- God Wears My Underwear
An experimental narrative film with documentary elements about
reincarnation, the Holocaust, and gender identity.
Written and directed by [http://www.lesliestreit.com/ Leslie Streit] , produced by [http://www.robinmccain.com/ Robin Elaine McCain] .
Starring Jaqueline Wiley, Tho Vong, Pat Everett and
Official site [http://www.godwearsmyunderwear.com/ God Wears My Underwear]
This film ties the Jewish
Holocaustin the 1940’s to the genocide in Tibet in the 1950’s. It raises issues of sexual identity, reincarnation, human and moral responsibility, universal experiences of the 20th century.
Our lead character, Lavinia has been haunted all of her life by dreams about people and places she has never experienced. As she stands waiting for a train, she sees her childhood and ponders her confusion about her own sexuality.
Lavinia reviews her years in psychoanalysis. Under hypnosis, she recalls a past life as a
Tibetan Buddhistmonk, visiting Berlin in the 1930’s. The monk, Brother Eo, did nothing to help friends and colleagues as the brutality of the Nazis began to unfold. Realizing his mistake, he returned to Tibet only to be among those massacred a few years later by the invading Chinese Communists. But death did not cleanse guilt. Instead he reincarnates as Lavinia and it continues into another lifetime.
This film took seven years to make. It was a labor of devotion and often of despair. One entire year was devoted to obtaining the rights to the archival footage that we used. The story and characters continued to evolve over the seven years. If the film had been completed sooner, it would not be the same film it turned out to be.
In my childhood, I had dreams of being chased by people who wanted to kill me. Much later, after beginning work on the film, I came across the books of Rabbi
Yonassan Gershomwho discusses the relationship between similar dreams and souls that are reincarnated from the Holocaust. I felt that I was on a quest for the truth about my own soul.
The idea for the story came from a discussion with a friend. She claimed to be a reincarnation of a Tibetan Monk who was in Germany in 1933 and did not get involved in the struggle against the Nazis. My friend is a person who is confused about her sexual identity. She feels it was the consequence of having been this monk in the previous lifetime. It was a fascinating concept and one I wanted to explore.
The title “God Wears My Underwear” comes from the fact that everyone wears underwear. All people are the same underneath their clothing. I hope the audience finds the film to be beautiful, tragic and sometimes funny – very much like life.
When production began on this film in 1998, digital production was still a virtual unknown. Independent filmmakers either used analog video formats such as 3/4", Betacam, VHS, 8mm (including the high resolution enhancements) or traditional film gauges - 8, 16, 35mm. Festivals distinguished themselves by being either "video" or "film". Digital mastering was in the experimental stages for a very few high end studio productions.
The DV tape family (miniDV, DVCAM, DVCPRO, etc.) changed the way we make movies. Today's generation of digital video products based on HD and HDV formats put virtually the same tools of the big budget movies in the hands of the indie filmmaker. Budget constraints may limit us to $1,000 lenses on $3,000 camcorders, but the images captured are widescreen with up to 2k frames - not so different from a super 16 or 35mm image scan. Film still has the edge in dynamic range, but "good enough" now refers to video capture. Micro-mirror video projectors have brought the cost of video projection down to a reasonable level, and the major studios are packaging features for theatrical release in digital formats to bring down the costs of distribution.
As independent filmmakers embarked on a project that would have daunted Hollywood only a few decades ago, we embraced the possibilities of these newly affordable tools. Having just completed an 8 minute short mastered on BetaSP making extensive use of bluescreening, compositing and animated characters, we thought we knew the challenges ahead. We were wrong by an order of magnitude. Digital capture on DV tape gave us sharper source images, but the 4:1:1 compression made it more difficult to pull a good bluescreen mask, so we were forced to rotoscope or upgrade to higher end post production tools to compensate. Our production value expectations kept rising as newly released feature films set ever higher standards for clean visual effects, and we found ourselves revisiting effects segments we had previously completed, constantly buying more hardware and upgrading software. Some scenes hit the cutting room floor when it became clear they were not central enough to the story to justify the additional work.
Mixing archival film footage with our story created other problems. We had to compensate for varying degrees of flicker, film grain, inconsistent development, color fading and degradation resulting from decades of storage. Motion effects were used to bring still images alive.
Legal considerations also demanded considerable post production time. Archival materials rights research and permissions took over a year. Second unit shots often required removal of corporate logos or blurs of recognizable features of bystanders.
In a large production, many effects artists split the workload to shorten the post production cycle. Work is often divided between several effects studios, each of whom may specialize in a particular task. Large teams are assigned to complete particularly complex shots and insure that everything looks believable. Render wranglers keep the server farm operational. Large quantities of high end computer equipment and many terabytes of drive space are required to keep the work moving smoothly. Everyone works 40+ hours a week on the project, so the film is ready to release in only a few months.
This film had one visual effects artist, occasionally assisted by the director or the editor. This was both a blessing and a curse. The good part is that the work is the product of a small team, and thus maintains a consistent “look”. The bad part is that it took so long. We also had regular jobs that demanded much of our time. The amazing part isn't that it took 8 years, but that it exists at all!
Visual Effects include:
1. Wire and rig removals2. Matte Paintings3. Color & contrast correction4. Film grain texturing5. Logo removals6. Pan and Zoom on still photos7. 3D Animated characters composited with live action footage8. Live action footage composited on historical footage
Tibet Dalai Lama tulku Thubten Gyatso
German – Tibetan connection
Buddhism in Germany
The SS, Tibet and the Holocaust
Heinrich Himmler, Henry I the Fowler, Ahnenerbe Forschungs und Lehrgemeinschaft
The German Resistance Movement
Widerstand, Martin Niemöller Reincarnation Gilgul
Himmler's Crusade - Christopher Hale
Berlin Between the Wars - Thomas Friedrich
Illustrated History of the Third Reich - John Bradley
The Holocaust Chronicle - Harran, Kuntz, Lemmons, Michael, Pickus, Roth et al
The Auschwitz Album - Hellman, Meier
Beyond the Ashes - Rabbi
From Ashes to Healing - Rabbi Yonassan Gershom
German Propaganda Archive - Calvin College
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