Finding Determination in Determinism–By Any Means Necessary
I got an e-mail from two young Asian American filmmakers asking to promote their new film. So here it is….
Made by Ranju & Sanjit Majumdar, 24-year old identical twin brothers, the feature-length film Determinism is
set in a racially charged fictional college town in Pennsylvania, where students and drug dealers are often one and the same. Alec, the film’s anti-hero, is an alienated South Asian. He’s always been an outsider, and he certainly doesn’t fit in here…. Broke and cut off from his family after he flunks out of school, Alec sets off to free himself from the stereotypical role of ‘South Asian Geek’ imposed upon him from birth. So opposed to typecasting that he can barely use a computer, he is determined to transcend Determinism — by any means necessary.
The film sounds interesting, and if you read the background of the Majumdar brothers, their background and thoughts about the movie are also compelling:
We are 24-year-old identical twins born to South Asian immigrant parents (father Bangladeshi, mother Indian) and raised in Pompton Lakes, a small, white, working-class town in New Jersey.
Quickly we learned how skin color impacts perceptions. We were outsiders from the get-go: marginalization seemed to limit our abilities to thrive academically and socially; we felt like our lives were “determined” by our ethnicity. Often, we felt gravity tugging at us to roll over and surrender to the stereotype. But more often, we had an undying urge to breakthrough these invisible barriers and prove everyone wrong.
When we entered our first year of college in a predominately African American branch campus of Penn State, we realized we were not alone with our identity issues. Many students shared the same struggles. A few kids we got to know internalized the glamorization of gangsters — or “Gs,” as they are called on campus — and dreamed of a “thug life” to prove their “authenticity.” Brandishing a label helped ease their pain. Their path inspired our screenplay, in that it located a struggle parallel to our own.
Never were we able to “go with” the stereotype that people tried to imprint on us. And the more we delved into issues of identity, the more we thought about determinism and free will. Can race, class, and ethnicity determine the outcome of one’s life? Are people truly free or are they bound by past and present circumstances? Which factors are outside our control and which, if any, are pre-determined? How much of a role does one’s own psychology take in fueling feelings of being “The Other”?
Breaking the straightjacket stereotype of the “Asian Geek” through the street cred offered by gangsta culture.
These are issues that not a few Asian American males can probably identify with.
Alec, the anti-hero of the movie ain’t no Long Duk Dong. That’s for sure.
Determinism is the Majumdars’ second feature-length film and was shot while the brothers were in school at Penn State University. Their first feature-length movie was shot while they were still in high school. Talk about prodigies.
You may have heard of low-budget guerilla films, but Determinism is a basically a NO-budget guerilla film, as it was made with no crew (save for the Majumdar brothers themselves), the actors, a Sony FX-1 HDV camcorder, and a Sony Vaio with Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 and Adobe Premiere CS3.
Determinism should be inspiration for other people who are interested in making films (or for that matter, any project or dream you have) that you don’t need a lot of money, resources, or even people.
You just need your own determination.
Here is a trailer for the film. I haven’t seen the movie itself, but based upon this brief clip, it seems pretty slick. I like the dark, evocative mood that the trailer creates. As the Majumdar brothers note in their production notes, they were inspired by the “timeless dark aesthetic of German expressionism and film noir.”
I don’t know about other people, but you got to like 24-year old filmmakers that can reference German Expressionism when talking about their work.