Slamdance 2013 Feature Narrative
Hank & Asha
A little romance via video letters is the premise for award-winning filmmaker James E. Duff in Hank and Asha latest feature narrative. Duff and his co-writer/producer Julia Morrison tell a sweet and tender love story between two young filmmakers, Asha (Mahira Kakkar), and Hank (Andrew Pastides) living worlds apart. Asha lives in Prague. Hank lives in New York. Their relationship develops primarily from countless hours of video letters.
Asha is from India studying film in Prague. She sees Hank's film about ballroom dancing at a film festival held in Prague. She likes the film and hopes to talk with the director at the typical question and answer session following film festival screenings. Hank did not attend the festival. Asha is disappointed but finds a way to contact him. She is curious as to how he chooses the topic for his film.
Asha makes connection via a video message. She introduces herself as a film student in Prague and was impressed with his film. She had several questions, the first one being, "What inspired you to make your film about ballroom dancing? Then secondly she asked, “Are you a dancer?" She inquires if he could respond to "talk- shop". Curiously, Hank responds in kind.
The visual conversation continues not just for hours that particular day but over several weeks. Hank and Asha video just about everything in their daily life--mundane routines, school, work, activities, eating, ideas, feelings, questions, thoughts, family, friends. Whatever one does on a daily basis is a subject to video and later discuss. Hardships and mishaps play a part in this story making the development of their relationship so sweet. Hank is a romantic and Asha is smitten with his kindness. Hanks' video letters to Asha are so creative that he often dresses for the occasion as if she were actually present. Their child-like curiosity about one another is shared in their dialogue but viewed with amazing cinematography.The two have a dream to meet in Paris. Planning their roundez-vous is exhilarating. Hank asks her to dinner via video in lue of one of their planning sessions. He feels it important that they first experience the joy of French cuisine before they venture to a land they knowo not of. A charmingly fun-filled video dinner ends in heartache.
Slamdance short film
Good Karma $1
Directors: Jason Berger and Amy Laslett
The production company, Kids At Play, film a well-known Ad-guru Alex Bogusky while on his quest to determine what goes into making the most effective signs for advertising. Bogusky collects signs made by the homeless--those people living on the street. He is fascinated with the simplic style and word usage. And, the homeless' creative use of materials.
Bogusky makes signs for a living. He entered is own experiment to see if his signs would create as much attention or be as effective as the signs made by the homeless he encountered. He made a sign that said Good Karma $1 and stood on the street to see if anyone would donate $1 to his cause. Bogusky felt that his sign made him feel invisible and the short film explains why.
Bogusky's experiment explores the fundamental form of Advertising from the Homeless, recognizing the simplest words can say the loudest message. He says, "When you are left with nothing to tell your message or story, what do you do? You use the simplest tools.
Nicole Teeny, award-winning filmmaker, goes back to her roots for the subject matter of her first feature documentary in Bible Quiz. Teeny grew up in a Christian church. She attended a private Christian school. While in high school she was introduced to the world of film. A passion for the arts grew in using the moving picture to tell stories. Acceptance into the New York University (NYU) film school took her across country. Discovering a whole new world away from her Christian roots she leaves the church behind.
While attending NYU film school, Teeny engages in a film project that takes her home to the Northwest region of the United States. She goes back into the church world that she knows so well but not to reconnect. Her focus is to tell a story of a group of teenagers immersed in program that requires memorization of large portions of the Bible to be used in competitions known as Bible Quiz. Essentially bible quiz isdesigned to encourage kids to read, memorize, understand and live by the word of God (The Holy Bible). Christopher Teeny (brother to Nicole) is a bible quiz competitor and current advisor.
Teeny is curious to know what happens to these students after their competition days are over. How does the memorization of the bible impact these individuals? Do they have a strong faith in God, believe the bible or is this just a game? Teeny answers some of these questions as she herself journies with her films' principal cast members--Mikayla Irle, JP O'Connor, Christopher Teeny, Brandon Duffy, Rich Nelson, Rachel Dawson, Rachel Holley, and Gary Irle.
From over 120 hours of film footage, four years in the making, and a surprising teenage love story produces her documentary Bible Quiz. The unforeseen tale that Teeny discovers within her research of the award-winning bible quiz team adds to the intensity of the documentary. It is unusual entertainment but necessary for a good documentary according to filmmaker and activist, Michael More. He believes that when you have a story to tell, especially in documentary form, your film has to entertain in some way that is unique to the narrative. It has to grab the audience.
One film fan describes Teeny's narrative as viewing a teenage romance under the direction of the late filmmaker John Hughes. This idea alone gives special kudos to Teeny as a filmmaker for her ability to capture a relatable narrative about coming of age and self-discovery.
"I hate the wordsBible Quiz. It sounds so nerdy. Yeah!" exclaims Mikayla Irle--The Tacoma Life Center bible quiz team member, 2nd Chair.
Seventeen year old, Mikayla, is slightly embarrassed about the name of a bible memorization program she is involved in during her Jr. and Sr. years of high school. It is sponsored by the church she attends. Mikayla's teenage reaction to corny-names is not a deterrent. She is whole-heartedly invested in the challenge of the activity. And, the possibility to get closer to her team captain, JP O'connor.
Sweet seventeen and smitten by her team-mate whom she admires and respects. Awkward? Yes! Mikayla puts her crush in-check to not jeopardize the good of the whole. She loves the challenge and competition her close-knit, three-man team strives to attain--to win local bible quiz meets that lead to winning the National Championship.
Mikayla is smart and tenacious making it easy for her to hold the teams 2nd chair position. She is JP's right-hand girl. Her duty is to back him up. And, Oh! She does his with pleasure. Thus hours and hours of study for the quiz team business of bible memorization must be a part of her day. The pressure to compete with excellence to win motivates Mikayla, putting her in position to win the heart of her captain.
Mikayla's place on the quiz team is all her doing. She has no major support from her family like the other team members. Mikayla lives with her mother who is rarely home forcing Mikayla to care for herself. Lonely, Mikayla finds a place on the quiz team to connect with teenagers of like minds. A longing to be cared for Mikayla allows the adult quiz team sponsors to love on her as their own daughter. She likes the community that accepts her and the support they give while she struggles with finding faith, her identity and finding her place in the world.
The Tacoma Life Center quiz team (JP, Mikayla and Rachel Holley) battle at the regional competition. They win for a place to compete at the national Bible Quiz competition, as does their rival from Seattle's Cedar Park church. The heat is on and Mikayla must be diligent in her preparation. Without a doubt the national level of testing is highly intense. Cedar Park Church Quiz Team coach Keri Brodin says, "Nothing gets my heart racing like a bible quiz competition".
A surprise trip to Disney World the week prior to the national competition pulls Mikayla out of her intense routine of study. JP is diligently studying hours during the same week in preparation to win the National Competition. She is not! Anxious and guilt ridden, Mikayla knows everything in her world is at stake that she has worked so hard to achieve. (Karen Pecota)
The film project Good Karma $1 starts out to be all about signage but through an endearing turn of events the documentary presents a delightful human interest story about street artists that understand the impact of good storytelling. (Karen Pecota)
Asha comments that her parents must not find out about meeting Hank in Paris. Surprised by her seriousness Hank digs for the reasons. Asha confesses a secret. A few years earlier, Asha negotiated with her father that if he paid for her to go to film school in exchange she would agree to an arranged marriage. Hank shares that to him it is a scary thought that his mother would be choosing a wife for him. Surprised that arranged marriages still exist Hank begins to explore with Asha heartwarming video letters about finding love. Oh! The pains of growing up when involved in a little romance of different worlds. (Karen Pecota)