Archives

An Urban Native Horror debut in Oakland

21768537_10156130200892784_2966529087625262900_o

Movie posters at IFH premiere

Movie review of The Smudging

I had the good fortune to see The Smudging in its Bay Area premiere. The film and event was hosted by Mike Marin, who grew up at IFH, the Intertribal Friendship House, in Oakland.  He began his film in 2015 inspired by his lifelong fascination with horror movies including the sleeper hit, It Follows. After seeing that film, he went to a restaurant and began to write his concept on several napkins. It is based on real-life experiences Mike and acquaintances had at the American Indian Center in Chicago which became the location of The Smudging. The film also pays tribute to stories he heard from family members and mentors.  Mike Marin is quickly becoming the face of urban Native American horror.

One of my dance brothers had posted on Facebook about this film and it immediately got my attention. I have written extensively about my love for horror film and fiction. I’m always excited to support Native American artists, artists of color, and Bay-Area bred artists.  While at the premiere, I met Mike Marin and Kevin Nez, of The Mac Nez podcast. I asked Mike a few questions about how long it took him to make the film and what his plans are in terms of distribution.  According to Mike Marin, The Smudging is his tribute to old school horror with the goal of bringing back moments of terror in the audience and getting away from modern-day Hollywood gimmicks of gore and sex.

The Smudging follows a group of Native paranormal investigators, the Night Stalkers, who are called to investigate The Native American Cultural Center in Chicago. The building was unfortunately the scene of lurid crimes committed by a serial killer.  Both staff and clients have been experiencing increased instances of paranormal activity including voices, moving objects, and general feelings of unease. The young children who attend the center are especially prone to experiences and are then unwilling to participate. Parents are pulling their kids out of the center to combat the resulting nightmares and fears.  The Night Stalkers decide to spend the night filming and learning what might be happening.  It’s a terrifying film. Even though the action mostly takes place in a massive four-story building, the first half of the film is claustrophobic. I was in a roomful of people yet I felt like I was crouching in a corner. The second half of the film brings in the hero figure who also happens to be a veteran and a healer.

As a horror movie aficionado, I enjoyed a film that was original and yet had an old-school feel. Despite its modest budget, this film captivated me for the 90 minutes of its entirety. My heart was racing and I held my breath for most of the film.  I also enjoyed the all-Native cast; it’s refreshing to see so many people of color in a film. The relationships between the members of the Night Stalkers were relatable and often humorous. The moments of humor helped balance the genuine horror the audience was experiencing. There were several cultural references which gave a uniquely Native perspective. The film also included horror movie musts like jump scares, scary music, and a building sense of dread. An underappreciated element of horror is the life lessons the characters gain; the films that resonate with me are those which highlight the best in people and in that respect, this film did not disappoint.  The Smudging met and exceeded my expectations.

After the film, Kevin moderated a Q&A session. We learned more about the process, heard some funny behind the scenes anecdotes, more about the individual cast members, and even some trivia about the props used.  I liked having an insider view of the film.  We were also treated to the trailer for Mike Marin’s next film, Moshego.  We were then encouraged to share our thoughts via social media and I was more than happy to oblige.

I am excited for what is next for #thesmudgingmovie. There is the possibility of another Oakland screening in the next few months.  This is a film we need to support. Whether you are from Oakland or a Native or a horror movie fan or a supporter of artists of color or any combination of these, please make an effort to see the film.

Mike, I wish you ashe and I’m excited to be a supporter of your film.

To learn more about the film, visit #thesmudgingmovie

 

 

 

Advertisements

Running rabbit: Get Out review

2b39a49509a2241c6a8b30054682f493.jpg

Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun
He’ll get by without his rabbit pie…. “Run Rabbit Run” by Flanagan and Allen

The other day at boot camp, our trainer had us outdoors several times running. At one point, I had a strangely increasing feeling of fear. I had seen the #getoutchallenge on social media and not understood it. I had avoided reading reviews or watching parodies because I wanted to see the film. Yet the image of the running had stuck with me. As I ran, different thoughts came into my mind:   invisible minority/majority, the cockroach people, the sleeping giant, His Panic.  I thought about Oscar Zeta Acosta and how he disappeared.  I thought about Ruben Salazar and how he was killed. I picked up the pace which is unusual for me. I may be a half marathoner but I lope along at a comfortable pace. I don’t push myself for personal records; I run because it’s therapeutic.  That evening, I ran faster than ever. The image of running from Get Out which I hadn’t yet seen provoked anxieties I have about racism in America.

