Archive for Interview

Brooklyn Socialite on Huffington Post-Bedstuy Meadow

Posted in film, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I hope you all have had the chance to check out my Huffpo post on the Bedstuy Meadow project. Here’s a little excerpt below and a link to rest of the post. Tonight I’m going to check out a doco on Al Franken at Stranger than Fiction. Report back to come, and I hope to see you all there!
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Last week I interviewed a Brit, Andy Lang, about his new film based in Cuba. I was thinking Global then, but this week’s interview is all about acting local. Saturday morning I woke up early and suited up in full-body rain-gear, then trudged through the downpour to my rendezvous point in Zone 4, which happened to be about 3 blocks from my apartment. I was feeling quite stealth and shrouded in mystery as I arrived at lab 24/7, a basement apartment, which doubles as an event space. There I met, for the first time, about 30 of my neighbors and was given a seed bag, a map and a small team to work with. Me and my new planting crew then spread out over Bedstuy to begin scattering wildflower seeds. There were 5 meet-up zones and 100 volunteers in total. We all found each other and signed on to the project after a new website sprung up, promoting the Bedstuy Meadow Project, created by one woman who envisioned it all, Deborah Fisher.

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Salmon Rushdie,Irshad Manji, Morality

Posted in People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite


At the 92 St Y, on Sunday night, I heard Irshad Manji, aka “Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare”, interview Salmon Rushdie, aka Padma Lakshmi’s womanizing ex-husband, aaka one of the greatest living writers. The subject of their chat was Moral Courage. In fact, it was the first conversation in a series started by Manji, which aims to tackle the subject of ethical fortitude from several different angles. Manji, a reformist Muslim, questioned Rushdie, an Indian born devout Atheist, about the effects of the Fatwa, which Ayatollah Khomeini passed against him after the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses.

At the time of the book’s release, Islamic fundamentalists took offense at his descriptions of the prophet Mohamed, and the circumstances of his life. The fatwa called for the death of Rushdie, and when it was issued there were serious attempts to assassinate him, initiated by the government of Iran. As a result of this it was dangerous for Rushdie to travel to the Middle East, imposing a form of exile upon the man, although he was already living in the west. The attacks and threats even spilled over into England and were also used to intimidate his publisher and other colleagues. Rushdie was educated in India, then England and has since lived in Pakistan and here in the United States

A lot of my friends don’t like the man. Rushdie although well-versed in upper-class charm, has often been called sexist and elitist for good reason. However, like that old Woody Allen, it’s too hard to hate him, no matter how much I try. He is a great writer. His brilliant way with words is matched by his lucid mind. It is a rare gift to possess the ability to craft such unique characters and give them appropriate language styles, distinguishing one from the next so effectively that the reader can really get lost in the dreamscape of the novel, without remembering to be cynical. Agreeing to judge the artist, above the man (no matter how much he reminds me of Bridshead Revisited), let us move on to what the Muslim-Canadian-Feminist-Lesbian said to the Indian/British/American- Sexist-Atheist-Booker Prize winning Writer…

Although you could sense a note of resistance between the two, there also seemed to be a significant amount of respect flowing both ways. They both oppose censorship and bemoaned the way that our society has slinked into an Orwellian dystopia. They spoke against the type of moral relativism and political-correctness, which dissuades people from speaking out against things like honor killings, stonings and female genital mutilation. Rushdie said that in the past 20 years people have become more afraid to speak out about things. However, he also called our contemporary culture, “a culture of offense.” He claimed that because of the explosion of identity politics, people now define themselves by what they’re angry about. “Who are you if you’re not pissed off by anything?” Rushdie said.

He seems to want it both ways, and maybe we all do. One should be able to shout at someone else for offending their cultural, religious or gender identity, expecting a degree of “tolerance” or political-correctness. Yet, people should not just accept and respect each other, because their practices fit under the veil of some sort of culture. Now this is tricky terrain. I think the main point is that we can disagree, and even vocalize this, but the danger comes when we back our views with violence, whichever side we’re on. But again, the danger, If the US violently intervenes, for instance, when the Taliban oppress and kill women, this is an example of not tolerating or succumbing to moral relativism. When they attack us as infidels, is it the same example reversed? It is as though they are saying, we are Right, so we can use might, they are wrong, and so they can’t. Maintaining a sense of moral superiority is nice, but somehow not an effective argument against others who believe they are also superior. For all his pretty words, I’m curious as to how Rushdie would respond to this, and for all of her moral courage, how would Manji? I welcome their responses.

