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Archive for July, 2009

Fine Cut

July 27, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, India, Mom, Video


This is the “Discovering: Shuktara” team in NYC for a super-swanky awareness-raising party and screening. From left to right: me, Davin–Associate Producer, Alison, David Earp–shuktara founder, David (DJ) Justice and Christy Smith–directors. Alison was the one who hooked us all up. She and David live in Kolkata and she found DJ & Christy as they were doing their round-the-world trip in 2008 for their organization, Discovering Deaf Worlds. Alison met me in 2007 when I went to Kolkata to film a fundraising video for The Shadhika Foundation. When DJ and Christy were talking about going back to Rochester and wanting to make a film, Alison suggested they contact me. The rest is history… :)

During editing on “Discovering: Shuktara” in Nov/Dec. 2008, DJ dubbed my studio “The Birdhouse.” The man who built my house and additional out-building in 1897, J.O. Girardin, had his own business. He was a roofer and his company was called “Bird Roofing.” Something about that name stuck with me. My mother has always loved bird images, and used to make Peruvian-looking bird sculptures out of the extra wood left over from the building of the addition to the Vineyard house. Anyway, when DJ & Christy arrived to edit that first time, I told them that story and David declared my aerie studio-above-the-garage “The Birdhouse.” :)

The film is doing very well. If you go to the DDW site you’ll see that it’s in four fests already and that’s probably only because the guys didn’t have enough time to add notations about more fests. :) I’m very proud of the film and of having worked with DJ & Christy. They are your dream directors: passionate, have a strong vision, and committed to the work and not their egos. It was a wonderful experience that I would repeat any day.

This last trip to NYC was a doozy. Lots of running around and not enough sleep, but I did meet some terrific people, had a chance to reconnect, if briefly, with the pals above, and did some GREAT work on “Soma Girls,” which I can’t wait to see fly out into the world. The good news about that film is that Nandini and I had gotten some amazing and valuable feedback a while ago and did a great job this past week of incorporating it into our existing timeline. Stepping back after finishing, we were floored and thrilled that the changes made a HUGE, HUGE difference. The film is BETTER. We’re committed to treating the sex workers, who are the mothers of the girls of Soma Home, with the utmost respect, and we feel we’ve managed to do just that in such a mellow, organic way that it flows very naturally within the rest of the story. As a result, the film is really about women more than it is about the girls, their difficult childhoods, their mothers’ circumstances, or even India. It feels like a universal piece.

Also, something changed in me just before I went to NYC, and it carried over to while I was there and to today. There’s an awareness and greater sense of self and self-love that I hope will last. I have tools now to counter many of the demons that usually approach, and don’t feel even half as myopic as I have recently. The chains may finally be off and I may be able to love again, or, really, possibly for the very first time. There’s A LOT more that needs to be practiced, made solid, but I can see clearly now, the haze has gone. 😉 I know the next few months are going to be incredible for “Soma Girls,” and I look forward to the great ride. It’s all been a very long time in coming. Lastly, if I can finish production and post on “The Dirty Truth About Coal” before the end of the year, I will have made three massive films in one year. :) And on top of that, if I can squeeze in the concert video of “Vishwa Mohan Bhatt,” and short-short of Megumi Hiromitsu talking about her song “Reflections On Sangeet” then this will have been one of the most amazing and life-changing years I’ve ever had.


More pix from NYC:


Davin and me acting the fools


Christy & DJ chatting with Lee.



July 17, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Aperture, Faith, Health, Lumix Pix, Meditation

Recently–very recently–I’ve been feeling better. I had a “meditation breakthrough.” It’s similar to a runner’s high-I suddenly got to a place where my mind went completely blank and I felt asleep but was wide awake. I was “between worlds” or something. Everything had stopped and there was only peace. It was incredible. I tried again the next night, using the same techniques I’d used to get me to the mindless place the night before–it worked. As I’d done both tries at night, right before going to bed, I thought I’d test my techniques during the harsh reality of the day. Worked again, I’m happy to say. I may have broken through something really important. Gotten over the hmp, as they say. We’ll see. As with all such things, only time will tell. :)

In the meantime, here are some pix from a recent trip home to Martha’s Vineyard. As with pix before, these were taken with The Lumix (LX3) and doctored in Aperture. Enjoy!










