She woke up at 6.30am, found him on Facebook and sent him a message telling him about her dream. She wondered if he remembered her and hoped life was treating him well. At 9pm, he replied: “Annabelle – is this really you? You’ve been in my heart and mind for all these years. I am so sorry for the child I was – he’s different from the man I’ve become. Thank you for having the compassion to talk to me. You were my first love.”
“I was not expecting that,” laughs Annabelle, 45. “It was really powerful. I just burst into tears, my heart started fluttering.” It was the first time she’d thought about Junior, who is now 48, in decades. She hadn’t even daydreamed about their holiday romance in Hastings, in summer 1991, when Junior told Annabelle her bum looked nice in her Levi’s 501s. “He was always a smooth talker,” she says. She’d buried her feelings about their breakup the following year, after he moved to Ipswich without thinking about its effect on their relationship. But during their lockdown conversation, it all came flooding back. Junior revealed he’d moved back to London seven years ago. She realised they would have to meet up. “The feelings were becoming too intense,” she says.
After that first meeting, they kept messaging. The second time they met, they sat on a picnic blanket in a local park and Annabelle said she thought she still loved him. Junior said he’d never stopped loving her. She liked the fact that he remembered their song, CeCe Peniston’s Finally, even though it was cheesy. They told each other their stories; that they’d both been married and had since separated. “We opened up, told each other personal stuff about what we’d been through since we broke up,” Annabelle says. “There was no pretence, no playing games. Because of Covid-19, we just held hands.” Since lockdown has eased, they’ve had more dates and met each other’s families. “They’re over the moon for us,” she says. “We know we’re meant to be together. This is the start of the rest of our lives.”
Annabelle and Junior were not the only ones reconnecting in lockdown. Technology has ensured our exes are never more than a click away, but the pandemic has stirred many to hit send. Sexting between exes has thrived; who better to flirt with than those with whom we already share a lexicon of love? Our exes are also the regular stars of our pandemic dreams, with Google searches for “Why am I dreaming about my ex?” shooting up 2,450% in March.
The television hit of lockdown, the BBC’s Normal People, has been another trigger; the drama series that showed first love in all its sexy, chain-wearing intensity was a 12-part incitement to slide into our exes’ DMs. In normal times, we might pause before reaching out, but it seems that during a pandemic the usual rules don’t apply. So, what happens after we text the ex?
Alex, 25, is a man who threw caution (and government restrictions) to the wind for the sake of a dramatic reunion in lockdown. When his ex-girlfriend Lisa invited him from Glasgow to London for her birthday, he paused only to bake a batch of cupcakes. “A birthday doesn’t exactly constitute essential travel so we both knew that this would be flouting lockdown rules,” Alex, a student, explains, “but the illegality made it seem like more of a romantic gesture.”
Their 18-month relationship had ended amicably a year ago when Lisa moved to London for work. They’d stayed in touch, and spent lockdown texting about working from home, running 5km in under 20 minutes and their baking. Even so, the birthday invite was a surprise, says Alex. Another surprise lay ahead. He was 15 minutes away from Lisa’s flat in London when he got a message from her: “There’s a problem.”
“Lisa had assumed that her flatmate wouldn’t have an issue with my visit and had only mentioned it to her that evening,” says Alex. “When her flatmate heard that a strange man, who may or may not be carrying Covid-19, was minutes away, she understandably kicked off and told her that I wasn’t allowed to stay with them.”
With the city in shutdown, Alex and Lisa were forced to spend the evening on her stairwell, nursing his cupcakes. That was less cute than it sounds. “We spent most of that time arguing about who was to blame,” says Alex.
At about 1am, after the flatmate had gone to sleep, they snuck into bed. “But we were so irritated and tired at this point,” says Alex, “that sex was definitely off the table.” With nowhere to stay for the weekend, Alex caught the first train back in the morning. Since then, texting has tailed off. On reflection, Alex says, it’s a relief. “In the drama, we managed to dodge a serious discussion about our future relationship. We may have avoided getting back together and realising it still won’t work.”
