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Julia Stier – Contributor

Julia Stier is an LA-based actress, playwright, and songwriter. She holds a BA in Theatre and a minor in Cinematic Arts from the University of Southern California. In July 2018, her original one-act play Last Night in Town had its Off-off Broadway premiere at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre in New York City.

Julia is a proud member of the acting company of Hero Theatre and the It’s Personal family.

Diversity 2020 at the Third Annual GRIOT Gala

Contributed by Julia Stier
Photography by Cary Reynolds

Copyright © 2020 Gia On The Move

There is no bigger night in Hollywood than Oscar Sunday when the best of the best are recognized for their contributions to filmmaking and storytelling. The night was full of historical moments, and ended with a standing ovation for the cast and crew of Parasite as they accepted the Oscar for “Best Picture.”

But even after the statuettes were handed out, the celebrations didn’t stop there.

Many stars headed to the GRIOT Gala Oscars After Party and Gia On The Move caught up with them on the event’s signature purple at Ocean Prime Beverly Hills.

This year marked the Third Annual GRIOT Gala, which centers on celebrating diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry. The black-tie event honors the trailblazing men and women of color who have made significant contributions to filmmaking and the arts.

The Gala was hosted by actor and activist Michael K. Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, When They See Us), and honored the work of Peter Luo, Founder and CEO of Starlight Culture and Entertainment Group, and David Steward II, the CEO of Lion Forge Entertainment and Producer Hair Love – which took home the Oscar for “Best Animated Short Film.”

When asked what tonight’s event meant to him, Williams said, “Tonight’s about inclusion, diversity – although I didn’t see a lot of that tonight on the Oscars’ stage. For me personally, it’s about celebrating artists of all backgrounds.”

Actor Jeremy Tardy (Dear White People, 68 Whiskey, Ballers) said that what he was looking forward to most about the Gala was “being able to celebrate all the diversity, people of color in the industry out there working on amazing projects.”

Overall, many expressed their delight in wins for Parasite, and Best Supporting Actor wins for Brad Pitt and Laura Dern. The sense of camaraderie and respect between the actors, directors, and producers present at the Gala for the wins of their contemporaries was inspiring to witness and gave the night an overall feeling of triumph.

Copyright © 2020 Gia On The Move

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator”. For more information please review our reprints and permissions page.

‘The Last Color’: A Triumph of the Female Spirit

Reviewed by Julia Stier

The Last Color, written and directed by Michelin Star Chef and Filmmaker Vikas Khanna, tells the story of an unlikely friendship and the endurance of the female spirit.

An ancient law in India – one which prevents widows from partaking in the celebration of Holi – has just been overturned. After this win, Noor Saxena, an Indian Supreme Court Justice who fought to overturn the law, returns home to Banaras. However, it is not quite a happy homecoming. When she lived in Banaras, Noor Saxena was an Untouchable, a 9-year-old girl who went by the name “Choti” (played by the delightfully talented Aqsa Siddiqui). Through Noor Saxena’s memory, the audience is taken on Choti’s journey of befriending a 70-year-old widow, Noor (the gentle and expressive Neena Gupta), and their struggle to break free of the restrictions society has placed on them.

Gia On The Move, Julia Stier, film reviews, The Last Color, female repressionHoli is known as the “Festival of Colors,” and signifies the arrival of spring. One of the main parts of the festival is a free-for-all color fight, where people throw colorful powders at each other. Widows, who must take a vow of abstinence, were formerly banned from taking part in these festivities.

The Last Color is a beautiful exploration of female resiliency and strength. Choti serves as an inspiring, albeit young, protagonist, and stands up to discrimination and injustice with the wisdom of someone quadruple her age. Not only was this movie touching in its depiction of two outsiders building each other up, but I found myself unexpectedly moved by its presentation of an inter-generational friendship. While Noor encourages Choti to strive for more, Choti in turn reminds Noor of things she has forgotten – the joy of connecting with a stranger, the blind positivity of youth, and the happiness that color can bring to a life.

