Tag - culture

Nathalie Boltt Talks Nelson Mandela, Stereotypes and Cultures

ATM: How can the understanding of climate change help a person understand this issue related to the Palm Oil?

NB: I think everyone understands climate change at this point. You do not have to know the major details. You just have to understand that we have thrown ourselves out of balance as people. Our planet is getting warmer and our weather is changing. Any day you watch the news to see fires, wild storms, and the completely unusual changes in temperature from extreme cold in places where it did not use to have this happen. The danger is people feel overwhelmed and they do not know what to do about it. They think: “I am one person.” You have a teenager at school going “I feel like I have no control over my life because my parents make these choices. So, what do I do?”

A lot of people have told me that watching my post on Palm Oil has inspired them to do their school project on it. They have done presentations and their school has taken on the project, without having known about the issue before. But now know what is going on, so one person has made a difference. This is good because everyone feels involved.

Also, the positive side to social media is that anyone can build their following if they are passionate enough and talk about what they are passionate about. This could be deforestation, climate change, saving species, or getting plastic out of the ocean. We have a voice now through social media. This can be very empowering. You can find your tribe of people who feel the same way. There is so much you can do in terms of connecting with people who can support your cause, finding friends with the same values and voicing your worries. I didn’t have that as a kid, so the Internet is a blessing if you use it right.

ATM: When you were younger why did you not know how to help people?

NB: Because this was before the internet. In South Africa, where I grew up, we had very little access to real information during the Apartheid years. We did not have T.V until late. This was controlled by the government. So, our information about our society, was told to us in the newspapers. We did not know how black people were being treated. I was living in this strange bubble. And when the government changed and Nelson Mandela came out of prison, I realized I had been living a complete lie. I watch what is going on in America now and go “Wow, it is going backward. In terms of integration and compassion and acceptance of all ethnicities and belief systems, we are going backward.” After what I experienced in South Africa, where a society woke up and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that allowed victims and perpetrators to speak and apologize and heal, I feel saddened and extremely frustrated witnessing the enabling of separation that is going on in the US. But I am very hopeful it will change. I know it will. Because we can speak up through social media. Unlike in South Africa in the 80s, where these outlets didn’t yet exist.  The only people who I could speak to as a kid were my school friends and teachers. I could ask my parents how I could help. My mom always made me aware of people in need. At university, my friends, whose parents had been involved int he anti-anti-apartheid struggle, made me aware of what had really been going on in our country. They taught me to question everything, to think for myself, to be proud of standing up for a cause.

With regards to my passion for conservation, my mother helped me speak out about my passion for the environment. She helped me. She has a huge heart and has spent her life connected to animals. Our home was a zoo of saved animals! So of course, that has influenced me. The connection to another species and our natural world is deeply therapeutic.

ATM: Going back to growing up in apartheid South Africa, If the newspapers showed something went wrong, then you believed it no matter what. You did not have anyone coming out saying their opinion whether it was fake or real.

NB: You just ate it all up. Especially as a kid, you trust people. You think this is true. You just go with it and it is only much later you go “Oh, wow. That was nonsense. We believed a lie.” This has made me who I am today. I have great compassion for all communities and cultures. I have a great understanding of how you can be one thing and then turn out and become something different as long as someone just explains to you what is going on. I always encourage people on my social media to not get angry, shout, and lecturer people about anything. This does not start the conversation, but it ends the conversation. It ends up like where we are at in America, where certain groups of people are allowed hate whatever is not them. They are encouraged to fear ‘the other.’ This never solves anything. Fear can lead to violence and violence never solves anything. Never.

ATM: Although we are in the early parts of the 21st century, there are some American people who still believe there are no white people living in South Africa. This is totally not true. I would not blame them. I would blame what society puts out about how Africa is portrayed. How would you explain the social behavior growing up in South African as a white woman?

NB: This is a huge question, but it is a good one. Growing up as a white person, male or female, it was crazy. I finished high school during the last year before Nelson Mandela came out of prison and the system changed. I went to a white-only school. We did not learn about any history in South African that had to do with the Apartheid. We had a very one-sided curriculum. The following year everything changed. I went to a university that was very progressive and openminded. The people that I met there helped me to really wake up.

It was a beautiful time when Nelson Mandela was released from prison – the people fighting for him and for change – we had so much hope. Talking about the time of the rainbow nation. Nelson Mandela developed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which went on to be used throughout the world. This was all happening while I was at university. I felt so privileged and a blessing to see this happening.

The Truth and Reconciliation commission was essentially: let’s talk about it and let’s not fight about it. The perpetrators and victims were brought together in a court. They were invited to express their pain. As the perpetrator of a crime, if you told the truth, you were given amnesty. A very progressive concept. The healing that comes out of it this is so much more rich and helpful than being judged and incarcerated. For both victim and perpetrator. Because you can look each other in the eye, express your grief and see how flawed we are as human beings. People need healing. They need to say “I am so sorry. I did this because I was instructed to do so by the government.” Or give the reason and motivation for their crime and their deep regret.  The people on the other side are given the chance to express their trauma and say, “I need you to know how much you have hurt my family with the violence that was brought upon us.”  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission trailed around South Africa for three years listening to the pain caused by the Apartheid government. It was broadcast live on TV.  Witnessing it completely changed me and healed many thousands of people and a large part of the psyche of a very damaged South Africa. It was revolutionary and the reason SA did not break into a civil war.

How does this apply to my career as an actor? Well, I have witnessed so much. I have seen people change completely. So, I am very aware that it is possible to be any character you choose as long as you believe and give that person a back story. Why are they like this? What happened in their life to make them like this? Actors are very accepting of people’s any traits.  We are the ones that are fearless of ‘the other’. We are always putting on each other’s skin and trying on someone’s character.

We always need a recipe to create something new and life-changing. I was on this show, Isisdingo (The Need) and the movie, District 9. Isidingo, is one of the longest-running daily dramas in South Africa. It showed the first interracial kiss or relationship. This was huge. It was so cool to be a part of this. You portray something and people see it is possible. This creates change. In District 9, it was this brilliant commentary on the ‘aliens’, the victors to Earth, that were treated so badly, and it was shot in these refugee camps. So, this was a very smart commentary on, not only what had happened politically in South Africa, but also on how refugees are treated globally. It was a privilege to be part of these stories – there is nothing better than to know you are a part of the change of a terrible system that turned into a better system. This is my experience.

