David Low

David Low '76 writes about arts and culture for the Wesleyan magazine and Wesleyan Connection. He is associate director of publications in the Office of University Communications. He is also a published fiction writer. E-mail: dlow@wesleyan.edu

Whedon ’87 Is Subject of New Biography

Joss Whedon '87 delivered Wesleyan's Commencement address in 2013.

Joss Whedon ’87 delivered Wesleyan’s Commencement address in 2013.

Award-winning film and television director, producer and writer Joss Whedon ’87 is the subject of the informative and entertaining Joss Whedon: The Biography (Chicago Review Press) by Amy Pascale, a director at MTV.

The book begins by tracing Whedon’s growth from a creative child and teenager who spent years away from his family at an elite English boarding school (Winchester College in Hampshire), through his early successes—which often turned into frustration in television (Roseanne) and film (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The biography then covers his breakout career turn as the creator, writer, and director of the highly successful Buffy television series, which garnered a passionate fan base.

Book about Josh Whedon '87.

Book about Josh Whedon ’87.

Following Buffy, Whedon directed, produced or wrote more television series (Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and the current ABC hit Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), several movies, Marvel comic books, and an innovative web series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which gave him his first Emmy win. He went on to direct and write The Avengers film in 2012, which earned a worldwide box office of $1.5 billion. He followed this blockbuster with his film of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a critically acclaimed personal project shot in black-and-white at his home with a cast of friends.

One of the chapters of the biography deals with Whedon’s time at Wesleyan, where he majored in film. As an undergraduate, he further developed his keen interest in gender studies and feminism. He also wrote a paper on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which focused on four themes: the Watcher, the Watched, Isolation, and the Role of the Viewer, themes that would appear in his own creative work. Whedon became a TA for film classes and made a student film. He studied with Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English Emeritus, and with Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, who says: “His lectures were absolutely brilliant. They had … a kind of poetry that showed how his heart and soul really understood the medium, as well as his brain … He wasn’t just intellectually sharp about film, he was also emotionally, creatively sharp about it.”

Pascale conducted extensive interviews with Whedon and his family, friends, collaborators and stars, resulting in candid, behind-the-scenes accounts of the making of his groundbreaking TV series and films, and new stories about his work with Pixar writers and animators during the creation of Toy Story.

Richards ’69, Basinger Speak on Adapting Bridges of Madison County into a Film and Musical

On Saturday, May 24 at the Center for Film Studies, veteran Broadway producer Jeffrey Richards ’69 (All the Way, The Realistic Joneses, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill) and Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger spoke to a packed house about the different approaches in adapting the novel The Bridges of Madison County into a film, directed by Clint Eastwood Hon. ’00, and into a musical, which Richards recently co-produced on Broadway.

On May 24 at the Center for Film Studies, veteran Broadway producer Jeffrey Richards ’69 (All the Way, The Realistic Joneses, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill) and Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger spoke to a packed house about the different approaches in adapting the novel The Bridges of Madison County into a film, directed by Clint Eastwood Hon. ’00, and into a musical, which Richards recently co-produced on Broadway. During the WESeminar, Richards discussed the difficulties of producing and marketing a show with a new musical score as opposed to a jukebox musical with familiar songs, which is popular show genre on Broadway these days. Richards also spoke about the influence of critics on the success of a play or a musical and the possibility of making money on a show on tour even if it doesn’t do well on Broadway.

David Low '76, associate director of publications; Marc Longenecker, technical and programming manager in film studies; Lea Carlson, associate director of film studies, and Lilly Holman '15 enjoyed the WESeminar with Jeffrey Richards '69 and Jeanine Basinger.

David Low ’76, associate director of publications; Marc Longenecker ’03, MA ’07, technical and programming manager in film studies; Lea Carlson, associate director of film studies, and Lilly Holman ’15 enjoyed the WESeminar with Jeffrey Richards ’69 and Jeanine Basinger.

