Desert Hearts and Visibility

“My only clear memory is arriving. The rest is a blur. An absolute blur.”

It’s 1985: The push for gay rights feels stagnant. Aids is still “the gay plague,” ignored by the Reagan administration and taken seriously only in pockets of the U.S.. Slurs are commonplace, sexual education is limited, and, needless to say, it’s a difficult time to come out. It’s in this year that Desert Hearts (dir. Donna Deitch, 1985) is released – a criminally underseen American romance that deserves recognition for its craft, performances, tenderness, and defiance during a time of immense, sweeping homophobia.

The backdrop is Reno, Nevada, circa 1959: moments of silence on a dusty railroad are taken over by the distant squealing of tracks. A train saunters into the frame, crawling to a stop. Vivian (played by Helen Shaver) carefully steps off to see Frances (Audra Lindley), an older woman with a Southern charm, despite living in the Northwest. She’s arrived here to establish residency – after six weeks, this move will make her divorce swift. The distance, in theory, makes it less painful.

They set off in a truck to Frances’ guest ranch, where Vivian is staying before she finalizes the split. On the ride there, a dot forms on the desert horizon further down the road: a car speeds down the opposite side of the highway and jolts at their side, switching to reverse. Cay (Patricia Charbonneau) drives alongside them, backwards, shouting niceties at Frances and taking a welcome note of Vivian.

Vivian’s presentation and personality are a stark contrast to her new surroundings. She’s an English professor from the New York North her demeanor is suited, her attitude tact and proper. Straight-laced and decidedly straight. Throughout her time on the ranch, she doesn’t shy away from letting the emotional weight of her marital affairs be known. Still, she refuses to be vulnerable.

On the other hand, Cay wears her heart on her sleeve; she projects herself the way she likes, sleeps with whoever she wants (men, women, and swingers alike), and says what she means. She recognizes the loneliness in Vivian and becomes fixated on the idea of seducing her. The relationship between the two blossoms as they grow closer together, through cracked smiles and whip-smart dialogue (“I won’t take off my robe.” Well, we all have to draw the line somewhere.“)

The chemistry on display here is intoxicating. Whenever Vivian lets go and loses herself in Cay, it’s mind-melting. It’s like the film freezes and they’re each left entirely aloneindividualized, seen through each other. It’s so cathartic that it feels like voyeurism.

This becomes the place – in each other’s arms, away from their surroundings (though Cay would be much more content if they acted outwardly and held it on their sleeves). The two continue to meet. Frances inevitably catches wind of their relationship: “You people,” “sinning,” and “never understand it” are thrown around willingly, and Vivian’s time on the ranch, along with her relationship to Cay, is put in jeopardy. Cue the rest of the film.

While watching, it becomes apparent that there isn’t much support in their surroundings. The men are a negative presence entirely. Every man we encounter feels like an obstacle – the closest we get to a positive contribution is one half of a couple that Cay has sex with, who, bare minimum, genuinely listens to what the two have to say after asking about their lives. Otherwise, they leer, judge, and treat the two like objects. None have good intent in their interactions; they all assume that they exist for them.

Later on in the film, Vivian walks up to a gambling table at the casino where Cay works. Immediately, she’s pulled in by a wealthy, stump-nosed man who wants to “teach her the game.” She wins; he tries to congratulate her with a kiss. Cay, while tending the slot machines, is grabbed at, touched, and catcalled. At home, Vivian is pursued unconsentingly in her own room by Frances’ son. The family she stays with is judgmental and openly critical. Support is only found in smaller spaces from other women.

In the Casino locker rooms, Cay and her best friend Silver (Andra Akers) recount the long work days and make a point to check in with each other. Solace, still, is limited – the two work under the thumb of a male manager who constantly ogles his femme coworkers and continuously pursues Cay. Wherever they go, they’re bothered. Their existence and expectations are held to heteronormativity. Their only escape is in private. The relationship that forms between Vivian and Cay feels genuinely defiant and sacred.

