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Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell, Directors: LIFE IS LOVE

February 6, 2014
Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell

Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell

Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell are the co-founders of the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, CA.  This year they have produced their own film, LIFE IS LOVE.  

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of LIFE IS LOVE, from concept to financing.

HH: My wife, Roz, heard Somaly Mam speak in Hong Kong, when we were dating, and sent me an email about how moved she was by this woman whose philosophy was “life is love.” Roz brought me a business card. Inspired by that email, Kathleen J. Powell and I decided to do a Cinequest Picture The Possibilities (youth empowerment) session in Cambodia…As we developed this, Kathleen and I had the idea to do a feature film on Somaly Mam and her amazing young heroes, which she calls her Voices For Change Youth. Marcela Villegas Castenon (line producer and PTP manager) and Kathleen put the relationships together and created the opportunity to make a very special movie. Kathleen and I decided to donate our time to the movie, since we believed very deeply in the stories of these women, and the rest of the costs of the movie were covered via donations from friends, family, PTP supporters and companies.

2Q: Cinequest is hosting the World Premiere of LIFE IS LOVE.  Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?  Does the “home turf” aspect make you more comfortable or more nervous?

HH: Kathleen and I started and run Cinequest because our first feature film (she produced and I directed) gave us a phenomenal experience at the Venice Film Festival and beyond. We wanted to give that back to other artists and to add the technology/empowerment component. What started off as a film festival focusing on discovery and empowerment of artists has led through time to a company with three divisions focusing on the empowerment of artists, innovators, audiences and global youth. PTP is the year-round youth movement where we give youth the tools, processes and inspiration to create their dreams from art to science.

KJP:  It feels incredible to bring LIFE IS LOVE before an audience.  This film is about amazing young heroes that have survived horrors most of us could not possibly imagine.  It is such an honor to be able to bring their stories, their words, their feelings to the world.  If this film were to help one victim realize they too can stand up, survive, and help others, than it will all be worth it.  I think the reaction to the film will be powerful.  I don’t believe it is a film that you can watch and forget about next week.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making LIFE IS LOVE?

HH: The film was an incredible blessing to make so there’s probably thousands of best experiences from the rich visual opportunities in Phnom Penh to the incredible women who shared their stories with such vulnerability and warmth. One of the ‘best’ experiences has been how much they’ve all inspired us from the initial encounters to the crying (many times) and joy in the editing room engaging with them further. A personal best was shooting in the rice fields of Cambodia on my birthday with these wonderful women and the team of Life Is Love. The ‘worst experience?’ Although I run a film and innovation company, I can’t say that the business side of releasing a movie is very easy for any artist.

KJP:  Every moment of the film shoot was rewarding.  We were shooting in the middle of August, it was 115 degrees in the shade.  Forget about trying to fix your hair or put on makeup. There was no complaining and you never thought about it.  We were with AMAZING young women that were sharing their stories.  Every interview we did, I sat there and cried.  Even if another language was being spoken, I could look in their eyes and feel throughout my entire body their pain, their joy.  I did not need the words translated, I knew.  And then when the camera was switched off, and we all were able to recompose ourselves, there was laughter.

My worst experience was the deep understanding I now have of the horrors young children, babies have experienced.  What was done to their childhood, to their bodies, to their foundation as a human being.  That understanding will never go away … and I would never want it to.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

HH: If you are willing to take a journey into the darkest and most inspirational sides of the human experience…all in one setting.

KJP:  We all experience trauma in our lives.  Some more than others.  From the loss of a loved one, trauma to our bodies, a lost job or relationship, we all are on these journeys thru life.   I LOVE the world of film because it allows you to step outside of yourself and go on a journey, to a place you have never visited, to somewhere that can only be imagined, to another culture, experience, world.  What a great honor that is, to be invited, even if only for a short period of time, to walk in someone else’s shoes.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won an Oscar for LIFE IS LOVE.  Give us your acceptance speech.  

HH: I’d use the platform to expose more people to Cinequest Picture The Possibilities and the incredible future we all will have because the new generations can create a better world than the one we currently have…if we help them and let them.

KJP:  In the end it is never about how much money you have in the bank, how many companies you launched, how many awards you have won.  It will always be about your connection with other people.  Did you help someone take that next step?  Did you open a door for them to walk through?  Did you inspire them not to give up?

See LIFE IS LOVE at Cinequest!
View the Trailer!

CQ24_1000x316_LifeIsLove_01

From → Interviews

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