L-Word’s Daniela Sea- Interview, Sanctuary

Posted in queer, tv with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

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This  is a picture of the back of Daniela Sea‘s head and of Jenifer Coolidge, trying to reel in a crowd of thirsty vegans at the Farm Sanctuary benefit. I know, it’s not a great photo, but Iphone pictures are generally quite lame. I’ll get press photos on Monday, but couldn’t wait to get this up. Sea was pretty calm and friendly in person, but somehow more guarded than I’d expected her to be. I don’t know why I expected otherwise, but when I first went up and said hi to her she was nice, pretty open seeming, then when I said I wanted to interview her, her energy seemed to immediately narrow. I guess that people kind of fear or disdain the press and our potentially distorted ways. So in an extra effort to stick to the facts, I will proceed.

First an exterior description: She was shorter in person, maybe about my height, but had the same transfixing fiery green/blue eyes. As I previously expressed, I got a little distracted there, with the eyes etc. She was kinda flopping around the room, talking to people, carrying a Tupperware container, and wearing gypsy style tuxedo pants and a simple men’s stripy button down shirt, over a wife beater. She was with a friend, who also seemed really nice. When we found our time to talk, off in a quiet corner, sitting on top of a counter of sorts, she explained to me that she needed to pack food, because she was catching a taxi-to a flight-to a train- to the North of England, in the next 20 minutes. I realized, I’d better talk fast.

TheBrooklynSocialite: When did you get involved with the Farm Sanctuary?

[Farm Sanctuary for those who don’t know, is a farm animal rescue organization. They have 2 farms, one outside of NYC and the other near LA. Their mission is: “To work to end cruelty to farm animals and promote compassionate living through rescue, education and advocacy. “]

Daniela Sea: I  got involved about a year ago. My dad and his boyfriend connected me, they said there were some people there that I should really meet. I’ve always had an interest in compassionate activism, so it was great to get involved and now I have some really good friends there.

TBS: Have you always been connected to animal rights?

DS: Yeah, I’m Vegan, I was just brought up that way, to care about animals and think about the food we eat.I have a lot of friends who aren’t vegan or vegetarian, but I’ve always found some really good connections  among people who are.

TBS[ I couldn’t contain my interest in her involvement in the L-Word for much longer, so I proceed to ask her about the show…]

DS: We just finished shooting the final season, and it was really great to be involved with it and be up there working on it. Now that it’s over I have more time to spend on my other projects. I’m working on a screenplay about the relationship between a father and a daughter, which is semi-autobiographical, and I play in 2 bands. I’m going to be going on tour with one of them, Thorns of Life , after i get back from visiting my brother in the North of England.

TBS: What’s he doing up there?

DS: He’s a cobbler, he chips away at stones, shaping them to fit into crevices that need to be restored in ancient cathedrals.

It sounded so romantic, and I half wished that I was going to take a flight that night. I wanted to tell her about my travels and how important I think it is that she portrayed one of the first semi-positive depictions of a trans-person on television. But, the chat got kind of cut short by a person with a camera, and a couple of transmen who are running for office in NYC. That seemed like a pretty great, and important conversation, so I willingly forfeited the floor,  and continued to try not to stare at her as I walked away.

Somehow it was easier to talk to Coolidge and Ally Sheedy, they both expressed their commitment to and support of the work that Farm Sanctuary does. Sheedy a long time vegan, and Coolidge a devoted animal lover, both seemed super-intelligent and quite warm. Visit the Sanctuary, hang out with their down to earth staff, many of whom I met that night, and of course chill with the animals!

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This committed lady, bought that painting in the auction to benefit Farm S.

Slate Honey weighs in on Prop 8 and “Transvestite” Media Bating

Posted in politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I give you Mr Honey… This is not me, Robyn, I am not a gender-queer Junkie-Ha ha, that’s my most earnest sarcastic disclaimer…now for slate:

A response to gay disclaimers:

I should make a disclaimer myself. I’m a gender-queer junkie. All things related to the gender-queer and trans community immediately grab my ears and eyes. It’s a rainy Thursday, I am grant-writing for my current film project (a film about Transy House—a house that’s been home to a self-made gender-queer family and has been open to homeless trans women for fifteen years). All of a sudden, I hear an ad for the Leonard Lopate show on WYNC, something akin to “One thing you may not know about celebrity chef Jaime Oliver… he likes transvestites.” The web page relating to the Leonard Lopate show has some questions asked of Oliver, the last of which is:

WNYC:What’s one thing you’re a fan of that people might not expect?
J.O.:I love art and graffiti, jazz music, and transvestites.

So, I go to the on-demand podcast to listen. Disappointing! The interview itself is twenty minutes of Lopate and Oliver discussing meats, vegetables and home gardening. Among the chatter about poisonous rhubarb and raising chickens, there is no sign that anyone is about to talk about anything transgender. So, why use as the draw in (on the radio ad and on the webpage) this question that was not asked in the radio interview? Is anyone going to explain what exactly that means, to be a fan of transvestites?If I were Leonard Lopate interviewing myself, Slate Honey, it would go like this:

L.L.: What’s more difficult to grapple? Hetero disclaimers that precede pro-gay rights advocacy, or using a random line about transvestites (that’s left totally unexplained) as a way to draw a listener in to an interview about poultry?
S.H.: Well, Leonard, I don’t believe it’s a contest. What isn’t problematic on the queer and trans civil rights frontier? These both reinforce an already solid conclusion I have: We better self-represent and stick up for ourselves in this world!

