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Konsomatris: From Conception to Culmination (Part-2)

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12/01/2020 – The advantages of filming in North Cyprus are also equally balanced out by its disadvantages. There isn’t a functioning film industry, so seeking cast and crew is not the easiest task. Yet there is a crave for art and creativity and this means you are bound to find the right leads with enough luck. Following a tip from a close friend, I met a young man named Nehir in February 2018 for a chat. I had also brought along a couple of pages of a scene that I had written down for him to read. On subsequent visits, Ali and I met many other aspiring actors, most of which were studying drama and stage performance at university. Yet Nehir always brought something special to each of our meetings, and that solidified our thinking to cast him in the main role of Ahmet.

                                                               Nehir Karaaslan as Ahmet in Konsomatris

To cast Veronyka, we had to forgo the possibility of casting in Cyprus. Being a relatively small community, people were not keen on portraying a sex worker which meant looking elsewhere. Although nightclubs and what goes on within them is very clear to everyone, it also sadly remains a taboo and not many people like to speak about it. Following a call out in London, and meeting a few candidates, Maja Laskowska clearly emerged as the one to commit herself to embarking on a memorable visit to Cyprus for our short film project. I say memorable not only to describe the production itself, but because during her stay, her flat welcomed an uninvited guest one evening. To Maja’s surprise and delight, that guest, a very loving white cat, gave birth to two tiny kittens on her bed on the first night. The intricacies of filmmaking at its best!

                                                         Maja Laskowska as Veronyka in Konsomatris

Production took place over 6 days towards the end of February and early March 2019. Also on board was Andrew O’Connor, an immensely talented Director of Photography, who with limited resources, made the film look like a film. Every day was a mix of an adventure and a nightmare, and it’s hard to summarise all that what went on. February was one of the rainiest months in a long time, leading to floods. There were flight cancellations, meaning Gunyol Bakoglu (playing the father character) who we were flying in from London, would nearly miss the shoot. Yet, beautiful surprises also occurred, when thirty extras turned up for a much-needed crowd scene when we were hoping for ten at best. Watching the footage at the end of each day gave us confidence that we were piece by piece, putting together something worth our while. Running around like headless chickens, occasionally, does pay off.

In June, we returned for pick up shots and additional dialogue recording. Most importantly, we had one week to fully focus on the edit and craft the film we had envisioned. It was comforting to see the film cut together nicely; our elongated planning had paid off. A few scenes were removed in their entirety, other scenes trimmed to the length that best served them. On 6th December 2019, we finally delivered a finished, final cut. The colour grading, the sound mix and visual effects, all came together after a long process of careful deliberation.

In nine minutes and forty seven seconds, we tell the story of Ahmet, a young boy, who desperately wants a girlfriend, but is considered to be inadequate. This lack of machismo is re-enforced by his father, a dominating patriarchal figure, and his gung-ho, laddish friends. Only by going through the Turkish Cypriot teenage tradition of losing his virginity to a sex worker will Ahmet gain the right to become a man and win the heart of the girl he desires.

Thank you to everyone that supported us on our journey during the last 3 years – we truly appreciate it.

MY TOP-10 OF 2019

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31/12/2019 – Another year, another bunch of great film and television! As I was busy making my own short film, I initially thought I didn’t get a chance to watch as much as I did last year. Looking back though, I seemed to have watched 98 films and 15 seasons of various television series this year. So… I guess overall not too bad 🙂

My runners up for 2019 are:

Time for the Top-10!

NO 10 – LEAVING NEVERLAND: A two part documentary that analyses in detail the sexual abuse inflicted on two young men by Michael Jackson. It’s hard to imagine watching this and still doubting whether the events actually took place or not. A harrowing but important watch.

NO 9 – YEARS AND YEARS: A six episode series that says so much about the current state of the UK, and the world as a whole. In its core, its a story about a dysfunctional family which we can all relate to. Yet, each episode takes us further into post-Brexit, a second term with Trump, a civil war in Ukraine with refugees in the UK, and even nuclear explosions – a world that is scarily not too far removed from the one we currently live in now. It’s geniusly put together, and never been so relevant.

