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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Viewed the AVATAR December 29, 09 at the local theatre for $10.00 Canadian dollars. I liked the animated effects a lot, but not the story line of the film, written and directed by James Cameron. The film review When Will White Men Stop Making Movies like Avatar points out, “whites need to stop remaking the white guilt story, which is a sneaky way of turning every story about people of color into a story about being white. Speaking as a white person, I don’t need to hear more about my own racial experience. I’d like to watch some movies about people of color (ahem, aliens), from the perspective of that group, without injecting a random white (erm, human) character to explain everything to me. (1)”

These are surprising comments because I rarely hear white people express so open a point-of-view. Few people get it; also, at the same time say it. I am use to conservative commentaries or the dah factor, people who do not get it. The plot story line generally is similar to the DANCES WITH WOLVES film, how a white guy because he likes the indigenous people, in this example, the Na’vi people, decides to save them and does. Whoop de doo! Do we need another white character to save us?

The only redeeming quality of DANCES WITH WOLVES is that it featured all Native American and First Nation actors in lead roles, but the story was stereotyped. How many times will Indigenous people play the frozen image of Plains culture and regalia from the late 1800s as in many Hollywood westerns; for example, Winchester ’73 made in 1950. Hey! Indigenous people from North America are CONTEMPORARY as the rest of world! DANCES WITH WOLVES represented a vehicle for the producer, Kevin Costner, which put him on the map as a feature film maker.

As the essay pointed out, Jake Sully has choices. Jake can be either or: a white guy or be apart of the Na’vi people where as the Na’vi people do not have a choice. Indigenous people for example, were born with the way they look, the language they speak or the culture they grew up in; also, Indigenous peoples were the first peoples who lived in North America before any peoples travelled over. No one discovered us. Indigenous people in the U.S. have lots of histories; for example, ever since the colonists planted themselves at Jamestown with their superior/ulterior motives to cash in on the natural commodities of tobacco where First Americans-Tsenacomoco and others lived, Native Americans have had to stand up and fight a repressed control freak colonial mentality forever it seems passed from generation to generation, thickened within white North America because the U.S. thinks they own us. This is an illustration of A SINGLE ISSUE. AT PRESENT TIME, there are MANY issues the mainstream press does not cover or that editors censor out such as the events about what really goes on between Homeland Security and the Tohono O’odham who live on the US Arizona/Mexican border, which the general public is unaware. Why is it not covered? It is just another way to manipulate information unscrupulously about Native Americans by not informing the public.

It is so easy for Sully to just vacate if he decided not to help out anymore. Of course, First Nations and Native Americans need help from non Native people who empathize with their issues or causes, but to have to rehash this same ole story again in a mainstream film is unconvincing. Tell it like it is. This is a call out: Indigenous peoples create and use the animation techniques presented within AVATAR; also, write/make the drama/comedy, docu dramas and others to portray experiences to change and turn around stories such as Avatar; however, Indigenous independent cinema and video makers have created cinema/videos since the 70’s. When will change happen among ourselves and the rest of the public?? How to change? Own and run a cable network, but how long will that take? Hierarchies exist among Indigenous filmmakers. Therefore, to share information rather than to compete and isolate with each other. There’s just no giving up at this point for Indigenous people and filmmakers to change the media. So far at present the internet is an answer.

1. Annalee Newitz, “When Will White Men Stop Making Movies like Avatar,” http://www.facebook.com/l/19a59;io9.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatarebook.com/l/19a59;io9.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatar, December 2009.