Even in New Zealand, I learned about the anti-anti-apartheid movement – information I hadn’t heard while living in SA because the censorship of the news. When I lived in NZ, I learned about how the 1981 Springbok tour was boycotted in New Zealand. Many people believed, quite rightly, that the South African rugby team would not be allowed to tour, as people of colour were not allowed to join the national team.

It was fascinating to see how New Zealand influenced the change of power in South Africa. And the whole debacle was played on the radio in South Africa and Nelson Mandela got to hear about the rugby boycott in New Zealand from his cell on Robben Island.

ATM: There are some things society feeds people that are not true. They so long have wanted to keep us divided. You grow up thinking this race is better or this gender is that way. A lot of what is taught in education today and from the beginning of time is not true. When you go to the source, you realize the lies that society embeds in your head through tests, quizzes, and etc.

NB: Exactly. We have a lot of work to do to open minds and undo the damage of racism and bigotry. For example, the terrible attack on Jussie Smollett. There have been some posts from the Riverdale cast on how we really stand by him. Riverdale is very gender balanced and LGBTQA proud, so I am very happy to be part of that. This also goes for our sister show Sabrina. It is something to be proud of that we do not stand by any of the hate that is going on in the world. We want to be a part of the people who speak out about these things. All of us stand for something positive on the show.

ATM: How was your race and gender in New Zealand assessed once moving there?

NB: Contemporary NZ is predominantly European. So, going from that background, there was nothing unusual about me, when I moved there. Maori is the indigenous culture there, along with an interesting mix of Pacific Island culture, Indian, Asian and so on. I was hoping to be speaking influent in Maori within the ten years living here, but sadly, even though there is now a lot of Te Reo/ Maori taught in the school curriculum now, I didn’t pick it up in my day to day.  It did not happen. It was when I moved around a bit and got involved with some of the T.V shows where I got to mix more, culturally. New Zealand has some historical issues in terms of race relations, but not the same scale as South Africa. I really enjoy being around the Maori friends I made, and getting to learn more about their culture, which is fascinating and proud and very musical and artistic. I was once told I have ‘mana’ after I performed in a series about the part the Maori soldiers played in the Gallipoli war. ‘Mana’ means grace and dignity. I was so moved by this. The Maori culture is based on mana. So, this was very meaningful to me.  

Thank you for your interesting questions. Not a lot of people have gone there with me. I am always open to discussing my background, and cultures.

Julien Landais Talks the Romanticism Period, Paris Culture & More

ATM: How would you express the moment when your modern day thinking of today’s period intertwines with the thinking of the period piece?

JL: Human nature does not really change even though we have different eras. Some of them are suppressed and others are open. We live in a world where it is more periods than it has ever been. It is weird, but it is history. I was drawn to the story and characters because it was done in Europe. Henry James said he had the idea of the story when living in Florence. I wanted people to understand what was behind the story that Henry James was saying but did not want to go too far. It was a very cinematic story. It is harder to do period pieces. It is kind of a miracle that we did it at all.

ATM: How did you observe the way in which Henry James embedded imprisonment in the story?

JL: It was a very difficult period. All of these characters feel kind of imprisoned. We can feel the constant spur for more. This is with the three main characters in The Aspern Papers. They knew it was original. It was in Washington Square. You have the double climax in the end. They find marriage and love. This could speak to so many people today with love and relationships.

ATM: What elements of expressing love do you feel has shattered from our perspective of love today?

JL: People are not writing as much nowadays. Love letters were popular during the time because of the Romantic period. There is incredible sexual freedom nowadays. We still love in remnants of the 19th century. Mixing marriage and love was not the case before. It is very pervasive to our modern society.  Before Romanticism marriage was of interest, but it was not loved like it is today.

ATM: Explain the reality of love that transpires through typical storytelling.

JL: We all want love, but when we do have it, then what is there to do with it? It is sustainable. I love Henry James because he asks questions but does not give answers. I do not think anyone has answers. Sort of like the Hollywood romantic comedies we have seen that is changing now. Happily, ever after is a great dream. We need to have it and everyone has it, but is it a reality? He asks questions and then everyone can make his own answers. I try to do this in the film. I am a bit more explicit than he is.

ATM: What was the mentality of the people living in the Romantic era?

JL: It was different. Henry James was not the Romantic era, but you can embody it. They were much passionate, expressive, and longing for this type of love. Romanticism was violent. People wanted to get back to the rough ages and middle ages. It was the time of the Napoleonic Wars. There was a sense of everything was possible after the Revolutionary War. It was very idealistic at the same time. This is the way they expressed their love. Their love lives were very cruel.

ATM: This version of love was stripping away the fantasy in front of people.

JL: There was a lot of this in the love letters. It was much expressed this way. In reality yes.

ATM: It was more so seen in literature such as romantic letters. Now, it is more expressed physically.

JL: They were inspired by the letters sort of like music. They were much sexualized through this.

ATM: A modern version of a romance letter is texting. Back then you could see the ink smudges. The crippled-up marks on the paper where their tears once laid.

JL: Times have changed for sure. It is accelerating in our 21st century world. It is a new version of it.

ATM: How would they have responded to texting?

JL: The poets? They would have been like everyone and still written books. It would be something like the Mick Jagger letter. The early music composers made music but it was very visual. It is an equivalent of these people these days. It is subjective to the times. The rhythms of different eras.

ATM: If texting went away and romance letters came back, then how would this change the current era of love being shared?

JL: Technology and the media. It is about the notion of time and how people relate to time. People do not take the time to discover others and think there are so many possibilities. This is the problem today with all these dating apps. People swipe these days. You do not get to explore all the great human beings. They do not get trapped, but at the time they did not have the choice. People can move on more easily. People can escape more easily without any means.

ATM: Would you agree that you are a cinematic poet with how you direct movies?

