LSM Newswire

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Toronto Pictures Puts a Lens on Social Issues

SocialWorkersSpeak.org Talks to VP Daria Trifu About Studioĺ─˘s Causes

WASHINGTONĺ─ţ Toronto Pictures is a movie studio on a mission.

The Canadian company is dedicated to making Hollywood quality films that explore different cultures and educate about social issues, including child abuse, modern-day slavery, eating disorders and prostitution.

The studio also listens to social workers and covers issues that interest them. In January Toronto Pictures appointed social worker and National Association of Social Workers (NASW) member Silvio Orlando, MSW, and his wife Adriana Hellinger Orlando, to their advisory board. Mrs. Orlando is a former social worker.

SocialWorkersSpeak.org sat down with Toronto Pictures vice president Daria Trifu to talk about the company and its projects. SocialWorkersSpeak.org is a NASW Web site that lets social workers comment on and influence how they and issues they care about are portrayed in film, on television and the news.

Here is the interview:

Q: How long have you been involved with Toronto Pictures and what can you tell us about the company?

A: I moved to Canada in 1999 (Trifu is Romanian) and became involved with Toronto Pictures in 2000. Toronto Pictures is an independent film studio which develops, produces and distributes Hollywood standard, 35-mm feature films around the world.  Maestro Bruno Pischiutta is the founder, president and chief executive officer of the company.  He is the one who had the vision of using mainstream filmmaking to address issues of our world, thereby bringing them forth to the general public, reaching a large audience with films produced according to top production standards.  Bruno Pischiutta is an internationally celebrated writer, director and producer who is known for his lifelong commitment to fostering the art of filmmaking.

Q: Tell us more about your latest project ĺ─˙Punctured Hope.ĺ─¨

A: ĺ─˙Punctured Hope: A Story About Trokosi and Young Girlsĺ─˘ Slavery in Todayĺ─˘s West Africa,ĺ─¨ is the first mainstream feature film which is based on an African story interpreted by an all African cast of professional actors and shot in Africa under the direction of Bruno. ĺ─¨Punctured Hopeĺ─¨  is inspired by the true life story of an African ĺ─˙trokosiĺ─¨ slave. Trokosi is one of the most widespread forms of womenĺ─˘s slavery that exists in the world today. In fact, today there are 25,000 trokosi slaves and two million women who are genitally mutilated every year. ĺ─˙Punctured Hopeĺ─¨ was an official Selection at the Montreal World Film Festival in 2009 and it has recently been nominated by the Political Film Society as Best Film Exposłę and Best Film on Human Rights of 2009. The film has now qualified for consideration for the Academy Awards as ĺ─˙Best Picture.ĺ─¨

Q: Where is the film being shown and how has it been received?

A: ĺ─˙Punctured Hopeĺ─¨ has been screened in Los Angeles since November. Each screening of the film has evolved into an event. The audience included members of Amnesty International, the Green Party, Women in Film (WIF), Films4Change, Veterans for Peace and film professionals. Together with the general public present, they have all chosen to join the movement behind the film and Pischiuttaĺ─˘s cause. Viewersĺ─˘ reactions have actually created a grassroots movement that identifies with this cause. Future event screenings will follow the film as it opens commercially in New York City beginning in June. When we decided to produce ĺ─˙Punctured Hopeĺ─¨ we made the commitment to donate 10 percent of the net profit of the film from the first three years after the commercial release to develop the infrastructure of an African village.

Q: What other projects are you working on?

A: This year, we are producing the film ĺ─˙A Party Girl for the Rat Packĺ─¨ which originates from the novel ĺ─˙Breaking My Silence: Confessions of a Rat Pack Party Girl and Sex-Trade Survivorĺ─¨ by Jane McCormick. For many years, Jane was very close to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. The film will deal with the relationship between child abuse and prostitution. It will be non-graphic and it will constitute a new genre due to the fact that the structure of this new feature will be something that has never been seen before. This film has a budget of $3.5 million and it will be filmed in Brazil and in the United States.

Q: You recently formed an advisory board that includes social worker and NASW member Silvio Orlando. What is the importance of having a social worker involved with your film work?

A: Education is a big component of our films and, as I have stated before, most of our filmsĺ─˘ topics consist of a social nature. The presence of Silvio Orlando and his wife Adriana Hellinger Orlando (who was herself a social worker for many years) on the advisory board is absolutely necessary for us and we are happy and honored to be able to count on their advice. As a matter of fact, when we were following the screenings of ĺ─˙Punctured Hopeĺ─¨ in Los Angeles a month ago, we took the time to visit Optimist Youth Home and Family Services, a treatment center for young offenders in Pasadena. We were invited by Silvio Orlando, who has been executive director of the center since 1999. What we saw was amazing; we had the chance to speak with members of the staff and with young residents who were sent there by the courts instead of being sent to jail. OYHFS, rather than a detention center, resembles a resort. We did a walk-through of the entire facility: the chapel, the sport facilities, the art and music classrooms, the high school, the dining and social rooms and, of course, the residential apartments. OYHFS has a rehabilitation ratio record of 80 percent. We were very impressed by the attachment that the young offenders developed to the center, which they communicated to us. We were impressed by the staffĺ─˘s dedication and we were particularly impressed by Silvio Orlandoĺ─˘s enthusiasm and complete devotion to his mission of rehabilitating these young men and women through his center. The new morality that our cause is aiming to achieve means not only exposing problems to our filmsĺ─˘ viewers but also doing something about them. We are aware that the recent California budget cut to OYHFS funds result in a necessity for Silvio to look for private sponsors. Taking all this into consideration, we have decided to donate 10 percent of the net profit worldwide (including theater, TV, DVD, etc.) for the first three years from the commercial release date of the film ĺ─˙A Party Girl for the Rat Packĺ─¨ to the center. This percentage will come from our producersĺ─˘ share and it will not affect the profit share of film investors.

Social workers are dedicated to ensuring equal rights for all in the United States and abroad. To learn more, visit the National Association of Social Workersĺ─˘ Human Rights and International Affairs Division Web page by clicking here.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with 150,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

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