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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Q & A with Sundance winner Jason Kohn

Published: February 9, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Hoot News Editor David Pepose spoke with Jason Kohn 01 about his recent win at the Sundance Film Festival for his film Send a Bullet, as well as his experiences at Brandeis and beyond.

Hoot: How did you get the idea for this documentary?
Jason Kohn: My dad lived down in Brazil and my mom is Brazilian. I was working in Cambridge for Errol Moore. It was my dad that told me about the corrupt politicians and the frog farm. I had read about the plastic surgeon who reconstructs the ears of kidnapping victims. The movie is about the relationship between a frog farm and a plastic surgeon who reconstructs ears. I was talking to a buddy of mine, another Brandeis alum, it seemed like kidnapping and corruption was, it was kind of the way that rich people steal from poor people and poor people steal back from rich people that was the idea of the movie.

Hoot: How did Brandeis help you in regards to your filmmaking?
JK: [Professor Thomas] Doherty was such an unbelievable resource the [film] department was so tiny and not taken seriously at all. Doherty was one of the greatest professors I ever had, and it was a shame that the department was never treated as it should be. I took most of his classes. I took one horrible documentary class, with Henry Felt;

that class was a joke, it was a fucking joke you get out of that class getting ready to make fucking bar mitzvah videos;

it has nothing to do with the documentary process. It has to do with the documentary process of weddings and bar mitzvahs. I tried to do something a little different, and he was not helpful, and then it ended up working out all right in the end. It was all Doherty. He was the first guy, he says cinema with a large C, that incorporates everything from Hollywood to European art values and everything has to be judged on its own merit. It was in Dohertys class that I felt okay about liking the Hollywood movies that I loved. I kind of came out about loving these sorts of Hollywood movies, before the 1930s. For him Hollywood isnt a four-letter word. He was a very amazing professor he was actually thanked at the end of my movie.

Hoot: What was the hardest part about making this movie?
JK: Its an impossible question, because it took five years to make. Everything was hardit was life with all the clichs about indie fundraising, it was the infighting, it was getting the fundingit was impossible to make. People gave up, people gave up on the movie all the time it was really, really difficult to come up with the entire thing. Over and over and over again there was a time where I was literally in my apartment for 6-7 months not able to work on the movie. I was sitting there, waiting for the money to come in, an interview to come through that never came through I was waiting to hear to go back into production every second. It was really bad it happened many times. It was an extraordinarily difficult movie to make.

Hoot: What was your reaction about getting intoand then winningSundance?
JK: When we got into Sundance, I was really fucking happy. We had heard that one of the programmers really liked it but the head of the festival liked it, but didnt really like it.
Winning was unreal, because I didnt think in a million years we were going to win the festival. I thought that War Dance was going to win, but when we won, I really couldnt believe itit was incredible.

Hoot: What do you plan on doing in the future?
JK: Feature films. I want to make a revenge movie set in the Orient.

Hoot: Whats your all-time, top-five favorite movies?
JK: Robocop, Deconstructing Harry, Close-Up, Thin Blue Line, andJackass 2.

Hoot: Any advice for any aspiring filmmakers at Brandeis?
JK: Get the fuck out of Brandeis. (Laughs) Brandeis aint gonna do shit for you, man. They dont support the arts at Brandeis at allif it wasnt for working at the Rose Art Museum, I would have gone crazy at that school. The arts, even geographically it's so kicked off, its at the ass of the school. I dont know what the new feel of the campus is like, but when I was there, the arts were really, really not considered at all. You couldnt even take a photography class thereThats bullshit! What kind of university doesnt have a goddamn photography class? There hasnt been a focus on the arts at Brandeis. While people like to say that, it really doesnt have a focus on this campus. One of the directors, Shimon Dotan [the director of Hot House], its about Palestinian prisoners, his daughter is one of the directors of the Rose Art Museum. We made the group SCRAM, it was the Rose that kept me sane at Brandeis. The only other option was fucking Hillel, and thats lame as shit. That was a joke, but you gotta think about it. Brandeis doesnt support the arts a lot, compared to a lot of liberal arts places. If you take your studies seriously, theres no place better, but when it comes to taking your arts seriously, its an uphill battle at Brandeis. The Cinematheque is a good theatre, but all the greater things about the film department, it was all Doherty, it was amazing. I hope [new Film Studies chair Professor Alice] Kelikan takes it over and does something good about it. If Doherty didnt feel that he was being supported, that sucks, he was an unbelievable aspect. I did get a Mortimer Hayes traveling fellowship after I graduated, that was a pretty amazing thing to get two years out of school.

Hoot: Could you elaborate a bit more about the fellowship?
JK: It was $15,000, thats pretty amazing, yknow? It was a nice grant to get, at a time like that, it was really exciting.

Hoot: What did the funds go towards?
JK: It went into the production of the film.

Hoot: Is there anything else you would like the students of Brandeis to know?
JK: I dont want to sound like Im talking bad about the school at all;

I did always think the school would benefit from a little bit more diversity and secularism that exists that was just a complaint I had. And take a lot of Dohertys classes, and listen to what he has to sayhes a smart man.