FILM

Finding a voice for black media

Open Signal's screening Friday at the Hollywood Theatre of work by six young black Portland filmmakers opens the door on a world of stories

Something’s happening. And you’d better know what it is.

On Friday, June 14, Open Signal Labs is giving six black filmmakers a chance to showcase their work and let the Portland media world know they’re here, they’re thriving, and they’re ready to enter the industry and take a commanding role. The screening, at 7 p.m. at the Hollywood Theatre in Northeast Portland, is the culmination of a year of work, learning and training for six young, black filmmakers: Kamryn Fall, Elijah Hasan, Tamera Lyn, Sika Stanton, Noah Thomas and Dustin Tolman.

Open Signal’s Ifanyi Bell and RaShaunda Brooks: making it happen. Photo: Sam Gehrke

This fellowship is the first of its kind in the state of Oregon. Over the course of the year, these artists were granted “a $2,000 stipend, training, access to industry-standard equipment, staff and actors from Artists Repertory Theatre, as well as mentorship with media professionals and connections to the field from the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film & Television.” The idea, says Open Signal executive producer and industry veteran Ifanyi Bell, is to “provide our fellows the best possible resources — cutting-edge filmmaking equipment and experienced industry professionals — and then time will tell. We hope to create a safe space immune from outside influence that will inspire true innovation and authentic stories of black Americans.”

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‘Aladdin’: Middle Eastern enough?

In its latest stage and screen riffs on a fantasy tale with Orientalist roots, Disney makes a highly selective push for representation

By MELORY MIRASHRAFI

One month before Disney’s new live-action Aladdin opened in movie theaters nationwide, the Broadway tour of the hit musical came to Portland. While millions of viewers across America are flocking to see both adaptations of the 1992 classic, only one version features any actors of Middle Eastern descent.

This comes as no surprise: There were no Middle Eastern actors in the original, either. To this day, I remember the moment I learned Princess Jasmine was voiced by a white woman. When I was twelve I primarily identified with Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (an introverted reader with an engineer for a father), so I was disappointed to be assigned Jasmine as my character at a Disney-themed birthday party because of my “Arabianness.” Princess Jasmine has since followed me around as the only “Middle Eastern” Disney Princess (Jasmin also happens to be my middle name, which doesn’t help), and although there’s no such place as “Agrabah,” an inevitable connection formed between the two of us, making it particularly shocking when I realized that the voice I had been listening to had never been Middle Eastern at all. While Jasmine’s vocals are done by Filipina singer and actress Lea Salonga, her speaking voice belongs to white American actress Linda Larkin, a difficult truth to swallow as someone who grew up identifying with Jasmine in part because she looked like me.

While the new live-action movie version of Aladdin in theaters attracts praise for its inclusion of Middle Eastern actors in its cast, it’s unsettling that the simultaneous Broadway tour is seemingly void of any such effort. Recent Disney endeavors such as The Princess and the Frog and Moana seem to seek cultural specificity and an acute awareness of race in a push for equity, diversity, and inclusion.  It’s certainly also worth noting that both of the aforementioned examples are animated, circumnavigating certain elements of the casting process, such as embodiment. Why, then, the gap between what is seen on stage and screen when it comes to Aladdin?

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Andrés Felipe Orozco as the Calip in an onstage revival of Kismet in Neustrelitz, Germany, 2019. Photo: Tom Schweers

AS AN IRANIAN-AMERICAN THEATER-MAKER and cultural consultant, I often ask what keeps a production from accurately representing a certain region, ethnicity, or culture. While Aladdin (2019) takes steps to right the lack of accurate cultural representation, it falls short of erasing Disney’s xenophobic legacy – one that stems from a combination of the tale’s Orientalist origins, as well as a history of misrepresentation of Middle Eastern people in theater and film.

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Coast calendar: Studio tours, exhibits closing, steampunk ahead

Art events this week include a documentary film about art and madness, which may put you in the mood for the upcoming exhibition at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

It’s not happening on the Coast, but you could say it is of the Coast. That’s the opening of an exhibit of poetry and photography by Oregon State University faculty member Joseph Ohmann Krause in The Little Gallery on the OSU campus in Corvallis. Inspired by Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1854-1916), Drawing in the Northern Light combines eight poems with photos, most of them taken on the Oregon Coast.

Oregon State University professor Joseph Ohmann Krause combines his photographs of the Oregon Coast with his poetry in “Drawing in the Northern Light” in The Little Gallery on the OSU campus.
Oregon State University professor Joseph Ohmann Krause combines photographs of the Oregon Coast with poetry in “Drawing in the Northern Light,” a show on the OSU campus.