JL: This is because some of these things I have personally lived. I hope through cinema I touch people. Even if is a few people. I am a classical musician as well, a pianist. I want to appeal to people through people and also the visual elements.

ATM: Any relations to the main characters in the film?

JL: Yes of course. I would not say I identify with one of the characters, but all three in some ways. It is the same for Henry James. We have all been in this situation. It is never the same level of love. People respond to love differently.

ATM: What does the air showcase about love in Paris?

JL: The walls are beautiful. You can feel it when walking out at night. It is very romantic.

ATM: You feel the love through the air?

JL: Yes. It is a beautiful city full of mystery. It is great to listen to music and write.  

ATM: If you feel it through the air, then the art that is from renowned artists, the love is still repressed in their artwork. What does this air of love feel like?

JL: Yes, definitely. It inspires you. It makes you feel connected to people who have the same feelings. We are social creatures, so we need to relate to others. There is a responsibility through the art. You can feel in amongst human beings much more in New York. There are more socializing people than French people.

ATM: You believe New York people are more likely to socialize than people living in France.

JL: Yes. They are not as open in the French society compared to the American society. The language is more internal and less emotional. My music friends think about it like this as well. In English, it is similar, and you stretch the syllables. In French, the language creates a disconnect from emotion. You feel it amongst the people the way they express it.

ATM: What is the remedy? How do you all create expression through language?

JL: I have been living and studying in America for some time. I travel and meet people from all kinds of worlds. It enriches you, makes you more open, and able to express yourself. The world we live in goes faster. Even with social media. You meet people and there was not a way to speak before. This is great. You get to meet people all over the world and gain different perspectives about cultures. This is what people are afraid of in the world we live in nowadays. We have never communicated as much and shared as much. People are withdrawn because things go to fast. People would adapt. In the first revolution, we went from monarchs to republics. Society changed and now we are going into something else. People cannot live disabled from the world from others. It is too late. You can build walls. People want to preserve culture, and this is a good time. We are looking at what is different and singular about our time.

ATM: How would you observe the Honore Balzac’s term Rastignac as used in French society?

JL: Yes. Rastignac. This means ambition. It is the person that is willing to sacrifice and end everything to succeed. He is the architect of ambition and was a young ambitious fictional male character. This is pretty lost in French society. France is a country that does not value ambition culturally like Americans. It has been like this for the last 200 years.

ATM: So, you would agree that people of the American culture have adapted more of the tendencies of the French originated term Rastignac?

JL: Definitely. Ambition is not a bad word in America, but it is in France.

ATM: If you do not look toward ambition like Americans, then what do you all look towards?

JL: It is the normal level of ambition to be able to succeed, do better, and achieve things. This is exciting and the adventure of life. Ambition is an English word. This is not in France anymore.

ATM: America has the term ‘The American Dream’. What is the ‘Paris Dream’?

JL: This is a complicated question. You can speak for the whole nation. People do not know what they want especially right now. They are caught between two worlds because of communication.  I always felt in Paris that whenever you had a dream it was considered impossible. You always heard things were always impossible. This is true because of our culture. I felt this as a teenager and still today. People in America are more willing to give people a chance. When you fail, you fail. People try. They do not in France. It comes with so many things from the huge administration. It is much slower. It is in all fields of life. Everything is connected of course.

ATM: The typical thing in America is everyone wants to become a millionaire and to become famous. It was not like this 50 years ago. People more so looked to survive. Especially during the Civil Rights era.

JL: It is the same thing in France. It is a part of human nature, but we do not say it in France. It is kept a secret. They want to but do not say it like you all. It is a derogatory word in France. They do not say what they want, but they only say what they do not want. Not all people but the majority hold it in.

ATM: You just released a film. Do you go home and say nothing?

JL: I have some friends who knows. People are different. It is not the same as in American though. People know me but I would not say I am a celebrity.

ATM: If you are in a store, is someone more likely to ask for your autograph?

JL: Yes, but it is done more discreetly. People are less expressive over than in America. Natalie Portman would say people here are not complimentary. When she came back to America, she was in an elevator with a child. A woman came to her to give a compliment and she had forgotten how it felt. It felt so good. She had been living in Paris for a few years and had spoken about it.

ATM: And everyone wants to go to Paris.

JL: It is a very beautiful and good city. Living here is something else. Haha. It is very different.

ATM: Do you consider yourself a Rastignac?

JL: No, because I am not willing to end anything to succeed. I have a normal deal of ambition. I am not ready to sacrifice anything for a higher level of ambition.

ATM: Why?

JL: Because of the feelings and my love life is very important. I want to keep a balance to keep the ideal thing. I am ambitious of course but to a certain point.

ATM: Are you not willing to embark on the sacrificing part of it?

JL: To sacrifice everything for this? No. It would be bad because life is too short. I have a normal deal of it. When I started doing my film, everyone told me it was impossible, and it would never get done. They would never say yes. You will not get to do it. You will never get the financing to do it. I just followed my instinct and met the right people. The only person that did not tell me I would not manage to do the film was James Ivory. He was very supportive and knew how hard it was to do period pieces. I did not tell you, but I did not think it would manage after doing the film. I did not listen to the people who told me not to do it. It is here and it did. People are very happy. I fought for it. It was a real war. There is a creative part, but cinema is also related to politics and business in many ways. The reality of this makes it a war and a fight.

‘Bumblebee’s’ Jason Drucker Talks Family, the 80s and Now

ATM: Aside from the film, how important is family to you?

JD: I would say family is first. I put family in front of all. It is about taking care of them, staying together through thick and thin in whatever that happens. This is extremely important because one day they might be all you have and one day they may not be there. It is extremely important to stick with your family.

ATM: From your answer, how are those aspects seen in the film?

JD: Through the movie, my character Otis’ relationship with his sister Charlie becomes stronger. We become more like brother and sister relationship. You can see our bond strength in becoming more compassionate with each other. We share more love compare to the beginning of the movie. In the beginning, I am a typical bratty and nerdy little brother who does not take kindly to his sister.

ATM: How can this lack of a bond in the beginning influence a brother and sister relationship?

JD: It can influence it pretty strongly. It is family before all. If you truly do not have a strong relationship with any of your family members, then it can get bad sometimes. It is not a typical relationship you would like to have. Having a strong, nice, compassion relationship between family members is important.

