With Desierto now in theaters (read the review), and illegal immigration being such a hot topic in the presidential election this year, it seems only right to remember some of the following flicks about the immigrant experience.
Mojados: Through the Night (2004) Director Tommy Davis accompanied four men as they make a 120 mile journey across the Texan desert over the course of 10 days and edited into a 55 minute film. It won the Grand Prize at the San Antonio Underground Festival, Best Documentary at the Santa Fe Film Festival and Arizona International Film Festival, and the Audience Awards at the Kansas International Film Festival and SXSW Film Festival.
Sangre de Mi Sangre (2007) This Argentinean-American thriller tells the story of Pedro (Jorge Adrian Espindola) a young Mexican boy who travels to Brooklyn in search of his long lost father Diego (Jesus Ochoa of Man of Fire and Beverly Hills Chihuahua). But Pedro’s identity is stolen by a young imposter Juan (Armando Hernandez of Fast Food Nation) out to steal Diego’s savings. Pedro then teams up with the streetwise Magda (Paoloa Mendoza from The Undying) as he tries to find his dad. It won the Grand Jury Prize for a Dramatic Film at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards.
Frozen River (2008) Courtney Hunt made her debut writing and directing this crime drama. Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo, The Fighter and Prisoners) is a working class mom hoping to purchase a new trailer home. She teams up with Native Hall Bingo Hall employee Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham from Skins and August: Osage County) in a dangerous business of transporting illegal immigrants from Canada to the U.S. by driving them over the frozen Lawrence River. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Best Female Lead from the Independent Spirit Awards for Melissa Leo, and was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay.
Sin Nombre (2009) Cary Joji Fukanaga (Jane Eyre, Beasts of No Nation, and True Detective) wrote and directed this Mexican adventure thriller. Sayra (Paulina Gaitan who later starred in the cult horror hit We Are What We Are) is a young Honduran girl. Along the way she ends up with two companions Casper (Edgar Flores) and Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer) members of a Mexican street gang seeking to escape the violence. Besides being the film that put Fukanaga on the map it also won awards Best Directing and Excellence in Cinematography at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. (Yep I’m seeing a pattern for movies about immigration and the Sundance Film Festival, too.)
Which Way Home (2009) Rebecca Cammisa received a Fulbright scholarship to direct this documentary that would air on HBO. Cammisa followed several children trying to get from Mexico and Central America to the U.S. on top of a freight train known as “La Bestia.” (The Beast). It won an Emmy Award and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and Academy Award for Best Documentary.
Top photo: Bigstock
Coulrophobia aka “fear of clowns” appears to be gripping the land these days. But as we all know clowns (whose intended purpose is to make us laugh) have long been a source of terror for many. Consider “Twisty” on American Horror Story: Freakshow. Consider the numerous iterations of “The Joker,” on screen or on page. Or watch any of the following films…if you dare.
Poltergeist (1982) William Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) directed this instant horror masterpiece that was written and produced by none other than Steven Spielberg himself. While the movie’s main focus is on the evil ghosts that kidnap the Freeling family’s youngest child, added frights come from a possessed clown doll who attacks the family son. It has an 88% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, was nominated for three Academy Awards, and made AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills list.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) This is the sole film written AND directed by the notorious Chido Brothers who did the puppets and effect work for such movies as Critters and Team America: World Police. Starring Grant Cramer (An Inconvenient Woman, Raptor) and Suzanne Snyder (Weird Science, Night of the Creeps). Evil aliens descend on a small town planning to capture, kill, and harvest the human population. The twist is that for some unknown reason, the aliens all look like circus clowns. It has since become a cult hit with a 71% fresh rating on the Tomatometer.
Clownhouse (1989) Written and directed by Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers) and starring Nathan Forrest Winters, Brian McHugh, and Sam Rockwell in his film debut. Three young brothers are left alone one night while their mother is visiting relatives and so they visit a circus despite the youngest boys coulrophobia. Of course pretty soon all three of them will have coulrophobia when their home is invaded by three homicidal, escaped mental patients disguised as clowns. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
It (1990) This supernatural horror mini-series based on the Stephen King bestseller of the same name originally aired on ABC to good reviews. The story revolves around an inter-dimensional evil lifeform who can transform into people’s worst fears. It’s most popular form though is that of Pennywise (Tim Curry whose performance was widely praised) a sardonic, sadistic clown. A group of misfit kids known as the Losers Club discover Pennywise and vow to destroy him; first attempting to do as children and then later as adults. Also starring Annette O’ Toole, John Ritter, Tim Reid, Michael Cole and Dennis Christopher. Richard Bellis received an Emmy Award for his work on the musical score.