Novel by Guiney ’77 Addresses Women’s Health Issues in Cambodia

Sue Guiney '77

Sue Guiney ’77

Sue Guiney ’77 has published her second novel, Out of the Ruins (Ward Wood Publishing). At the beginning of the book, a Cambodian doctor is frustrated that the poor women in his country are dying needlessly. He reaches out to friends to help him create a new clinic for the local villages around Siem Reap’s world famous temples, and they answer his call.

An Irishman, Dr Diarmuid, arrives with his English assistant, Dr. Gemma, and a Canadian administrator Mr. Fred. Together they establish a place where poor women of Cambodia can find the basic care that so much of the world has long since taken for granted. A young and ambitious Cambodian nurse, Srey, acts as an interpreter and connection to the trust of the local community, but her idealized view of western medicine will be seriously challenged.

Tradition collides with science as East meets West, and though the doctors are all too eager to help, they have much to learn about their own personal demons in a desperate and seductive society.

Novel by Sue Guiney '77

Novel by Sue Guiney ’77

In a recent interview in The Phnom Penh Post, Guiney comments on an aspect of her writing process: “I do quite a lot of research for my books, both through reading and on the Internet, but most importantly, by immersing myself in the place, walking the streets and talking to the people. For example, to research Out of the Ruins, I found a Khmer guide in his 20s who was willing to take me to streets where there are karaoke bars and tin-roofed shacks with girls of all ages offering themselves up for sale. He was brave to take a middle-aged Western woman to places she had no right being in. And I suppose I was brave to go with him. But I need to see things with my own eyes, even if they are just buildings and surroundings. And I need to talk to people about their experiences if possible.”

Guiney has lived in London for nearly 20 years where she writes and teaches fiction, poetry, and plays. Her work has appeared in prestigious literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic, and her first book, published by Bluechrome Publishing in 2006, is the text of her poetry play Dreams of May, (now been relaunched by Ward Wood Publishing). which premiered at London’s Pentameters Theatre. Ward Wood has also published her poetry collection Her Life Collected and her first novel set in Cambodia, A Clash of Innocents.

Sue Guiney web site

 

Morrison ’96 Writes and Edits Romantic Comedy Film Hank and Asha

Juila Morrison '96 and James E. McDuff

Juila Morrison ’96 and James Duff

Julia Morrison ’96 has co-produced, co-written and edited a new film, Hank and Asha (website), which opened at the City Cinemas Village East Theater New York City last weekend and will run at the Laemmle NoHo 7 Theater in Los Angeles from April 18–24. This lovely romantic comedy about identity, longing, and the irresistible appeal of entertaining life’s what-ifs was co-written and directed by James Duff, who is also Morrison’s husband.

In the film, an Indian woman (Mahira Kakkar) studying in Prague and a lonely Southerner (Andrew Pastides) living in New York begin an unconventional correspondence through video letters—two strangers searching for human connection in a hyper-connected world. When their relationship develops, they must decide whether or not to meet face to face.

Andrew Pastides in "Hank and Asha"

Andrew Pastides in “Hank and Asha”

Hank and Asha premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. Since then it has screened at more than 25 festivals worldwide, and has won 11 awards.

In his New York Times review, Nicolas Rapold writes: “A rare sustained epistolary romance, … this winsome, whisper-thin tale shimmers along with the charming urge to connect and reveal yourself that links its two correspondents. … this is a movie by people who honor the pleasures of waiting, wondering and longing in an instantaneous world.”