ATM: What are ways that you work in your comic relief personality?

JD: I a bit animated. I am potty and bratty. I bring a bit of comedy to the movie. Instead of just being stubborn and straight up me, I make the scene funny. This is a great mix and audiences will love to see it. I also bring a light-hearted characteristic to the movie because of my relationship with my sister Charlie and how it strengthens as the movie progresses. I also bring a kind of action to it. I do not know why but I kind of intensify a couple of the scenes a little bit.

ATM: What characteristics does Bumblebee bring to the movie?

JD: He is sort of a human. Sometimes he is clumsy and a bad ass fighting other robots in transformers. He brings a lot of comedy to the movie through his clumsiness. He brings a real light-hearted and kindness to the movie because of the way he reacts to Charlie and how their relationship is.

ATM: What were your observations of Charlie’s character being 18 years old trying to figure out her place in the world?

JD: Like you were saying, she just turned 18. She is tomboyish. The period is the 80s. She does not fit in. There are mean girls and they are bullying her of course. All she wants is to feel loved. Our father passed away. She calls it Otis’ stepdad a replacement. She has not really adjusted to it yet. She does not really have anyone in her life to love, care, and be kind to her.

ATM: How does this film add to the Transformer’s franchise being so legendary and iconic?

JD: This Transformers movie is going to go on a different route than the other ones. The other ones were focused on action, explosions, and robot fighting. Here, it is a bit more comedic, light-hearted, and you do not lose the aspect of the fighting in the war. This is not all that it is focusing on. This is why I like the movie.

ATM: Being born in the 2000s and not the 80s, what are some interesting things you learned about this period? What were some differences?

JD: I have learned about the differences between the 80s and the current day. The clothes are so much different than what people wear today. Technology and video games are much more different. The 80s was an extremely simpler time than this decade.

ATM: What were your observations of the dress code during the 80s?

JD: I like it more than what people wear today. It is different. You do not see many people wearing—my character wore a short sleeve that had no sleeves, and it was in the form of a jacket. I am not sure how to define it. It was like a sleeveless jacket. You do not see many people wearing this today. Jeans were a lot more in style. Everything people wore had a high waist in the dress code during the 80s.

ATM: Does your likeness for things fit more during the 80s and its style than the 2000s?

JD: Yes, it is a lot more different.

ATM: What differences did you notice about how people socialized during this time?

JD: Typically, cell phones did not exist. You had to dial your friends’ number, memorized it, and take out your phone book every time you would want to call them. Bikes! People rode bikes a lot more back then to hang out with their friends. Nowadays this is not done as much.

ATM: You noticed that with no technology people became closer?

JD: Yes, this is a great way to define it. They were a lot closer. This was instead of sitting behind your cell phone or computer. You actually went to their house, and people did it face to face.

ATM: What were some similarities with the 80s and now?

JD: The music style. Rap is still more popular. Rap itself has changed for sure. Video games, but they are a lot more advanced. The graphics are so much better. They took the same route as the ones now. The storyline was the same as a princess. There is a different generation of technology. Relationships with friends were better, but I think people still want to go over each other’s house to see them face to face. There are a lot more differences than similarities.

ATM: What do you gather what the 80s represented coming from someone who was born in 2005?

JD: It seemed like a light-hearted time. Nowadays people focus too much on what people wear, what they do as a living, and their hobbies. Back then, during the 80s . . . I have never lived during this time, but people were more humbled than this time. Social media was not around. This blocked off a lot of things that are available in the current day.

ATM: So, more carefree?

JD: Yes, this is a good way to describe it.

Filipino-American Documentary ‘ULAM: Main Dish’ in Theaters Dec 1st

Gunpowder & Sky has acquired worldwide distribution rights to the Alexandra Cuerdo-directed documentary feature film ULAM: Main Dish. The film will be released under Gunpowder & Sky’s FilmBuff label in select theaters starting December 1 and will be available later in the month on demand on all major VOD platforms including Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft Movies & TV, PlayStation, Redbox on Demand and VUDU.

Directed and co-produced by first-time filmmaker Alexandra Cuerdo, ULAM: Main Dish is the first and only American documentary feature that documents the rise of the Filipino food movement in the U.S., following the chefs crossing over to the center of the American table. The film was produced by Kidlat Entertainment, Cuerdo, John Floresca and Rey Cuerdo.

Subjects include celebrity chef Alvin Cailan, creator of EGGSLUT and THE USUAL, Blue Apron x Bob’s Burgers’ exclusive recipes (featured on Bob’s Burgers episodes earlier this year) and the host of First We Feast’s hit series The Burger Show; chefs Chad and Chase Valencia, co-owners of Food and Wine’s 2018 Restaurant of the Year, LASA; Nicole Ponseca and chef Miguel Trinidad, creators of NYC hotspots MAHARLIKA and JEEPNEY and co-authors of the cookbook I Am A Filipino; chef Charles Olalia of MA’AM SIR and Bon Appetit Top 50 Best New Restaurants’ RICEBAR; chefs Johneric and Christine Concordia of LA favorite THE PARK’S FINEST; chef Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa of Brooklyn’s PURPLE YAM; and LA veteran chef Andre Guerrero of THE OINKSTER, MAXIMILIANO, and THE LITTLE BEAR.

The festival favorite has been playing consistently to sold-out audiences since its world premiere in the Launch section of the San Francisco International Film Festival in April. ULAM: Main Dish had its first preview screening as a special selection by Jonathan Gold for the inaugural Los Angeles Times Food Bowl in 2017, with Gold calling ULAM a “love letter to Filipino cooking in America.”

Check out trailer below.

 

David Ajala

David Ajala speaks down with ATM and talks about his life as an actor and relates it to his latest shows CW’s Supergirl and Syfy’s Nightflyers.

ATM: The main character in Supergirl has to balance with having new responsibilities and balancing her own human relationships. How do you balance these two in your real life? 

DA: This is a very good question. Perspective is important. I have always practiced gratitude. Someone told me this and I thought it was a pretty simple way to keep one’s self in check. A lot of us are always looking after our physical health but is also important to look after your mental and spiritual health. I try to practice gratitude. I try to be kind without necessarily wanting to receive anything back. These are very important things to me. 