However, the joy of this dreamlike friendship is juxtaposed with images from their harsh reality. It is hard to watch moments of female repression, especially since this is not a period piece. The movie takes place only a couple years ago, and still, at times the women in the film are treated as inferior. Except, they know that they are not. The fighting spirit of females comes out beautifully in the micro-rebellions these women commit. Noor hides a book of poems in the Ashram. The evil policeman’s wife, at great risk to herself, refuses to participate in a ritual that would “bless” her with a son – she doesn’t want to give the world another version of her husband. Choti works to earn enough money to attend school rise above her position. These women are not meek. These women are not mild. These women have had to learn to adapt and survive, but they have not given up their power.

The cinematography is exquisite. However, some scene changes employ a fade-to-black transition, which at times awkwardly slow down the pacing.

Recommended

The Last Color
Now Playing in Los Angeles

Location:
Laemmle Town Center
17200 Ventura Blvd #121, Encino, CA 91316

Written and Directed By: Vikas Khanna
Producers: Bindu Khanna, Poonam Kaul, Jitendra Mishra, and Jay Shetty
Starring: Neena Gupta, Aqsa Siddiqui, Rudrani Chhetri, Rajeshwar Khanna

Synopsis:

The Last Color is a story of empowerment and friendship. Nine-year-old flower seller and tightrope walker Chhoti (Aqsa Siddiqui) befriends Noor (Neena Gupta), a 70-year-old widow living a colorless life of abstinence. Both outcasts yet vastly different people, Chhoti and Noor touch each other’s lives in profound ways. Chhoti promises hope to Noor as this poignant story of love, friendship, commitment and victory of the human spirit unfolds on the banks of River Ganges.

Copyright © 2019 Gia On The Move

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator”.

Bakeru: Transforming Spirits at Japan House Los Angeles

Contributed by Julia Stier

Through the use of masks and interactive technology, Japan House‘s newest exhibit, Bakeru: Transforming Spirits, invites guests to play an active role in the preservation of culture and tradition.

Created by the Japanese art studio WOW, Bakeru highlights four folk traditions from the northern region of Tohoku in Japan. These traditions center around honoring and thanking the natural world for its resources, and asking for bountiful harvests in the coming season.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. 

The festivals featured in this exhibit include:

Saotome, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture: The name translates to “early maiden.” Young women perform this dance in rice fields as a way of communicating with the gods to ask for rain and a good harvest.

Shishi-Odori, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures: In this “deer dance,” dancers wear deer-like costumes and perform the ceremony as a prayer for a fruitful harvest.

Kasedori, Kaminoyama City, Yamagata Prefecture: In the middle of winter, Japanese youth don large costumes made of straw and run through the city, while onlookers splash the runners with celebratory water. The festival gets its name from the legendary bird, Kasedori, which the costumes resemble.

Namahage, Oga City, Akita Prefecture: Every New Year’s Eve, the fearsome mountain ogre, Namahage, comes down to the village to frighten lazy children. Families invite the ogre into their homes and offer him food and drink until, appeased, he returns to the mountains, taking bad spirits with him.

Visitors to the Bakeru exhibit first undergo a transformation by putting on masks equipped with motion capture technology and then take part in these traditional practices through interactive, multimedia and visual presentations. The exhibit room contains four screens, one for each festival. Posted signs invite guests to perform a specific, simple move representative of each dance/festival. Visitors then get to see the blessings they are invoking represented in colorful animated images onscreen.

Japan House LA‘s senior curator Trast Howard says that in many of the northern regions of Japan, most young people left their hometowns to move to the cities. However, the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, which devastated parts of Japan, served as “an awakening for the younger generations to preserve where they are from.” Howard continues that since most of these traditions have been passed down and learned through interaction/participation, WOW’s exhibit has “helped the community reconnect with tradition, (…) teaching a new way of passing them on.”

Bakeru: Transforming Spirits is on display at Japan House LA, which is located on Level 2 of the Hollywood & Highland Center (6801 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028).

Copyright © 2019 Gia On The Move

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator”.

Los Angeles shows its PRIDE

by Julia Stier

This past weekend, crowds flocked to the annual LA Pride Festival and Parade in West Hollywood on June 8th and 9th in a celebration of love, inclusion, and acceptance.

The Veronicas at LA Pride Park Music Stage.
Photo Credit: Julia Stier

A true Los Angeles tradition, the first parade took place on June 28th, 1970, and was the “world’s first permitted parade advocating for gay rights” according to the LA Pride website. Established by the non-profit organization Christopher Street West (CSW), the parade served as a response to the Stonewall Rebellion that occurred on Christopher Street in New York City the year before, when members of the LGBTQ community fought back against police who had raided the Stonewall Inn. The rebellion is considered to have sparked the start of the gay liberation movement. CSW has produced the parade and festival every year since.