NO 8 – ONE CHILD NATION: When I think of China, the first thing that pops into my mind is that its the place where families used to be allowed only child. After watching this documentary, it really puts the whole process into perspective – forced abortions, mandatory sterilisations and a dark industry for child adoptions. It goes to show that a state having total control over bodies will never be at our best interest.

NO 7 – THE KINGMAKER: Documenting the life of Imelda Marco, the first Lady of the Philippines, may seem like a boring subject matter at first. Yet, Imelda is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve watched in a long time. Rich, powerful, deceiftful, and potentially, a mass murderer. By telling the story of her life, the film impressively reveals the history of the country and the lead up to the current events that has led the people to elect Rodrigo Duterte as President.

NO 6 – THE NIGHTINGALE: I watched this film shortly after finishing the book ‘Thicker Than Water’ by Cal Flyn, which was a great companion piece in order to familiarise myself with Australia’s dark past of colonial genocide. Aisling Franciosi stars in this immensely dark story of brutality and revenge, and she is something special indeed.

NO 5 – HONEY BOY: Who would have thought a film written by Shia LaBeouf, one that is based on his own life story and where he plays his own father would turn out so good? Well, it did. Pretty damn good!

NO 4 – GIVE ME LIBERTY: An independent low-budget film that may not even make it to the theatres; one which I’m so glad to have caught at the London Film Festival in October. Filmed and edited with a frantic pace quicker than a Michael Bay production, this magical story that takes place in a run down American city (Milwaukee) is full of passion, excitement and love for humanity.

NO 3 – PARASITE: Bong Joon-ho, a master at analysing the society and the divide in rich and poor, once again has put together a film that blends multiple genres that tells one cohesive story. Imagine riding an unpredictable rollercoaster ride; risky but oh so exciting.

NO 2 – FOR SAMA: As the Syrian war continues on, those that live far away in safety feel more comfortable in ignoring it. This documentary brings back the immediacy and human side of the struggle to the forefront. The horror of the siege of exposions and carnage is at times unbearable, as the main characters – a couple and their child – document their daily lives in a makeshift hospital. There is one particular scene that involves a baby that is guaranteed to stick with you long after watching the film.

NO 1 – HONEYLAND: A bedridden mother and her daughter, in an empty village in rural North Macedonia, who survive by beekeeping. The drama that unfolds by simply following these two characters is pure cinema. It’s always hard to list films in a specific order, but Honeyland has stayed in my mind the most out of all the films this year.

Konsomatris: From Conception to Culmination (Part-1)

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29/12/2019 – Alasdair and I arrived to a supermarket and had parked the car; we needed some snacks. To our left, also parked, was a white van. And one by one, a group of young women (sex workers) in colourful, sporty attire, led by one man in sunglasses (their pimp), got out and walked towards the entrance of the supermarket. His attention now solely on them, Alasdair gestured towards me with an enquiring look. As a Cypriot from North Cyprus, this wasn’t something out of the ordinary for me; it’s oddly very normal. Yet, to see my colleagues fascination with this instance was something that created that initial spark. It was the March of 2015, and we were on a short trip to Cyprus for a reccee of locations for Haftasonu, the film we were going to make later that Summer. And inadvertently thanks to this brief interaction, we knew what we would try to do next.

Consommatrice (french) [ feminine ]
1. One who drinks alcohol in a bar.
2. One who purchases a product or service to satisfy their needs.

Konsomatris (turkish).
1. A female bar hostess who can be purchased for sex with men.

Konsomatris was born from a multitude of experiences. It’s also a predicament I found myself in during my late teens. Whilst most boys around me were boasting about their delight at visiting the nightclubs, I was never too keen to do the same. It’s acknowledged that not all nightclubs in North Cyprus are simply a place for boozing and dancing, but a destination for debauchery that includes prostitution and sex trafficking. Deeply embedded into the society, these clubs attract all sorts of characters full of machismo and are accepted as venues for the rite of passage of young boys to lose their  virginity. This particular culture forms the backbone of the patriarchal society and shapes the lives of the people within the Turkish Cypriot community.