The idea came to Krause, a French professor, after he happened upon a catalog of Hammershøi’s, said Helen Wilhelm, curator of The Little Gallery.  

“In Hammershøi’s work, a lot of the paintings have to do with an empty room, or you can see beyond into a farther room,” Wilhelm said. “You get the feeling that, yes there are people who live in these rooms, but they just left. There is a sense of mystery, calm. Even a bit of isolation. 

“In Dr. Krause’s photos, there is never a person in them,” she continued. “There may be an empty beach scene, but you get the sense that someone was there earlier. The word ‘absence’ is the major word that comes to mind. The opposite of chaos.”

The opening is 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, in 210 Kidder Hall. Someone will be on hand to read the poems, and Wilhelm is hoping to find musicians to play compositions by Danish composer Dieterich Buxtehude, who has also inspired Krause.  “It’s going to be really elegant and lovely,” Wilhelm said.

The show is on view from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays (closed during lunch) May 28 through Sept. 30.

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Lines everywhere on the Yamhill County arts horizon

You'll find them in exhibitions exploring horizon lines and ikebana, and the plucked strings of a guitar. Plus, McMinnville Short Film Festival has a new leader

It’s one of those weeks where there’s so much going on, we have just enough space to squeeze in enough about everything for you to click ahead and decide whether to investigate further. Let’s go.

THE CHEHALEM CULTURAL CENTER IN NEWBERG has rotated in a new exhibit worth checking out. Oregon City’s artistic duo Clairissa and Colby Stephens are Stratifying the Unknown with a collection of drawings, paintings and sculptures “that explore the ways horizon lines shape our understanding of place and space and one’s location in it.” According to the artists’ statement:

"Field of View | Black Rock Desert" is part of the “Stratifying the Unknown” show by Clairissa and Colby Stephens in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.

“Field of View | Black Rock Desert” is part of the “Stratifying the Unknown” show by Clairissa and Colby Stephens in the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg.

“We became captivated by horizon lines when we moved to Reno, NV, in 2011. Distinctly different from our Western Oregon stomping grounds, we were captivated by the desert and the 360-degree view of horizon lines that it offered. As avid backcountry explorers, we use a compass for navigation: a process that is heavily dependent on horizon lines. And so we began to consider the various ways that horizon lines impact our lives. But lines do not simply demarcate the boundaries of three dimensional space: They also trace the ways that humans, animals, plants, and water move through it.”

You’ll find it in the Parrish Gallery through June 28. And don’t miss the Art for All Youth project in the Community Gallery, the fruit of an artist-led partnership with Providence’s Outreach program to work with students on ceramics, paint-pouring and watercolor. Runs through June 1.

Portland filmmaker Justin Zimmerman is on board as executive director of the McMinnville Short Film Festival, which is accepting entries for the 2020 event.

Portland filmmaker Justin Zimmerman is on board as executive director of the McMinnville Short Film Festival, which is accepting entries for 2020.

THE NEXT McMINNVILLE SHORT FILM Festival is nearly a year off, but there’s news to report. Portland filmmaker Justin Zimmerman, whose work has appeared in more than a hundred festivals around the world, has been named executive director of the event. Festival co-founders Nancy and Dan Morrow, who operate The Gallery at Ten Oaks in McMinnville, will remain involved in the expanding, filmmaker-friendly enterprise as board members, but this will mark the first time a professional filmmaker (and Portlander) has been in charge of steering the ship.

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North Coast Culinary Fest honors the ‘first foodie’

A weekend of special meals, cooking workshops, tastings, and film benefits Seaside High School's culinary arts program while paying tribute to James Beard

Cannon Beach is known for the many art galleries dotting its ocean-view avenues. Now local culinary aficionados want to bring visitors’ attention to another kind of art – the kind that happens in the kitchen — while paying tribute to a cooking pioneer.

The North Coast Culinary Fest kicks off May 10 for a weekend of workshops, fine dining and a night  market – all honoring legendary chef James Beard, with proceeds supporting the Seaside High School culinary arts program.

“We want folks get to know the artists in our kitchens better,” said Lenore Emery-Neroni, co-owner with husband and chef Bob Neroni of EVOO Cooking School. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Beard, whom The New York Times dubbed “the Dean of American Cooking” in 1954, had a long history with the North Coast. He was born in Portland in 1903, and his family summered in Gearhart. An advocate of using fresh, local ingredients before doing so  became commonplace, Beard later taught cooking classes in Seaside, which helped inspire the Seaside High School culinary class.