I finally saw the film. It exceeded my expectations. I have always been a horror movie fan. Horror books and movies have had tremendous impact on me as a person and as an artist. (My Masters’ thesis in long fiction was a horror novel.) It’s a genre that I gravitate towards both as a fan and creator. As a horror film, it was brilliant and terrifying.  I have had nightmares and strange dreams ever since I saw the movie.  I can’t get the song from the opening scene out of my head.

In terms of social commentary, Get Out is daunting. I know it’s film and fiction yet so much of what was captured was real. While Latinos are absent in the film, the various scenes were relatable. The film feels like a Twilight Zone episode (or several) about racism. There was one particular scene when I finally understood what was happening. I whispered to Rambo, “I’m about to burst into tears.” I put my face in his shoulder and took a deep breath. I meant it because the conclusion I made was so overwhelming in its/my sadness, indignation, and disgust. I didn’t feel shock.  None of the events in the film are shocking; Rambo says “it all seems plausible.” At the end of the movie, I turned to Rambo and said, “This is what I’ve been talking about. I’ve been telling you this about these places. I know this!” Then I made a statement which seems funny but also sad and spooky. “They are lying in wait.” That statement speaks to the fear, paranoia, and acceptance of reality.

la-et-hc-get-out-horror-peele-20161004-snap.jpg

As people of color in a racially divided and divisive society, what we experience is also what we try to deny. Like Chris, the protagonist, we are constantly having to say “it’s fine.” It is never good. We say that as a means to survive.  We can sugarcoat these realities by saying the Geneva “No, no, no,” or the Chris, “It’s okay.” We can choose to stay silent when micro-aggressions occur.   We can accept subtle racism without fighting back.  We can act like it’s our lot in life and it’s still not right. It never was and never will be.  Y ahora que?

Get Out is one artist’s take on complex, deep-seated truths. It’s an important film in what it says about the myth of post-racial America and has deservedly received critical acclaim.  It has resonated with me and will likely haunt me for a long time.

Boy, bye; How I stopped being so scared of evil

 

58bbbe5babbc090758f40cc45e3595fc

Illustration in my Children’s Bible

The Gospel on the first Sunday of Lent describes Jesus’s temptation in the desert. Jesus is tempted by the devil.  The devil is an instigator. He is manipulative especially as he constantly seeks to gain power. Going after Jesus is evidence of the arrogance, narcissism, egoism that comes with being evil. Jesus is able to resist. He is all powerful. Jesus demonstrates the strength and authority needed to resist temptations that we all experience. We all want to attend to our immediate needs. I’m starving so let’s turn these rocks into bread. We want youth, physical strength, and immortality. I’m going to drink my liver into disease because it feels good. Because I’m young, I’ma be all right. We want wealth and power.  Life owes me these things.  Jesus rises above those desires. He sees the ultimate goal. The 40 days have been a test. They’ve been physically hard but he has stayed faithful and strong. He is preparing for what is going to be more difficult. He is finding the discipline before he begins his ministry. Jesus does not fear the devil and sends him away like the nuisance he is.

I grew up very fearful of the devil (What I learned watching The Exorcist). I was much too young(six!) to learn about possession, that the devil was a real entity that could take over a person. It made me much more fearful than my daughter is at that age.  On the other hand, I grew up as a spiritual child. I was drawn to the Bible. I was reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Gospel of Luke at age 7 because I wanted to do so. One reason I haven’t exposed to her more horror movies or pop culture interpretations of the devil is I find them scary. About 15 years ago, I made a survey and asked my friends when they first saw The Exorcist and what were its long-term effects. I continued to do other readings about exorcism. Those fears stuck with me.

r12mwvNow I’m older and I have had life experiences with different facets of evil. I’m not fearful because I know good prevails. I’ve done a lot of writing about my thoughts as I “exorcised “a “devil.” (My second career as an exorcist) I gained a lot of strength from those experiences. I may laugh when I say “the devil is a lie” and “not today, Satan” but those are true statements. I have been able to look at that evil, at that enemy, to look it in the face and say I’m not afraid of you. That’s powerful.

ckpr_x-wsaanvim

the-exorcist-season-2-tv-fox

Father Tomas is played by Rebelde cutie Alfonso Herrera

On a related note, while dealing with real-life drama, the TV show, The Exorcist, premiered on Fox. While it wasn’t a ratings hit, it was a critical hit and a hit in my household. We watched it every week and analyzed it. I connected it back to what I was living. I found parts of it hilarious. I would argue it is better than the original novel and original film.   Those were good but the TV show’s acting and writing took it to another level. Geena Davis was brilliant. The show explored what is happening in the church regarding the role of lay people, the role of women, and the behind the scenes politics which you may not know about if you haven’t been involved in ministry. I like that the show spoke to the power of family and faith.  As I wait along with other fans to learn if the show will get renewed, I would recommend binge-watching on Hulu or Fox. Don’t be too scared.  Y’all know who wins and who always will.

