Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

The Hawk Eye interviewed Fairfield native Cameron Mullenneaux on her Emmy nomination, competing against news giants ABC and CBS

September 18, 2018

The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, honoring the best and brightest in the world of television, was held Monday night at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. The 39th Annual News and Documentary Emmy® Awards will be held Monday, October 1, in a ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in the Time Warner Complex at Columbus Circle in New York City. The event will be attended by more than 1,000 television and news media industry executives, news and documentary producers and journalists. It will be webcast live at 7:30pm ET on emmyonline.tv.

A short film directed and produced by Fairfield native Cameron Mullenneaux will be in the running. Condé Nast Inc. funded “Angelique” for Glamour Magazine, posted it online last November, and submitted it to The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) for an Outstanding Feature Story in a Newsmagazine. Angelique’s story, the adversities she had to overcome, and the way Cameron captured it is truly inspirational. The film will be competing against ABC’s 20/20 and CBS’s 60 Minutes!!

Bob Saar interviewed Cameron on her nomination and filed this report for The Hawk Eye’s Sunday edition: Fairfield native pitted against CBS, ABC.

The entertainment business is rarely looked upon by Americans as “business” because they’re attracted to the Hollywood glamour and gossip.

You might hear some guy say, “Those guys are artists, not businessmen.”

Two problems here: They aren’t all guys, guys. And those who succeed are, indeed, business-men or -women.

Southeast Iowa filmmaker Cameron Mullenneaux is an artist and businesswoman, and this week, she’s in New York at the Emmy awards. Director-producer Mullenneaux is up for an Emmy against giants ABC and CBS — and their big guns Diane Sawyer and Leslie Stahl.

Cameron Mulleanneaux

Cameron Mullenneaux, producer/director of “Angelique”, is competing against news giants ABC’s 20/20 and CBS’s 60 Minutes for an Emmy for Outstanding Feature Story in a Newsmagazine.

Mullenneaux, formerly Bargerstock — she married in June — is a Fairfield native, the daughter of Betty and Andy Bargerstock, a professor at Maharishi University of Management. Mullenneaux, who now lives in California, wrote, produced and directed “Angelique,” a film about a straight-A homeless high school student in Asheville, North Carolina.

“I was looking for a bright, creative, and resilient young person who didn’t let their difficult life circumstances hold them back from pursuing their dreams,” Mullenneaux said. “I met her through Asheville High School social worker Pam Pauly.”

Mullenneaux attended Maharishi School and graduated Warren Wilson College before earning an MFA in Documentary Filmmaking at Wake Forest University.

Here’s a brief synopsis distilled from a description submitted by Condé Nast to the Television Academy: ‘Angelique’ is a short documentary following the life of a homeless high school girl who battles the odds to stay in school, get good grades, and go to college despite the challenges of living with a mother who suffers from bipolar disorder and an absentee father.

Writing, literature, life and love intersect in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

August 17, 2018

I saw The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) on Netflix, based on the #1 best-selling book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It’s a period piece that takes place shortly after WWII. The war’s emotional aftermath still weighs heavily on the lives of these isolated islanders. Juliet Ashton, a London journalist and author, visits this small book club to explore the idea of an article about how they survived the war, and forms an unexpected bond with them. Writing, literature, life and love intersect in surprising ways. 

These lines from the trailer resonated deeply. “Do you suppose it’s possible for us to already belong to someone before we’ve met them? I feel keenly how the arc of her life has changed the arc of mine forever. If books do have the power to bring people together, this one may work its magic.” It did, as does the film.

shares some revealing research on the writing of the book and the making of the movie in her review for the Los Angeles Times. Definitely worth reading and watching.

You might enjoy some of my other favorite romantic films, including this 2009 Korea-China co-production, A Good Rain Knows when to come, (a.k.a. Season of Good Rain). See The spring rains renew life and the promise of love in this film inspired by the poetry of Du Fu. Most of these films reveal the power of love to transform individuals challenged by some kind of adversity.

The spring rains renew life and the promise of love in this film inspired by the poetry of Du Fu

August 17, 2018

The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.

