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“I’d like to say that I wanted to produce/write/direct from an early age — but I didn’t,” says writer-producer Christian Martin. “After a year of working in low-paid backstage jobs, I decided to go to film school. Once there, I got bitten by the bug and I’ve been in that groove ever since.”
Martin and his co-producer, Darren Flaxstone, are the driving forces behind Bonne Idee Productions, and they are responsible for some of the most groundbreaking LGBT films to come out of the United Kingdom in more than a decade — among them the film festival faves Shank and Release. Headquartered in Bristol, England, they’ve built a solid reputation creating films for thinking people — those who don’t accept simple answers, favoring instead more real ones.
After Martin and Flaxstone met in film school in the early ’90s, the first opportunity they had to collaborate was on a video for a local AIDS charity.
Aware that there was opposition to the building of a hospice in town, Martin recalls, “I went to them suggesting that what they needed was a video that pulled in all the patrons to talk on camera about their reasons for supporting the charity.”
While classmate Flaxstone handled the editing, Martin produced and directed the film. The two 21-year-olds’ ambitious project included everyone from Jeremy Irons to Derek Jarman in the video, they said.
The finished product was so effective that it was even sent to the Vatican, where permission was granted to a local convent-run hospital to offer its services to the hospice. Years later, Flaxstone called on his pal to discuss an idea for an online cooking show titled The Gay Gourmet.
“That show became ‘Shank’ by the end of the evening,” Flaxstone said with a laugh.
Acclaimed as “pulsating with untamed sexuality and aggression,” Shank involves a teenage thug fighting to hide his gay cravings from his fellow gang members — one of whom he desperately desires.
Their next film, Release, is even more controversial. In that movie, Jack, a homosexual priest, is behind bars for a shocking crime. In fact, we only learn the truth behind that crime in the final reel. Was it justified? That is left to the viewer to decide.
Translated from French, “Bonne Idee” means “good idea.” Flaxstone and Martin say that their story ideas come simply from talking about the world at large and trying to figure out where they, as gay men, fit into it.
“The ideas definitely are born of reality,” Flaxstone said, “something that’s either happened to Christian or myself, or something we’ve heard from people we know.”
Their stories are set in Bristol, but the overall themes are universal and identifiable with LGBT viewers wherever they may hail from.
“Frankly, they could be set anywhere,” Martin says. To illustrate his point, he says they recently received emails from filmmakers in the United States interested in remaking Shank — this time setting it in Brooklyn or Compton. “Likewise, someone in Poland wanted to turn Release into a stage play!” he said.
Bonne Idee’s distinct perspective is also enhanced by the fresh talent it employs. One such collaborator is Simon Pearce, who was chosen to direct Shank at the tender age of 20. After reviewing a few of his short films, the moviemakers quickly recognized the young auteur’s talent with a camera. Pearce agreed wholeheartedly with the innovative vision each had for the movie, and they quickly offered him the job, which marked his feature-film directing debut.
“Christian and Darren were very keen to break gay cinema out of the trend it seemed to be stuck in, where the majority of the movies tended to be inoffensive ‘girl meets girl,’ or ‘guy meets guy’ tales,” Pearce said. “They wanted to make something that was more compelling and original — about real people in real-life, tough situations, and I was very keen to do the same.”
Then for Release, Pearce demonstrated his talent in front of the camera, playing a small but pivotal acting role and serving as cinematographer.
How does this heterosexual up-and-comer feel about forging such a laudable reputation by making primarily gay-oriented films?
Pearce said that having the film’s two gay writer-producers on set didn’t hurt, but he also said that it’s exactly this outside perspective that has helped significantly.
“It’s important that these films cross over to a straight audience in order to make them more aware of contemporary gay issues,” Simon said. “If I can engage with a particular story — any story — and translate that successfully to screen, then I can help introduce it to audiences who wouldn’t normally be made aware of it.”
Since then, Pearce has directed his own short film titled Broken, about a female soldier recovering from a trauma during her tour in Iraq. However, he says that such opportunities would not have come about if Martin and Flaxstone had not invited him to be part of their films.
Ben Moorman is another talent making his mark with the company, now appearing in a thought-provoking short film produced by the duo. The provocatively titled Fucked is a powerful cautionary tale reminding everyone that the need for safe sex is still vital these days — particularly for younger members of the community.
“It’s a short, yet crucial message,” the actor said: “Use a condom!”
He elaborates on his character: “This kid is like the perfect guy. He’s got straight A’s, loves his mum and has the best friend ever, and one stupid mistake ruins everything for him.”
Like Pearce, Moorman identifies as straight, but he is quick to point out that the message of the piece transcends sexual preference. “Regardless of whether you’re heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgendered, or whatever, it affects everyone!”
Heavy subject matter aside, though, Moorman found working for Martin and Flaxstone to be a breeze. “Having worked on loads of film sets before, I thought I knew what to expect,” he said with a chuckle. “But to be honest, I never expected a set to be so friendly. Both of them found that balance between having a fun shooting time and getting that level of professionalism.”
The team’s latest full-length feature, Buffering, marks something of a change for them, and it’s now also making its way around the international film circuit. “After the serious and emotionally draining Release, we needed to have a laugh,” admits Flaxstone. “And Buffering was the best medicine.”
The film takes a lighter-hearted look at a gay couple trying to make ends meet in a tough economy. The best way they find to do it is by creating a live sex website — with them as the unlikely stars.
“Coupled with this dilemma — the worldwide recession — we have woven in everyone’s favorite pastime — online porn — as a device that can potentially pay the bills for them,” said Martin, “but at what cost to their relationship?”
Peppered with sharp dialogue and snappy one-liners, Buffering walked away with the best script award when it had its world premiere in March at Madrid’s Festival del Sol. In the coming months, look for it to play U.S. cities.
Both Shank and Release are available on DVD from TLA Releasing and can be ordered at www.TLAvideo.com. To learn more about Martin, Flaxstone and Bonne Idee Entertainment (including upcoming films and those in production), check out www.bonne-idee-productions.com. More about Simon Pearce can be found at www.simon-pearce.co.uk.
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.