Reconnecting with exes in lockdown has been a learning curve for many. When one Guardian reader messaged her ex to confess that she’d been dreaming about him, he, after some delay, replied with a less than enthusiastic: “Hi, that’s pretty weird. You OK?” Another reader messaged his ex to talk about what went wrong in their relationship, only to experience deja vu. “I felt the need to tiptoe around, afraid that the wrong word would lead to me being cast adrift,” he explains, “the exact feelings I had during the relationship.”
Few, though, can have immersed themselves as fully in their former relationship as Amelia, 29, who started seeing her ex-boyfriend, David, 28, during the first lockdown in Melbourne. They’d split up in January and neither of them had met anyone else before social-distancing rules were applied. They decided to hook up. “We were sexually frustrated,” says Amelia. “We just thought, it’s a pandemic, who cares what happens? Let’s just do something comforting and nice.” They had boundaries. “We explicitly stated that we would have sex but wouldn’t sleep over,” Amelia, a visual artist, says. This was partly because she wanted to hide the hook-up from her flatmates as it “felt like a stupid, self-indulgent thing to do”. After four and a half years together, the exes were also concerned about where it might lead. “We were both worried that we would fall in love again.”
Despite their best efforts to keep it casual, things quickly grew intense. “We had amazing, intimate sex, cried together, and had more honest conversations than we have ever had,” says Amelia. “We reflected a lot on the relationship and what went wrong.” Sore points, such as David staying up to 3am working on music when Amelia’s preferred bedtime is 11pm, were aired. They acknowledged the pressure both felt to get married and have kids, which neither of them wanted. They even managed to figure out how they’d introduce future partners to each other. “We agreed brunch would be the best format for that,” says Amelia.
When that initial lockdown was eased in Melbourne, Amelia and David realised they didn’t have an excuse to hook up any more. They celebrated. “We got absolutely legless on red wine, cried, chain smoked, and talked about how much we loved each other and wanted the best for one another,” says Amelia. That time in lockdown was clarifying, she says. “You don’t break up for no reason. Even though we care about each other so bloody much, we’ve come to the end of our journey.”
It is rare for a former partner to completely disappear. Even if it’s truly over, our exes are always #ThisOne on someone else’s Instagram. But what happens when your ex never leaves the picture? John, 43, and his ex-wife have maintained a good relationship since splitting up in 2009 after one year of marriage. They have a daughter together and see each other all the time. In the past few months, they’d been discussing home-schooling, the effect of lockdown on their wellbeing and “war stories” about more recent exes. Unusually, they began sharing memories from their marriage, which led them into uncharted territory, says John.
“I’d bought new shoes for work, which I noted were the same Loake brand that I got married to her in,” he says. “That seemed to be the catalyst to move the conversation towards feelings and ‘what-ifs’.” This led to tentative first steps in getting back together. There’s been a successful first date and a discussion about John moving back into the family home. “We have started talking about a possible future. We still have feelings for each other,” says John.
Moving on can be difficult at the best of times. In lockdown, where it’s Groundhog Day every day, it can feel especially challenging. Cristina, 23, moved back in with her parents during quarantine in central Italy. Some aspects of the routine were great, she says. “It was a pleasure to have dinner and watch TV with my parents. I don’t have to cook for myself. But also, I was extremely bored, and boredom is the enemy of rationality.”
Cristina sexted two exes: an American guy she dated for four years until 2019 and a local Italian she was with from October last year until January 2020. “It was a very weird situation,” she recalls. “I talked with both of them at the same time. Frequently, I sexted them simultaneously, without them knowing. Sometimes I even sent them the same message.”
No one seemed to mind the recycled sexts. After quarantine, Cristina met her Italian ex. “We decided to see each other to have real sex. It was great to leave my parents’ house for a bit and to go on a little vacation. And the sex was amazing.” It was, however, a final fling. “After the weekend together, we decided never to meet again. He wanted to be done with me. He was crystal clear about it,” says Cristina. She found the directness helpful. “The internet makes it hard to end relationships when there is any ambiguity. But this time, I knew not to be in touch.”
