‘Ono no Komachi’ Program at USC

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“Ono no Komachi: Rejuvenating One of Japan’s Immortal Poets via Film” will be presented on Friday, Oct. 4, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Rosen Screening Room (227), Ronald Tutor Campus Center, University Park Campus, USC.

A free screening of an internationally award-winning short film, Tamara Ruppart’s “Path of Dreams,” inspired by a legend associated with 9th-century poetess Ono no Komachi, the only female poet among Japan’s Rokkasen, the Six Poetic Geniuses of the early Heian period. Famed as an exceptional beauty, today she is a symbol of womanly allure in Japan.

The 25-minute film is produced by Eleven Arts, Inc. and True Heart Films in association with Minx Pictures, written by playwright Velina Hasu Houston. It has received awards for its direction, writing, cinematography, and overall achievement, including at the New York Winter Film Festival and the London International Filmmaker Festival.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion. The director, screenwriter, and producer Ko Mori will be present for an interactive Q&A with the audience.

This event is co-sponsored by the USC Chanoyu Tea Club and co-hosted by the USC Libraries and the Literary Society of USC.

Refreshments will be provided. To RSVP, go to: http://dornsife.usc.edu/cjrc

Velina Hasu Houston is an internationally acclaimed playwright with a well-rounded body of work as a published screenwriter, essayist, and poet. She has written for Columbia Pictures, PBS, Sidney Poitier, and Lancit Media. In 2006, she co-produced a documentary film, “Desert Dreamers,” which premiered on PBS and was narrated by Peter Fonda.

Houston has published two anthologies of Asian American drama, and is the recipient of numerous commissions from distinguished institutions such as Asia Society, Manhattan Theatre Club, Los Angeles Opera, Mark Taper Forum, and Silk Road Theatre Project. Her many honors and awards include the Remy Martin New Vision Screenwriting Award from Sidney Poitier and the American Film Institute, the Japanese American Women of Merit by the National Japanese American Historical Society, and the East West Players Made in America Award.

Having written over 20 original plays, Houston draws from her multiracial experience, as well as the experiences of her family. She is Japanese on her maternal side and African American, Native American, and Cuban on her paternal side. Her plays have granted her two national first-prize awards, Off-Broadway world premieres, and recognition as a Japan Foundation Fellow, Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, a Sidney F. Brody Fellow, James Zumberge Fellow, California Arts Council Fellow and a Los Angeles Endowment for the Arts Fellow.

Currently, Houston is a commissioner for the U.S. Department of State’s Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, a member of the Japan-U.S. Bridging Foundation, and a member of the U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange. Her professional memberships include the Writers Guild of America, The Dramatists Guild and The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights.

She holds a Ph.D. from USC’s School of Cinema Arts, an MFA from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television, and a BA in journalism, mass communication and theater from Kansas State University.

Tamara Ruppart is an award-winning director and producer who has worked in both theater and film. On stage, she has directed “A Thousand Cranes,” “The Fantasticks,” “Strike-Slip,” Houston’s “Kokoro (True Heart),” and the world premiere of “Extinction.”

Behind the theatrical scenes, Ruppart has worked at The Charlotte Repertory Theater (“Picasso at the Lapin Agile”) and on Broadway (“Phantom of the Opera”). In television production, she has worked on “My Life as an Experiment,” 2011 (NBC pilot), featuring Donald Sutherland and Paget Brewster, directed by Michael Spiller; “The Mummy Road Show,” 2002 (National Geographic Television series); “Shift,” 1999 (feature), featuring Christopher Meloni, directed by Kelly Anderson.

In film, Ruppart has worked on “An American Poet’s State of the Union,” 2010 (doc), featuring poet Peter Kane Dufault and actor Chris Noth; “Alana,” 2010 (ind); “The Day the Ponies Come Back,” 2000 (feature), featuring Guillaume Canet, directed by Jerry Schatzberg; “18 Shades of Dust,” 2001 (feature), featuring Danny Aiello, directed by Danny Aiello III. Ruppart is co-producing “Brooklyn, All-American” (feature), associated with September Films. She is also developing three feature films with Houston.

Ruppart has a particular affinity for Japan and Japanese culture, after studying Japanese in college and living in Niigata, teaching English for 15 months after college. In 2001, she went on an overland trip from Beijing, through Inner Mongolia, across the Tibetan Plateau, up to Mt. Everest Base Camp, and down into Kathmandu, Nepal. She has also traveled in Southeast Asia and Europe.

Ruppart has studied digital filmmaking at New York Film Academy in Los Angeles as well as script supervision and continuity under Shari Carpenter in New York City. After receiving a scholarship, Ruppart attended The New School for Drama. Having studied directing with Elinor Renfield, Casey Biggs, Austin Pendleton and Olympia Dukakis,

Ruppart graduated with an MFA in directing in 2009. She received a BA in theater from Davidson College in 2000. She is a member of Women in Film (WIF) and the Alliance of Women Directors (AWD).

Ko Mori is the president of Eleven Arts, a global motion picture and distribution company based in Los Angeles, with an office in Tokyo. He works to bring Japanese and Asian movies to audiences worldwide that will serve to facilitate cultural exchange. Eleven Arts is responsible for producing “The Harimaya Bridge” (staring Danny Glover) and “Haunted Highway,” and for distributing the samurai film “Love and Honor” and Ken Watanabe’s “Memories of Tomorrow.”

His recent film “Uzumasa Limelight” was considered for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and won both the Jury Prize for Best Actor and the Best Feature Cheval Noir at the Fantasia Film Festival (2014). His film “Man From Reno” was nominated for the John Cassevetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards, won the Narrative Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival (2014), and won the Jury Award at the San Diego Asian Film Festival.

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