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'Bleep' director makes move to Ashland

 Posted: 2:00 AM July 26, 2004

Recently moved to Ashland, Mark Vicente, the director — of the groundbreaking underground consciousness movie "What the Bleep — Do We Know?" plans to continue his creative work here amid a thriving — spiritual cinema circle.

Vicente, a native South African inspired to film by his — country's former religion-backed racist policies, broke into major film — work as director of photography on "Sarafina," with Whoopi Goldberg, soon — followed by the same role in 15 more films, topped by "Bleep," a docu-drama — exploring the mind as the driving energy in quantum physics.

Quickly an alternative classic, "Bleep" locked Vicente — into spiritual cinema, a genre avidly pursued here by his friend Stephen — Simon, producer of the archetypal spiritual cinema flicks, "What Dreams — May Come," "Somewhere in Time," and by members of the Ashland Spiritual — Cinema Community.

"This is the place where I can develop ideas and projects — I want to do, then decide where to shoot them," said Vicente, 39, who — shot and directed "bleep" in Portland. "There are great crews here and — Ashland has amazing weather (for shooting)."

While Oregon may not have the full array of equipment — and people to shoot a "huge feature," his intent, Vicente said, is to — use what's here, bring in crews if possible and, if not, to shoot elsewhere.

Burned out on the obsession of Los Angeles with "appearance, — survival and anxiety," Vicente is "starting a new life" in Ashland, trying — to line up backers (major LA studios) for "Time and Again," a feature-length — spy-thriller, laced with spiritual cinema elements such as time travel, — remote viewing and the boundaries of mortality, that he hopes to partially — shoot here - the rest on the East Coast.

After that, in the narrative docu-drama fashion of "Bleep", — he would love, he said, to shoot "History and Religion - the Great Lie," — which would examine the sources of society's major icons and sacred cows, — likely generating a firestorm of "unbelievable controversy."

Was Vicente surprised at the impact of "Bleep," at least — in the Northwest and Arizona, the only regions it's been distributed as — yet?

"Very surprised," he said. "I took it for granted the — information was already out there about quantum physics, addiction and — how the mind creates reality. It was, but viewers kept saying it was profound — seeing it all put together and pushing the envelope like we did."

The film, which has grossed a respectable $1.5 million — so far, opened Friday in San Franciso (he flew down for the premier), — will go statewide in California next month and "will explode," he said, — when moved nationally this fall.

"People are so hungry for this - and so tired of the tranquilizing — crap on TV," said Vicente, who eschewed the label of spiritual cinema. — "I don't know what that is. I don't know what isn't spiritual. Everything — in my cosmology comes from the mind. No person is unable to create reality — with mind."

What does he call it then? "You put out material that's — helpful, honest, clear and explores what love really is, like 'ET' or — 'The Notebook' did. What you don't do is continue to put out films that — pit people against other people or themselves, focus on revenge or are — obsessed with beauty, youth, skinnyness and producing massive insecurity."

Love, he said, sipping a heavily sugared decaf latte in — a local caf?, has simply not been explored by the vast majority of movies. —

"I don't know what love is, but I know it's not what you — find on the soap operas. It's the way a mother looks at her child. It — doesn't have to be about sex or the struggle and conflict around getting — love. What if we made films where everyone is looking for heart-level — love and happiness, which is actually what's going on in real life. That — feeling can make money and that means we can make movies."

"It's a paradigm shift in film-making - the understanding — that people do create their own lives from what goes on in the mind," — said Teah Banks, event coordinator of Ashland Independent Film Festival — and new domestic partner of Vicente.

Another Ashland spiritual cinema collaborator, author — and screenwriter Jon Bono plans to shoot an "envelope pushing" TV pilot — with Vicente called "AshLand," a series akin to "Northern Exposure" and — based around a L.A.-weary professor who seeks rejuvenation and mystical — fulfillment in a small Oregon town, which he does, with the help of a — "neo-hippie indigo goddess with healing abilities."

For Simon, who met Vicente while teaching a metaphysical — filmmaking class at UCLA in 1995, the formula is already working and films — like "bleep" and Michael Moore's productions are being seen and loved, — not by blockbuster-driven Hollywood but "by the people who really want — to see them and that's what matters. It would be a mistake to obsess on — Hollywood and the big box office numbers. The audience that loves this — kind of film really loves it. As long as we make a profit, that's OK."

Simon's "wildly successful" Spiritual Cinema Circle, distributes — 9,000 monthly DVD's of recent spiritual cinema flicks, providing an outlet — for writers, directors and other talent in the genre, who may not be able — to find distributors in mainstream channels.

His Institute for Spiritual Entertainment has 90 affiliate — communities around the world, he said, to promote and network such filmmaking. — Another Simon project, the International Spiritual Cinema Film Festival, — is being planned, hopefully for Ashland in 2006, but might be elsewhere — at a later year, he said.

Simon lauded the arrival here of Vicente, whom he termed — "a very talented guy with a big heart who's going to be very successful."

In his work with the Ashland Spiritual Cinema Community, — Vicente said, "I'm endeavoring to find people to work with who have the — desire to revive the human spirit instead of creating work that denies — and suppresses it. I'm driven by the conviction that tales of greatness — can be as exciting and financially successful as the subjects of rape, — pillage, and plunder so beloved of the industry."

Vicente will be featured speaker at the Ashland Spiritual — Cinema Community, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Mobius, 281 Fourth St., Ashland. — His presentation, "We Are Artists for a Reason," includes clips from his — films "Bleep," "Sarafina" and Uncorked. It's $10 at the door, $7 for ASCC — members. Info: will Wilkinson, will@willfocus.com, 552-0877.


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