James Beard

In his memoir, “Delights and Prejudices,” James Beard wrote of the Oregon Coast, “no place on Earth, with the exception of Paris, has done as much to influence my professional life.”

For Beard fans, the highlight of the weekend will no doubt be the opportunity to attend a Champagne Reception at the Beard family’s former summer home. It’s a small party Saturday afternoon with tickets on a first-come, first served basis. The home, a small cabin, still features the Beards’ three-element electric stove. The stove now sits in a special alcove dedicated to Beard.

The James Beard Foundation website notes: “James Beard laid the groundwork for the food revolution that has put America at the forefront of global gastronomy. He was a pioneer foodie, host of the first food program on the fledgling medium of television
in 1946, the first to suspect that classic American culinary traditions might cohere into a national cuisine, and an early champion of local products and markets. Beard nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors who have changed the way we eat.”

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National Poetry Month draws near, and Yamhill County is lit

April brings readings, workshops, performance, and a documentary about poetry slam to venues around the county

In his introduction to The Best American Poetry 2018, published last fall by Scribner, editor Dana Gioia took a swing at the question, “What is the state of poetry?” and concluded with a wink and eye roll that it was both awful and had never been better.

Alas, never have so few read poetry, he lamented. And yet, this happy proclamation: The audience has never been bigger, etc., until finally: “All of these contradictory statements are true, and all of them are false, depending on your point of view,” he concluded, ceding to the obvious subjectivity in play. “The state of American poetry is a tale of two cities.”

Denice Frohman

Denice Frohman performs Monday at Linfield College.

If your point of view originates from Yamhill County, there’s cause for optimism. Poetry is alive and loud here, even when it’s not National Poetry Month, as it will be in just a few days. April marks the 23rd annual celebration, which was conceived by the Academy of American Poets in 1995. I’ve mapped out the month for poetry lovers in wine country, so this is a column to bookmark.

Ongoing: The McMinnville Public Library’s annual Spring Poetry Contest is live, with a 2019 theme of “literary spring.” It’s open to adults 18 and older. Poems must be original, unpublished, and no more than a page in length; limit of two entries per person. Bring them to the information desk upstairs or email to libref@mcminnvilleoregon.gov through May 21. Entries will be judged anonymously, and winners will be the featured readers for the library’s Poetry Night on June 4.

Nickole Brown

Nickole Brown

April 1: The month begins with a tough act to follow: Activist, educator, and poet Denice Frohman will perform “Stories of Ourselves: Celebrating parts deemed unworthy” at 6 p.m. in the Ice Auditorium, which is tucked away in Linfield College’s Melrose Hall. Frohman, a former Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, has appeared on hundreds of stages in the United States and around the world, including the White House (when the occupants valued the literary arts), the Nuyorican Poets Café, and The Apollo. Frohman is a CantoMundo Fellow whose work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color, and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism, and she is the organizer of #PoetsforPuertoRico. The performance is free and open to the public.

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Oregon Spotlight: Spring breaks from Shakespeare to Caravaggio

Our sampler of hits and bits from around the state offers music in Covallis and Medford, art in Bend and Roseburg, film on the Coast, and OSF is live in Ashland

We’ve set the clocks ahead, spring is coming, and that means Oregonians are tentatively emerging from their abodes with a mind to hit the road for day and weekend trips. What’s on the state’s cultural menu?

Mark Murphey (holding book) plays William Joad, who meets unexpected relative Martin Jodes, played by Tony Sancho (on ground), in Octavio Solis’ “Mother Road” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Mark Murphey (holding book) plays William Joad, who meets unexpected relative Martín Jodes, played by Tony Sancho (on ground), in Octavio Solis’ “Mother Road” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival

For starters, it’s showtime at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Right out of the gate, four options: Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band in the Thomas Theatre, while the Angus Bowmer hosts As You Like It, Hairspray: The Broadway Musical and Mother Road, a new play by Octavio Solis, inspired by John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and featuring OSF favorite Mark Murphey as William Joad. Solis is an Oregon playwright, and he’s calling this a “sequel” to Steinbeck’s classic, although it continues the story from an immigrant’s perspective. This is a world premiere directed by outgoing artistic director Bill Rauch and likely to be a play you’ll be proud to say, years from now, “I saw it first at OSF in Ashland.” Tickets and more info here.

Meanwhile, a few other options beyond Portlandia:

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