In November 2016, having already agreed with Alasdair (who I will refer to Ali from now on) to co-write and co-direct a short film, we began to note down our thoughts, and outline a rough structure. Weekly meetings at cafes, getting excited over new ideas, jotting down new pathways… By the Summer of 2017, we ended up with a 40 page script. A page-turner full of drama, intensity, and thrills: A story of a young woman from Ukraine, charmed by a young Turkish Cypriot man, who invites her to work at his club in Cyprus. Only on arrival, she realises what the job really entails, and her fantasy of a perfect island life disappears. She escapes the clutches of the evil club owners, and eventually finds herself at the border crossing between the North and South divide of the island, without a clue what will come next. A symbolic representation of both her predicament, and the island itself. Realistically, it wasn’t something we could even fathom putting together, and more importantly, not a story we particularly wanted to tell. It lost that personal, honest touch and had become, in essence, a cliched drama about a young women forced in prostitution. What captured our imagination the most though was a group of young boys who she encounters during her escape; these innocent looking teens out for an adventure to fulfill their desires.

                                                                       Storyboards from Konsomatris

Ali prodded me to talk more about my personal experience as a young boy. The feeling of peer pressure, raging hormones, the fear of being called gay, the wish to be like others and fit in… Trying to remember the most banal details; how much money it cost, how did you get there, who did you go with, how did you choose, who greeted you, what the women was wearing, her age, what you talked about, how was ‘it’… The aftermath, feeling of being a man, the guilt/non-guilt, nonchalance… Suddenly, the film wrote itself. It stopped being a drama, and became a piece of observation. What became apparent was our desire to have less dialogue and more emphasis on visual storytelling. We liked the notion of the audience taking a step back and witnessing the scenes, not fully empathising with the protagonist – now a 17 year old boy in high school. And over the course of a week or so, a new 15 page script emerged.

                                                                       Storyboards from Konsomatris

After some attempts of seeking funding, it became clear this was going to be a self-funded project. In 2018, we began looking into how to cast the film. Between Ali and myself, we travelled to Cyprus five times. We met potential cast and crew, we did readings and rehearsals, we were introduced to people that volunteered to help us, we spoke to many men and their experiences of visiting the clubs. We spoke endlessly about our ideas, debated our themes constantly, storyboarded each scene to both of our satisfaction, redrafted the script until we knew it by heart. We even paid a visit – strictly for research purposes – to one of the clubs. Overall, we embraced the bizarre feeling of being on the precipice of the unknown future. We both had full time work, and to balance that with making a short film abroad, combined with all the responsibilities of being a producer, made us think: Would we really get the chance to make this film?

MY TOP-10 OF 2018

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31/12/2018 – According to my calculations, I watched 104 films and 14 seasons of various television series this year. Out of these, here are my best and worst ones that came out during 2018 in the UK.

First of all, my list of Runners up in no particular order. The first five are amazing documentaries which are thrilling, informative, and shocking; the other four range from a beautiful Palestinian father and son story to the most mainstream superhero film ever.

I also absolutely hated three films this year, the first of which I will never fathom how much praise it has received. They don’t even deserve a trailer hyperlink.

  • Annihilation
  • Downsizing
  • Erase & Forget (the perfect title haha)

So, time for my Top 10!

10- Coco: Pixar did it again, just in time to counteract all the racial hatred and instead embrace the love and humanity that all people can embody. You will laugh, you will sing and oh boy, you will cry.

9- American Animals: A very unique take on a true life story, where the narrative combines fictional and documentary elements to perfectly put together a mainstream piece of cinema. Exemplary work.

8- Eighth Grade: Every year, it seems there is one amazing high school film that shows the highs and lows of the growing up years. This film is that, but goes a step back into the secondary school years of the main character instead. Very funny, immensely touching, and also has one of the scariest scenes I’ve seen in a long time.