On that note, November 20th is Trans Remembrance Day. Something to keep in mind and heart and maybe to counter some tokenizing advertising.

-Slate Honey

And now for an extra note from me-Robyn- Gawker and The View also seem unable to stay away from this subject. Without giving too much credence to the finger pointing dehumanizing antics implicated here: A link

Ballast Article

Posted in film with tags , , , , , , on November 10, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Here is the full text of the article I wrote about Ballast, it includes quotes from the interview that I did with director Lance Hammer.

After 10 years of research, Lance Hammer shot a film in the Mississippi Delta, starring local African American non-actors. “Ballast is not so much about race, but about universal human suffering,” said Hammer. He encouraged the participants to use their own distinct vernacular and rather than hand them a script, he provided situations and encouraged them to improvise dialogue. This method has yielded a steely, classical, cinematic gem. Ballast is a starkly tragic play of emotions, which seems to take place in real time.

Few recent films have portrayed African American protagonists with as much complexity and integrity as Hammer’s first feature, Ballast. Set against the backdrop of the Delta’s desolate beauty, it tells the story of Marlee, a single mother, who struggles to support her 12 year old son James. He is lost in the chasm between childish devotion to his mother and manhood expressed through experimentation with crack, guns, and older boys. “Left to his own devices, there is a lot of pressure on James to grow up really quickly, and to have emotional maturity,” Hammer said. “It isn’t actually fair to expect this from a kid. James makes some innocent choices, a few of them turn out to be bad ones, but he’s just trying to make his way in this world.”

James’ already delicate balance is derailed by the suicide of his estranged father. He begins to know his dad posthumously through association with Lawrence, his father’s twin brother. The complications of inheritance catapult James, Marlee and Lawrence into a shared working and living situation. Forced intimacy requires the threesome to either mutually rebuild their fragmented lives or further destroy each other. Individually, they also continue to grapple with private sensations of loss and depression. “I chose extreme tragedy as the one window into the human experience that I would explore in this film,” Hammer said. “I wasn’t trying to imply that the Delta is a depressed place. On the contrary, the full chromatic spectrum exists in that region. There is so much joy there. You can think of it like the seasons, in the summer it is verdant and full of life, in the winter it is the opposite.”

Hammer decided to focus his lens on tragedy as a means of working through the depression that he was personally experiencing at the time. This process helped him to heal he said, “I will always make work that deals with mortality. That looming specter of death is very important to me, because only with an intimate understanding of mortality and suffering can we truly appreciate what joy is.” He continued, “I identify very strongly with Marlee. We share that rage and frustration at being powerless, as well as the persistence and strength of character to simply refuse to give up.”

The decision to build his tragic window around the narrative structure of a twin’s suicide was also a very personal one for Hammer. “Because my mother is an identical twin,” he said, “I understand that the kind of grief that one would feel over the death of their sibling is intense. My girlfriend told me a true story about an identical twin, who came home and discovered that his brother had committed suicide, without any prior indication of a desire to leave the world. That story really shook me.”

This scene is expressed in the film when Lawrence, distraught upon discovering his dead twin, shoots himself, leaving a blood stain on the wall. He does not die, and weeks pass before he can bring himself to remove the stain. The repetitive image of Lawrence’s bloodstained wall is characteristic of Ballast’s haunting, visceral cinematography. Another poignant scene depicts James overhearing a conversation about himself. The people speaking appear blurred in the background, while the focus is on James, half-listening. “This scene is a good example of my artistic vision,” Hammer said. “James is the subject of that conversation, and the fact that he is tuning it out is significant. I think it was Goddard who expressed that it is best to put the camera on the listener when you really want to show what’s happening in a scene.”

Ballast has been honored by multiple film festivals and Hammer is still surprised and delighted to have received such support for his ‘Delta project.’ “I haven’t gotten over the fact that Sundance even took it into their festival,” he said. “We are all very fortunate. The cast poured their emotional souls into this and it worked. Their commitment has earned them much deserved recognition, a kind of wealth that fills the void left by the very small financial reward that independent films like ours can provide.” Despite the lack of profit, Hammer has succeeded in distributing this gentle humanistic composition. Ballast typifies avant-garde cinema; it is daring and full of integrity.

by Robyn Hillman-Harrigan Brooklyn Socialite (!)

Trouble The Water Article Interview Tia Lessin and Carl Deal

Posted in film, Guide to What's Good with tags , , , , , , , on October 21, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Hello! My Trouble The Water article which features an interview that I did with the film’s directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal is now available on line here.