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I bought a dvd for myself called INTO THE WILD released in 2007. Sean Penn wrote the screenplay and directed the feature film based upon a true story written by Jon Krakauer about Christopher McCandless. I liked the film a lot because I identified with it in some ways. The young white guy right after undergraduate graduation decides to travel. One of his main goals is to go and live in the nature of Alaska. The young man does not believe in materialism and money. He gives his savings to charity. He decides to travel west in the United States. He drives to Lake Mead area and parks his car in a river wash. A thunder storm happens overnight and flash floods him and his car away. His car gets wrecked. He survives and hitch hikes out of there. He meets all kinds of people on the road.  Some of the people he likes and meets are a hippish couple in their 30’s-40’s who drive a bus. He meets a young girl at Quartzite in between California and Arizona state border. In the same area he meets an older man he befriends. The man likes him and wants to adopt him. The young man says, we’ll talk about it when he returns from his trip to Alaska. He hops a train and makes it to LA, but ends up in a slum, downtown area of Los Angeles, Los Angeles and 5th Street. What he sees, he does not like, but he only hangs around that sleazy area and never views the rest of Los Angeles which is not like that. The same night he leaves and hops on another train to go somewhere else, but the train stops somewhere. Just as he is about to leave the train door, a man hits him with a club, beats him. That man works for the rail way. That man acted brutal and mean because he really hits him hard. The young man bleeds.

He rafts down the Colorado River in a kayak but the police are after him because he was suppose to have a permit to kayak down the river. The young man does not believe that he has to wait 10 years to obtain a permit to kayak the Colorado river. He expresses this to the ranger but the ranger does not flinch. He does not care on one hand. He rows all the way to the Sea of Cortez. He crosses back into US. He is lucky that US immigration lets him return to US because if he was a man or woman of color with brown skin, US immigration would certainly question him far too much even if he was a US citizen. US immigration would not believe he is a US citizen.

Alaska is true a wilderness where he stays. By accident he sees a lonely empty school bus in the wilderness and decides to live in it. The season turns into Spring. He tries to hunt small animals at first for food, which is not enough to last a few days. Once he views a huge moose. He shoots it. He quickly butchers it but for some reason he does not use his intelligence to butcher the moose and cook the meat on the same day. He could have cooked the meat all night, but he does not think about that. He could have cooked a huge section of it real well and eaten it up, but he does not. Instead he cooks the meat underneath some brushes for a couple of days. The meat does not cook properly. Maggots crawl on the meat. Most of the meat becomes rotten. He is not able to feed himself and goes hungry. He is upset with himself and suspect he feels depressed about it. Sometimes in his diary he writes he feels lonely. Happiness is when he shared with people, he said.

He tries to find plants to eat. He reads books to find plants in the forest. By mistake he thinks the plant he eats is edible, but it is not. He wakes up the next morning okay, but he is not okay. At least he is alive at that point. He rereads the plant book to clarify what he suspects happened. The book said he ate a poisonous plant. He checks back and forth. It is confirmed. He realizes he may die. Slowly he weakens. He does not die quickly. Symptoms are that people get paralysis and starve. Then one day as he lies in his sleeping bag, he breathes a last gasp. He dies.

As he travels this adventure, he does not let his parents know where he is at. He travels on this trip because he is angry at his parents. He is close to his sister.

When I said I identified with him, I knew he looked for truth in life. He was going through this growing up mental, emotional crisis in his young life. He travelled because he wanted to experience travel on the road and meet people. He was also tired of going to the university, the ivory tower. The ivory tower is sheltered too much sometimes. He did not believe in capitalism, the status quo and material things. He even burned his social security card. He burned his money when he started out but at some point he had to make some money to travel to Alaska so he worked at a hamburger joint for a while. I travelled like he did at nineteen or so. From that, mixing and trying to make a life in the world, I viewed that the world prefers men over women to manage the world: a man’s world. The world is based upon color, who gets priority when situations arise, such as my travel entrance into the US from Mexico or Canada or France from Los Angeles. The young man did not have any id, but the U.S. immigration believed in him enough to let him return to the US. That does not happen to people of color, especially First Nations people who cross the borders internationally from Canada to US and the reverse or from LA to France and the reverse. I have always had to talk my way into Canada or the US even before 9/11 because US and Canadian immigration are racist. US Immigration bases everything upon color who gets in, even though I am a US Citizen, the First Americans of the United States. This is a contraction. Canada is not innocent either.