7- Of Fathers and Sons: Imagine spending years with an extremist family, documenting the family dynamic, watching kids being slowly engrossed in a dark, sinister world. And despite all that, seeing so many similarities with the day-to-day life of any family on this world. Eerie, and an essential watch.

6- Roma: One of those films that grows on you. It starts off very slowly, and continues with a constant but intentional pace. But with each frame, and with each left to right pan, scenes begin to create an absolute epic story of a family life, and the people in the background who are never given the spotlight. The film could’ve been overloaded with nostalgic sentimentality, but instead masterfully tells a very personal story with enough distance to create a gorgeous tale.

5- Evelyn: The film I cried the most whilst watching. The best documentary I’ve seen this year. So simple in nature, yet that’s where its beauty comes from. Effortlessly powerful. The most human film you will see this year.

4- Leave No Trace: The story of a father and daughter, both who trying to stay connected with each other and the world, yet constantly on the move. One of those films you know is great from the get-go. When a film masters the art of being subtle, yet being able to say so much, all is left is to lean back and enjoy the craft at work.

3- Better Call Saul Season 4: Still for me the best television series out there. The attention to detail in each frame, and the creation of such an atmospheric soundscape continues to mesmerise me each year.

2- Blindspotting: This film absolutely took me by surprise. I could easily write a whole piece on the subtext of each scene, how every line of dialogue and action has a meaningful pay off, how the film can change its tone so expertly from comedy to dark drama… It’s the film I have rewatched the most on this list. The best script of the year by far, with one of my favourite film scenes EVER. You will know which scene I mean when it happens. Breathtaking.

1- The Square: And at number one, we have the funniest film of the year. And the film isn’t even a comedy. It’s a film you can’t fit into any genre, it contains everything about the absurdity of life, people, situations, but does it in such a fresh way, you can’t help but sit in wonder and astonishment as the whole thing bombards you with greatness. I loved, and adored this film. It’s strange and peculiar, and ever so crazy. Definitely not everyones cup of tea, but it was mine.

The Curse of a Short-Term Existence

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02/08/2018 – The all mighty homo-sapiens seem destined to live in cycles of repetition. They aren’t infinite – on average, they exist for about 80 years. During this lifespan, it’s very hard for most of them to make long term decisions, knowing that they won’t be around to witness the outcome. Homo-sapiens aren’t that humble; we gain emotional satisfaction and pride from the results of our actions.

We think, act, and seek short-term.

Humans have normalised and conformed over millennia, to the idea of having a family and continuing the blood line. Therefore, we find ourselves in a bubble that requires immediate attention, emotion and priority. This is now the real world, and its safety is of upmost importance. As the world continues to struggle along, for many, it’s all about strengthening the exterior of the bubble.

This bubble eventually becomes the old generation, and whom the new younglings look down on, just how the old look down on the young. The youth now look and act different, even speak strangely, whilst the inhabitants of the bubble see everything as a conspiracy to bring down what they have worked so hard to put together (It’s never really considered that putting a safe haven together shouldn’t be so hard, and be made much easier by our governments, who on the contrary, have fields of money trees).

In any case, a threat to this system is what the state and government fears the most. The best way for authorities to counter this is with basic human emotions. This will, in most cases, win over factual arguments or scientific research. A bus with an ad on the side stating a slogan of millions of pounds going to the NHS is more effective than newspaper articles saying this is not true. A politician, loudly and confidently stating what he is thinking, no matter how insensitive and horrifying, is more powerful and rewarding than someone else calmly observing the situation and stating the case of the opposite.

This is why governments and authorities speak a lot about change and vision, but in reality, especially in the attempt to seek re-election or to keep the people on their side, resort to more immediate and emotional responses to problems that arise. It’s all about the short-term, and how to preserve their existence during this time period.

This can be traced back to the history we have been taught in school. We were told that 1945 is where the modern world begins. Following two World Wars, we said ‘Never Again’. The United Nations is established and all is jolly good. This has always been the ultimate simplification. Maybe it is what most of us wanted to hear as a way to move on, but in reality, wars and atrocities never ended.