Watch Season 1 of  The Exorcist

temptation-bida

Jesus saying “Largate!”

 

All I really need to know I learned watching The Exorcist

“Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant. Anything beyond that is dangerous. He’s a liar. The demon is a liar. He would like to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, powerful. So don’t listen. Remember that. Do not listen.” Father Merrin to Father Karras, The Exorcist
For most of my life, my fear of evil understandably overwhelmed me. From my childhood ponderings about good and evil to my adulthood grappling with evil in the people I encountered in my personal life, I often felt passive and powerless. I often felt as if I had barely escaped a terrible fate. Working as a teacher and administrator in environments where violence was a harsh reality, I began to realize that societal evil could be battled through strength of mind and heart. If I could be stable, focused, and compassionate, I might be able to reach those affected by the negativity and hatred in the world. An incident with a particularly memorable student helped me reframe my thinking and lessen my fears. (Half-hour with the Devil, 2006) Changes in my personal life helped build my strength.
But evil ain’t goin’ nowhere. It’s everywhere. In  Ferguson.   In Oakland. It might even sit across the table from you at work. I come to the table, both literal and figurative, with all kinds of experience and training. But some people and the situations they create require a different set of skills and more importantly, a unique mindset. So I go back, way back, to a moment that shaped me. I go back to the movie that has had a strong impact on me, The Exorcist.
Lately I have realized that the horror film offers some practical advice. In preparing themselves to face a monstrous demon, the two priests must strategize.  The veteran exorcist(for y’all who haven’t watched and dissected this movie dozens of times like I have, the title refers to the man with a tough job, not the poor girl victim)mentors his younger helper. He points out that even conversation can kill.   
Y alli lo tienes. Because if you’ve read this far, you know I’m not talking about the movie. The advice given can apply to any situation in which you meet with someone who takes actions that purposefully hurt you or others and whose words are weapons. Speak your truth and shut out their negative energy. 
I played this clip three times yesterday, once on my desktop and twice on my phone.Do Not Listen from The Exorcist 
I played it before I went behind closed doors with my mentor to confront evil.  We walked out safely. But the battle has just begun. 
Perhaps I should acquire some holy water. 

Recoil therapy

This morning, I came very close to buying myself a designer handbag.  Thankfully I didn’t give in to this craving; I am minding my budget and cannot afford big ticket treats. So I turned to a tried and true outlet: scary movies. Two horror movie trailers later, I feel recharged.
Horror movies have fascinated me for most of my life. As a child, like many Bay Area natives, I stayed up late to watch Creature Features, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery. An avid reader of many different genres of books, I became a fan of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. Having watched The Exorcist at the age of 6 may have inspired me to sleep with a nightlight until my teens but it did not cause me to forever avoid horror films.If anything, it made me seek out more scares. 
Horror movies are like roller coaster rides. They can be funny, exhilarating, intimidating, shocking, and stomach churning all at once. Some are the kiddie versions, predictable and tame.  Others are for the daring and require you to woman up and face your fears. While I can be a horror movie snob and boycott the Hollywood blockbuster versions in local theaters (I still have never seen any of the Saw movies), I also enjoy camp and cult classics as seen on local favorite Creepy KOFY Movie Time.
The bag would have been cute. But it couldn’t have raised my heart rate in quite the same way. 

Note: Shelley Duvall and I are the same sign!  

Burning bright

Sera hoy la quinta noche que duermo con la luz prendida?

I’ve been sleeping with my light on since Thursday. La Peruana’s hubby showed me an email forward on his new high-tech phone. It was supposed to be funny but I didn’t laugh as the nasty face of a possessed Regan from The Exorcist glared at me to the awful tune of the movie theme song. I didn’t laugh at the threat of pubic lice if the message wasn’t forwarded. Instead, I wondered if I wouldn’t have nightmares.

Those images and that music always cause old fears to surface. I go back to what worked when I was six(and until I was 11), the comfort of a bright light bulb and my ability to sleep, despite brightness and heat.

I’ve had no nightmares. My dreams are lucid. But I have been too exhausted to grab the tape recorder. Or maybe I am afraid to remember.