He had some contractions, although he has a descent education and stemmed from an upper middle middle class family. He graduated with A’s. He learned things from books. He wrote and was a writer. He got along well with people. He had good values: meaning based upon the film story, for example he treated women in a non sexist way, which is not typical of heterosexual men. The young girl who played the guitar and sang, came onto him. He did not come onto her. Usually it is the other way around. She wanted sex because she asked him to come to her trailer. She dressed skimpy in underwear and a top to ask for sex. He saw that immediately and asked how old she was. He asked when she was born. At first she lied. She was sixteen. He preferred to be friends with her at first. More heterosexual men should follow his example, BUT THE WORLD DOES NOT TREAT WOMEN as he did. Treatment of women usually is the opposite. It is what I have experienced.

So then he read books to find out about plants to eat. He was not careful. He ate a plant which was poisonous and it killed him. Living in a place like Alaska which is not different than where I live in Vancouver BC in regards to cold weather and the landscape, I think he thought he could pick up this knowledge to kill animals and eat them quickly. Book learning has limitations. A person has to experience to learn to hunt animals. Plus there is this cold cold weather. What happens after a person kills an animal? How does a person butcher it and save the meat for a couple of days, which is an important part of survival on the land. This young man did not place much importance to learn to live in the Alaskan wilderness. He was smart but not very smart. I thought about the Inuits who live in the most Northern part of Canada and Alaska. It is very very cold in the winter where they live; yet they have managed for years to live and survive in the cold. Do the colonialists credit them for being able to survive upon the land like that? For that matter does anyone credit the Indigenous people who lived here first upon North America for survival? Very few I doubt.

He sought truth. He looked for meaning in his life. In the film story in his diary he writes he feels lonely. Happiness is when he shared with people, he said, which evolved direct from his own positive experiences with the young girl singer, the hippy couple and older man. They all really liked him. He liked them as well. They represented a family he never really experienced.

He developed a romantic notion about life. Writers as Jack Kerouac who wrote On the Road and Dharma Bums wrote about life in a romantic existence. Possibly this is where he picked up these notions because he read a lot. I related very well to this film. I like people who live as  a “free spirit” as it is called. His character was so intelligent and balanced on one hand, yet without intelligence and not balanced upon another because he thought he could live in nature in the remote mountains of Alaska without really planning or thinking it was important to know how to hunt, butcher animals to eat and store food to last a few days. To sleep in the river where a flash flood could happen, which happened was the beginning of his naive mistakes. Maybe hunger or lack of food for his body/brain made him punchy which affected his judgement to choose plants during the last month as he read books about plants to eat. As a White man his chances were more open to him. As a white guy he denounced capitalism, money and status: all that his parents wanted, a rare quality. He made mistakes in his assumptions about life. The film made me think and brought back memories about who I am and the adventures of youth because I lived such a spontaneous life style as a young woman. The difference is that people my age tossed off those alternative life styles and bought into the corporate point of view about money. I have not tossed off the idealistic notions I possessed at nineteen. Living nine lives only goes so far. Nature is more powerful than human beings.

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A UCLA filmmaker colleague friend informed me about this INTO THE WILD film when it was released but I was not able to view it. He said he liked it. I do not recall that it was released in Vancouver.  I always wanted to view the film so when I saw this dvd video sale that said 2 for $10.00, I decided to buy the dvd.  There were not many INTO THE WILD dvds amongst the stacks of dvds for sale.

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I am going to view Avatar this week because of a film review I read last week.  It was sent to me.  The Dine’ woman writer knew I would enjoy it.  She was correct.  I thought the review was right on and agreed with it.  I will include it in this review page.  It is funny how a review of a film can stimulate a person to view a film even though it was not a good review of the film.  I have to find out from own curiosity.   I HAVE THIS NEED TO KNOW FOR MYSELF. I’ll pay the expensive ticket to view this film but that is me, Arlene.  This is my business, the film and video business that I am part of anyhow.  Here is the link for the review: When Will White People Stop Making Movies LikeAvatar“? – Avatar

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For now here’s my Xmas card and I hope it doesn’t look too cheesy. Will write in this later on.