 

Mahira Kakkar in "Hank and Asha"

Mahira Kakkar in “Hank and Asha”

NPR interview with Julia Morrison and James E. Duff

Hank and Asha on Facebook
Twitter: @HankandAsha

YouTube Preview Image

 

Books by Gilbert ’98, Baumer ’00, Zimbalist P’02 Take Swings at Baseball History, Analytics

Book by Daniel A. Gilbert '98

Book by Daniel A. Gilbert ’98

Not one but two books about baseball by Wesleyan graduates have just hit the shelves. Daniel Gilbert ’98, assistant professor in the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has published Expanding the Strike Zone: Baseball in the Age of Free Agency (University of Massachusetts Press), while Benjamin Baumer ’00 and Andrew Zimbalist P’02 have co-written The Sabermetric Revolution: Assessing the Growth of Analytics in Baseball (University of Pennsylvania Press).

Book  by Benjamin Baumer '00 and Andrew Zimbalist P'02

Book by Benjamin Baumer ’00 and Andrew Zimbalist P’02

Expanding the Strike Zone takes a look at issues of work and territory that have come into play as baseball expanded since the mid-20th century. The book highlights how players, owners, writers and fans have reshaped the sport as a central element of popular culture from the postwar book to the Great Recession.

Gilbert examines recent research as well as fiction and film and shows how Major League Baseball grew to become a transnational popular culture, arguing that the sport exists within the development of neoliberal globalization. In particular, his study works as a labor history, spanning from integration and ballplayer unionism to big league stardom and baseball academies.

Chapters of the book cover such topics as the role of free agency; star power and solidarity in the United States and Mexico; Dominican baseball and the rise of the academies; and Seattle, the Mariners and the politics of location.

The Sabermetric Revolution closely examines the rise of player performance analytics depicted in the 2003 book (and 2011 movie) Moneyball, correcting common misinterpretations and developing new methods to assess the effectiveness of sabermetrics on team performance. Baumer, a visiting assistant professor of mathematics and statistics at Smith College and former statistical analyst for the New York Mets, and Zimbalist, the Robert. A Woods Professor of Economics at Smith, explore how analytics have changed since the 2002 season and question how useful sabermetrics will be in the future.

Baumer and Zimbalist provide an interesting case study of the use of statistics by general managers and front office executives. For fans and fantasy leagues, the book is an accessible primer on the real math behind moneyball including new insights into the changing business of baseball.

Andrew Zimbalist P'02

Andrew Zimbalist P’02

Daniel A. Gilbert '98

Daniel A. Gilbert ’98

Benjamin Baumer '00

Benjamin Baumer ’00

Co-Founder Pereira ’03 Speaks on Dress Circle Publishing for Theater Lovers

Roberta Pereira ‘03 is the co-founder and managing editor of Dress Circle Publishing, whose mission is to provide its readers with a peek behind the curtain through theater-themed books. The company publishes fiction and nonfiction, which attracts a varied audience, and especially theater-lovers everywhere.

Roberta Pereira '03 (Photo: Erik Pearson)

Roberta Pereira ’03 (Photo by Erik Pearson)

Dress Circle Publishing has just published The Untold Stories of Broadway, Volume 1, by musical theater historian and producer Jennifer Ashley Tepper, which records the stories of eight Broadway theaters and productions that have played there, as told by producers, actors, directors, writers, musicians, and the various other artists and workers involved. Pereira edited the book and says that even during the first read of the work she knew she had found something unique.

Book Published by Dress Circle Publishing

Book Published by Dress Circle Publishing

Pereira recently talked to us about her work and her Wesleyan experience.

How did Dress Circle Publishing come about?
I have always been an avid reader and a passionate theater lover. In fact, I am also a theater producer (with Bisno Productions) and have worked on shows such as Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons, starring Tyne Daly and now playing on Broadway. One evening, I was having a post-show cocktail at Sardi’s with my friend and fellow producer Brisa Trinchero, and we were bemoaning the fact that there was a lack of great theater-themed books. As two enterprising women, we immediately wanted to do something about that, and thus Dress Circle Publishing was born.

Did you always have an interest in theater?
Yes! When I was six years old I was obsessed with a show called The Butterfly Garden in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I grew up. I asked my parents to take me back to see it every weekend for six weeks in a row. My favorite part was that The Wind was played by a dancer on roller skates.