This year’s festival showcased many LGBTQIA+ artists and musicians, and included a Sunday morning parade down Santa Monica Blvd.

Sunday afternoon’s revelers waded through a party even before reaching the festival entrance. The street was closed to cars, and Katy Perry blasted over the speakers as festival attendees enjoyed the free festivities as a part of the “Pride on the Blvd.,” with vendor booths and pop-up bars, including one representing the historic lesbian bar, The Palms, which closed back in 2013.

Inside the festival gates – with a domain that ran the length of San Vicente Blvd., between Santa Monica Blvd. and Melrose Ave. – the party really got started. Two stages hosted a series of performers, and booths offering food, drinks, and merchandise lined the boulevard.

L.A. Pride Festival 2019
Photo Credit: Julia Stier

The LA Pride Festival, in collaboration with Club Papi and Bash LA, brought to the Park Music Stage artists such as Shaun Ross, Vincint, Cupcakke, Sir Babygirl, Sateen, Miss Vanjie, The Veronicas, Years & Years and Meghan Trainor over the course of the weekend.

Also at the festival, artists including Kodie Shane, Pabllo Vittar, Cristian Castro, Amara Negra, Dej Loaf, Ashanti, and even a Selena Tribute Band performed on the Plaza Stage.

Jess Origliasso, who is openly queer and one-half of the Australian pop-duo The Veronicas, took a break in the middle of their Sunday evening set to acknowledge her “beautiful, visible community.” She thanked the LA LGBT community for providing a safe space for the duo to express themselves. “When we started making music, the community here embraced us entirely, and it pushed us forward to be the artists that we are today.”

Near the Park Music Stage, the historic bar the Black Cat set up shop. Established in 1966 – and declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2008 – the Black Cat made its mark on LGBT history when it played host to over 200 people participating in a civil demonstration in protest of the Stonewall riots.

Sateen performing during the Transgender Power Hour at LA Pride Park Music Stage.
Photo Credit: Julia Stier

Further down the boulevard, the Trans Galleria – hosted by the Trans Wellness Center – showcased works by trans and non-binary visual artists. Amongst the collection were bold and striking pieces by painter Danielle Paris (@danielleparisart) and several thought-provoking photographs from Kikuye Sugiyama’s AntiPatriarchal Masculinities collection.

Set apart in an alcohol-free zone, a section of the festival called #Sizzle! A Carnival of Attraction offered resource booths dedicated to health and wellness, with some particularly geared towards serving the LGBT community. There, attendees could learn about the Friends Community Center, Breathe Life Healing Center, APLA Health, and others.

Although the reveling went on long into the night, artists and participants alike acknowledged that the Pride festival is about more than just the partying or the performances. It’s about creating a safe space to celebrate a community that still, even today, faces discrimination. As one attendee, Matticus, shared, “[Pride] means everything to me.”

Missed the festival? Pride events will be happening all around LA during the month of June. To learn more about upcoming Pride events, visit https://lapride.org/events/.

#LAPRIDE #JUSTUNITE

‘Don’t Silence Me’- A New Anthem For a New Women’s Movement

Contributed by Julia Stier
Photos by Matt Ritchey

“Take your hands off my sister!”

On a recent evening, Sadie Jemmett effortlessly led an auditorium through the chorus of her new song, Don’t Silence Me, during a live acoustic performance before the LA screening of the song’s music video. The song, which Jemmett was inspired to write after her friend Mhairi Morrison came forward with her own story about being sexually assaulted, is meant to be an anthem for survivors of such attacks.

After years of silence, Morrison, an actress, and mime artist is finally speaking up about her own sexual assault at the hands of an influential French film director (whom she has not yet named). By sharing her story, she has inspired others to open up about their own experiences so that they may begin to heal. Many of these women appear in the music video for Don’t Silence Me, which premiered at the Nickelodeon Theater in Burbank, CA on March 4th, 2019.

“So this video is for us, for the survivors,” Morrison began during her introductory talk before the screening. “To celebrate our bravery, our tenacity, our beauty, our courage, and our resilience.”