I appreciate believable romantic movies. For some reason this one deeply moved me. I’ve watched A Good Rain Knows (when to come) (2009) several times. Also titled, Season of Good Rain, the film’s theme was inspired by a poem from Du Fu (Tu Fu). Love, like the right season, can come around again and potentially renew one’s life.

HUR Jin-ho directs this Korean-Chinese co-production. The love story stars South Korean actor Jung Woo-sung (Dong-ha) and Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan (Mei).

Season of Good Rain (A Good Rain Knows)

Synopsis: Timely like the spring rain, so has he come back into my life… Dong-ha is a thirty-something Korean man on a business trip to Chengdu, China where his company is carrying out construction projects to rebuild the city after the earthquake of 2008. There, totally by chance, he meets an old friend from his school days in the U.S.. Mei (May) is originally from Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province. She returned home after graduation and now works as a tour guide. Dong-ha and Mei were perhaps more than friends and had feelings for each other back then, but they parted ways before they had a chance to define or declare them. Now that their paths have crossed again, they find the old feelings remained, and new ones are forming that may resemble love.

This Du Fu poem inspired the film: Welcome Rain on a Spring Night.

The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.
It follows the wind secretly into the night,
And moistens all things softly, without sound.
On the country road, the clouds are all black,
On a riverboat, a single fire bright.
At dawn one sees this place now red and wet,
The flowers are heavy in the brocade city.

The brocade city is Chengdu, in south-west China, where the story takes place. The park where Mei works contains a statue of Du Fu and a replica of the hut that he lived in, along with the kind of flowering trees he had planted. Dong-ha was also a poet, but got caught up in his work instead. He is later seen reading a poem by Du Fu titled, A Spring View.

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
…After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
…I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

The subject matter about the destruction of war from the past resonates with the physical and emotional losses in the city after a recent earthquake. Mei’s life was also affected, as we find out later in the film.

This romantic film carries feelings of loss and longing, uncertainty and hopeful renewal brought about symbolically by the spring rains arriving in time. The theme song, with scenes from the film in the trailer, emotionally conveys those feelings: A Good Rain Knows When to Come – Falling Down / Song by Sungbin Cho / Sondtrack by Jaejin Lee.

The rain and silence in the song, like the ones described in the poems, seem to carry a mystical quality about them, similar to the mysterious ways of love. The English translation leaves the listener wondering if there will be a more committed reunion. Here it is sung in English: Falling down – (A good rain knows when to come).

Maybe sometime
It could be here again.
Trying to find out.
We don’t know yet.

Maybe it’s something
To make us come around.
The rain will be something
To let me calm down.

There is silence
Flowing around me
In the air
When you approach.

Maybe it’s something
To make you turn around
The raining is something
Just holding me now.

(Musical bridge)

I know that you wonder
Where we stay around.
Maybe I found you
Always here in my mind.

It’s falling around me
I’m feeling like lost in time.
I’m waiting behind you.
Just don’t let me down.

You’re running away now.
You’re sinking in flowing time.
The raining reminds me of your smile.
Don’t bring me down.

This love song, sensitively and beautifully performed, captures the uncertainty of their situation after meeting again years later by chance. The attraction between them is still there, but it never had a chance to develop into a serious relationship. Will it now? The song plays at the end of the film and as the credits roll.

Two different endings?

For some reason the ending seems slightly different in this version, which has better picture and sound quality on YouTube. At this last moment of the film, we see Dong-ha pacing back and forth, hoping that Mei will come out of the park entrance, but she doesn’t appear. It leaves the viewer hoping and waiting, with him. Did he return after much soul-searching ready to commit to her? Was she ready to commit to him? Will he wait in vain?

In this similar version, with English subtitles, at that last scene, as he turns away, we see someone pushing a yellow bicycle with a basket out of the park entrance, but can’t quite make out if it’s Mei as it cuts to black and the credits roll. Maybe they did that to keep us in suspense. You get the feeling they will see each other, but we’re left to wonder what will happen next.