ATM: What is the view of an actor that does not take the advice you just gave? 

DA: Even more so for actors, it is so important to try and embrace this way of thinking. In the acting industry, I hear this figure of 95% of actors are always out of work. This just shows the competitive nature of the industry. Certainly, for myself, when I have gone into the audition room for really cool projects, I have eventually heard ‘no’ many times. This can be tough. It could be tough to be told, “No you are not good enough. No, you are not tall enough. No, you are not sexy enough etc.” Protect your passion and practice gratitude. Essential. 

ATM: How do you protect your passion? 

DA: I protect myself even when life is really challenging Gabrielle, and there are sometimes where it is hard to see it working out because you have something you can offer, and you are just waiting for someone to take a chance on you. I protect my passion by reminding myself of the reason why I am willing to believe I could make it work. It is my love of storytelling and my love of theatre. As much as possible, I am very grateful for my friends and family. My peace. My balance. I recommend this to many people, especially actors. Have hobbies and interests outside of your passion. 

ATM: What are hobbies outside of your passion? 

DA: Oh, I love music. I love listening to different songs. I love dancing. I used to dance professionally back in the day. I would do back up dancing at concerts and at dance competitions. Now the dancing I like to do is more therapeutic. This is the kind of dancing that does not require you to look any specific way or execute moves in any specific way. It is very expressive. I also love playing the drums.  

ATM: What are your key points in how you approach your character, Manchester Black? 

DA: I was not familiar with the character. I had to do a lot of research to understand his background and where he came from. The things in his life that shaped who he is today. These help me to keep him grounded and to create something that feels very real to me. Manchester Black is a character that has certain special abilities. When you strip these abilities away, he is a human being and I wanted to start there. He is from Manchester in England. I had to learn the Manchester accent and familiarize myself with it. I was listening to different people. I was listening to Black guys, Asian guys, and White guys from Manchester. There are different voices because accents are really fluid. The sound is fluid from where you are from, education, and the languages you speak. I just wanted to immerse myself into many different dialects in Manchester.

ATM: What were the differences and similarities you saw with your own British culture?

DA: Quite a few. I grew up in Hackney, East London. There is something really special about Hackney. For a lot of other people who are looking from the outside in, it was not the most desirable place to live. I grew up with some of my best friends in Hackney. A few years ago, Hackney started to become gentrified. You have a lot of people moving in and a lot of people, unfortunately, have had to move out from Hackney because they were priced out. This is something that is happening in England and many other parts of the world. People are being priced out and forced to relocate.

Manchester Black is someone who operates outside of the social norm of society. One could say he is a bit of an outcast. He might be an outcast and ostracized by society, but at heart, he is a good guy who wants to make a contribution towards making the world a better place. Even if he has very unorthodox ways of doing it. Like I said before, this season is going to be very provocative. Of course, it is going to have politics in it because this is the nature of the world. It is going to be done in a very courageous way and it is going to flip the mirror around so we can look at ourselves . . . a little deeper.

ATM: Do you believe that if you go outside of the social norms that you are seen as insubordinate or taking a new view on life? 

DA: It is all subjective. When you have people who start to challenge society, seeking a change that does not fit the social norm, it immediately becomes a threat. When I think about people like Tupac Shakur who was an amazing lyricist and poet, he spoke about a lot of things that were happening in society across the board. Because he was so articulate in the way he shared these ideas. A lot of the times his ideas were dismissed because “Oh, he was just a rapper. So what does he know.” This is what I find happens in society sometimes when people go to challenge the establishment to force us to think a little deeper and not always accept everything that is being fed to us. This becomes a threat. It is important like characters such as a Manchester Black to have a voice in society.

ATM: Would it be interesting in a pleasant way that if all the answers to the world’s problems could be solved by actually go on the other side of the social norms. Sometimes when you go backwards it is sometimes the right way. 

DA: Right. You hit the nail on the head. A very interesting thing has happened recently, which is social media. There are various platforms to social media where people can share their thoughts and ideas. Twitter and Instagram, but mainly Twitter. The power of information and knowledge is not in the hands of the media, it is in the hands of the people. People become edified and start sharing and becoming vocal about certain issues. They are calling public figures out for bad behaviour, and their irresponsibilities. This is important. When we get the power back in the hands of the people, people are going to make decisions that better everyone. When looking at governmental figures in America or in the U.K, we are always trying to work towards an effective democracy and trying to level the plane fields with equality. The main issues I find with the political figures in power is that they have been elected based upon who they know, connections etc. Class and economical background plays a big part.

ATM: Nepotism. 

DA; This is the wrong way to do it. It should be done on merit. Meritocracy is a group of people who are brought to run and lead the country for the people based on merits. Nothing to do with their social power or political power or economical power. It should be based on merits and these merits should come from serving the people. This is very important. This has gotten very political. Supergirl is going to have a lot of surprising elements than what you expect from a superhero television series.  

ATM: How does your other show Nightflyers fit into all of this? 

DA: Yes, it does. I recently came back from New York Comic Con and it was an amazing experience. We were doing panels for NightFlyers. It was well received just in terms of people who got to see it at New York Comic Con. I am very aware that it is highly anticipated because it is George R.R. Martin’s creation. It was a joy to be apart of this show and to promote Nightlfyers and Supergirl at the same time. These are very different shows and very different projects. This is what excited me to play Manchester Black because they are so different. 

ATM: What does the title Nightflyers mean NOT very much the show? 

DA: Guys who are operating in the night flying into space. It is funny because I have never actually thought about this. If we look at maybe some synonyms of the word “night” or what “night” might evoke if we are talking about word association, then it is dark, mysterious, and it is unknown. To these guys as they blast from the earth’s orbit into outer space, everything is unknown. The journey that they are going on is unknown. They have an idea of what to receive but it is not guaranteed. Little do they know that they are going to be stopped in a very claustrophobic nightmare on this ship. The threat is not what they are aiming towards or what they are trying to discover, but the threat is on this ship. 

ATM: So do you feel nightmares are real? 