1946 birthed the first sign of the Cold War, with the USA and the Soviet Union on the brink of war over Iran. The establishment of the state of Israel, a safe haven for Jews following their horrifying near-extinction, brought upon the ongoing persecution of the Palestinians. The Korea War was around the corner, along with the Greek civil war. Vietnam was boiling. West vs. East. Right or the Left. Democracy and Communism. Us versus them. Establishing an opposite to maintain a superior ground. The means justify the end, no matter what it takes…

gaza-protester

It does not take much to get lost in the countless articles detailing the amount of wars and death this has resulted in since the Second World War. Both the USA and The Soviet Union, now Russia, continue to install bases of influence around the world in order to keep their narrative going. Oppression somehow still continues on, no matter how much freedom to the people they are offering.

From the age of 6, I grew up in Northern Cyprus, on an island so small, its division is still relatively unknown to the outsider. During my childhood and early teens, we were pumped with propaganda, both by the state and the ‘motherland’ of Turkey. We were the good guys, always struggling for existence, whilst the enemy now to the south, were the barbarians, always on the look out for blood. Lucky for me, I was able to widen my gaze to learn about differing perspectives, and the grey area in between the black and white. In war, there are no innocents. In an elongated struggle, the cause defies morality.

People are very easily duped in to the idea of waging an ‘honourable’ war. It’s so easy to look at a group of refugees and say ‘let them drown’, or not to care about yet another bomb going off in the Middle East. It’s scary how people get swept up in a nationalistic speech by a leader and suddenly forget, the homeless, the poor, the corruption, the oppression, caused by the same leader. As we all seek comfort, even for a second, we close our eyes and imagine the utopia that is promised us can be a reality. Most of us give in.

1051748_1_1130-Trump-May_standard

We can easily step by step follow the results of the 2003 Iraq War, a war that started based on non-evidence, to the present day:
– A ruined Iraq
– Thousands dead
– Civil war
– A ruined Syria
– Thousands dead
– Millions homeless
– The refugee crisis
– The rise and fall of ISIS
– Extremists bombings abroad
– Conservative politicians continuing a war rhetoric
– Liberals struggling to find a way through the hate
– EU Referendum/Brexit
– The Trump effect
– Far Right governments in Europe
– Less support for human rights, arts, culture and equality
– More emphasis on fear, racism and intolerance
– The further division of people within a country

With the rise of the extreme far-right and fascism now clear as ever, the narrative to conserve, to protect and to see an outsider as a threat is at the forefront. To see yourself as a superior being. To suddenly fear the end of the White Race. To look at a past life through the prism of nostalgia, and wish for its glorified return. Suddenly, racist businessman, hypocritical politicians, murdering dictators, affluent King’s and Queen’s, and all the greedy Excellencies, represent the people, or so they say. Newspapers word the headings to articles in such a way, that you start thinking Tommy Robinson is a hero of the people, and not a dangerous, violent criminal.

war peace

The impact of hate and wars fought due to carelessness and ignorance goes on for tens and hundreds of years. Generations are still traumatised by wars they were never in; for children and the grandchildren of the Holocaust survivors, and other atrocities since, it becomes inherited into their, and our very fabric. This may harden us and we shut down. For some, it offers an opportunity to keep a consistent higher morale ground to never let it happen again.

The struggle with short-term will continue on.

Images were sourced online, and can be removed upon request.

Cog Life

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30/07/2018 – Rarely do I write what I perceive to be poetry. This lil’ thing was hanging around in my notes for a while; on a fresh glance, it seemed kinda beautiful. I’ve been meaning to write a ‘meaningful’ blog post but procastination has been winning the battle. So, until brewing is complete, this will have to suffice.

Looking down the barrel of life
What greets you, eh o’mighty?
Everlasting grace; never-ending smite,
or something not yet bespoken?