The reason why I think it’s Mei is because he had mailed a bicycle to her as a gift. She had sold the first one he had given her when they were students, since she didn’t ride a bike. When they meet again, and it comes up in conversation, he gets upset. Now, at the end of the film, her co-workers assemble the new yellow bike with basket. We see her awkwardly riding it at first, then with more confidence, and finally smiling with the wind blowing in her hair. Fade to black, then wait for who I think might be her. I found another copy on YouTube where you see clearly the same bike and someone like her. Click on this 3-second clip to see for yourself.

For some reason it was left out in the other version. Maybe they decided to make it purposefully ambiguous to keep viewers guessing? Or it might have something to do with which version was shown in which country — Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, or elsewhere. If you watch the film with both endings, post a comment; I’d like to know your take on it. Assuming those links will still be active. Here’s a BluRay 720p version.

Updated footnote: I emailed an American film critic living in South Korea about the two different endings. He had reviewed this film. When I pointed out the different endings he was surprised, and said “that was a very good eye catch on your part.”

He didn’t remember which version he had seen and wouldn’t have noticed or guessed that it was Mei with her bicycle. But he did give this surprising answer. “If I were to hazard a guess I would say the version without the woman and the bicycle is the original version and the one with the woman and the bicycle was added in for international release (or at least, the release in whichever market CHC operates in) for the sake of implying a happier ending. This is a fairly common practice with exported South Korean films from this time period.”

You might enjoy some of my other favorite romantic films. They reveal the transforming power of love triumphing over adversity through time. Here is a new one I share in this post: Writing, literature, life and love intersect in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Artist Ananda Kesler is featured in The Hawk Eye: Abstract art as meditation in action, by Bob Saar

July 11, 2018

Last week I received an invitation from Ananda Kesler to the official opening of her art exhibit, “Longing for Another Realm,” at the Art Center of Burlington. I passed it on to my friend Bob Saar who writes for The Hawk Eye, and introduced them via email.

Intrigued, Bob went to the Art Center to interview Ananda as she was putting up her paintings for the show. They shared a deep conversation and he wrote an amazing piece for the newspaper. Titled “Abstract art as meditation in action,” it made the cover of the WEEKEND Section C1, Thursday, July 5, 2018. Bob was kind enough to put it together in a PDF for us to share. I know the print is small, but if you can expand your page (command and shift +), the text will become easier to read.

The opening sentence really captures the essence of Ananda and her work. It is the essential message, the seed containing the whole tree: “Ananda Kesler pursues her art in search of the one realm within which all things are connected.”

Bob discovers Ananda’s eclectic upbringing, starting in Israel and immigrating with her family to Fairfield, Iowa when she was 12 years old. She told him about her education. Ananda attended MSAE, started college at MUM, then switched to U of I where she graduated with a BFA. She continued her studies in art and textiles at various art schools in California, Thailand, and Italy. Her work has been featured in many shows and articles.

Bob mentions the meditating Fairfield community and MUM and writes, “Her unconventional education — rooted in eastern philosophy, spirituality and metaphysics — led her to search for the intersection of form, beauty, and the mysteries of the esoteric and unknown. Her abstract paintings have been described as invoking feelings that have yet to emerge as language.”

I like how Bob set up the topic of control in life and in painting, and how Ananda’s approach is the opposite. This idea illuminates her practice. Towards the end of the article she explains: “I practice painting as a kind of meditation in action,” from which he derived the title for the article.

She then describes what the process does for her: “I let the process of mark-making take me on a journey into the unknown.” This next part surprised me: “The marks teach me patience, teach me self-forgiveness; they are a constant reminder of how to abdicate control.”

Enjoy this brilliantly written and insightful article.

Ananda Kesler THE July 2018

KBUR also interviewed Ananda Kesler. See Dive into Another Realm.

Ananda’s description of her process, and the difference between feelings expressed in art, which are pre-verbal, and words, remind me of an experience I had during an intuitive art class I had taken years ago in Vancouver, Canada. See ArtWords—poem about a creative awakening.

