to see and to be seen / on the beauty of the encounter and the transformation of self

“I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.” ~ julie delpy, before sunrise


Years ago i wrote about encounters between audiences and films, a spectator and the moving image. i was looking broadly at hollywood cinema and was interested in the effect certain films had on the way we perceived the “other.” it was 1996, the second time as a “Guamanian-looking Italian-American” living in the UK. The first was for Junior Year Abroad in Reading, England as a 19 year old. Now I was 26. But I encountered the same questions daily ~ where was I from (many thought i was japanese, samoan, a kiwi from new zealand, hong kong chinese) and when I spoke and decidedly did not answer with a bit of a twist of a British accent which was easier sometimes, the East coast American accent led to other questions about consumerism (how many cars did i own, how big was my house), questions about Hollywood, guns, and every other type of stereotype about an America of the 90s. Where did these stereotypes, assumptions, and general ideas about Americanness, or and also Asian-ness, Otherness come from? I interviewed and analyzed and came to conclusions that became a thesis, and then switched my focus during doctoral studies at UC Berkeley to the encounter in real specific moments in the context of Kingston Jamaica. These ranged from reception studies of Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come (1973) to actual connective layers of art objects and their social lives in the art worlds of Jamaica and the Caribbean Diaspora. 350 pages of a dissertation later, and I decided to switch direction again, to what we put on our bodies and the clothing we wear that make us become who we are. These intimate encounters and experiences became the center of my life and I built a career around it for more than a decade which then mutated into the role of food and wine in the art of gathering and bringing people together.

What began as a way to not only reach out to people and bring them into the same space as one another ~ making in a way my own idea of the relevancy of facebook as theory into Facebook as reality ~ one salon dinner in 2012 has morphed into an upcoming salon dinner #98 on St Patrick’s Day of this coming month. it is clear that when i focus, i focus, but although the medium can change, the search and yearning is the same ~ for transformation of self through the other, in the beauty of an actual encounter. i don’t think i would word it necessarily that way any longer, but that same drive for connection is just as much present in 2017 as it was in 1996, but also way way before that… my same love of cinema is just as deep and profound as it was when i was 10 as it is now at 45. i love to lose myself in the lives of others, sometimes for pure entertainment, but many times to feel what it might feel like to be that “other” ~ to understand and empathize with someone who I AM NOT.

Having just finished costume designing, and currently co-producing frazer bradshaw’s indie feature THE DEEP SKY, which in many ways and on a couple levels parallels (for me, not necessarily the filmmaker) the beauty of the biographical nature of Barry Jenkin’s profoundly stunning Moonlight which took home best picture at the Oscars a couple nights ago; I have been thinking about the different portrayals, visualizations and interpretations of the gaze, the stare, the looking into one anothers’ eyes between characters on screen and between a character and the audience as the fourth wall is broken.

What is it we long for, besides connection? what is it we desire, but to be desired? what is the potency, the devastation, the possibility that a stare, a look, a gaze can induce, engender, cause, affect… below are a few thoughts and considerations, words and images, juxtaposed and re-contextualized ~ a reflection on the importance of stories and how we tell them ~ who tells them and why; but also and just as importantly how they make us feel…




“…will i always digress? i think so ~
impossible not to.
Ideas take hold of me.
“I am a woman. i tell my story.
consider my words.

among the young men i attracted was one i myself noticed.
my gaze fell upon him in particular. i didn’t realize the pleasure i procured.

i flirted with others, not with him. i wanted to watch him, not please him.

it seems first love begins with this sincerity.
Perhaps its sweetness curtails the desire to please…”

~ opening scene, reading Marivaux, Blue is the Warmest Color by Abdellatif Kechiche


“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” ~ martin buber


“I believe this. When we meet those we fall in love with, there is an aspect of our spirit that is historian, a bit of a pedant who reminisces or remembers a meeting when the other has passed by innocently…but all parts of the body must be ready for the other, all atoms must jump in one direction for desire to occur.” ~ michael ondaatje


“You lethargic, waiting upon me,
waiting for the fire and I
attendant upon you, shaken by your beauty

Shaken by your beauty
~ william carlos williams, paterson


We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes,
tastes we have swallowed,
bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom,
characters we have climbed into as if trees,
fears we have hidden in as if caves.

I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead.
I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature,
not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings.
We are communal histories, communal books.
We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.
~ michael ondaatje





“I always wanted to make an epic. I love epic adventures as I have always loved travelling. An epic adventure takes you on a journey to a place that you have never been before…you never knew quite where it was going, or what it was all going to mean. That kind of cinema is gone now. The technology has changed… But it is a proud ambition for a film-maker to have, to take the viewer somewhere new.” ~ claire denis



“…this idea of wanting to be touched, but being so afraid to be touched. Wanting to be loved but so afraid of being loved. And not speaking that duality but performing that duality…” ~ barry jenkins on his actors’ vulnerability


Those waves heard crashing moments earlier on full display, rushing ashore at a frothy run.
Dark out, extremely dark save for the lights of beach bars a ways down the ocean front. The undulating rhythms of the Atlantic catch the moon, glint it all over.
As we observe this movement of water and dance of light, shoulders appear, bare, gaunt: LITTLE from our opening episode.
Calmly, methodically, Little moves across the sand, approaching the water. A beat more of Little easing up to the surf, then…
…he looks back: his dark skin moistened in the ocean spray, moon catching him same as its catching the surface of the Atlantic.
And those eyes: looking right at us, staring plaintively, plainly, nothing requested, no expectation: just a clear, undisturbed openness.
Hold this gaze, then…
…Little turning from us, his form and movement slowly, steadily melding into the flow of light and waves as we heads out into the ocean and we…
FADE TO BLACK.  (final scene, in Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight)

“a film is ~ or should be ~ more like music than like fiction. it should be a progression of moods and feelings. the theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” ~ stanley kubrick


above / film stills from Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013). Frazer Bradshaw’s The Deep Sky (2018). Erle Kenton’s Grand Exit (1935), Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959), Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1943). Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color, 2013. Emile Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing (1987). Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight (1998). Bradshaw’s The Deep Sky (2018). Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation (2011). Laszlo Nemes’ Son of Saul (2015). David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010). Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient (1996). Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011). Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight (2008). Chris Weitz’s New Moon (200). Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present (2012). Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Phil Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), and Henry and June (1990). Claire Denis’s Chocolat (1989), No fear, No Die (1990), I Can’t Sleep (1993). Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight (2017).

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