Roberta Pereira '03 with Lin-Manuel Miranda '02 at launch party of The Untold Stories of Broadway by Jennifer Ashley Tepper. (Photo: Kristin Goehring)

Roberta Pereira ’03 with Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 at launch party of The Untold Stories of Broadway by Jennifer Ashley Tepper. (Photo by Kristin Goehring)

Did you have a lot of publishing experience before founding the company? Was it difficult getting funding?
I had worked at Scholastic before embarking on my theater career and had further experience editing articles, programs, blogs, etc. Since both my co-founder and I are experts at raising money for theater, getting funding wasn’t too difficult. Besides, it is much easier when people are excited about your idea and our funders agreed with us that theater-themed books was an untapped market.

Would you talk about some of the favorite books you’ve published?
I love our Broadway Trilogy by Ruby Preston. Showbiz and Staged are out already and she is working on the last book right now. Those books are fun because they are inspired by real-life Broadway people and events, but tell a very engaging story of Scarlett Savoy, an up-and-coming producer who works for the less than nice “King of Broadway.” It is The Devil Wears Prada in the world of theater.

Do you rely on submissions or do you sometimes commission projects?
We have an open submission policy (info at dresscircepublishing.com) and so far we have been lucky that all our books have come to us through that. We are big proponents of first-time authors so we been able to support a lot of fresh new voices.

Richards ’69 Co-Produces Bridges of Madison County Musical and More

Jeffrey Richards '69

Jeffrey Richards ’69

The ever-busy Jeffrey Richards ’69 is the co-producer of a new musical The Bridges of Madison County, based on the hugely popular novel by Robert James Waller, which opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway on February 20. The musical stars acclaimed actors Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work If You Can Get It, South Pacific) and Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) with a score by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Parade), a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman (The Secret Garden, ‘Night, Mother), and direction by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza).

Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale in The Bridges of Madison Country musical on Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale in The Bridges of Madison Country musical on Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The musical focuses on a four-day love affair between an itinerant National Geographic photographer and an Italian-American housewife, whose husband and children are away at a state fair, in 1965 Iowa. The highly romantic and often transcendent score allows the O’Hara and Pasquale to shine, particularly in two of their memorable duets, “Falling Into You” and “One Second and a Million Miles.” Sher’s deft direction avoids sentimentality but touches on the expression of loneliness and need for deeper connection by the characters.

The Bridges of Madison Country opened to generally positive reviews with praise for the leading actors’ performances and the songs.

Jesse Green in his New York Magazine review wrote that the show is “a very serious musical indeed, both rapturous and moral, with a gorgeous score by Jason Robert Brown. It is also one of the few recent Broadway shows to take up the challenge laid down by the great midcentury works of Rodgers and Hammerstein and their cohort: to tell stories that weld important sociological upheavals to personal conflicts and somehow make them sing.”

In Time Out New York, Adam Feldman wrote: “The musical’s emotion is unapologetically grand, and its love duets have a wide, old-fashioned scope. Directed with spare precision by Bartlett Sher—reunited with his most of his South Pacific design team—it’s a new work that plays like a classic. … The night, however, belongs to its stars. Singing mostly in her luxurious upper register, O’Hara sounds ravishing, and she and Pasquale—in the performance of his career—generate that rarest of Broadway commodities: a genuine spark of erotic heat.”

For tickets, go to Telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.

This Broadway season, Jeffrey Richards also is the co-producer of recent revival The Glass Menagerie, which just finished its successful Broadway run, recouping its investment; and the upcoming Broadway productions of two new plays, All the Way, starring Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as President Lyndon B. Johnson (currently in previews, opens  March 6 at the Neil Simon Theatre), and The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno, an insightful comedy-drama about friends and neighbors, with Emmy Award winner Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under), Tony Award winner Tracy Letts, and Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei (previews begin March 13, opens April 6 at the Lyceum Theatre), as well as Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a play with music by Lanie Robertson, starring five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald as the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday (previews begin March 25, opening April 13 at Circle in the Square Theatre). Richards also co-produced the Tony Award-winning revival of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which is currently on a national tour.