A related topic, on the difference between words and art, is played out in the movie, Words and Pictures. The story, set in a New England prep school, was actually shot at St. George’s School, an independent boarding and day university-preparatory school for boys in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a.k.a., Hollywood North. A poem, Who Are You?, is central to the film. I posted it, with the movie trailer, and a magical coincidence told by an English teacher from that school on a radio talk show I had heard while living there. See A poem in a movie inviting you to be who you are, to find out the connection, and what famous actor he meets while walking in the woods during a lunch break.

KYOU FOX 15.1 reports on MUM Film Class

February 15, 2018

Maharishi University of Management offers a program called the David Lynch MFA in Screenwriting…and for 10 days… 16 students from Maine to California …are staying in Fairfield with dreams of one day being able to share their writing with the world…

Watch a 2:43 minute news report by KYOU news anchor Chase Scheuer: KYOU FOX 15.1 News Story, Wednesday, 2/14/2018, MUM Film Class.

Watch an earlier report from KTVO’s Aish Menon on this program: New David Lynch MFA Screenwriting students use #TranscendentalMeditation to unfold creativity.

To find out more about MUM’s David Lynch MFA in Screenwriting, visit www.mum.edu/mfa-in-screenwriting.

New David Lynch MFA Screenwriting students use #TranscendentalMeditation to unfold creativity

February 11, 2018

KTVO’S Aish Menon reports for ABC 3 & CBS 3.2: MUM students use Transcendental Meditation in new screenwriting program

The hauntingly beautiful voice of Eva Cassidy

January 21, 2018

American singer Eva Cassidy

Have you ever heard of Eva Cassidy, or heard her sing? Eva Marie Cassidy (February 2, 1963 – November 2, 1996) was an unpretentious humble girl from small town Bowie, Maryland. She worked hard with her mother in their nursery growing flowers and plants. But Eva also sang. She had the voice of an angel, and delivered songs with purity, passion, and power. She accompanied herself on guitar, and also sang with a band. She would immerse herself in the words, she “connected to the lyric” and lived the songs. Her voice communicated directly to the hearts of her listeners. Rarely was there a dry eye in the place.

In the film Eva Cassidy: Timeless Voice, Carrie Grant, a British vocal coach who worked with top recording artists in the UK and US, was amazed when she heard Eva’s voice. After listening to Over The Rainbow, she said, “I cannot imagine what Eva Cassidy was thinking of when she chose to make it sound the way it does. But it’s just genius!” She describes how she redefines the song in unexpected ways, “yet for some reason it just works.” She also explained the effect that Eva’s voice had on listeners. “She sounds like she’s singing just to you. And that is what makes it so intimate. And that becomes even more profound once you know she’s no longer alive. Because it’s haunting. And it’s personal.”

Eva sang the songs that she liked, regardless of genres, which is why record companies would not sign her during the days of manufactured music. They couldn’t slot her into a specific category. She sang blues, jazz, gospel, folk, old standards, and more. At first she was extremely shy, didn’t care for stage presence or how she dressed. With the help of local musicians she performed at Blues Alley, a local jazz spot in Georgetown, Maryland. One of her shows was later recorded. She sold two locally produced CDs out of the trunk of her car.

We might wonder how her singing was recorded in the first place when no company would sign her. One comment on Ain’t No Sunshine explained that the world owes Chris Biondo a debt of gratitude. Chris worked as a bassist, guitarist, keyboardist, recording engineer, and producer. He owned a studio in the 80s and 90s, and Eva would come in for session work. He recognized her ability, and said he “would just roll tape and stay out of her way.” At one point they were romantically involved. Chris “was the one who recognized her transcendent, ageless genius.”

In 1986 Chris began recording the then-unknown singer Eva Cassidy. For the next ten years he worked with Eva to develop her as a recording artist, producing most of her recordings available today. In the years since Eva’s death in 1996, her recordings have sold more than 10 million copies and achieved international renown, including three albums that reached number one in the UK charts. Chris has received numerous Gold and Platinum records in the U.S. and internationally for his work with Eva.