If you have yet to see the movie, please do. It is a very inspiring narrative documentary about a heroic, yet humanistic couple who survived Hurricane Katrina, while aiding their neighbors in the lower 9th ward. This in an excerpt…read more!

“So many people lost everything, their homes and families.” Lessin said. “It is not exactly the time that you expect people to rise above it all, but the truth is that Kim and Scott lived in a community that had failed them all of their lives. They were used to having to be the first response for problems that were occurring in their community. The government had long since abandoned the lower ninth ward. At least a quarter century of right wing attacks on social services set the groundwork for the poverty in their community. So many of the basic things that our country is supposed to look out for, safety, health, environmental and market regulations, civil rights, had all fallen by the wayside. This was the trajectory of their lives.”

Indeed, the scenes that show Kim riding through the neighborhood, pre-storm, affirm her status as caring community member. She knows the names and stories of each neighbor, shop owner, and even homeless junkie. Memorably, she warns one such man to take shelter. Later the film viewer finds out that he was one of the many who died after being unable to leave the city. However, Kim herself, also speaks about the hardships she has endured at various times in life, which have led her to take desperate measures, including selling drugs. Aiding their neighbors and emerging as true leaders, seems to have catalyzed a process of continued change for the Roberts.

According to Deal, “This film was about perspective as much as anything, by stepping outside of their everyday world, Kim and Scott were able to look back in and see themselves in an enhanced manner. They could understand the better parts of themselves and by seeing things in this affirmative light, multiply the positives in their lives. They were the same people they had always been, except more self-assured and hopeful.”

Jane Lynch Interview

Posted in film, Guide to What's Good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Yay! The interview that I did with Jane Lynch back at Providence International Film Festival is finally available online. Here’s an excerpt!

JANE LYNCH studied acting at Cornell University and then went on to act in comedy theater, TV, and film. Her role in The Fugitive introduced her to a wider audience, which led to appearances in major movies and TV sitcoms. However, Jane has remained committed to independent films and to playing lesbian roles whenever possible. She underscores this dedication through her work with Power-Up, a professional organization that “promotes the. visibility and integration of gay women in entertainment.” It was at a Power-Up conference that she first met L Word creator Ilene Chaiken, who asked her to join the cast.

Jane is known for the intelligence that shines through her comedy roles and has recently been honored with the Faith Hubley Memorial Award at the Provincetown International Film Festival. This award is a testament to her talent and versatility. Hilarious yet subtle, Jane is an accomplished actress with many films to her credit, including The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) and the recently released Tru Loved (2008).

I caught up with her at the Ptown Film Festival in June, where I sat with Jane at a screening of Best in Show, a 2000 movie in which she played lesbian dog trainer Christy Cummings. After the movie we talked about her status as an out actress and her work as an actress on the big and small screens.

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan: It was great to watch Best is Show with you in the audience. It was cool to see that it is still funny for you, even though I am sure you have seen it many times before.

Jane Lynch: I have, but I haven’t seen it in about four years, and we all look so young. There is such a difference in how all of us look eight years later. It was fun to watch it, because it holds up so well. I was really struck by some of the performances. Every time I see a Christopher Guest movie, someone’s performance stands out to me. This time it was Parker Posey who cracked me up.

RHH: I understand that it was made in a very non-traditional way, that you were given strong character descriptions, but no lines.

JL: That’s right. We improvised all the dialogue. We shot a lot of film. The art of this comes not only from our performances, I don’t mean to reduce our significance, but it’s in the editing. Christopher Guest creates these movies in the editing room.

RHH: I love your work on The L Word. What’s it like working with everyone on the cast–with Cybill Shepherd, for example?

JL: Cybill Shepherd is great. She’s usually who I work with. Cybill or Laurel Holloman. sometimes Jennifer Beals. I usually work with just one person. I love doing the show. They write really well, I just come in and do my piece, and then I leave. When I see the episode, it is brand new to me.

RHH: In both Best in Show and on The L Word you play a lesbian character. You are highly respected as an actor within the lesbian community; you have many lesbian fans. Is being well regarded by queer women important to you?

JL: Yes, absolutely. Acting is about human nature, so it is all of human nature that I’m curious about, and I know that historically we have been kind of a silent group and we haven’t garnered much respect or acceptance. This is changing now and I think it is really great that people like Melissa [Etheridge], and Ellen [De Generes] and Rosie O’Donnell stood up and were courageous enough to say, “I’m Gay.” Now the rest of us have had a much easier path. So kudos to them, and if someone looks up to me because I’m open and okay about it and they take strength from that, I think it’s great. Read More

Still to come, my review of Nights and Weekends, which I saw yesterday and Angent Angie’s post on the Jorie Graham reading that we attended last night. xx