A filmmaker who makes, distributes, promotes movies with or without assistance from the film industry, a filmmaker who makes work using means available to them if need be, a filmmaker who cannot be stopped from making movies. This blog is by Brooklyn based indie filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake, about his work and other filmmaking & distribution news. Celebrating indie film since 2006!
From the page - "Werewolf Ninja Philosopher is a deadpan minimalist, underground noir comedy which succeeds by its stylistic audacity and peculiar rhythms that recall the early work of Jim Jarmusch. Since the werewolf ninja philosopher is also an expert martial artist, his philosophical outlook makes it clear that there is much that is strange, but nothing that surpasses man in strangeness. Werewolf Ninja Philosopher is sardonic and witty as well as an affectionate homage of the detective genre, with easily identifiable visual and narrative conventions that any gumshoe would enjoy, even if he is a werewolf.
Directed by Sujewa Ekanayake, U.S.A., 2018, 72 mins.
FACETS FILM DIALOGUE: Filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake will be here for Q&A after all of the screenings Friday, July 19–Monday, July 22.
Lead actor Art Shrian Tiwari will be here for Q&A after all of the screenings Friday, July 19–Sunday, July 21."
Werewolf is a movie for art/indie - real indie/foreign movie fans - and takes a good understanding of noir movies, art house cinema, NYC underground movies for someone to fully enjoy it - and by reading his writing it was obvious that Arceneaux knew the references in Werewolf. Plus Arceneaux is a relatively accessible film reviewer (@billreviews on Twitter) and he seeks out new films and filmmakers that interest him - qualities that are useful for real indie/DIY filmmakers who often do their own distribution and publicity work. Arceneaux is deep into art films, mainstream films, Jim Jarmusch movies (with a book on Down By Law on the way) and he is an enthusiastic supporter of the New Orleans film scene. He is working on starting a website that will cover film screenings happening in New Orleans area, also indie films from all over the world. The project sounded very interesting and possibly very useful for both New Orleans area people and indie filmmakers elsewhere. Perhaps it will do for New Orleans area what Rogerebert.com has done for the Chicago area and the rest of the world - be a great resource for film fans and filmmakers. So I interviewed Arceneaux about his project, and related matters.
Sujewa Ekanayake (SE) - For those of us not in New Orleans, what is the art house/indie film/foreign film scene like over there? Who are the theaters that show such work? Are there a lot of indie filmmakers in New Orleans?
Bill Arceneaux (BA) - The state of the diverse moviegoing scene is, at the moment, in flux. We lost a previously independent cinema turned luxury theater, and now only have two regular venues in the city limits - The Prytania and The Broad - both of which show classics, indies, and obscurities often. Just outside the line, there's Zeitgeist - which always has incredibly wild programming - and Chalmette Movies, which likes to challenge its family-oriented audiences with thought-provoking films. There's a mobile screening unit called Shotgun Cinema that runs every few months, and then a few underground organizations and multiplexes. I don' want to say it's scarce, but more theaters are welcome, more curation is necessary, and more coordination of showtimes is needed.
We have a slew of great indie filmmakers, from Randy Mack to Kenna Moore to Garrett Bradley to Jonathan Jackson to recent Tribeca winner Phillip Youmans - to name just a few. Programs offered at the University of New Orleans and the New Orleans Video Access Center don't just encourage work on Hollywood productions but teach craft for using to tell our own stories. We're more than just food and music...
SE - What is your new reviews website project all about? Do we need a reviews site focused on one city?
BA - So The New Orleans Movie Review Project - with an official outlet name TBD - currently seeking support on GoFundMe, has been established in response to the ever-shifting nature of news media in town. Recently, The Advocate purchased The Times-Picayune, merging into a monopoly of sorts and laying off staff that worked hard on music, arts, and movies journalism (among award-winning news pieces and investigations). Mike Scott, former TP film critic, was the writer who inspired me to start my career back in 2011. Without him and others leading the charge, it's now just a handful of bloggers and magazine writers. And access to press/advance screenings can be hard to come by too down here.
With this new site, I want to provide a space for colleagues and up & comers to express themselves on cinema and the overall local film culture, to foster different curatorial programming choices in area venues, and to strengthen regional appreciation of and for movies. Indeed, I feel that a city-specific movie publication wouldn't just benefit New Orleanians who love to go to attend screenings and discuss film afterward, but would help provide support for filmmakers across the globe who are looking for a crowd. They exist, and they're in NOLA.
SE - Can filmmakers from all over the world submit their films to your new website? Could that lead to possible screenings in New Orleans?
BA - Absolutely! I want to give moviegoers in the city and those who are New Orleans at heart across the world a chance to read about movies they otherwise wouldn't learn about. It'd be great to also provide a function that gives readers and potential audiences a voice with local theaters, to maybe suggest some of these films for screenings in the city.
SE - What is the film festival scene like in New Orleans? Are interesting things happening in that space?
