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`Out of adversity comes creativity'


THEY ARE a young, winsome, talented couple. The husband directs films and the wife produces them. They achieved early recognition, commercial success, became the youngest members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, and serve on its Awards Executive Committee. (Yes, Foldes was on the Committee that nominated "Lagaan" for the Oscars).

Disaster strikes. But Hollywood director Lawrence David Foldes and his producer wife Victoria Paige Meyerink, convert this misfortune into a new strength. This real story fascinates more than their reel story in "Finding Home" (2004), screened at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2004.

Meyerink's long innings as a child actor saw her sing and dance with legends like Elvis Presley, Danny Kaye and Rock Hudson. This association with top producers and directors gave her an insider's knowledge of the movie industry. Completing her studies, she returned to it as Foldes' partner in production. ``He has fun, I have headaches,'' she laughs.

Passion for films

Foldes' passion for the movies began when ``grandpa took me to the movies after school. Since he didn't know English I explained the stories, often making up my own, `better' versions.''

Meyerink says, ``Six years ago we began to feel dissatisfied.'' She had brain tumour. The side effects of surgery could be anything from deafness to facial paralysis. The couple dropped work to search for alternative methods of treatment. Eyes shining with pride, Foldes explains, ``Victoria designed a new form of radiation treatment with Dr. Georg Noren from Sweden and Dr.Parkash Chougule from Mumbai. She was the first person to receive it.'' Described as controversial, the treatment enabled her to fulfil her dream in "Finding Home."

``That whole medical experience made us better filmmakers, better human beings. Out of adversity comes creativity.'' Both sound almost Indian in believing that everything happens for a reasonFoldes becomes emotional, ``I came close to losing someone I love. Then I thought, life is so short, precious, we spend four years on a movie, put in so much energy. Are we wasting it on forgettable stuff? Am I using my art and craft to touch people's hearts and minds, or am I throwing it away to sell popcorn?''

Meyerink is wistful, ``We wanted to do something purposeful, to be cherished.'' They needed a meaningful story and found it among the students' scripts they had to evaluate as summer course film studies instructors in Maine.

Amazingly, its writer worked in a company that was willing to part fund the film! Ravelling more threads into the story line the couple raised the rest from family, friends, by mortgaging their home.

When films are made with $ 50 millions, how did they manage the rich, fine-textured quality on five million? ``Because every dollar goes on the screen, not into people's pockets or extravagances,'' Meyerink exults.

Mention the fine details in the time-place-culture specific milieu — creamy paper, old stamps, photo frames, blue jars, jam bottles — and she beams like a child. ``Our art department will be thrilled.''

The cast is impressive — with Oscar nominees Genevieve Bujold, Louise Fletcher, Justin Henry, Jason Miller and young stars Johnny Messner and Lisa Brenner. ``Money is not a major concern for good actors when they get good roles. Youngsters use good footage as demo for future roles,'' Foldes discloses.

``Compare `Dr.Zhivago' with `The Titanic,' " he shrugs. ``Special effects have replaced epic scope, sweeping story, and emotional appeal.'' With their eye on global sales, Hollywood corporate studios call the shots, interfere and tamper with the filmmaker's vision. Independent filmmaking is a hard option, but the only one for Foldes and Meyerink when they wanted to put their hearts into the project. Determined to strive for human values and artistic integrity, "Finding Home" probes the relationships between women of three generations, lancing into memories, distorted through shock and repression.

As the young man chisels wood to sculpt his figures, Amanda must strip all layers to find truth. With cinematographer Jeffrey Seckendorf as the unobtrusive guide into fact, illusion and hallucination, the past intersects with the present in smooth transitions. The music ensures easy entry into time shifts and feelings.

An island inn off the coast of Maine, run by a loving grandmother, is home to Amanda, from where the little girl is inexplicably torn away by her mother. The bewildered child links a savage blow and dripping blood with her playmate, an orphaned boy in grandma's care.

What actually happened on that day? A phone call from grandmother's long-term assistant Katie, announcing her death, acts as a catalyst in Amanda's search for truth. A career woman now, engaged to her natty boss, Amanda returns to her childhood home with confusion and fears. A photo frame cracks to yield a hidden picture, a diary discloses secret love, hearts carved on a tree trunk flame into revelations.

The film emphasises old values of family, friendship, loyalty and love.

Popular motifs abound — wholesome village versus noisome city, the strong silent misunderstood hero, the heroine who must err before she learns the truth, fisticuffs and fights, a friend forgiven, journeys ending in lovers' meetings. Even the villain, thrashed and thrown out of Eden, lands in Hollywood where he may find his happiness!

The film is not blind to commerce demands. But, trailing awards from festivals in Monaco, Rome, Montreal and Naples, "Finding Home" is Foldes and Meyerink's quiet attempt to reflect their own changed perspective on life, and what it means to be human.

GOWRI RAMNARAYAN

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