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Clerc Center Movie Premiere of “The Gift”

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Image: The Gift actors, Daniel Wyland (left), Yola Rozynek, and Tami Santimyer, pose with director Alexander Genievsky (wearing beret). Photo: Susan Flanigan

The Gift actors, Daniel Wyland (left), Yola Rozynek, and Tami Santimyer, pose with director Alexander Genievsky (wearing beret). Photo: Susan Flanigan

 

Clerc Center Movie Premiere of “The Gift”

Directed by Alexander Genievsky

What would you sacrifice for love? In Alexander Genievsky’s The Gift, the title characters Tara and Iron fall in love only to find they cannot communicate in the everyday world. Tara is a deaf dancer, Iron is a hearing musician. In the style of O. Henry’s short story, Gift of the Magi, Genievsky has created another memorable pair of star-crossed lovers. The film premiered at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) on the campus of Gallaudet University on April 14. The Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival committee selected The Gift as one of 20 films from over 100 entries submitted to show May 12-15 at the festival.

Genievsky, an American born and raised in Russia, knows well what it is like to be pulled between two worlds. In 1981 while in college, he was called up for military service in Afghanistan and lost his hearing at age 21. He found he was shut out of the world he had known until he discovered St. Petersburg Pavlovsk College for the Deaf, where he studied for three years and learned Russian Sign Language. He later earned an associate’s degree in culture, arts, and cinematography from St. Petersburg State University and a master’s degree in theater arts from the B. V. Shukin Higher Theater School. Twenty years ago Genievsky emigrated to the United States and studied American Sign Language.

For The Gift, Genievsky wanted to use the format of a short film to tell a story of why love and communication are the most important things in life. “I wanted to make a film that would cherish Deaf culture,” he said. “I wanted the audience to realize that the story I wrote and filmed draws from the heart through the eyes. There is a bond between the heart and the eyes,” said Genievsky. “Unfortunately, there are many people who have their eyes wide open but are unable to notice what they are seeing. My grandfather called them ‘the blindfolded hearts.’ I think the greatest gift God has given us is not only to see the world but to notice it, to understand it, to have a sense of each other without words—and for artists to try and find a unique creative form to express what we’re seeing.”

The Giftwas filmed over the course of seven weekends on location in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Tami Lee Santimyer, an English teacher from MSSD, auditioned by videophone for the role of Tara. Santimyer has experience as a stage actress and found film a very different medium. "For me, on-stage movements are exaggerated. Compared to theater, facial movements on film are much more subtle and require an intense focus. Making the film was a good learning experience—we had a wonderful production team," she said. MSSD performing arts specialist Yola Rozynek played the part of a demanding dance instructor in the film, a role she plays for real every day while working with MSSD students on dance and theater productions. Genievsky expressed appreciation to all the cast and crew and a special thanks to MSSD and Rozynek for arranging the showing of the film in MSSD’s Theatre Malz.

“I am also grateful to our producer, Jacquie Greff from Tonal Vision LLC, and her husband, Kraig Gress, who wrote an original song and score for the film.”

 Once The Giftis launched in the United States and Canada, Genievsky plans to start production on a science fiction film with a working title of The Island of the Deaf. This summer he plans to participate in 48 Hours, a nationwide film project in Baltimore, Maryland. Filmmakers interested in taking part in this project can contact Genievsky directly. 

 

 

 

The Gift film trailer