April 26, 2009

Brazilian cast in Whispers Like Thunder

‘Whispers’ gains new voices“This is a quintessential Native American story of courage and perseverance, but unfortunately, it is also a story that is largely forgotten. We want to bring this amazing narrative to life for a new generation of Americans, and we want to do so authentically, utilizing Native American talent wherever possible every step of the way,” Harper said of the project.

In addition to his producing chores, along with partners Simone Sheffield and Valerie Hoffman, Kingsley will portray Charles Curtis, the only Native American to serve as vice president of the United States. Daniela Lavender is also on board to portray Ida Conley.

“We are honored to be working with Sir Ben Kingsley and thrilled to be a part of a team that is so strongly committed to the Native American experience and vision,” Huey said.
You gotta love how this article innocently reports the casting of someone named Daniela Lavender as the Wyandot sister Ida Conley. Here are some details the article left out--from September 2007:

Sir Ben Kingsley makes Brazilian ex-waitress half his age his 4th wifeThe actor Ben Kingsley has secretly married a Brazilian former waitress half his age. The 63-year-old Oscar winner is said to have made bit-part actress Daniela Barbosa de Carneiro, 34, his fourth wife.

The father of four met Miss Barbosa over two years ago in Hollywood. Many expressed doubts as to whether the relationship between Sir Ben--who enjoys pottering in the garden and reading--and the "bombshell" would last.
And:Sir Ben's marriage to the former Miss Barbosa is just the latest episode in the colourful soap opera that is his private life.

To date, the script includes: three failed marriages, four children by two different wives, a long-term live-in lover who was replaced by wife No 3 (also nearly half his age), whom he then jettisoned after discovering her embracing her lover in a photograph on the internet in 2005.

The question is, will it be fourth time lucky?

Miss Barbosa arrived in Britain as a penniless student who couldn't speak a word of English more than a decade ago. She worked as a waitress and model for a bridal shop in Camden, North London, while she pursued her ambition of becoming an actress.
And:"Daniela was very confident and very ballsy. She knew exactly what she wanted--and that was to be a Hollywood actress."

Was it a coincidence that her latest fiance; just happens to be one of Britain's most respected and famous actors, with a weakness for pretty and considerably younger women?

Certainly, it comes as no surprise to learn that Sir Ben's latest project is launching a production company with Miss Barbosa.

"Hopefully, we can finance and put together and produce our own films and material that I love, and stories that I think would be beautiful to tell. 'We' is myself and my fiance Daniela," he told a U.S. journalist earlier this year.

For the ambitious Miss Barbosa, whose career highlights include an episode of Casualty, playing a maid in Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G In Da House, and the role as a woman who turns down her boyfriend's proposal of marriage in Emotional Backgammon--which was described by one critic as an "awful misfire"--the patronage of Sir Ben must be very welcome indeed.
Comment:  Let's see what we have here.

Daniela Lavender is the skirt-chasing Ben Kingsley's fourth wife. She's a Brazilian waitress who wants to be a Hollywood actress. Although she may have a few drops of Native blood, she looks part black and part white. She's had a few minor roles in minor British productions--nothing that would qualify her to play a lead role in a Native-themed movie set in Kansas.

Kingsley has formed a production company to make movies such as Whispers Like Thunder to give himself and his actress-wannabe wife jobs. Casting themselves as Charles Curtis and Ida Conley has nothing to do with honoring Natives or hiring the best person for the job. It's all about nepotism and keep Kingsley's boy-toy happy so she won't divorce him.

Basically, Whispers Like Thunder sounds like a vanity project for Kingsley and Lavender. But Harper and Huey are "strongly committed to the Native American experience and vision"? How, by casting non-Natives to play Native characters? By spurning filmmakers who try to tell genuine Native stories with genuine Native actors, directors, and writers?

Native producer caves in

So far we haven't heard of a single Native involved in this production except Harper the co-producer. And Harper is already fibbing to us. When he said they'd use "Native American talent wherever possible every step of the way," that wasn't true, was it? It's possible right now to recast Charles Curtis and Ida Conley with talented Native actors, but Harper isn't doing it.

Instead, he's letting a role that should go to a strong Native actress go to Kingsley's Brazilian waitress-wife instead. If that isn't a slap in the face of the Native acting community, what is? Why stop with the Conley sisters, Harper? Maybe you can get DeNiro to play Sitting Bull and Pacino to play Geronimo in your next "respectful" production.

If it were me, I would've said, "Having Native actresses play the three Conley sisters is non-negotiable, Sir Ben. You agree to that or we walk and take our credibility and connections with us. You'll never get the support of Indian country without us."

Instead, Harper and Huey seem to be kowtowing to the great white father. They must want to be Hollywood producers badly--more than I ever would. I don't know if they've sold out yet, but they seem to be heading in that direction.

In short, Whispers Like Thunder has the makings of a disaster. It'll be lucky if it achieves middle-of-the-road mediocrity. The chances of its being a great Native-themed movie are diminishing by the second. I'd advise any tribe thinking of investing in it to steer clear instead.

For more on the subject, see Whispers Like Thunder Seeks Funding and Producers Set for Wyandot Film.

Below:  The two "Native" leads...so far.


Jet said...


Thanks for the kicking a filmmaker while he’s down.

I have worked for more than five years trying to bring a “Native themed” feature film to the big screen with Native talent helping write and produce along with top Native talent in front of the camera, (and no Native roles going to "non-Native" actors.) Add to that an executive producer who has delivered over $50,000,000 in profits from past films, an Emmy-winning visual effects team, and a world-renowned production designer.

Yes, Native bloggers have been calling for a “Rezdog Millionaire,” or a North American “Whale Rider” and the movie business has been showing record returns during a recession. Regional film offices are offering an automatic %30 cash incentive to shoot and the number of productions are down meaning less competition and more opportunities for ticket and DVD sales on the horizon…

That’s not enough. No money, no movie.

The tribes don’t seem interested in partnering with a film production (they are not familiar with the world of “indy” film production.) Hollywood, including the “Mini-Majors” like Lionsgate, don’t seem interested in backing "Indian" movies (“We want an “A” list star in a leading role, with a track record…how about Ben Kingsley or Johnny Depp?)

We have basically been shut down.

I hope someday a film project will come along that could not only profit the tribal community financially but could also be a success story from a public relations point of view…lets tear down a few stereotypes shall we? We’ve all seen the “historical” dramas; we’ve all seen Indians get shot off of horses we've all seen the Indians get the short end of the stick.
How about a success story? How about a story about finding a way to walk “both paths” as so many Indians have done...

Until then, we’ll get to see Sir Ben (no doubt an outstanding actor whose work I admire) playing Indian with his new wife, while “indy” filmmakers such as me are forced to move onto other projects that are easier to find funding for.

Keep the faith Rob, I’ll see you at the movies.


Anonymous said...

Jet is there anyway for me to contact you so that I can learn more about your production?

Jet said...


You can email me at jetfilm@live.com with any questions.