Robertson ’81 Tells Story of LEGO’s Trials and Triumphs

David Robertson '81

David Robertson ’81

In Brick By Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Toy Industry, David C. Robertson ‘81 (with Bill Breen) traces how the company grew from a small woodworking shop in a tiny Danish town to become one of the most beloved global brands of all time. In 2003, LEGO was heading toward bankruptcy but a new management was able to steer things in the right direction, transforming the business into one of the world’s most profitable, fastest-growing companies.

From 2002 through 2010, Roberston was a professor of innovation and technology management at the Institute of Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was named the LEGO Professor at IMD in 2008, which provided him with first-hand access to the insular company and its customers. He toured the factories that produce billions of bricks each year, watched designers dream up new toys, and interviewed the company’s top executives.

Book by David Robertson '81

Book by David Robertson ’81

His book reveals the grueling years of failed attempts that led to the invention of the plastic brick in 1958, followed by successful toys in next four decades. Then the seven key elements of LEGO’s growth strategy from 1999 to 2003, driven by the business world’s most popular innovation strategies, nearly ruined the company. A new leadership team pinpointed the root cause of LEGO’s problems—an overly aggressive approach to creating distinctive new offerings, with no overall guidance of the innovation process. This team then set up an innovation management system for consistently inventing new toys, building a culture where profitable innovation flourishes.

Robertson includes candid insights and critiques from the company’s leadership, employees, designers, and fans. He shares lessons that will guide leaders in their own efforts to improve their organization’s innovation.

Scott Davis in his Forbes review of the book wrote: “LEGO is a fascinating story about innovation run rampant. And it very nearly paid the price with failure. But instead, LEGO used the experience to figure out where it went wrong, change course and transform itself in the process. … In Brick by Brick, Robertson uncovers and shares a rare inside exploration of innovation-led transformation at its worst—and best. Any manager can learn from these lessons.”

In 2011, Robertson joined the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is a Professor of Practice. He teaches innovation and product development in Wharton’s undergraduate, MBA, and executive education programs. Click here to learn more about his work.

Nathman MALS ’07 Edits Book on Motherhood Myth

Avital Norman Nathman MALS '07

Avital Norman Nathman MALS ’07

Avital Norman Nathman MALS ’07 has edited a new collection of 35 essays, The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality (Seal Press) unravels the social media-fed notion of what it means to be a “good mother” in an era of mommy blogs, Pinterest, and Facebook. This volume takes a realistic look at motherhood and provides a platform for a diversity of voices, sharing revealing, candid, and sometimes raw stories to expand the narrative of motherhood we don’t tend to see in the headlines or on the news.

Book edited by Avital Norman Nathman MALS '07

Book edited by Avital Norman Nathman MALS ’07

The essay writers come from all walks of life, from professors to porn directors and musicians to massage therapists, who share tales of panic and feeling overwhelmed, surprise pregnancies, single motherhood, dealing with the terrible twos, adopting a child, and several other issues. The honesty of the essays reflects a community of mothers don’t wish to be in competition with others or with the notion of the ideal mom. The foreword is by Christy Turlington Burns, founder of Every Mother Counts, and contributors include Jessica Valenti, Sharon Lerner, Soraya Chemaly, Amber Dusick, and more.

Read the Frisky interview with Norman Nathman about her book.

Editor Norman Nathman concentrated in women’s studies while earning her MALS at Wesleyan. She completed a master’s thesis on the status of feminism in the lives of women in their 20s, which encouraged her to investigate and comment on the role of feminism for women in other aspects of their lives, including motherhood.