For Annabelle and Junior, for ever is a word that came up in conversation early on, as they held hands but kept their distance. “We’re definitely going to stay together for the rest of our lives,” says Annabelle. “We’ve both experienced a lot of trauma. We’re not particularly religious but we know that something more powerful than us created this situation. We know it’s right.” They are planning their future together, she says, but for now it’s “just baby steps”. Lockdown also allowed them to proceed with caution. “I don’t have a garden, so Junior couldn’t come to my flat,” says Annabelle. “We met outside, talking and getting to know each other again.”
When they could do more than hand holding, was it the stuff of happy endings? “The first kiss was awful because neither of us had kissed anyone for so long,” laughs Annabelle. “I’ve been single for nine years. It’s seven for Junior. There was nothing romantic about it. Both of us thought it was awkward and weird. But the next time, we kissed properly. That was perfect.”
• Some names have been changed.
Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure the discussion remains on the topics raised by the article. Please be aware that there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.
Author: Colin Crummy
Oahu moves to online-only classes; Kishimoto to meet with neighbor island officials
Oahu schools will temporarily move to online classes only when the school year starts — and the neighbor islands could follow suit.
Gov. David Ige announced Friday that, in light of an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases centered on Oahu — as well as a series of new restrictions on Oahu to combat that surge — the state Department of Education has determined that from the start of the school year on Aug. 17, Oahu schools will only hold distance-learning classes for the first four weeks of the school year.
For now, this decision does not apply to the neighbor islands, said state Superintendent Christina Kishimoto.
However, Kishimoto added that she will have further discussions with neighbor island superintendents and principals next week to determine whether they will adopt the same policy or continue with their planned “blended learning” policy.
Kishimoto said the policy on Oahu will include some limited in-person services to accommodate students with disabilities, as well as those who do not have reliable internet access at home.
Ige urged employers to be lenient with employees as they juggle their work and caring for children at home.
Kishimoto reassured parents that the quality of online lessons will be significantly improved from the spring semester, when the online program was implemented quickly without much, if any, training.
This time, she said, teachers have undergone nine days of training for effectively conducting online lessons, and many have taken further lessons over the summer.
Kishimoto also could not corroborate reports by the Hawaii State Teachers Association that some teachers are retiring or taking leave this semester rather than return to crowded schools. She claimed that the number of teacher retirements this year are about on par with last year.
“I have heard a great deal of concern from parents and teachers regarding the start of the school year,” Ige said at a press conference Friday. “… I know that parents, teachers and students are worried. I also realize that keeping students at home is going to be an additional burden on working parents, but because of the recent surge on Oahu, I agree that this is the right approach.
“I know you’re frustrated with all of these measures. Everyone wants our lives to return to normal. But we still need to be vigilant, and taking personal responsibility is still the best way to fight COVID-19.”
The announcement came mere hours after the HSTA — which represents more than 13,000 teachers — urged the state to switch all classes statewide to online-only for the entire first quarter.
Kishimoto said the Department of Education is having continual discussions with the HSTA and other unions about its policies, but did not say whether the proposed policies have been made with the unions’ approval.
However, Ige said he and other state officials will make a determination whether to resume face-to-face learning on Oahu after the four-week period, or extend it through the first quarter.
Ige said he is working with several state departments to determine what metrics will be used to determine whether reopening is appropriate, as well as when closing a classroom, a building or a school might be necessary.
The announcement also came on the same day as the largest daily count of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii to date. The Department of Health reported 201 cases Friday, with one case on Maui and the remainder on Oahu.
Two Oahu men also were reported to have died of COVID-19 Friday, bringing the state fatality rate to 31.
Email Michael Brestovansky at email@example.com.
Author: By MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Saturday, August 8, 2020, 12:05 a.m.