This is an intimate story of love painted across rolling, dusty hills and pink sunsets, driven by a need for self-discovery. A film emblematic of both its time and now, Desert Hearts showcases the difficulty of projecting oneself openly  and acting as you are in a heteronormative environment. The complexity and tenderness of its characters are served graciously through the film’s meditative pace and the curated words that Cay and Vivian share with one another. It’s bonkers how well everything works together and how such complexity is found in something that, on paper, is straightforward.

The context of its release as an explicitly queer narrative emboldens what is already a fantastic film. Desert Hearts is a dream worth your time – and if the rawness of its romance isn’t enough, the smiles, timelessness, and sparse Nevadian scenery absolutely will be.

(Available on the Criterion Channel)

Back From Quarantine and Hiatus

Hi, everyone. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here. Honestly, the past month or so has been rough, as for the entirety of this semester, but these past few weeks have been like limbo for me. I don’t know how to describe it exactly. A couple weeks ago, I had to rush to quarantine after a possible COVID exposure at my work, and with that I was possibly putting myself at more risk since I was quarantining with my brother who has also tested positive at the time. With lack of access to my familiar resources, I attempted to stay up to date with my classes and production work, but felt myself starting to fall behind. I’ve found it hard to reach out lately.

Things could feel better.

Since I’ve gotten out of quarantine, I’ve been attempting to catch up, but have also been doing a lot of production work for CoogTV, which feels both rewarding and tiring. I like my job a lot and I love the people I work with–that I get to work with. There’s so much in store for us and I’m excited to have made it happen and make it all happen. Things pile up, though, as things tend to do. I enjoy the work more than anything, right now though. It’s a stressor for me, for sure, but a lot of the time, it gets me through the day.

I’ve felt weaker lately. Not really physically so much as mentally, but somehow I’m still here and still learning, and learning to do the things that I love. I get asked by my peers in my Entertainment branch how I’m able to balance running all three shows and maintain order for my teams, schedule, and make time for them and all the productions (I haven’t missed a single Entertainment production this fall/winter), and I honestly don’t know how to answer that. I think I’m able to because a part of me wouldn’t be able to function well if I didn’t, if that makes any sense. I’m grateful for all the experience and the work. It means a lot to me when my peers and co-workers take the time to thank me for the work I’m doing and the effort I put into them and it all.

There’s this pressure I’ve always felt, though, and sometimes it’s much lighter or heavier, but I want to put out the best possible products as I possibly can, when I can. I hate to be inconsiderate of others’ time or my own. I really do. I also hate making things that don’t feel right to me. So feeling set back so often by the twists of my personal life and health makes it all weigh a little more. When can taking personal time for myself stop feeling like time wasted?  I wish some things would alleviate so I could only focus on my craft and myself, just at least one thing. Whether it’s my financial situation, or my health or insecurities, or something. I just hope to accomplish what I’ve always set out to do.

Don’t mean to be too dramatic about all this, though. It’s just something, realistically, that I deal with from time to time, or maybe at all times like it’s background noise. Nat sound or whatever we call it.

I’m going to get back to planning for my next shoots and thinking deeply about… Something. I hope you all have a wonderful night, truly.

– Erin K. B.

Story Song with Leandro

Train-Watching

I believe I’ve let life pass me by for far too long.

I’ve been a bystander, train-watching.

It carries on its pace, with or without me.

I don’t know where it will go,

but I know it won’t go back.

I remain stuck in place.

I’ve become more aware that there is an end-

a final stop.

And it’s coming fast.

So I better hop on now-

My future is on the tracks.

 

 

 

What IF

I don’t know who knows this story. But last Saturday (3/19/2021) , me and two other friends – Suri and Johnny, were having lunch and having a good time at the Food Court in Galleria Mall.
We just thought that having fun and enjoying going to the stores was just like a regular weekend.