Who are we to crave, to utter a single word?
Look down, mind your business – move along.
Yet, here we are, in need of need,
yet has it even befallen?

Judge me no more, let me be
or set me back to naught
Disappear I will, to the eternal never-after,
and shan’t lust till called.

Who are we to crave, to think a thought or two
Look down, mind your business – go your way.
Yet, here we are, in need of soul,
yet, will we ever be…

awoken.

MY TOP-10 OF 2017

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16/12/2017 – A strong quality of mainstream, independent and auteur works made 2017 a great year for film and television! As I spent a lot of time in the cinema, as well as consuming an unhealthy amount of television, I decided to put together my Top-10 of 2017 that contains both visual mediums. Looking through my choices below, it puts a smile on my face to see a common theme that binds many: Gender/race representation and masculinity.

First of all, my list of Runners up in no particular order:

shapewater

  • The Shape of Water: A magical and surprisingly adult fairytale, that is touching, gory, sexy and scary all at the same time!
  • The Wound: A coming-of-age story from rural South Africa that speaks a lot about the traditionalist community, sexuality and the frustration that seeps from within.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: The best comedy of the year and also one of the best from the superhero genre in a long while.
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Pure original in the way it depicts the darkness within each individual and the wider society. Riveting.

menashe

  • Menashe: A humble, sweet and emotional tale of a father and son in a small hasidic community, that in a way, functions as a docu-drama.
  • The Venerable W: A horrifying insight into the world of hate preaching that has caused thousands to flee their lands in Myanmar.
  • Nathan for You Season 4: There is nothing like it on television right now, and it’s a must watch for anyone that loves strange and awkward humour. It also has one of the most surprising last episodes of any series, ever.

Before the best, I have to mention the most two disappointments: Sadly, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. 20 minutes of good scenes amongst 2 hours of absolute average TV episode filler was not what I expected at all. The worst of the year for me was Brawl in Cell Block 99. The most overrated film by far, it felt like watching an unfinished cut. An utter bore with no pace, no conflict and worst of all, it used the excuse of being an ode to exploitation films by just being utter lazy in its execution. 

With that out the way, time for my Top 10!

fantasticwoman

10- A Fantastic Woman: I would ideally remove the two superfluous fantasy sequences, but otherwise, it’s unique and daring. It has such a powerhouse performance by trans actress Daniela Vega, that it remains magnifying from beginning to end.

9- Strong Island: A devastating and heart breaking documentary that analyses the death of the brother of the director. One of the many films on my list that deals with the racial divide and racism in the USA.

8- Makala: The human endurance is at the heart of this documentary set in Congo. So simple in its premise, it’s that simplicity that makes it utterly powerful.

7- Get Out: This film took me by surprise. It showed with such ease that you can be a mainstream release that’s funny and scary, but also deal with racism in a totally original way!

6- Call Me By Your Name: Despite lacking the depth of God’s Own Country, and disappointing in its exposition-filled finale, the film masterfully hits the emotional heights and dramatic cues. It’s brave and honest. The acting of Timothée Chalamet is out of this world.

5- Blade Runner 2049: It’s a miracle that a sequel to Blade Runner can be this good. There are some lazy storytelling shortcuts during its running time, but who cares when the visuals, the sound, the music and the atmosphere is this hypnotising. A rare case of a sequel living up to the original.

godsowncountry

4- God’s Own Country: Another great example of gay romance that really has hit its stride this year. Clearly the best love story of the year. It feels real and it earns it.

3- Better Call Saul Season 3: The best television series out now, and at its best this season. There are so many iconic sequences that play out with no dialogue, the tension at times can be unbearable and the drama is heightened to its maximum. Who would have thought it could go head to head, and even excel the quality shown by Breaking Bad?

2- The Florida Project : No question or doubt, it’s the best film of the year. Out of all the films on this list, it’s the one that stuck with me the most and the one I would in a heartbeat go and watch again. It’s been a long time since I’ve witnessed childhood innocence portrayed with such nuance and such joy. The ending is also something special.