DA: There is definitely a difference between nightmares and dreams. One thing I would say is that you can certainly learn from both. It is important to pay attention to dreams and nightmares. 

ATM: How so? 

DA: Let me tell you something. Here is a dream that I have had before:

I had a dream that I am doing a play in England. In this dream, I literally run on stage because I am rushing. I am on stage and doing this scene. I have been doing this play for maybe a month. I am doing this scene and I cannot remember my lines in this scene. It is the dread and the panic of being on stage in front of an audience that I cannot remember my lines. I wake up in the morning, and I am feeling anxious about something. I may not be doing a play at all or doing a T.V or film gig, I could be on a holiday. It would inform me that I am anxious about something. Because I am in tune with this experience in my dream, when I wake up I am able to meditate, breath, or stretch. This is why it is important to pay attention to your dreams. What do you think? Don’t you think so? 

ATM: Yes, I do think it is important. They are unconsciously warnings for our life. Do you think for us humans to be granted the chance to go to sleep and have pictures or another imaginative lifestyle in our brain is interesting? 

DA: Definitely. 

ATM: This is really interesting. It is like you are living two lives with one heartbeat. 

DA: Yes, if we are talking about lucid dreaming, which is mind blowing. I played on this show called Falling Water a couple of years ago. It was all about people having awareness about the power of their dreams. And how they could use lucid dreaming as a superpower. I need to research more into this. If you can control your dreams and be aware of the effects of engaging in lucid dreaming, then there are some very amazing things you can do. A friend of mine has been learning how to play the piano. When he gets a chance to in his lucid dreaming, I kid you NOT, he has extra piano practice. Imagine if you are able to utilize an extra 2-3 hours of sleep a day to work toward something you are doing. To be a guitar player or drummer. You can use lucid dreaming to speed up the process of learning something. Isn’t this amazing?  

ATM: David, this is crazy in an interesting way. 

DA: Isn’t it? 

ATM: This is like pushing the humanistic boundaries of abilities and capabilities. 

DA: Completely. We have geniuses within us. Sometimes people do not use it to maximize the potential in our brains. This is an avenue to lucid dreaming and to put in some work into extracurricular activities. 

ATM: What a way to live. 

DA: Right. (Laughs). For the opening question about Supergirl. I worked on Nightflyers earlier this year, January-June. I wanted to take a little bit time to chill and do simple things like catch up with friends. When you are in the acting industry, you are filming away from home, you are spending large amounts of time from friends and family. It could be a bit tricky from time. I told my management team, I was taking time off to chill. This was in June. I got a call in the middle of June from DC and Warner Brothers. They contacted my management team saying they had this really cool role and wanted to see if I was interested. They would love to speak to me about it because it would be cool for me. My management spoke to me and said they really wanted to speak to me. I kind of came out of semi retirement to play the role, Manchester Black. It was such a gift of a role. I loved how they used this character and other characters to elevate the storytelling for this season. I had to do a lot of physical training. 

ATM: As an actor, when you are away from your friends and family, how do you re-harness these relationships? 

DA: This is really really good question. I try to do the best I can as I am doing it. I love being in the company of my friends and family. Whenever I am in town, I reach out to my friends to say, “Yo, let’s go see this play. Let’s watch this movie. Let’s go get some good food.” It is great to speak on the phone, but I am more of a face to face kind of guy. Whenever I have time off I am literally with friends and family or in the theatre watching plays. This is me literally. 

ATM: Do they see you as still “little David” or as a professional actor? 

DA: I think it is both. It is still “little David.” I have 4 brothers and 1 sister. It is six of us. Older brother, older brother, older brother, me, younger brother, and a sister. When the baby girl came along, which is my baby sister. Mom and dad retired, because they got their girl. I am still “Little David,” but at the same time my family has been very supportive in what I do. Especially my parents, I literally owe them my career for the sacrifices they made and support they have shown. 

ATM: Do you have it in you to make these same sacrifices with your own children? 

DA: Yes, but different sacrifices for different people. I will never forget when my first son was born while waiting for him to arrive. I had not worked for a few months. I had auditioned and got offered this film. It was really cool. I met with the director and he wanted to offer me to play the lead in this movie. Prior to this, I had not worked for 6 months. It was so bittersweet because it would have been great to do this gig, but at the same time, I did not want to miss the birth of my son. Because it clashed. It would have had to fly out like 10 days before the due date of my son. I remember feeling that I really wanted to do it and my wife was super supportive. She was like, “Babe, I get it. If you need to do it, then go and do it. You deserve it. I will be fine.” When she said this, because she said it so genuinely, I remember an hour later getting on the phone and calling my team. 

I told them, “Guys I know I have not worked for 6 months and this is an amazing opportunity. Can you tell the guys I am so grateful they considered me? I have to turn this role down because I cannot miss the birth of my first born son.” It was tough. But I tell you what, I turned this gig down and my son came earlier than the due date. This means I could have done the film and been there for the birth of my son. What is for you will never pass you by. It was tough because I had a baby, a house, and a mortgage. Throughout the year I was doing a few jobs here and there because I did not want to say yes to anything. A year later on my son’s first birthday, I was gifted my first American television series. It changed the game for me. 

ATM: From a father’s perspective, what was this moment like when your first baby boy came into this earth? 

DA: Oh lord. It was so surreal and so special. I felt so proud and blessed to be given a great bundle of joy. It was immensely proud of my wife for being so awesome, so strong, and so courageous. I was completely humbled because I thought wow my mother has done this 6 times. I was there through the labor. My appreciation for mothers in the world has gone sky high. Mothers are the unsung heroes for society as far as I am concerned. 

ATM: How would you describe what you have witnessed about a women’s strength? 

DA: I posted something on my Instagram and it said, “You cannot break down the pedal stool of women if she was the one that built that pedal stool in the first place.” I really loved this quote. When I think about strong women, I think about my mum, my wife, my sister, and some of the women I really admire in the world, Serena Williams. She is one of my heroes. Not only is she an incredible athlete, I think she is a courageous woman. What impresses me about Serena Williams is despite what the naysayers have said, challenges she has faced, she has always continued to gracefully transcend it all by focusing on her craft and doing the best she can do. For me, this is the stuff of champions. A lot of the heroes in my life happen to be women. I am very happy with this. 