While we were eating and chatting, gossiping. Suri sat in front of me and she saw a lot of people running down from the balcony, all over places to the exits. She was telling us “What the heck is happening?”I looked back and saw like “OMFG are we having a terrorism or active shooting, or even bombing in the mall right now?!”. Suri said, Shit! RUNNNN!! RUNNN!”. We started to run immediately and left the food there without hesitations.

I ran first and led the way for my friends but while I ran I looked back to check my friends with me or not. Unfortunately, actually Suri and I lost Johnny in the crown. We were very panicked and waited for a bit. However, everyone was trying to run out of the mall as soon as possible with their friends and family. It was a chaos, people stepped on people and tried to get out of there. Suri and I didn’t have a chance to see Johnny, and we told each other to just run out the doors first to hide and wait.

We hid behind the cars but still scared that what if it was a bombing, the whole building would be collapsed. We waited for like 5 minutes but had not seen Johnny walk out. Suri was suffocated, shaking and crying. I was so scared that she would faint at the same time and still looked for Johnny. We tried to call him, but there was no service, still keep calling him until he picks the phone. Like 5 more minutes later, he picked the phone and said he was on the other side of us. We got him, and we ran out of the building.

Maybe some people think this was just a false alarm about shooting or bombing and laugh. But put yourself in our situation you would feel how we felt. There was a family trying to hide. His son (about 10 year olds) was numb and frozen; his wife was shaking and panicking. I dont even want to think if that was an active shooting or bombing. I have never ever faced with this terrible scenario and never wish to be in that again!. 

Thus, now I can tell how unlucky people feel when they have to face these horrible scenarios. Luckily, it was not an active shooting or bombing. Everyone safe!

Here is the link that someone recorded:

https://twitter.com/TheInsiderPaper/status/1373398028523077642?s=20

Aesthetic Inspiration pt.1

Although I’m not much of an artist, I spend a lot of my time on social media looking at various pieces that the algorithm decides to send my way (maybe a little too much time). This is a selection of images that I found especially striking, for whatever particular reason, that inspires countless storylines and narratives in my mind. A single moment that could be given more context as a film.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”: an overused cliche, but no less true the thousandth time it was said as the first time. That’s why I took an interest in film, because of how dense its storytelling potential is when it’s done well. However, still-images have their own unique strengths as an expressive medium.

This collection is more “grounded” and “realistic”; I’ll share another collection that is more fantastical. Hopefully, ya’ll can use these in the creative process. There is a backstory behind some of these photos, but I’m going to leave it out to help with said process.

Artists and Photographers (that I could identify):

  • Alejandra Cardenas Palacios
  • Zhiyon Jing

 

Herself…

Hi 4381 Productions! I hope everyone and you family are doing well! :D
I just have an idea which maybe it can be a short movie. So the story is about a couple who really fall for each other when they first met each other.

She never wanted to end their relationship, in fact they had a nice, beautiful time together. She missed waking up in the mornings and calling each other in the morning, then texting before school and going to work. At night, just waiting for a good night before bed. After long hard day at work, going home and reading texts from him, she will be satisfied and happy.

Its nothing special, but it‘s also a habit for her. Just like loving someone, what has become a habit is very difficult to break. Yes! Nothing is forever, but she also wishes something (not forever) is also permanent from him.

The girl is really in love with the guy and never wants to break up with him. Unfortunately, they broke up since he was too much, control her, distrust, treat her badly. Because of her love for him is unconditionally, after every fight he always wants to stop with her and a while later he texts her back. It likes the on and off the relationship, which not healthy for both. However, that happens so many damn times. She realizes that he is not the right one for her and she needs to love herself more again. She determines to get over him and begin again even it is really hard for her.

Somewhere Between Tarot Readings and Social Responsibility

I’ve always admired anyone who says that they want to create for the sake of creation. But, I have never been able to define my wants without justification. Though, as most anxieties go, we tend to be tougher on ourselves than we are on others. That’s something I’ve come to terms with. What I don’t like is not being able to find the right words to define myself or my work. This idea of having to explain exactly why and what I aim to communicate in my life has loomed over my head for at least a decade.