1- The Vietnam War: The 10 part series about this particular war is not only a detailed analysis of the American struggle, but an examination of humanity over the course of history and a look at the mistakes we make repeatedly. Despite the heavy subject matter, it was exhilarating on another level. The biggest praise I can give this series, is that it made me understand America and what makes it tick.

vietnamwar

Whitewashing 101

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04/04/2017 – Until yesterday, it hadn’t crossed my mind that I would be writing about whitewashing. After a prod from a friend on Facebook, I realised how frustrated and desperate I was to talk to someone about this. The internet is noise pollution – bigotry and ignorance run amok. It can be really tough to hear your own thoughts and conscience most of the time. Which is where the danger lies.

The topic of whitewashing fits into the ongoing discourse on equality and ethics. But let’s keep it simple by using a Q&A structure. This is the only way I can get my thoughts across and make them as easy to comprehend as possible. As my interest is in film and cinema, I’m going to focus on whitewashing in this art form, but this can be seen in many other situations or industries as well.

QUESTION: What is the line between whitewashing and fiction? If fiction is imaginary, can’t we imagine a white person in any role?

We can.

QUESTION: So if we can imagine, why can’t we actually portray them on the big screen without being white shamed?

You can, but you shouldn’t.

QUESTION: Why not?

The cinema industry and our focus point, Hollywood, is built on pumping out expensive productions. It’s a business. It’s all about money. There are directors, writers and actors that work within this system that do care about art as a form but – this is a huge but – they are still working within the system and therefore, shape the way we think. Once you have the power to shape people’s minds, thoughts, imagination and social conscience, you automatically have the responsibility to be ‘responsible’.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

Let me elaborate. For years, races and nationalities of all kind have been part of Hollywood productions. Focusing on acting, we’ve seen everyone on the big screen, all colours, all religions, and all accents. How many of them have been the heroes though? To date, the Hollywood system that is all about churning out glorious and escapist entertainment, has utilised non-whites as cannon fodder and stereotypical shortcuts to further profit. They have the ability to promote their films on all media forms, therefore entering our lives on a daily basis. Once you have this amount of power, you have an ethical duty to yourself and to the people of the world to ensure a somewhat balance between what is on offer.

QUESTION: What balance is this you talk about?

Well, let’s start from the mainly white people we see on our screens. They kill the bad guys (usually non-white), save the world (mostly from non-whites), and get the girl (probably much younger than her saviour). This sends out a certain message to our synapses and psyche, that this is ‘right’ and ‘how things should be’. Imagine being subjected to this for over 100 years. It becomes the norm, we unconsciously accept it as normal.

It’s the same thing when females aren’t offered the same level of work as men or why we have stereotypical comic relief roles for certain nationalities with ‘funny’ accents. The more you are subjected, your perception of how the world operates shifts as well.

QUESTION: Okay, but they are pushing this agenda too much, to the extent that it’s everywhere. You can’t just make every famous character a female or every action hero an Asian.

You can.

QUESTION: You can’t! Can you?

Of course you can! We are all human beings, with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. Our main concern in life, for the majority of us, is to get a job, get married, have kids and ignore our mortality for as long as possible.

If we’ve had years and years of dominance of white characters, why can’t we now have the opposite? How else are we going to achieve equality if we don’t understand or emphasise with how much the other half has been oppressed, and removed from the ‘norm’? Of course the media will write controversial articles about white-shaming. They have also been under the illusion of Hollywood and mass media. We fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. In a world where we scroll easily past mass murder stories in Syria and Iraq, it’s no surprise that we get agitated when ethics and morality gets thrown in our face. We feel guilty. Our sense of truth is being questioned. The natural instinct is to fight back with what we know and believe in.

ghost-in-the-shell

The norm versus the other

To promote and fight the allegations of whitewashing prior to the release of the US remake of ‘Ghost in the Shell’, there were street interviews with the Japanese public in Japan. They were shown footage of Scarlett Johansson kicking arse, and then asked if they believe she was a good choice.