She writes a blog, The Mamafesto, and has a regular series, “The Femisphere,” for Ms. magazine’s website, as well as a regular feminist parenting column, “Mommie Dearest,” for The Frisky. Her freelance writing employs a feminist lens on a variety of topics, such as motherhood, gender, reproductive justice and reproductive health, and has appeared in The New York Times, Bamboo Family Magazine, RH Reality Check, Bitch magazine, CNN, Offbeat Families, and elsewhere.

White ’91 Studies Cultural Exchange between 19th-Century Britain and India

Daniel White '91

Daniel White ’91

In From Little London to Little Bengal: Religion, Print and Modernity in Early British India 1795-1835, (The Johns Hopkins University Press), Daniel E. White ’91, associate professor of British Romanticism at University of Toronto, examines the traffic in culture between Britain and India during the Romantic period. In the early part of the 19th century, part of Calcutta could be called  “Little London,” while in London itself an Indianized community of returned expatriates was emerging as “Little Bengal.” Circling between the two, this study considers British and Indian literary, religious, and historical sources alongside newspapers, panoramas, religious festivals, idols, and museum exhibitions.

Book by Daniel White '91

Book by Daniel White ’91

White shows how an ambivalent Protestant contact with Hindu devotion shaped understandings of the imperial mission for Britons and Indians during the period. He focuses on global metaphors of circulation and mobility, communication and exchange, commerce and conquest, and he follows the movements of people, ideas, books, art, and artifacts initiated by writers, publishers, educators, missionaries, travelers, and reformers. In the course of the book, he places luminaries such as Romantic poet Robert Southey and Hindu reformer Rammohun Roy in dialogue with a fascinating array of lesser-known figures, from the Baptist missionaries of Serampore and the radical English journalist James Silk Buckingham to the mixed-race prodigy Henry Louis Vivian Derozio.

White also is the author of Early Romanticism and Religious Dissent (Cambridge University Press). At the University of Toronto, he has directed the graduate collaborative program in Book History and Print Culture.

Collins ’81 Publishes New Poetry Collection

Michael Collins '81

Michael Collins ’81

Michael Collins ’81 has written a new book of poems, The Traveling Queen (Sheep Meadow Press). He sent us the following comments on his collection:

“This book is dedicated to Annie Dillard, who began teaching at Wesleyan University while I was there and who encouraged me to pursue a career as a writer so many times that she finally overcame my misgivings.

“In general, the writing of the book was informed by my sense that poems are promises. ‘So long as men can breathe or eyes can see/ so long lives this [poem],’ Shakespeare promises in one sonnet, ‘and this gives life to thee.’  Or, as Etheridge Knight writes in one poem, a lyric can be a chanted as ‘a spell to drive the demons away.’

Poetry by Michael Collins '81

Poetry by Michael Collins ’81

“In the language of the dollar, poems aspire to be ‘legal tender for all debts [that is to say, all promises], public or private’: legal tender for debts we incur in promising to be good as our word, to love ‘till death do us part’ (for the marriage vow is itself a little poem), to sprout up under the reader’s boot soles, like Walt Whitman, or to look long into the Medusa face of reality, so that the reader will not turn to stone. (Prayers and psalms are these sorts of poems).

“The fact that poems are promises gives the poet (at least at my level) something in common with the Ponzi schemer: For, like a Ponzi scheme, a poem is a lie whose worth is based entirely on what people invest in it. But, unlike a Ponzi scheme, a poem is a lie that becomes truer the more people invest in it, the more they allow it to structure their imaginations: Who would think of ‘Homer,’ who may or may not have existed—may or may not have been made out of ‘a mouthful of air,’ as Yeats said one of his poems was—if the Illiad had not made the fires of war and the wills of gods and nations grow out of Helen’s red hair?

“As this special sort of Ponzi schemer’s product, the poem always has the potential to rise in value to the point of becoming priceless—and the potential to become worthless, like the post-World War I German money people are said to have had to cart in wheelbarrows to make simple purchases.”

