This just in: visiting assistant professor Leena Pendharkar‘s short film Dandekar Makes a Sandwich won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short at the 2015 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles this past weekend.
Dandekar Makes a Sandwich, a dramedy written and directed by Pendharkar, tells the story of RK Dandekar, “a curmudgeonly retiree with a picky palate, [who] will stop at nothing to find just the right ingredients for the perfect sandwich.” This short film acts as a prequel to the feature film Days with Dandekar, and debuted on March 14 at CAAMFest 2015.
Ping-Wen Wang (Production – M.F.A. ’15) received the opportunity of a lifetime when she landed a position as a production assistant on a Martin Scorsese film, currently filming in Taiwan. The film, Silence, tells the story of two Jesuit priests (played by Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield) who endure violence and persecution while attempting to spread the gospel of Christianity in Japan during the seventeenth century.
While in Taiwan visiting her family, fellow student Kuan-Fu Lin (Production – M.F.A. ’15) recommended Wang to the production supervisor on the film. Two days before Wang was scheduled to return to LMU, she was offered an interview. After two rounds of interviews, Wang was offered the position of on-set production assistant in the assistant director crew. “I was unsure whether I should take it or not, but my parents, Assistant Professor Kennedy Wheatley, Associate Professor Swanson, Professor Gebhard and Dr. Shin gave me full support and encouraged me to take the opportunity,” said Wang.
As a production assistant, Wang’s primary duties include controlling noise on the set, helping the assistant directors, managing up to 200 extras and handling the crew’s walkie-talkies. She credits her education at LMU with helping her excel in the role. “The pre-production class in the first year at SFTV really helps. We use one-line schedule and breakdown from Movie Magic scheduling software in the AD crew. It’s easy to understand since we learned it at LMU. Also, the experience on LMU student sets made it easier to handle tasks and helped me be very proactive at work.”
Although days on set run anywhere from 16 to 20 hours, she has managed to work on her senior thesis during her days off. “Irma Pužauskaitė (Production – M.F.A. ’15) is editing my thesis film with me long distance,” said Wang. “On my days off we Skype, and I give her notes and we discuss the film. I also have my composer, sound designer and colorist in Los Angeles. They’re ready to work on my film once the picture is locked. It’s amazing that we can do everything long distance.”
When asked about what she has enjoyed most about the experience so far, Wang said, “My favorite days are when we’re shooting the big scenes. There was a day when we were filming the opening scene. They built the whole street to represent the seventeenth century and used special effects to create rain and smoke all over the street. I was assigned to direct a few extras. It’s really been unforgettable.”
Silence is set for release in 2016.
Award-winning Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker Kahlil Joseph’s (Film Production – B.A. ’03) work has been described as hypnotic, haunting and lyrical. He’s directed short films and music videos for artists and rappers, including Until the Quiet Comes (2011), a video for musician Flying Lotus that earned him the 2012 Short Film Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Now, Joseph’s double-screen video installation of his 2014 video, m.A.A.d, commissioned by Compton born rapper Kendrick Lamar, is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Grand Avenue space. The 14-minute video, which screened last summer in a single screen version at 2014 Sundance’s Next Fest in Los Angeles at the Ace Hotel, weaves together film footage of amateur actors, aerial views of Los Angeles, Lamar’s home videos and news footage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Set to the lyrics from Lamar’s 2014 breakout album good kid, m.A.A.d city, m.A.A.d takes Joseph’s signature style to a new level.
With images of contemporary African-American life in Los Angeles woven throughout his work, Joseph tends to favor South Los Angeles as the stage for his productions. Until the Quiet Comes featured the ghost of a murdered man who comes back to life and dances his way to the afterlife, set against the backdrop of South L.A.’s Nickerson Gardens in Watts. Images of helicopters patrolling the neighborhood, lowriders and kids playing against the L.A. sunset are interposed with dreamlike underwater shots–water is another common theme in Joseph’s work.
Similarly, m.A.A.d offers captivating images of the everyday Compton community: teenagers hanging out at a local football game, patrons at the corner barbershop and underwater swimming montages. These shots are combined with Lamar’s 1992 home videos, and footage of police brutality and civil turbulence following the April 1992 Rodney King verdict. At one point in the film, after a neighborhood shooting scene, a quote from poet, playwright and activist Amiri Baraka appears on screen: “We used to know we were stronger than the devil.”
“As beautiful as m.A.A.d is visually, the inclusion of home videos dated to 1992 lets the viewer know that this picture of Los Angeles has a rearview mirror – one in which the civil unrest following the Rodney King verdict is a distant memory, on the precipice of being forgotten, but a history nonetheless continues to haunt our ideas about race in America,” writes Helen Molesworth, MOCA’s Chief Curator.
The title of the exhibition references philosopher W.E.B. DuBois’s term for the internal struggle of African-Americans, “double conscience.” Joseph’s installation shows the creativity and beauty of these predominately African-American communities, while shedding light on the very timely issues concerning police brutality and the fatalities of black men at the hands of white officers. In an article for W Magazine, Joseph expands, “It’s this duality that is very central to the black experience in this country. If everything was good all the time, you don’t know what it’s all about.”
Kahlil Joseph: Double Conscience runs through August 16 at MOCA Grand Avenue, 250 S. Grand Ave., downtown Los Angeles.
Visiting Assistant Professor Leena Pendharkar will debut her short film, Dandekar Makes a Sandwich, on March 14 at CAAMFest 2015, a film festival in San Francisco presented by the Center for Asian American Media.
Dandekar Makes a Sandwich, a dramedy directed by Pendharkar, tells the story of RK Dandekar, a retiree who takes a visit to the grocery store in search of items to make a sandwich but leaves with much more than sandwich ingredients. This short film acts as a prequel to the feature film, Days with Dandekar, which Pendharkar workshopped in the Film Independent Screenwriting Lab and was part of Tribeca All Access.
The character of Dandekar is based on Pendharkar’s father. Despite his daughters’ encouragement to take Spanish classes or travel during his time of retirement, he preferred to spend his days wandering around town, making visits to the bank and coffee shop every single day.
According to the Days with Dandekar website, Pendharkar “wanted to tell the story of a retiree who seems to have everything except one thing: a sense of connection with others. I love the idea of strangers meeting one another for strange reasons and finding this unusual sense of connectivity. My goal is to explore loneliness and each of our desires to find others.”
To learn more, visit the website Days with Dandekar.