ATM: We would not be here without them.

DA: Amen.

El Chicano: The First Mexican American Superhero Film

She is the first Latina of her generation to be on syndication television and a favorite on Showtime’s Dexter and ABC’s George Lopez television sitcom. Aimee Garcia is now a part of the first Mexican-American superhero film El Chicano. This film also stars George Lopez, and Raul Castillo (Seven Seconds).  

ATM: How does this film communicate with America’s social climate for people of Mexican descent?

AG: Mexicans are an integral part to the American society. This community is woven into American history. It talks about how California used to be Mexico. There was a battle. The Mexican community is very much embedded in the country. It is good to shed a historic light on this perspective instead of it being Mexican immigrants. Who are really the immigrants? History is so messy and at some time everyone was an immigrant. Everyone was an outsider. We are an important part of the American puzzle. It is a very prideful story to remind the community they are not outsiders but natives.

ATM: The only main term is that associated with anyone of Mexican descent is “immigrant.” This term is all people know about this race. Some people do not know their good qualities or if they have qualities at all. This film sheds light on their culture and gives positive representations for them to look up to.

AG: Yes, definitely. Our community needs heroes and remodels. You are right. Especially now with the Mexican Community is painted in such an underdog position. It is time for a Mexico vigilante from this community and East LA to rise up. They can be an inspiration for young boys. Young boys need remodels more than any sector. Everyone needs remodels. We are in an age where girl power is prevalent. You have people like Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, and Ellen Ochoa. Ochoa was the first Latina astronaut to go into outer space. There should be role models for 14-year-old boys in this communities. There are not a lot of male Latinos role models for young boys to look up to. This film shows a very necessary voice.

ATM: Why are people in the film industry of this community not stepping up to the plate?

AG: We do not have a lot of people like us behind the camera telling our story. This is the biggest issue. This is part of the reason am changing from actor to writer. I want to create the change and want to see it. I have become a content creator. We have a durst number of Latino writers. This can inspire the next generation to step up and for the current generation to use their platform.

ATM: How does your character get implemented into this crime and action film?

AG: Vanessa is the fiancé of Diego. She is from East LA but went to get an education. She came back to teach grade school in her community. My character knows where she is from and her community. Vanessa is his rock, solid partner in crime, and the heart of the movie.  She wants to start a family with Diego one day. She is a hard worker, strong, and a college graduate. I am proud of the life trajectory that she decided. Vanessa can tell when things are not going well. My character has this sort of sixth sense. She is the voice of reason for Diego. My character is the eye of the storm in the midst of the storm around him.

ATM: Diego feeds off her energy.

AG: Yes. She is calm and rational. Her character does not have an alternative motivate.

ATM: How can this film help the social change Mexicans as we are soon to go to the polls to vote?

AG: They belong and can enrich the American culture. The U.S. would not be the U.S. with the Mexican community. This is without their music and culture. The second most spoken language in America is Spanish. I am also Mexican. We are tribal people and proud of our heritage. This film will make the Mexican community feel less isolated.

ATM: Describe the culture experience on the set of this film.

AG: It was very collaborative, and everyone showed up. You will see George Lopez in a completely different light. It is rare to have a mostly ego-less male Latino cast. This is great. This film was close to the director’s heart who lost, a brother, a small child and the mother. He wrote this as a cathartic experience of his loss. It was a personal, touchy, and emotional story for him to tell. All the actors were respectful of this. We did not have to do 15 takes. We were press for time. It was a nice experience with speaking Spanish at lunch. No one had to worry about anyone not understanding them because of their Spanish. It was fast and furious but great indie filmmaking.

ATM: You all were able to discuss the Mexican culture among each other.

AG: Everyone was able to be themselves. It was a sense of home and community. Everyone had the experience of being Mexican American and this translated onto film.

This film is about a Mexican vigilante superhero film. Diego is from East Los Angeles and aware of the legend of El Chicano. El Chicano gave voice to the underrepresented. Stuck up for the people being bullied. El Chicano follows his journey through a murder with a close family member. El Chicano makes its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival during September 20-28, 2018.

 

Alexandra Cuerdo Continues to Sale Out Due to Film about Filipino Cuisines

Years ago, Filipino food had a lack of representation in the United States. Filmmaker Alexandra Cuerdo’s persistence and trials brought this issue to the screens. Ulam is a documentary that highlights serious and hardworking Filipino chefs that have risked everything for their career. Cuerdo helps us understand more about her culture and its food.

ATM: When did you recognize there was a lack of representation for Filipino food in the United States?

AC: I have noticed this my whole life. I grew up in Orange County located in Southern California. My family was the only Filipino family on the block. This was a situation. I was one of two Asians at my school in 8th grade. My parents are immigrants from the Philippines. I met other Filipino Americans later in life that inspired me to be proud of my culture. The Filipino food was really about my family’s memories. Food has always been a gathering place for Filipinos. This is during Christmas and other holidays. My parents would always have a big party with all their family and friends. This was the time where we gathered as a family to connect. A lot of being a Filipino American is about celebrating food. I started this film three years ago.

ATM: America is considered the land of the free. Foreigners come here to start over and hopefully try to reach the American Dream. They come here for opportunities that are not offered in their home country. If this is the essence for America, then why do you believe society in the States make it hurt for Filipinos to get a job, support, represent, and express their creativity through food?

AC: That is real. This is a REALLY good question! A lot of this has to do with internalized racism and the act of prejudice. I see this in kitchens all the time. The people in the kitchen are not cooking the food that is within their own culture. There are a lot of Filipinos who grew up in the kitchen. The jobs that have the most money and the most prestige are fine dining restaurants. Fine dining in the United States means French, Italian, and New American food. It does not mean Filipino (Laughs). This is because of the opportunities. What opportunities are for Filipino chefs? If you need to feed your family and want to advance your career, then you are going to work at the jobs that pay the most and are the most prestige. We are finally seeing this wave of Filipino food in the United States.

