MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Of Love, Life and Loss

What’s the meaning of a life, and a loss?

Earlier today, MCN Headlines Editor Ray Pride posted a particularly tragic headline to the front page of MCN about the murders of Filipino-Canadian film critic Alexis Tioseco and his partner, Slovenian critic and programmer Nika Bohinc, in what seems to be a random house robbery. The murders have hit Tioseco’s constituency in the South Asian film community particularly hard.

Tioseco wrote publicly (and beautifully) in an essay, “The Letter I Would Love to Read to You in Person,” for Rogue Magazine just over a year ago.  In this essay, Tioseco immortalized his love for Bohinc, his love for cinema, and his love for the Phillipines, all in one fell swoop, using the careful brush strokes of precisely chosen words to express his feelings. We should all be so lucky as to know that feeling of passionate love, whether for our chosen line of work or for the person we love, or both. We should all be so lucky as to have someone write (or at least think) about us:

“It was not your beauty, or rather, not just your beauty, but your manner of speaking: which now sixteen months later still demands so much of me. There is a precious intensity in your gestures, the way in which your eyes dart and hands reach out to grab the right word, that illustrates how strong a desire you have to communicate, especially when the conversation turns toward the things that matter to you …”

There’s a desperate sense of unfairness in two people who were so passionate and so productive, who wanted so much to make a difference in their chosen professions, having their lives ended so brutally and suddenly. Tioseco wrote further in his essay about the need he felt to live and work in the Phillipines:

“My dear Nika,
If there has been a single cause of strain that has stuck out in our relationship it is this: the idea of my attachment to the Philippines, the strong desire you see that I have to live and work here, and the way that, perhaps, you see this as a matter of misappropriate priorities. Does a place mean more than a person? Does my work in the Philippines mean more than the possibility of a life with you, somewhere, anywhere else?”

And while it’s true that these two people could have been just as easily shot and killed in a stupid robbery had they been living in Slovenia, or New York, or Los Angeles, or Hoboken, it was Tioseco’s love of (and sense of indebtedness to) the Phillipines and Filipino cinema that put them in that place, at that time.

Perhaps all this has struck me more than it otherwise would because of things going on in my own life right now.  I’m coping with an almost overwhelming cacophony of love and loss and change in my own life right now, and having to let go of my need to control outcomes, because you can’t control outcomes when you can’t even control all the variables. It’s just not possible. And it’s both exhilarating and terrifying to have to let go of that sense of control.

My father, the rock of my childhood, is growing more frail a good decade before I was mentally prepared to experience this. I haven’t quite figured out how to handle this sudden reversal of roles, of me being his anchor when he’s always been mine, of having to make room in an already packed schedule to care for him.

At the same time, I’m processing a major seismic shift in my marriage and stirrings of something new and complicated, and my heart feels simultaneously too full and too drained to process further emotion right now.

Have I accomplished anything meaningful, in my life or in my work, as I approach mid-life?. Someone could just as easily break into my house in Seattle and shoot and kill me, tonight or next week or next month. I’ve always been a bit of a fatalist; I believe that when your time is up, it’s up, and no matter where you are or what you do, fate will contrive to take you at that moment. It’s partly why I struggle with the need to not leave loose ends untied, not to end a day with regrets over harsh words spoken, a love left wounded, a friendship damaged.

If I died tomorrow, would I leave this life with the sense that I did the best I could do in everything I tackled? Would I leave my father with enough of a stable base that others could help him retain his independence for as long as possible? Would I leave my children with enough of my love, and enough strength of character within each of them, that they would be able to move past the hole my absence in their lives would create? Would my mother know I love her and appreciate her many sacrifices, those offerings on the altar of motherhood that I understand so much better now myself for having borne and raised five children of my own?

Would my husband take comfort in knowing that, even though things have shifted between us, I still feel love for him, and wanted to find a way for us to continue to be a part of each other’s lives, even if that tapestry would have looked different than we both imagined it when we started weaving it together 14 years ago? Would the person who now holds a piece of my heart in his hands understand that my life was beginning to shift in some profound ways because of his friendship and presence in my life? And would any of that even matter five or ten years down the road, when the immediate shock of death and pain of loss has faded?

At its best, good cinema, like life, evokes this kind of raw emotion, this tearing down of walls … if we let it. I could list on my fingertips films I’ve seen at fests over the past few years that have been pivotal in helping me work through some of my own issues and feelings about my life and things that needed changing. I’ve been ecstatically happy at film fests, and suicidally depressed, but at both ends of the spectrum there were films that touched me, that grabbed my heart or my soul and commanded that I pay attention to what I was feeling.

This is film, this is cinema, this sense that what you’re seeing on the screen is more than just images and sound; the best writers and directors and actors know how to reach that place inside of you, to connect the story they’re telling with something that feels real and honest and passionate, that can scrape your soul raw and make you face your own fears, your own failings, even when that terrifies you. And writing about those kinds of films, analyzing them, describing the emotions they evoke, intriguing the reader such that they want to, need to, see that film for themselves, even if I loved it and they hate it — that is the job of the critic.

Such as it is, that’s the contribution of my work at the moment. I may not do it right every time, I may struggle sometimes to find the words or to make them behave properly and fall into line to say what I want to say, but for better or worse, they are my words, my thoughts and feelings and love for life and film that I put out here week after week, through columns and reviews and Oscar babbling and fest coverage. It’s what I love, and it’s what I’ll continue to do as my life’s work for as long as I can, for as long as you read it and find it worthwhile. It’s good to be back at the keyboard again after a month mostly absent from writing.

I’ll see you from Toronto.

– by Kim Voynar

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon