An Grumpy Old Man and His Dog

Man’s Best Friend: Interview with Bwakaw director Jun Robles Lana

The unexpected international attention for Jun Robles Lana’s first film outside of the Philippine studio system has given the longtime commercial filmmaker a potential turning point for his career.

by Ada Tseng

Bwakaw’s 70-year-old protagonist Rene is the type of man who scowls at well-meaning neighbors, doesn’t think twice about hitting his childhood friend’s partner in the face with a blow dryer, and spends more of his time preparing for death (revising his will, buying his own coffin) than living life. The only living being that accepts his often insufferable temperament is a stray dog named Bwakaw, who eventually becomes a quiet but irreplaceable fixture of his otherwise solitary existence.

Rene is based on director Jun Robles Lana’s mentor, the late playwright Rene Villanueva. Villanueva was the facilitator of a playwriting workshop that director Lana attended in high school. For the next few decades, Villanueva supervised all of Lana’s plays, teleplays, and scripts.

“I was 16 when we first met, and he died in 2007,” says Lana. “He taught me the value of work. He taught me to be very disciplined as a writer, and I still write every day in the morning because of his influence.”

The story of Bwakaw departs from Villanueva’s real life, but the “grumpy old gay man” character was “truly Rene,” says Lana. “But then if you got to know him, you understand that he also has a sensitive side to him and sense of humor.”

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Hahn-Bin is Dead, Amadeus Leopold Lives

The Classical Violinist Formerly Known as Hahn-Bin: Amadeus Leopold

After Amadeus Leopold’s performance of “Till Dawn Sunday,” a classical music concert that he’s morphed into a performance art show, audience members young and old filed out of UCLA’s Royce Hall theater with little to say other than “Wow.”

by Ada Tseng

When asked by Australia’s Limelight magazine whether he ever has to defend himself as a serious classical artist because of the way he dresses (dramatic makeup, androgynous high-fashion clothing, hair often styled into a mohawk and/or dyed primary colors), Amadeus Leopold replied: “I don’t blame people who judge based on appearance because they haven’t heard me play, but they will shut the fuck up when they hear me play.”

Amadeus Leopold’s former self was Hahn-Bin, a Korean American child prodigy who began playing the violin at age 5 and, by age 12, had made his international debut at the 42nd annual Grammys in February 2000. In the last few years, the caterpillar has blossomed into a butterfly, and with the 2012 name change (“Amadeus” taken from Mozart, “Leopold” as a nod to both Mozart’s father and Leopold Auer, the Hungarian violinist) comes a force of nature who’s determined to fulfill the mission of The Renaissance of Classical Music, a project he started back in 2008, in which he vows to “bring the quarantined genre into mainstream culture.” Rumblings of his grandiose breakthrough began to attract pop culture attention in 2011, when Vogue reported that Madonna herself had attended one of his concerts — and later invited him to collaborate on her 2012 MDNA album. Since then, he’s also collaborated with The Scissor Sisters on their album Magic Hour.

“Hanh-Bin is dead,” Amadeus Leopold, now 25, declared with much flair to a full audience at UCLA’s Royce Hall on January 10, 2013. “The only way I could move on to my future was by murdering my past.”

“I know some of you loved Hahn-Bin,” he continued. “But I couldn’t. Because sometimes the wounds of our past just won’t heal.”

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A Trek Across The Himalayas for Environmental Awareness

Trek Across the Himalayas: Interview with Pad Yatra director Wendy J.N. Lee

Lee’s documentary Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey follows 700 people making a trek across the Himalayan Mountains for a spiritual pilgrimage that aims to inspire global environmental responsibility.

by Ada Tseng

Though she was born and raised in California, Taiwanese American documentarian Wendy J.N. Lee has been volunteering in the Himalayas for many years.

“My parents have always been world travelers, and they’re involved in a lot of charity projects abroad, so I grew up aware of that part of the world,” says Lee.

Many of the monks that she has known all her life were featured in her debut feature documentary Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey, about an organized trek of 700 people walking across the Himalayas to spread awareness about the “3rd Pole,” a glacial region that is in danger due to global warming. Padyatra means “journey by foot” or “foot pilgrimage,” and these journeyers are led through harsh climate conditions and crumbling terrain by H.H. the Gyalwang Drukpa, one of the main Buddhist spiritual leaders of the Himalayas, recipient of a United Nations MDG Honor, and initiator of this “Eco-Pad Yatra.” For a couple months, they went from remote village to remote village, collecting plastic bottles and garbage, and educating people about living a more environmentally-friendly life.

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