BA - We have some diverse fests that run throughout the year - though the fall is the sweet spot. We have two horror film fests (Overlook and NOLA Horror), a French Film Festival, Prytania's monthly classic series inspired by deceased owner/operator Rene Brunet Jr, an LGBT Film Fest, and the big one from our film society - The New Orleans Film Festival. There are others, but these are the ones that come to immediate mind. The programming at these events are always eclectic and interesting, bringing down shorts, documentaries, foreign flicks, local and beyond indie movies, and even some surprises like virtual reality projects and streaming previews. We have multitudes, I feel - so to speak.
SE - Who else is writing about films in New Orleans?
BA - There are now but a few of us: Myself with Big Easy Magazine and blogging/freelance, Courtney Young of OnTheScreenReviews.com, Brandon Ledet of Swampflix.com, Fritz Esker and Dave Vicari of Where Y'at Magazine, Chris Henson of the @NOLA_FilmEvents twitter handle, and that's about it. We used to have Ken Korman from The Gambit, but he was laid off when The Advocate bought them out. We had John Wirt of The Advocate, but he too was laid off and now freelances here and there. We had Mike Scott, but he was laid off just recently from The Times-Picayune when they were bought by The Advocate. Mike Miley is a local film teacher but also writes books on media and movies too. It's lonely here for critics, and I really want to help add more from Louisiana to the Southeastern Film Critics Association roster (of which I am a member). It's possible I'm forgetting someone, for which I do apologize if so, but the above are the bare few.
With a new site, not only would we have a central place for sharing/cross-promoting our works, we'd have exclusive content and be an outlet for assisting in growing the film writing community in the city.
SE - What is your planned Down By Law book all about? I understand that it is one of the perks from the reviews website fundraising campaign.
BA - Yes, at the $50 level I'm offering a PDF of a collection of essays on Down by Law from Jim Jarmusch. At $100, you can get a print version too, plus a PDF of another essay tome on WUSA - both movies which were shot and set in the area. I'm still coming up with the themes for the collections, but the title of the Down by Law book will be "Sad & Beautiful World".
SE - What's the role of - as fas as you can see - the critic or a reviewer in creating a film scene or a community in a city like New Orleans? What positive effects do you anticipate from your new website?
BA - In a way, the critic can act as a gatekeeper to not just understanding and learning about a given film and how it made or didn't make someone feel, but also to causing action in the moviegoer. To get them to purchase a ticket, to get them to write a comment or seek out other works from a filmmaker, to inspire filmmaking efforts, and to influence and spark within them something about their connection to the rest of the world. We have so much going on in New Orleans from a film standpoint, it would be a shame to gloss over the movies being made and movies being shown. I want to cover as much as possible!
Filmmaker officially In-Person for the 6/21 - 7 PM show, 6/22 - 7 PM show, 6/23 - 5 PM show - for Intros and Q & As after the shows. Filmmaker may also be at the theater for various other shows. Informal discussions about the film and filmmaking, after shows, may be possible - at the theater or nearby.
In WEREWOLF NINJA PHILOSOPHER someone is killing art house filmmakers in NYC. The City calls on Werewolf Ninja Philosopher - a werewolf who is a ninja, a philosopher, and a private detective - to help stop the killings.
A deadpan, slow cinema, minimalist, black & white, NYC art/indie/DIY/underground werewolf noir comedy by Sujewa Ekanayake (Director, Writer, Cinematographer, Editor). Starring Art Shrian Tiwari as Werewolf. Also featuring Kirsten Dwyer, Alia Lorae, Rachel Dixon and others. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Copyright 2018 Sujewa Ekanayake.
On WEREWOLF NINJA PHILOSOPHER "...a beautiful looking picture...excellent performance by Art Shrian Tiwari." - Bobby LePire, FILM THREAT
"Pardon me for being hysterically positive about Sujewa Ekanayake's latest indie comedy creation, Werewolf Ninja Philosopher, but when a no-budget flick like this shows up with everything in place – great casting, great B&W images, clever scriptwriting, perfect music, gutsy editing and scene-building, both meaningful and funny too – it's time to cheer for the entire (thought-of-as-dead) real indie scene." - Rick Schmidt, Filmmaker and Author
"...The cinematography was seamless and controlled with a style that's personally Sujewa Ekanayake's...It had an intelligence to it with long scenes that held your attention much in the way of film noir, and the acting was consistent. The Werewolf himself was marvelous." - Edgar Grana, School of Visual Arts Instructor, Musician
"“Werewolf” never takes itself serious (its absurd comedy after-all), and Sujewa spends time through the Werewolf expressing his love for the things he’s interested in, centered around his influences, while imbuing the film with a workable philosophy that translates to the real world. It also has several legit laugh out loud moments sprinkled throughout." - Amir Motlagh, Filmmaker and Musician
Black and white films are making a very slow comeback. I chose black and white for my film Werewolf Ninja Philosopher. Inspired in part by Frances Ha (2012) - and even earlier films Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and Down By Law (1986). Here are several excellent recent films that have used black and white cinematography.