Bill Straw of Blix Street Records signed her up and continues to release and reissue her music, like the 20th anniversary of the new 32 track/2CD Nightbird album, The Best Of Eva Cassidy, Simply Eva, and eight other collections listed there that you can sample.

Her performances of Over The Rainbow, What A Wonderful World, Songbird, Falling Leaves, Time After Time, Sting’s Fields of Gold, and more are legendary, many recorded live in a club. Sting himself was blown away when he heard her rendition of his song. He put a copy of her Songbird CD into record producer David Foster’s hands who quoted him saying, “‘If you want to hear the greatest version of my song ever’—he didn’t say it in an egotistical way—he said, ‘listen to Fields Of Gold with this girl, it’ll change your life.’ And her voice is life-changing, she’s that spiritual.”  I love that song and remember hearing it on an airplane’s music channel during a flight. It was astounding! I had to find out who this singer was.

A relatively unknown singer in America at the time, somehow her music made its way across the Atlantic. From the first time Sir Terry Wogan, a BBC radio broadcaster, listened to Eva sing, he knew “she was an outstanding talent.” He said, “It was pure sound. A bell-like voice. She had this perfect pitch.” He couldn’t wait to play it on the radio. His was the most listened to program in the country at the time. It created a huge response from many of their seven million listeners wanting to know who she was. Unfortunately she had died two years earlier of cancer at the young age of 33.

When Mark Hagon, a Top of the Pops BBC (TOTP2) producer at the time, agreed to play that homemade video of Eva Cassidy singing Over The Rainbow, people kept calling in for weeks wanting to know her name. The listening public created a demand for her music. It was a groundswell! Sales of her CDs went from a hundred thousand to over a million in the UK. “Radio broke it. Television exploded it.”

At one point five of her CDs became top sellers at the same time, a feat usually held by the Beatles and Rolling Stones. She was then discovered back home in the USA. ABC Nightline in Washington, DC  researched and produced The Eva Cassidy Story (18:40). It was shown in many countries around the world and within a week of it airing her CDs went to the top of the local charts.

In Timeless Voice, Terry Wogan concluded, “You’d have to say about Eva Cassidy that her talent was pretty timeless. The voice has a quality of timelessness about it. Anytime you would hear it, whether it was thirty years ago, or thirty years from now, it’ll still be worth listening to, and still strike a responsive chord in most people’s hearts.” Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac who knew Eva said, “She was brilliant. She had the magic. And I call it, It. She had It!”

You can listen to her music on the YouTube Eva Cassidy channel. A book about her was written (Sept 29, 2003) by Rob Burley and Jonathan Maitland called, Eva Cassidy: Songbird: Her Story by Those Who Knew Her. Another book, Eva Cassidy Behind the Rainbow, was written (February 1, 2012) by art critic and music lover Johan Bakker.

Watch The Eva Cassidy Story on ABC Nightline (18:40).

Watch the documentary film: Eva Cassidy: Timeless Voice (58:06).

Watch the trailer to Eva Cassidy: Timeless Voice, before/after the film.

The film Arrival asks: If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?

March 12, 2017

The main question posed in the 2016 sci fi film Arrival is, If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?

Arrival (2106)

When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) recruits Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a renowned linguist, and Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, to try and communicate with the Aliens and find out why they have landed on Earth. Dr. Banks races against time to decipher their intent. As tensions mount between fearful governments, she discovers the Aliens’ true purpose and, to avert global war, takes a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity. This mesmerizing masterpiece has a mind-blowing ending that will leave you wondering what happened and how.

That’s the external story, but the essential message of this movie is more internal. It’s about love, determinism and choice.

Based on the award-winning science fiction novella, Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang, it was convincingly transformed into a screenplay by Eric Heisserrer. Having read the book and been moved by it, director Denis Villeneuve wondered how it could be turned into a science fiction film, a genre he had been thinking about for years. When he received the script he decided he finally had to make this film, but with Amy Adams in the lead as Dr. Louise Banks. Even though she was taking a break from filmmaking, after reading the script, she was in. Everyone involved with making the film read the book and loved the story.