The powerful video – directed by Jenn Page – features scenes from the recent Women’s March, juxtaposed with images of the women silenced by a piece of tape over their mouths. Each piece of tape is inscribed with a single word such as “worthless” or “invisible.” The women go through a transformation of reclamation as they rip off the tape, and begin to lip-sync along with Jemmett’s words.

In an interview before the screening, one of the film’s producers, Stephanie Arapian, related how moving it was during filming to see the women write down their words, tape them over their mouths, and then rip them off in silence.

Following the screening and acoustic performances by Jemmett of her songs I’m Glad You’re Back and Don’t Silence Me, an informative panel titled Silenced No Longer: Using Our Voices to Creatively Heal – moderated by Sabra Williams, named a “Champion of Change” by Obama – gave the audience a chance to hear from a mix of activists and survivors about how the arts can help one overcome trauma. The impressive panel was comprised of Lili Bernard – one of the women who came forward about Bill Cosby – Kathy Eldon, Ilana Bar-Din Giannini, Jemmett and Morrison. Eldon is the founder of Creative Visions, an organization that promotes creative activism, and Giannini, now a therapist, was kicked out of the American Film Institute (AFI) after she reported that she had been sexually harassed by her mentor.

The women recounted how their creativity has facilitated their healing.  “My art is my safe place,” Bernard shared.

Jemmett believes in her medium of music, because she’s “always considered music to be the highest form of art…so it can heal.”

Morrison summed up the shared belief by observing that she believes art can be used as a conversation starter for important issues. “Art kind of catches on fire.”

It was a night buzzing with positive energy. The event was not a lamentation of past aggressions, but rather a celebration of survivors’ bravery to come forward and enact change. Morrison’s courage inspired others, and Jemmett’s folksy, upbeat song gives this “sisterhood of survivors” an anthem and battle cry.

And it doesn’t stop here. TheDon’t Silence Me campaign will continue its mission to empower survivors around the world, with screenings in London and Paris.

Share the love on Instagram and Twitter: #dontsilenceme @dont_silence_me @dontsilenceme2

Photo (above): Mhairi Morrison from the video Don’t Silence Me

Hero Theatre Announces Winter/Spring LineUp Including a Live Performance of ‘Girlfight’

Hero Theatre (Los Angeles) announced that their 2018/2019 season will include a special pairing of Blade to the Heat by Oliver Mayer and a live performance of Sundance Film Festival Award-Winner, Girlfight.

“Blade to the Heat and Girlfight are both about boxers. Blade gives us a complex look into the male-dominated world of boxing and Girlfight was the definitive film that brought female boxers into the limelight. I love that both are about athletes of color. Girlfight came out 18 years ago, Blade to the Heat came out in the early 90’s. Both should very well be considered classics,” said Hero Theatre artistic director Elisa Bocanegra.

The cast of Girlfight will include cast members from the film, which won the Grand Jury Prize for ‘Best Film’ and ‘Best Director’ at the Sundance Film Festival in 2000. Girlfight writer and original director Karyn Kusama will direct.

Blade to the Heat and Girlfight will be presented as staged readings as part of Hero Theatre’s Future Classics Reading Series.

More plays in the series include:

  • Tea by Los Angeles-based playwright Velina Hasu Houston. Tea recounts the experiences of four Japanese war brides living in the United States after WWII. Featuring an all-female ensemble, it will be directed by Rebecca Wear.
  • A modern verse translation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Puerto Rican playwright Migdalia Cruz will also be featured in the series. Cruz was one of the playwrights commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to create a modern-English translation of a Shakespearean play as part of Play On! 36 Playwrights Translate Shakespeare, which was made possible by a grant from the Hitz Foundation. This will be the first time the translation is heard in Los Angeles.
  • Wrapping up the reading series will be a marathon presentation of Eduardo Machado’s four-play cycle The Floating Island Plays.The tetralogy captures the story of four generations of a Cuban family, starting in the 1920s and ending during Fidel Castro’s regime. The Floating Island Plays are titled The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa, Fabiola, In the Eye of the Hurricane, and Broken Eggs.

Next Spring, Hero Theatre will present a world-premiere cabaret titled The Hero Song Cycle. Featuring live music and a book written by Julia Stier, The Hero Song Cycle will be directed by Gabe Figueroa.

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