Frances Ha (2012)
Frances Ha Official Theatrical Trailer #1 (2013) - Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver Movie HD - YouTube
The Woman Who Left (2016)
The Woman Who Left – Official Trailer - YouTube
Lover for a Day (2017)
Lover for a Day | Official Trailer | MUBI - YouTube
From the review: "The script by director Sujewa Ekanayake works well, especially if one knows noir tropes very well. The gag about (almost) every woman who Werewolf encounters trying to get to know him better is a fun play on the sexually charged banter that infuses the most famous hardboiled detective stories. I for one found the idea of a Celebrity Crimes Unit existing to be hysterical and happily, the punchline is not overused." Read the rest here.
"It took 18 years for a collector couple to build a state-of-the-art home for their one-of-a-kind collection, with the architects Herzog & de Meuron. Now they can slow down and watch." - read the article here.
The werewolf exists somewhere between man and wolf. The ninja exists somewhere between the light and the shadows. The philosopher exists somewhere between the lie and the truth. In this liminal intersection, a werewolf that is a ninja that is a philosopher searches for a serial killer, a sadistic murderer who targets art filmmakers.
Like its title, Werewolf Ninja Philosopher (2018) is a hybrid of hybrids, part noir mystery, part absurdist comedy, part cinephile fetish.
The name alone is enough to conjure a whole interesting set of possible stories and worlds, and like a good philosophy text, WWNP invokes a series of questions: How did the werewolf get to Brooklyn? Why is he here? Where is he going? Is he as ancient as the philosophers he studies? Did he walk alongside Aristotle? Did he train under Musashi? Was he once an assassin? Who did he kill? Did he kill? Will he kill again? Why is he trying to stop the killing?
Homo homini lupus. Man is a wolf to man. But what is a wolf to man? And what is a man to wolf? If man be a wolf to man, can man be a wolf to himself?
And why does he walk so damn much?
Whatever the (unimportant) answers are, there is one bit of knowledge we have--writer, director, producer, and cinematographer Sujewa Ekanayake has made an art film that’s just plain damn fun.
WWNP is a movie lover’s movie, and it is clear that Ekanayake himself has fun playing with the various genres form which he pulls, making references to Jarmusch, Descartes, and The Maltese Falcon all at once. But the film is not so specific that it becomes too opaque for the uninitiated viewer. Nor is it so full of so many banal personal tastes that it sours into narcissism (looking at you Tarantino) or a seriousness about itself that forgets why someone might want to watch the film in the first place.
You come to Werewolf Ninja Philosopher because you want to see a werewolf who is a ninja who is a philosopher, something that is strange and interesting and damn fun.
Someone is murdering art filmmakers. The NYPD has come up cold on all their leads, so they call the one person who might solve the case, a creature that has the instinct to hunt, but also the nuanced sensitivity to patiently follow the clues to their logical conclusion. Someone who can exist comfortably between night and day, light and dark, good and evil. Someone who is part animal and part human, part detective and part assassin. Someone whose lifelong duty is the dogged pursuit of truth.Someone who can attack and kill, but mostly keeps his hands in his pockets, real casual like.
Enter Werewolf Ninja Philosopher.
Gathering clues using his impeccable lupine senses, Werewolf Ninja Philosopher hunts, not to kill, but to stop the killing. HIs library is the world, his office, the streets. He exists during the day, but only lives at night, where he deduces and seduces, not out of love for any one person or truth, but because, like an animal or a philosopher, he cannot do but otherwise. It is both his most transcendental terrestrial animal drive and the transcendent celestial daimon that calls him to be who he is.
There are moments during the film where the viewer might declare aloud, “What am I watching?” and “Why”? (Isn’t that precisely what philosophy, at its best, strives to do, namely force us to question the “what” and the “why”?) But Ekanayake is conscious of his camp (the horror genre itself is a prototype for camp), and the fact that this is an art film where the motivating violence is directed at art filmmakers can be read as a playful sublimation of Ekanayake’s own anxieties and self-criticisms about being an art filmmaker. Will he be the next victim?
In this way, the film becomes something that seeks to undermine the conditions of its own possibility. Camus writes, “There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” Perhaps the only important (and interesting) cinematic question is also the one that forces film to interrogate its own existence and, in so doing, finally destroy itself. I can only imagine Ekanayake’s final film to be the one where he himself is eaten by the werewolf. (Aren’t all artists ultimately consumed by the very art they spend their life creating?)
But for now, the monster is our ally. He saves the film. Not only the lowercase particular “film” that is Werewolf Ninja Philosopher but the uppercase Form “Film” that exists in-and-of-itself…at least for now.
eric anthamatten teaches philosophy and art at The New School and Pratt Institute. He is a performance poet, musician, martial artist, and often howls at the moon whether it is full or empty. @eAnthamatten on Twitter.