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Local Film Tweets
Fri, 11/01/2002 - 02:00
Connecticut documentary filmmaker DJ Kadagian talks about his film "State of the Union," which screened at this fall's Independent Feature Project Market.By Susanna Baird
Highlighting the relationship between money and politics, "State of the Union" is the fourth in Kadagian's "Crisis of Faith" series. Each film addresses a different aspect of Western culture: the Jesus movement, the Grail myth, spirituality, and economics. Interviews with noted scholars intermingle with the sounds of classic rock and cool jazz, while the viewer absorbs a montage of images ranging from gritty cityscapes to Impressionist art. In October, Kadagian signed a broadcast deal with the Hallmark Channel, which will run the first three films in the series.
SB: You spent much of your professional life in the world of finance. What prompted the radical career shift?
Kadagian: About five years ago I found myself at a crossroads. My company had achieved a level of success that made it possible for me to explore new options. I am a jazz nut and I spent time reacquainting with my alto-sax, but playing didn't fire me up enough for the commitment it takes to become a bona fide jazz musician. I went to Yale Divinity School and lasted a little over a month. I wanted to learn but the books I was reading and the dialogue in class did not excite me. I had always loved film and around this time I was deeply affected by several documentary films. I have found that I learn best when I build something and filmmaking offered me all of the challenges and rewards I was looking for.
SB: As a whole, "A Crisis of Faith" addresses the stressed
state of the Western psyche. Did you envision four films from the beginning?
I enjoyed all aspects of making the film so much that I decided, why not a
second? "A Crisis of Faith" was most directly a counter response to my
experience of materialism in America -- a system I had completely bought into.
The film was an attempt to question that system. "Quest for the Grail"
was my attempt to understand the Western spiritual journey as expressed in a
story, which is the most effective tool used throughout human history to tap
into the big questions. "State of the Union" was to be a film that
looked at the unholy alliance between money and politics. This dynamic impacts
so many facets of our society, but the more I dug in on this subject the more I
saw that the most palpable and tangible human cost was the impact this dynamic
had on the underclass.
Kadagian: The documentaries that affected me most deeply explored the world's enduring religions and mythology. Films that cover these complex topics generally take an academic approach. Instead of merely educating, I wanted the viewer to have an emotional response to the subject. Humans learn at the deepest level when they experience and not just understand at the level of the intellect.
Much of the imagery in three of the films is classical and contemporary art. Finding the right paintings required many hours in the library. Looking for an image to visually mirror dialogue from the film or generate a very specific mood required a whole new way of observing art.
SB: On your Web site, you note that your hometown and current base of
operations, Westport, CT, is a place you consider "the capital of
materialism in America." Do you feel that your films are an attempt to
reach out to or a reaction against those who embrace this materialistic
Kadagian: I would say that the series was inspired more as a reaction
against those things that disturb me about my community and my country. I feel
compelled to react so strongly only because I feel that we in the United States
have all of the tools necessary to be a great nation in the truest sense of that
word, yet we are falling well short of our potential.
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