Saw (2004) The cult hit that kicked off one of the biggest modern horror franchises owed its success to many factors. It’s pioneering efforts in how graphic on screen violence could be, Tobin Bell’s performance as the cunning and sadistic Jigsaw Killer John Kramer, and also for its use of “Billy” the malevolent little clown puppet, that Kramer uses as his ‘voice.’
Top photo: Bigstock
Robin Weaver (top photo on left with Campbell Brown) dashes into the Women’s National Republican Club in a whirlwind – she’s allotted an hour for our breakfast interview prior to dashing to Brooklyn for her next appointment. Recently elected President, she’s on a mission to transform the Club by raising political awareness and making it a forum for debate and discussion. “Although our membership adheres to Republican principles, especially lower taxes and fiscal responsibility, we want to make it a welcome place for all. As a matter of fact, a number of my friends who are Democrats attend our events,” she notes. Her goal is to make the Club a place where everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, feels comfortable, a go to spot for political and social events, and a destination for banquets and weddings. In office since May 2015, Robin already has made big strides, making the Club a mecca for New York men and women to exchange ideas, dine, and socialize.
The volunteer role of running any organization can be a thankless job—demanding time, energy, and the skills to manage the various personalities to get things done. Robin faces a big challenge—but her can-do attitude, fresh ideas, and attention to detail appear to be working.
Robin’s interest in politics was inspired by her father, now deceased, with whom she watched William F. Buckley’s Firing Line every week growing up in the Pittsburgh area. She joined the Young Republicans in high school, and her yearbook from that time attests to her involvement, sprinkled with comments from classmates acknowledging her extracurricular political activities. Her curiosity carried over to college (where she majored in political science and economics) and then law school, where she joined the Federalist Society, and now serves as Vice President of the New York Chapter. When she moved to New York City in the 1980s, Robin began attending social and political events at the WNRC, and became an official member four years ago. She also attended both political conventions in our city: the Democratic Convention, at which Bill Clinton received the nod, and the Republican one in 2004 at which George W. Bush was re-nominated.
In most cases, success in running an organization is measured by the numbers, and Robin’s gig is no different. Increasing its existing $5.5 million revenue is a primary objective, and she’s going full force with two initiatives: broadening membership and promoting its 3 West Club’s banquet and catering capabilities. “It’s also important that we tap into Republican organizations in the city, as Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats by about six to one. I have a special focus on young people, as they often bring innovative ideas that in the long term will help our Club flourish.”
The Club’s banquet facilities are impressive. Located on 51st Street, just a few steps west of Fifth Avenue, it boasts two ballrooms sizable enough to accommodate weddings, bar mitzvahs, and corporate events. Under Robin’s stewardship, banquet revenue is on the rise. The Club also has 27 prettily appointed rooms (including two suites) available both to members and non-members alike. Visitors would be hard pressed to find a better value: rates range from $140 to $220 per night, depending on the season. And its prime location, in the heart of the city’s prestigious shopping district, and within walking distance to the theatre, is an added attraction.
The Club’s pub and dining room, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails, are accessible to anyone with a credit card (and are a great value, with prices ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent lower than other private clubs). Robin plans to host social events on the 9th Floor’s solarium, which has a terrace, once warmer weather arrives.
She’s already attracted a stirring roster of Republican speakers, including Dana Perino, Peggy Noonan, Judith Miller, and Margaret Hoover. Judith will be honored on April 11 at the Club’s 95th Annual Awards Dinner, along with Jack Pritchard, the NYC Fire Department’s most highly decorated fire fighter. Other honorees at the dinner include Michael Mukasey, the country’s 81st Attorney General, as well as Congresswoman Martha McSally of Arizona (who was elected to the seat previously held by Gaby Gifford).
Among the Club’s members are Candy Straight, previously a Wall Street executive, whose film Equity starring Anna Gunn was previewed at the Sundance Film Festival and just sold to Sony Pictures; and Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the George W. Bush administration.
Alice LaBrie and Robin Weaver
An election cycle creates buzz, and Robin has cleverly capitalized on it by organizing a Debate Watch Party for each of the Republican debates. (Full disclosure: I’ve attended most of them, and they are colorful, fun-filled, and spirited). Our talk of the slate of presidential candidates quickly turns to Republicans whom she admires: Speaker Paul Ryan, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, and Maine Senator Susan Collins. She also includes four Congresswomen in her list: Virginia Foxx (North Carolina), Kathy McMorris Rogers (Washington), Elise Stefanik (New York, and the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress), and the aforementioned Martha McSally.
Right on cue, our time is up, but Robin makes one final observation: “We’re committed to recruiting from a broad demographic of all ages, especially younger women, men who can serve as associate members, and as diverse a group as possible. Although male members can’t vote, nor serve on the Club Board, we want them to join and participate in our programs and events. It’s part of our plan to make the Club a welcome spot for all Republicans in New York.”