After years of introspection, gaining and shredding toxic hustle-culture mentality, and what I like to call the end of my own hero complex, an idea of what I actually aim to do finally came to me. My goal is to create stories in which the characters’ journeys do not revolve around their proximity to their oppression, but rather, oppressions play in interwoven side characters as they do in real life. This thought was partially inspired by my exhaustion from watching so many TV shows that came to air post-Covid-lockdown. Their season or mid-season premiere episodes displayed practically the same story.

The black character (typically the only one in the cast*) gets held at gunpoint by a police officer. When tensions with the authorities are cooled,  the black character gives their white counterpart the typical “you don’t know what it’s like” speech, the white counterpart apologizes for their ignorance and promises to do better. And that’s the episode. That’s it. The monotony is almost insulting at this point. Of course, while I completely recognize networks and their aims to stay relevant to the murders of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor last summer, I have failed to see the scripts that tackle race and its intersections outside of police brutality or hate crimes. I try not to question how networks have rationalized and justified repeatedly black audience members are made to rewatch a real, potential trauma on a loop from these shows and news networks to possibly educate or soothe the complacency guilt of non-black audiences. While drama is usually intriguing when it is large, flashy, and gutwrenching, it caused me to think about real stories of racism that I’ve heard about from friends and family members or have experienced myself.

It’s rarely the big things, but instead, like quiet stabs to the gut that fail to bleed, whether they be situations when a waiter at a nice restaurant pivots their conversations more toward a white dinner guest over yourself, internalized preferences within the community that can ruin a romantic crush, or a classmate telling a black student that she’s “so well-spoken” (this is called a microaggression, and yes, it happened in an actual class I was in last spring). It’s the everyday experiences that fail to make it to screen that could make a world of difference in representation in film and tv, rather than filling quotas in calls for diversity.

Unexpectedly, this brings me to reading tarot, which I can only describe as my own Covid Lockdown equivalent to learning to make sourdough. If you know, you know. Tarot reading turned into a spark for an idea to write a screenplay about black witches and now, that feature is in editing in preparation for graduate school and fellowship applications. Today, while hovering over a sentence and trying to decide if it had too many adjectives in it (it did), I wondered if I was playing this all the right way. I’d written a screenplay about teenage black witches in the South that struggled with southern traditions while trying to make their own mark on the world through their passion that wouldn’t exactly be acceptable in their Christian family. This is where the overthinking begins. I make tabs on what scenes pass both the Bechdel test and the DuVernay test. Is it right to expect audiences to understand the nuances of generational trauma in the script? Could I be overstating my goal to include the differences in the main two characters’ appearances to illuminate colorism in the black community? Is it fair to be concerned about a character’s digestibility to an audience when I, myself, try to constantly break down internalized judgments and expectations that I’ve projected onto others?  Mostly, throughout my time writing, I wonder if I’m doing a disservice by not constantly being blatant about race relations, especially when there are so many perspectives, misconceptions, and miseducations surrounding the topic and its intersections with sexuality, gender, and topics such as economics, education, and environmental factors. It’s enough to drive someone crazy or quit altogether, I know. But, I figure that I’m already crazy and quitting just isn’t in the cards for me.

It all leads me to wonder if, instead of judgment toward the prosaic, oversimplified projection that blackness in America dwindles down to police brutality and AAVE at family cookouts, if I can just somehow accept that has just become the easiest storyline to write and the fastest to produce.

This all builds to checking my horoscope, which is possibly the most controversial topic on this post. My tarot card of the day was the Page of Swords. Under it, a note that read: “You or someone is overthinking and making this way too hard. Sometimes the simplest answer is the right one.”

I’ll be taking a break from that app for a bit.

 

 

 

*One show that I watched made this situation happen to every single black male character on their show. Most recently, two out of three of the characters in one episode.