These pictures were shot at a park near by.  The big tree with lights was shot at Holland Park in Surrey.  It was real cold to shoot these pictures so much that the cold hurt my fingers to press the trigger of the camera button, but I wanted to do it.  I enjoy picture taking even if the rest of it I do not like.  Xmas requires that people spend money and I do not have the money to spend upon Xmas.  The way the media and businesses treat it, only the well to do can have a descent Xmas.  I cannot buy a second gift this year.  At the same time businesses have to survive from people who spend money.  It has been like this for more than a couple of years. Til later on.

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The end of 09. I like having a blog. It enables me to have A  VOICE where as I would NOT HAVE a VOICE at all as a Dine’ filmmaker.  Of course, I have a voice in a way since the last 2 years The Graffiti has screened at some film/video festivals in North America and world wide, which I am very grateful for.  It has not screened a lot.  My video about racism is heard about and seen.  Writing a blog is similar.  Also it’s like writing a book. I get to take pictures a long with it. I could supply it with videos but that’s a huge job.

I am suppose to look for a gift for Mark today. I planned to bike to the stores today to look for them. The weather is a problem is for me. It’s suppose to snow but where we live it seems like the snow wants to miss us. I see small flakes of snow. It’s been doing this for a day so far and this morning. It’s kind of funny that snow wants to miss where we live. The thing is as I said, it’s very very cold to bike in and have to be dressed up for it, not be cold as I drive the bike. Have to drive carefully in it, too. Last week I biked home from the sky train station after seeing the dentist. As I made a right turn to cross the street, I swerved right too extreme and I fell down right in the middle of the road and traffic. I knew that I would have to stand up fast and get out of the line of traffic. Fortunately the traffic wasn’t huge. I was lucky. Otherwise a car would’ve run me over. Not kidding. I hurt my knee, but not that much. The roads get slippery from the grease and ice. I’m not really use to biking in this weather and I really don’t luv it as other Canadians. I am sorry bout that. Not everyone luvs this weather. I admit it looks pretty to shoot pics in but as far moving around in it. No way. Have to put chains on cars if want to seriously travel in snow around the city. I have chains but prefer not to do that chore. Never use to have to do this stuff in Phoenix or LA. Not the style I grew up in.

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I luv to view feature films and videos, fiction and non fiction. I’m attracted to certain feature films released. Not all out there, but some. Films I have liked: Umberto D by Luchino Visconti, Los Muertos, German Aimee & Jaguar, The Pan Labryinth made by a Mexican filmmaker, Narnia and other animal stories. I saw some dvds of feature films that I’d like to buy or rent from a video store, but it maybe better to buy them because those dvd rentals cost just as much as the dvds themselves to buy such as Timothy Buttons, which stars Brad Pitt, The Changeling which stars Angle Jolie, Out into the Wild, directed by Sean Penn. I notice I like films: docu dramas, dramas that present a serious story, or fantasies like Narnia.

I’ve viewed pornography films but I find them to be BORING. Maybe if someone wrote a good story for the pornographic piece, it might work. When the Behind the Green Door came out in the early 70’s, I went with a girlfriend to see it in SF, CA. Never seen a porn film before in my life. Boring and never returned since to view a porno film. Other porno videos I’ve viewed, the same thing. What’s the use to view porno films if I think they’re boring?

Film stories I like a  lot transport me from my realistic life into another level or world, which affects me. It makes me feel good and I think a lot about it. I like that. I’m aware of how films and videos are made but just because I know that it doesn’t take away from the magic of viewing a film or video story.  A friend I know said he lost interest to view films or videos because he is aware about the technical aspects of how make films or videos.  So why be in film and video making, if a person feels that way? I don’t understand.