From The Traveling Queen:

The Funeral

Before they close the casket
the preacher tries to open heaven with his voice,
and whisper the strongman in.

In her review of the collection in the New York Journal of Books, Laverne Frith writes:

The Traveling Queen is a wildly rich and passionately far-reaching collection of poems about which it is almost impossible to make generalizations. One thing is clear—Michael Collins is a poet of obsessions. He is obsessed with history, obsessed with mythic women, obsessed with God. But most of all, Mr. Collins is obsessed with death.”

Born in Jamaica, Collins holds a PhD from Columbia University and teaches English at Texas A&M. He is the author of Understanding Etheridge Knight (University of South Carolina Press, 2013) and has authored literary criticism, creative nonfiction, journalism and fiction in various publications such as PMIA, Callaloo, and Singapore’s The Straits Times.

Documentary by Bricca ’93 Premieres This Month in Montana

Jacob Bricca '93

Jacob Bricca ’93

Tatanka, directed by Jacob Bricca ‘93, will have its world premiere at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana on February 22, 2014. Big Sky is one of America’s premiere documentary festivals with over 20,000 visitors/year, and the film will be screening alongside such critically lauded films as Citizen Koch, I Am Divine, and Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia.

Film poster for Tatanka, directed by Jacob Bricca '93

Film poster for Tatanka, directed by Jacob Bricca ’93

In the film, based on his own experiences, Bricca, the son of a sixties activist, confronts the enigma that is his father Kit, a man whose uncompromising idealism helped build a movement but nearly tore his family apart. As Bricca follows his father—who had stints as a commodities broker and an insurance salesman before changing his name to Tatanka—on a series of encounters with evangelists, healers and inventors, each must come to terms with the other—and with the meaning of their dreams. The film features Joan Baez, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Daniel Ellsberg.

Tatanka web site with trailer

Bricca shares some thoughts about his new work:

“As a child of ‘The Movement’ I grew up with a profound sense of idealism, but also of loss.  My father worked tirelessly for progressive change and I always assumed that at some point he would pass the baton to me, but by the time I came of age the country’s politics had shifted radically to the right, and that heady sense of collectivism from the ’60s and ’70s was gone. What’s more, my childhood faith in my father’s eternal good judgment had been questioned by insinuations from friends and family members about hidden financial debts and broken promises. After he changed his name to ‘Tatanka,’ I decided I needed answers.

“I wanted to make a film that could answer my own questions about my father’s identity and also portray the profound questions that many of us ask ourselves every day: what is the right path to take between idealism and practicality? Where is the line between dreams and delusions? In my father’s story lives the power of individuals to make profound change, but also the heartbreak of broken dreams and the bittersweet tension of expectations between parents and their children.

“There are also a lot of interesting issues related to documentary ethics in the making of this film. I wrote an essay critiquing the soiling of ‘serious’ documentary by Reality Television but found myself confronting some ethical dilemmas of my own. My father and I went through a pretty serious crisis in our relationship at one point in the making of the film, because he didn’t understand my point of view. Thankfully we moved past it, and we are probably closer now that we were before because of it, but it was not a clear-cut issue. Should I have waited until the rough cut to show him exactly how he would be portrayed? Did I have a responsibility to show him as he wanted to be shown vs. how I wished to portray him? I made some changes, but none that I felt compromised the integrity of the story. It’s a story about acceptance, and part of it is my acceptance of him. I also became much clearer about what I valued in him because of making the movie. His delightful energy, his generosity, his sense of play, and his determination are all things I admire about him, even as we still disagree about many things.”

Tatanka is Bricca’s second feature-length film, his first being the 2006 Indies Under Fire, a documentary focusing on the plight of independent bookstores.

Bricca is an assistant professor in the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film, and Television. He previously taught film production at Wesleyan. More on the filmmaker.