July 15, 2009 By: admin Category: Faith, Family, Happiness, India, Living, Love, Michael, Mom, The Film, Video


Machu Picchu

There’s a somewhat silly, but un-missably beautiful movie out there, the memory of which just popped into my head this morning… I’ve been transcribing the last of an interview that Nandini and I are using in our film “Soma Girls,” and the interviewee is talking about her mother. “Whatever my life is today, whatever I am–my life goals, my orientation–everything has been a gift from my parents.”

When describing myself, I often talk about my mother. She was the one who taught me about painting and ballet and of the simple, still beauty of nature. That image got me thinking of this movie, “Spanglish,” that stars Adam Sandler (I know…), and a beautiful young Latina who plays his house-keeper. There’s a voiceover throughout the film, narrating the events from the future. It is the voice of the house-keeper’s daughter, a girl who grew up in the United States, like I did. In the movie her voiceover is from an essay she is writing to colleges. She is seventeen, and it’s obvious from her tone that the question asked for the essay is: “Tell us about your life, how it makes you unique, and how that uniqueness will contribute to the community of our university…”

At the end of the film, the girl’s voiceover says, basically, what the quote from my interviewee says above, and goes on to say to the college: “So, really, I don’t care what you think of me. I know who I am, and I will always know… I am my mother’s daughter.

Watching the film for the first time, I remember hearing myself say the last line before the voiceover said it. I don’t know if it’s all daughters who are close with their mothers who feel this way, or if it’s a Hispanic thing. For my own pride of heritage, though, I secretly hope it’s the latter, but I’ll be okay of it’s not. 😉

Finishing this transcription makes me think about possibly spending a year in India. I’d get a big grant and live in a small flat in Kolkata, splitting my time between various NGOs during the day, and then taking in all the culture and wonder of Kolkata at night. In a recent email Urmi, the interviewee from above who runs Soma Home and New Light, said: “You have to come back to Kolkata for an extended visit. There’s so much you haven’t seen…”

Urmi, like my mother, can see in me a desire to see, know, and experience more. This is a tremendous compliment. I always thought Michael was the one to spend efforts on because he remembers so much of what he sees, but there’s something extra in me that Irene–my former journalist aunt–and I share, and were just talking about. It’s a need to see, a burning desire to go around the corner, and to keep going until we find the answer. It’s the seeking. We’re seekers. On a quest to find just a few answers that we’re sure will make at least one person’s life a little bit better.

When I am to be described I hope it will be as a loyal friend, and devoted sister, daughter, niece and cousin, a loving mate, and a great storyteller… because it is through these aspects and my passion to maintain them that I thank and honor my mother.

Thoughts & Pix

July 01, 2009 By: admin Category: Lumix Pix


This stoop is in the West Village in NYC. It’s near enough to St. Mark’s Place, where I used to live, and so brings up a memory… Earlier in the day, Maninder and I walked down my old block, between second and third, and saw a beautiful open doorway with stairs all the way at the back of a restored building. We were both shocked to remember that the last time we’d each seen that door, the residence was a famous crack den. We called it “crack door.” Everybody did. I walked past it every day my senior year of college…


This scene is inside a sparse vintage clothing store owned, operated, and designed by two young women. They were both in attendance the Saturday I was in there and were flattered that I loved the decor. It was pretty spartan, but beautiful. Not so perfect that you know someone’s next gig is going to be interior design, but nice and classy enough to be comfortable. They had about five really cool antiquesin the place. Only five, or a few. This chair was one of them. Just sitting by itself being quiet and sweet. The chair had really nothing to do with the store. It was just clear that one of the girls had gone to a flea market or estate sale and fallen in love with it. She’d bought it without haggling, knowing it would match the mirror…