In the opening scenes we learn that Professor Louise Banks is losing her daughter Hannah to a rare disease. As a child, Hannah asks her mother how she chose her name. Louise tells her she has a special name, because it is a palindrome. It’s spelled and read the same way, forwards and backwards.

This is a clue that may help you make sense of certain events in the film that appear as flashbacks. Or are they flashforwards? Yet, in retrospect, it’s not the beginnings and endings that are important to Louise, but how she lived her life, the choice she made to love, regardless of the outcome.

Watching this movie was a right-brain experience; it’s non-linear. Dr. Banks goes through changes as she learns the Alien language. Their images communicate ideas in circles without reference to tense or time. Comprehending their language transforms Louise’s brain. She begins to experience the events in her life from a less sequential, more holistic perspective.

This is reality parsed and put together from a female perspective. She is the only one who can save the situation when she finally understands why the Aliens are here. The other challenge now is communicating it to a male-dominated world intent on destroying itself. This Chinese quote is another important clue: “In war there are no winners, only widows.”

Towards the end of the film, having collaborated with and seen how brilliant, brave, and compassionate Louise has been throughout their encounter with the Aliens, and the Army, Ian realizes he’s fallen in love with her. As much as he was amazed by his encounters with the Aliens, his “greatest surprise” he tells her, “is you.”

To love is human. It takes us out of our time, because Love Is Eternal. It always Is. We participate in It. If we are lucky enough. I wrote this as a comment to my son who purchased the film and sent me the link. I couldn’t help turning it into a tanka.

After watching “Arrival” (2016)

To love is human
It takes us out of our time
Love Is Eternal

We participate in It
If we are lucky enough

© Ken Chawkin
Mon Apr 6, 2017
Fairfield, Iowa

You should see this film twice to better understand and appreciate it. Below is the trailer, followed by the Featurette on the DVD Extras.

This DVD Featurette gives you a perspective of what went into the making of the film: Arrival (2016) | Behind the Scenes | Understanding Arrival | Full Extras | Full HD.

Better to see the film first before seeing these explanations. Nick Statt wrote a great article for The Verge on living with the power of choice: How the short story that inspired Arrival helps us interpret the film’s major twist. ScreenPrism offers an intelligent explanation of the ending of this film. And ChewingSand shares good insights in this video: Why ARRIVAL is Great Sci-Fi. There are more explanations on YouTube.

See a fun, informative post-screening SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview: Conversations with Amy Adams and Denis Villeneuve of ARRIVAL.

Links to the beautiful Arrival Soundtrack – On The Nature Of Daylight by Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson – Heptapod B [From “Arrival” Soundtrack / Pseudo Video].

Wikipedia gives a comprehensive review/explanation of the film, which might include some spoilers if you haven’t already seen it yet.

Also see these favorite romantic films of mine. They reveal the transformational power of love over time.

New study shows Transcendental Meditation reduces trauma symptoms in female prisoners

January 17, 2017

image

The first study to specifically focus on reducing stress in female prisoners has found that Transcendental Meditation significantly reduces trauma symptoms. Women have become the fastest growing prison population in the U.S., and research shows they suffer from higher rates of mental and emotional trauma, and higher rates of sexual abuse than men. This randomized controlled trial, published in The Permanente Journal, follows a recent study on reduced trauma in male inmates through Transcendental Meditation.

Significant reduction in trauma

The results showed that after four months of practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique, the women inmates in the meditation group had significant reductions in total trauma symptoms, including intrusive thoughts and hyperarousal compared with controls. Trauma symptoms were measured using the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian (PCL-C).

‘This study is a valuable addition to the research literature in women’s mental health, showing a natural and effortless alternative approach to reducing trauma symptoms,” said lead author Dr. Sanford Nidich, director of the Center for Social and Emotional Health at Maharishi University of Management. “It further replicates an earlier randomized controlled trial with Transcendental Meditation (TM) in male prison inmates suffering from high levels of trauma symptoms. Previous studies have shown reduced trauma in other populations, including veterans and African refugees with the TM program.”