QUESTION: Did they see it as whitewashing?

Nope. They actually liked her.

QUESTION: Then, what’s the big deal? If they can state this for an original Japanese production, why can’t we cast an American actress?

Remember how I mentioned that seeing white people (mainly men) on our screens, shapes the way we think and affects the way we perceive reality? Hollywood is a global phenomenon – it doesn’t only affect the US but has global implications. Its world view therefore is the aforementioned norm, we unconsciously accept it as normal.

So how can we expect the public of Japan to make an independent choice, without complying with years of external stimuli?

We can’t.

QUESTION: So… what then?

ANSWER: The only way to counter-balance years of work by a huge money-churning industry, is to start doing the opposite, to start demanding the opposite, and to start asking for more of the ‘other’. The ‘other’ being everything but the ‘norm’.

what if?

what if?

More opportunities have to be given to other nationalities, races, religions, and they should be our heroes and love interests. Females can also save the day and choose who they want to end up with. Yes, Scarlet Johansson is a great actress and she can pull off this role. But many other Asian actresses can as well! The same goes for Finn Jones and Iron Fist. Why not cast a non-white actor, and be part of change, a change that will play a small but important role in hopefully one day providing equal opportunities to everyone?

So, when you have the urge to complain ‘that’s white-shaming’ upon reading another media story about casting an Asian actor, stop and take a deep breath.

Ask yourself, ‘why not?’

The 11 year old mature me

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30/09/16 – When I was 11, I remember receiving the best compliment a young boy could get. When this boy, who was extra thin, wore glasses and had braces on his teeth, heard this compliment, he knew he was doing something right. He automatically became better than any of the other boys of the neighbourhood. Different than any of the other boys from any other school. The compliment was simply this: “You are mature, unlike the others”. Coming from someone I liked (liked in that special way a boy likes a girl way out of his league), this meant the world!

Prior to that, while I was still in primary school, all my classmates wanted to be older, drive a car, ride a motorbike. But I clearly remember my preference of not to. Life was perfect, I was happy. I’m a kid. I won’t get these years back. Why change it? Mature thinking, right?

Then came the early 20’s. I was sure of my mature self, of my clearly defined character and of my ‘all-understanding’ personality. So it’s interesting that during my 20’s, I changed the most. I don’t mean one slowly evolving character change. I mean multiple variations over the course of 10 years, where I kept on thinking I’ve reached the ‘definite’ me. I’ve told friends “I now know who I am” on multiple occasions. What I haven’t apparently learned is that surprises are always around the corner and those surprises usually suck big time. Unexpected events shock your core and zap you back into perspective of how little you know yourself.

I guess being an adult and all, it’s normal at this stage for these changes to increase. You now have responsibilities, the future becomes unavoidable and the sway of the reproductive organ gains the power to temporarily blind you, and common sense simply takes unpaid leave. At age 30, the questions have now changed to “will I know myself?” and “Is there a definite me, and if so, when is it going to show up?”. To ramp up the philosophical debate, “Is there a need for a ‘definite’ self?”. Can’t we, constantly renew ourselves, adapting to each scenario, keeping it fresh as they say, living life one experience at a time?

Personally, I love a structure. I love a well-planned life style. I cherish being part of a team. I adore a duo working in unison with each other. As I analyse this defined structure which also defined me, I once again found myself at this seemingly-inevitable loop of change. Like an innocent, unwanted new born baby, I was at a doorstep of a stranger and scared of who was on the other side.

“Knock knock”
“Who’s there”
“Waaaaaaaaaaaa”
“Fuck…”

Lately, I’ve had the chance to think, a lot. Analysing and over-analysing structure and deconstructing the notion of ‘self’. Reading a book like ‘The Dice Man’ perfectly encapsulates the sad dilemma of how to live a life without soul-crushing structure. It makes me realise, as human beings, how fragile we actually are. And somehow, I ended up thinking about that compliment I received at age 11. “You are mature, unlike the others”. Was that the only time I was really, truly, mature? Who was I?

maturity