We are hosting a fundraiser to produce Velina Hasu Houston's first film, Path of Dreams. We need your help to raise the funds to film on location this winter in Niigata Prefecture!
Tamara Ruppart, Director/Producer Velina Hasu Houston, Screenwriter/Producer Ko Mori, Producer Brad Crowe, Producer Cat Youell, Producer Giselle Gilbert, Associate Producer Monique Yamaguchi, Associate Producer
Path of Dreams, a short film based on the legend of poet Ono no Komachi, is the first step in my mission to share the stories of Velina Hasu Houston with the world through the medium of film. Dr. Houston, as a woman with a multiracial background (she is Japanese on her maternal side and African American-Native American on her paternal side), has a unique perspective in the American pantheon of writers. Her work explores themes of race and identity, engendering empathy in the audience by making the foreign relatable. At the same time, her work instills in her audience the courage to surmount the barriers that separate us by exposing the prejudices that slow society’s progress. Velina Hasu Houston is one of the great American playwrights of our time, and I passionately believe in the importance of using film to magnify her very important voice.
As a child growing up in Queens, New York, I was conditioned not to see differences among people. The diverse ethnic backgrounds, languages, and shades of skin of my friends were as remarkable to me as the various types of cars on the street. As I gained more life experience I eventually learned that not everyone saw the world in the same way. I have since lived in Japan and traveled extensively throughout Asia and Europe. When one travels, the differences between cultures are apparent, but as a girl from Queens, I have always marveled more at the similarities. These similarities are what I want to celebrate. I share a worldview with Velina Hasu Houston and a passion for promoting that worldview. This is why I have to share her stories.
The legend of Ono no Komachi is one of beauty, feminine strength, social defiance, passion and love. While it is part of the fabric of Japanese society, this legend is not well known in the western world. Even though the story takes place in ancient Japan, the themes and emotions are relevant today, both in the United States and in Japan. Komachi’s inner fire, controversial passion and lack of conformity to the structural rules of ancient society demonstrate the strength and will inherent in women of all cultures and societies, both ancient and modern.
No matter how foreign a character or story (historical or dramatic) may appear, the human spirit is universal. It adapts, grows, and loves in every part of the world, in times of pain or in times of peace. These stories may have been born to the Japanese culture, but their voices and strength of spirit are universal, unifying and timeless.
Ninth century Japan, in and around the city that eventually will become Kyoto.
The poet and renowned beauty Ono no Komachi leaves her home bordered by a bamboo forest to visit the court of Emperor Ninmyo.
At court, she hears lord and poet Fukakusa no Shosho reciting poetry for the crowd. A well-written but bold and egotistic poem, it makes Komachi indignant, yet she is attracted to Shosho, who is legendary for his charm and way with women. Equally smitten, Shosho’s brash admiration causes her to retreat to the court garden. As she writes a poem on a scroll, he pursues. They volley lines of poetry as a realm free from social constraints, expressing their hearts through verse. The poetic foreplay taxing her, Komachi escapes to her palanquin to depart. But Shosho follows and makes it their secret chamber where a historic vow is made.
In order to prove his devotion to her and her alone, Komachi challenges Shosho to visit her at her home for 99 nights. On the 100th night she will accept him as her lover. They will write together on the scroll on which they began their exchange. He agrees, taking the scroll to begin the volley.
As the days of the vow advance and Shosho reveals he has the skill to match that of his worthy opponent, the pair fall deeply in love, using poetry to define their passion in ways that the convention of their time does not allow. The journey isn’t easy; they are confronted by the depth of desire, sexual heat, Shosho’s impatience with the vow, and Komachi’s need for proof. Still, the love flourishes and strengthens.
On the 99th night, Shosho’s unbroken vow inspires joy in Komachi. She can hardly believe that such a man has made this commitment to her. But as his arrival grows later and the snowfall increases, her bliss deteriorates and her worse fears emerge. She tries to distract herself by writing a poem, but its themes of longing disgust her, make her feel weak and conquered. She vows to reject love in the future and escapes to her garden to moon-gaze, snow be damned.
Meanwhile, Shosho struggles to make his way to Komachi on horseback, hampered by the storm. His weary horse trips on a boulder, and horse and rider tumble to the snowy earth.
On the morning of the 100th day, Komachi wakes at dawn and reaches for Shosho in vain. She crawls to her writing desk and composes a poem, the ink spilling and her bonsai’s lone persimmon falling off of its own accord. Sensing that she has not been betrayed and that fate is at play, Komachi vows to go to her love at night in her dreams.
Associate Producer, PATH OF DREAMS
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