Comments from the subjects

Those practicing Transcendental Meditation in their prison cells said they felt a lot better—less stressed, with a greater sense of inner freedom and resilience. Read some of the dramatic changes in their own words, and more details about this study in the press release.

The study was funded by the David Lynch Foundation.

Expanding preventive medicine to include mind-body approaches

In addition to the study on TM, the January 2017 issue of The Permanente Journal includes a companion editorial by Charles Elder, MD, MPH, FACP, titled, “Mind-Body Training for At-Risk Populations: Preventative Medicine at its Best.”

According to Charles Elder, MD, Kaiser Permanente, Northwest, “A principle advantage of the TM technique is a time-tested, standardized intervention protocol…. Once taught the Transcendental Meditation technique, an individual can use the skill for the duration of his or her life, as a stress management tool, providing ongoing benefits across a range of domains. In addition to helping the inmate cope with the stress of incarceration, there is a range of additional ‘side benefits,’ ranging from reduced recidivism to improved cardiovascular health.”

Related: See this recent study explaining how and why Transcendental Meditation is effortless, distinguishing it from other practices.

A baptism by fire: Why Paul Dalio’s debut as a filmmaker is Touched With Fire

July 25, 2016

TOUCHED WITH FIRE PosterPremiered last year at SXSW, with a theatrical run this spring, and now on DVD, Paul Dalio’s first full-length feature film, Touched With Fire, is a love story between two bipolar poets that reveals the relationship between illness and creativity.

Dalio was inspired by Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, which explores the link between great art and bipolar disorder. He read that many famous writers, poets, and artists suffered from this mania and may have produced their work because of it. Their genius was touched with fire.

This was a welcome relief for Paul who had become bipolar. He now saw himself no longer in clinical terms as a social outcast without a cure, but as a creative artist who was dealing with a neurological imbalance.

The most well known example of that heightened state was Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The painting is a kind of leitmotif throughout the film, even materializing as a literal hallucination by the main characters.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Reflecting on his own experience of being bipolar, Paul wanted people suffering with the illness, and those concerned with their health, to better understand what they are going through, that they are not necessarily crazy, perhaps gifted, and to help remove the stigma associated with the disease.

He compares the manic highs and depressive lows of the disease to the seasons. The film’s palatte of colors reflects the changing emotions within and between the main characters. Attempts to control these mood swings with drugs create deadening side effects, part of the conflict within their relationship.

In his Huffington Post blog, Touched With Fire, Paul asks: How much more receptive would a patient be to treatment if the patient was told that the treatment was to nurture a gift they had, instead of terminate a disease they had?

Director Dalio gave author/psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison a role in the film as herself, to explain how the right balance of medication can help rather than hinder a manic personality. Marco is concerned that the medications are stopping him from feeling any emotions, and is destroying his creativity. From her own experience, Kay shares with them how “medication can tamp the fire down a bit without losing that gift.” She tells him, with the right dosage, which takes time, she became even more productive than before becoming bipolar.

Cast and Crew

Paul Dalio wrote, directed, edited and scored Touched With Fire, his feature-film debut starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby, with other performances by Griffin Dunne, Christine Lahti and Bruce Altman.

Paul’s longtime friend, Jeremy Alter, produced the film, along with Kristina Nikolova, Paul’s wife and fellow student at the NYU Film School, who convinced him to make this semi-autobiographical film. Their teacher, Spike Lee, is the executive producer.

The brilliant acting in this passionately moving film is intensely engaging. Holmes (Carla) and Kirby (Marco) play two poets with bipolar disorder whose art is fueled by their emotional extremes. When they meet in a treatment facility, their chemistry is instant and intense driving each other’s mania to new heights. They pursue their passion, which breaks outside the bounds of sanity, swinging them from fantastical highs to tormented lows until they ultimately must choose between sanity and love. Watch the official trailer.