These chefs have paid their duties. They have cooked in Italian and French kitchens. They have trained. Now they finally have that respect, capital, and investors to open up and build a restaurant. They are keeping them open. There is now an audience in America. The audience for food has changed. American consumers are more open to trying new things.  The Filipino food movement reflects this. Years ago, people questioned Filipino food. The audience builds the restaurants. There are a lot of trailblazers that have built the Filipino food movement. Alvin was the chef that started Eggslut, which is an American breakfast restaurant. He started it out of the food truck. The first thing you learn as a Filipino American is how to cook eggs. He wanted to make a business that contributes to his culture and upbringing. It is now a national brand. He is now able to explore a Filipino culture because of his capital.

ATM: How did you get the participants in your film to be blunt and comfortable? They were cussing nonstop with no care given. I was like woah! How did you allow them to be themselves?

AC: (Laugh). This is another great question! It is a lot about trust. I came from a journalism background. I studied journalism in college and in high school. It was the cinematographer, the chef, and I in the room. We did not bring a big crowd. We asked them simple questions such as “What do you like to eat?”, “What are your favorite things?”, and “What makes you happy?” Questions can reveal how we all connect. The parallels surprised us. We did not expect a lot of these chefs to have a lot in common. They all went through people saying their food was not good or they were not good. They grew up in a world without mentors. It is a tough world being the first one to do something. Also, to constantly prove people wrong and have to battle their parents’ expectations. This was a common thread we saw throughout all these chefs. We started to dig. We also asked questions such as “What made you want to be a chef?” and “What made you give up everything?” This film is about food, chefs, and people who had a dream and risked everything to make it happen.

ATM: Yes! Alvin who owns Eggslut has a remarkable story. His father worked himself up from the bottom and to the top as a self made millionaire. He denied Alvin countless times. Alvin recounts in the film that his father would not give him money to help finance his business in the beginning. His father wanted him to find his way because this was the exact path he took. This was like tough love. I believe it is better to do things on your own behalf because the testimony and story becomes phenomenal. It is good to ask for help but to become a self made successful person is too grand of a story. It is sad when you really need money and a  person has thousands sitting on the table. It paid off for him.

AC: Yes! Also, when you are in the middle of it and you are not aware it is going to pay off. You just do not know. There is so much uncertainty. To watch these highly accomplished chefs go through made me realize this was something everyone needed to see. This is something I want my young cousins and friends to see. I want people to see what it takes. Today, working as a chef and celebrity chef is such a hot thing. People do not know what it means. We are the children of immigrants. A lot of us have parents who came here to flee Marshall Law and the Philippines. The Philippines was essentially a dictatorship. They came here because there were no jobs in the Philippines and the opportunities were better here. Our parents came here to establish themselves in any way they could. They instilled in us huge expectations. Parents want their children to grow up as doctors, lawyers, or engineers in the Filipino culture.

ATM & AC: (Laughs)

ATM: And you became neither!

AC: Exactly! (Laughs).

ATM: What did your parents envision for your career?

AC: It was a lawyer 100%. They were like, “You should become a lawyer since you like to argue. You like to write and argue so become a lawyer.” I became a filmmaker, which is the exact opposite. I realized the chefs went through this same thing with their parents through interviews. It is just a different industry. I spent so many years trying to make ends meet. I worked three jobs a week. I questioned whether this was all worth it. I started to think that maybe my parents were right. I have been in this industry for eight years.

It took me eight years to realize my work and voice was worth it. This is my first film. We just sold out New York. This was crazy to me. I did not think it would ever reach as many people.  We ran out of money halfway through making the film. No one had seen any footage. We had applied for grants and I worked 14 hours a day. I only had half the film. I put a trailer out to show my work based on a year. I had never cut a trailer.  I cut a trailer and put it on Facebook.  A relative in the Philippines asked for me to make this public so they could share it with their friend. I thought it was just sharing it with one friend. I went to sleep. The next morning it had ten thousand views.

ATM & AC: (Laughs)

ATM: Are you sure you did not know how to cut a trailer? (Laughs).

AC: (Laughs). I had never cut a trailer in my life. The next week the trailer picked up an extra ten thousand. It kept going. The Facebook trailer has over a hundred thousand views. It was so organic. This gave me the inspiration to keep going. You never know the response once you put your work out there. Next, the Los Angeles Times said they were are doing a first time food festival. Also, they said there was a food critic that is a fan of Filipino food and wanted to see my movie. I said to myself, “There was no way the LA Times knows about my move.”

ATM: Like you have the wrong number!

AC: Yes! I could not imagine it (Laughs). The food critic was the late Jonathan Gold. He was the only food critic to win a Pulitzer’s prize. Gold was a food critic with the LA Times. He was a huge supporter of the film. He suggested we have a screening after seeing the film. At this point, the film was not done yet. He requested that I put together an hour to show it at the food festival. We put together a preview. The theater was 600 people. There were 650 people that attended the screening. The morning of the screening we sold out and the line wrapped around the building. The New York Times and Vogue begin to contact me. We put it out in the universe and the universe responded. We are constantly having to prove ourselves. We have sold out every screening. The crew thought maybe it was only California and then it was more locations getting sold out. The ticket was 80 dollars. We wondered if the community would come out. An 80 dollar ticket can be expensive. That is like the price of a concert. This is with no ads and just word of mouth. There is an audience that looks like us. People want to see Filipino and brown people onscreen.

ATM: Where would you be today living life as a lawyer?

AC: It is funny. I ended up having a lot of friends who are lawyers after being so anti about becoming one.

ATM & AC: (Laughs).

AC: Isn’t this so funny? I was at a party on July 4th that my lawyer friend held.  I turned around and noticed everyone was arguing because they were lawyers.

ATM & AC: (Laughs):

AC: They argued with no malice but for absolute fun. I have always had a bit of an activist streak. I like being involved in my community. I would be a human rights lawyer. Another female director said we need to have more representation onscreen for minorities of every kind. If you can see it, then you can be it. You ask such great questions.

Alexandra continues screening her film Ulam. The Filipino food community and audience has grown tremendously. Their next locations are Philly, Toronto, and more places throughout the world. Stop by a Filipino restaurant and take a dive into this awesome culture.