Comments from the Critics

The New York Times Critic’s Pick wrote: “Luke Kirby and Katie Holmes boldly meet the challenge of playing bright, high-strung artists. An extraordinarily sensitive, nonjudgmental exploration of bipolar disorder and creativity.” Read the Review: ‘Touched With Fire,’ a Love Story Between Two Bipolar Poets.

The Los Angeles Times said: Writer-director Dalio has firsthand experience with bipolar disorder, and his perspective sheds fresh light on the unique ways in which manic-depressive individuals experience love and creativity. Read the Review: Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby propel ‘Touched With Fire’ as it shines fresh light on bipolar disorder and creativity.

This is a powerful film! We witness their struggles from the inside out. More reviews are listed on the film’s website.

The Role of Poetry in the Film

In one of the interviews from the Special Features of the DVD, Paul Dalio talks about the value of poetry in his life, and for the main characters in the film. “It was only when I met my wife that my heart became more tender, and I actually started reading poetry, which I never did, and I started writing poetry.”

Paul describes the transforming power of poetry to heal and create beauty. He speaks from his own personal experience as someone who has dealt with the ups and downs of this disorder while trying to become a writer, composer, and filmmaker. The film is an amazing testament to his artistic achievement! See his bio under Cast & Crew for more details.

“Poetry at its best has the deepest expression of being in the worst hell, and having no choice but to bring some kind of aesthetic meaning to it, and some kind of beauty to it, just to even cope with it. (and) Only by being forced down there to such a hell are you forced to bring that much beauty to that hell, and in the process it becomes a healing. And so it was natural how it wove itself into the film, as these two characters use it to cope with their psychosis, and to deal with coming out of their situation.”

From my own experience, writing poetry does have the power to transform and heal. Another film where poetry is featured is in Words and Pictures, where a poem invites you to be who you are.

The Soundtrack to the Movie

Paul Dalio’s blog post includes both the song and lyrics to Starry Nights. Listen to the Touched With Fire Soundtrack Preview, followed by Starry Nights, the song at the end of the film during the credits, published by Lakeshore Records. Download the album on iTunes.

Interviews with the Director and Actors

Charlie Rose: ‘Touched With Fire’ (Feb. 4, 2016)  Director and writer Paul Dalio, actor Luke Kirby, and psychologist Kay Jamison discuss the movie “Touched with Fire” and the connections between bipolar disorder and creativity. (18:51) Paul does mention his use of medication and meditation, which he elaborates upon in this next video.

At a David Lynch Foundation-hosted screening of the film, Paul opened up about his own struggles with bipolar and how pivotal the practice of Transcendental Meditation has proved to be in living a happy, healthy, and creatively rich life. “TM is the difference between surviving with bipolar and thriving with bipolar. I never stopped meditating, without fail,” he says. “That’s when my doctor, Norman Rosenthal, witnessed the power of TM and was so blown away he decided to do a study on the effects of TM.” Paul was responsible for Dr. Rosenthal restarting his long-lapsed TM practice, which led to the publication of two best-selling books on the subject. Visit NORMAN ROSENTHAL, MD for details. See Thriving with Bipolar – A Conversation with Writer/Director Paul Dalio.

TODAY: Katie Holmes Discusses Role In ‘Intense’ Film ‘Touched With Fire’ (4:41)

The Washington Post: Filmmaker Paul Dalio mines his bipolar disorder for feature debut

HotSpot: TOUCHED WITH FIRE | Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Paul Dalio & Jeremy Alter Interview | February 8, 2016 (26:54)

Video of Marbling Art Animation of Starry Night and Van Gogh

Check out this amazing video on marbling art animation of Starry night and a Van Gogh self-portrait: Van Gogh on Dark Water Animation. The Turkish artist is Garip Ay, and the ancient technique of painting on water to marble paper is called Ebru.

The Unexpected Math Behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Physicist Werner Heisenberg said, “When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first.” As difficult as turbulence is to understand mathematically, we can use art to depict the way it looks. Natalya St. Clair illustrates how Van Gogh captured this deep mystery of movement, fluid and light in his work. Visit TED-Ed for more.


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