San Diego LGBTQ leader reflects on Club Q shooting
S1: Another mass shooting targeting the LGBT community.
S2: At the end of the day , you're out having a drink with your friends. You're letting your guard down. That's your safe space. You're not supposed to worry about those things.
S1: I'm M.G. Perez with Jade Heinemann. Maureen is off today. This is KPBS midday edition. An employee in the public defender's office fired under questionable circumstances.
S3: I believe if I did everything I could for my clients , if I put everything into the job , it would be.
S2: The time where my work would matter and who I am wouldn't be the determining factor.
S1: And the World Cup kicks off in Qatar and an update from the U.S. strike picket line. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Five people are dead and 25 are injured after a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs late Saturday night. Other media have reported that the alleged shooter is the grandson of Republican Santee Assembly member Randy Vogel. But KPBS has not been able to independently confirm this connection. And while authorities have not determined the exact motive of the attack , the shooting appears to be another act of violence directed at the LGBTQ community. I'm joined now by Fernando Lopez , executive director of San Diego Pride. Fernando , thanks for being with us.
S2: Thank you so much for having me.
S1: Well , here we are again , Fernando. It was just a few months ago I spoke with you on this program about a militant group threatening and harassing people at an LGBTQ pride event in Idaho. This latest attack happened at what was supposed to be a safe space.
S2: I think it's the very first reaction we have seen over the last several years , our LGBT community increasingly being under threat , driven by anti LGBTQ , anti-trans political rhetoric , and in particular , our family friendly events have been targeted , our drag events have been targeted. And even when you and I spoke last , there were issues happening like this all across the country , in Georgia and California and Idaho , Texas , Indiana , Florida. And of course , we just saw a few weeks ago one of our family friendly youth events , LGBT youth events. Boo Bash was targeted by these same sorts of groups. And so it's not surprising to our community the rise in violence and hate speech. It has dire consequences as we've obviously seen.
S1: So many people enjoy socializing at local gay bars. What do you say to them after an attack like this ? I.
S2: LGBT bars have been a safe space and a sanctuary for our community for so long. And so the fear and the violation that we all feel is so palpable and in hurtful , and it just feels like an absolute violation. And so to my community , I feel you. I understand. But we're going to get through this. We can't let fear and hate win. And we're just going to keep showing up and showing up and staying in this fight and we're going to fight for this inclusive space. Safe spaces. But it's not about necessarily us continuing to confront fear head on. It's also about the work of our allies that it's time that our allies step up to the forefront and stop this hateful , divisive political rhetoric that obviously has dire consequences. I think , you know , we see corporations.
S4: Continuing to.
S2: Invest in anti LGBTQ anti-trans legislators , and it's time for those corporations to be held accountable. Media outlets who continue to uplift the voices of extreme right wing individuals who and organizations.
S4: Who are the same folks.
S2: Who are pushing these antiabortion bans , who are pushing anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia. The same folks who are fighting against critical race theory and just trying to teach about the history of our country. There is so much on the line and our fight is the same. And so if we're going to.
S5: Continue to have these.
S2: Safe spaces , if women are going to be able to continue to be able to have safe access to abortion , if we're going to be able to maintain a functioning , multiethnic democracy , there is so much more work that we need to do together to confront this. It's so much bigger than just one issue.
S1: Our listeners should know that Sunday was Trans Remembrance Day. Tell us about that.
S2: The folks who are most at risk of hate and violence and death in the LGBT community is our trans community. And at the intersection of the most vulnerable is our black trans women who are killed at disproportionate rates. And so Day of Remembrance is an opportunity for us to honor their names , their lives , their legacy , and to recommit ourselves to the work and the road ahead to make sure that we're ending this type of hate and violence. And so for this to happen in the eve of that and the wait and just it was just so additionally painful to have that occur. And it's also important to know that this is also happening at a year. We've had hundreds of pieces of anti LGBTQ anti-trans pieces of legislation entered into legislative bodies all across the country every single year 20 , 20 , 20 , 21 and 2022 has set new records for anti-trans anti LGBTQ pieces of legislation , and that has real harm. It impacts the way we talk about our each other and our classrooms and our churches and our dinner tables. And the way that this anti LGBTQ hate has escalated has obviously led to record numbers of year , record numbers of trans individuals being killed every single year in 2020 and 2021.
S2: I'm still going to go out. I'm still going to celebrate. I'm still going to support our LGBTQ small businesses here in the heart of Hillcrest. I'm not going to live in fear , but I know that everyone's just that much more on edge , a little more cautious as we go out. And , you know , you stick together and you hope for the best. You're vigilant of exits and you try to look for any sort of suspicious behavior. But at the end of the day , you're out having a drink with your friends , you're letting your guard down. That's your safe space. You're not supposed to worry about those things. So Orlando didn't stop us , and this isn't going to stop us either. I know we're going to stick together and continue to go out and support one another.
S1: I've been speaking with Fernando Lopez , executive director of San Diego Pride. Fernando , thank you.
S2: Thank you so much.
S5: Allegations regarding a San Diego County public defender. Supervisors use of racist terminology are scheduled to be aired in Superior court soon. KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma has details.
S4: In August 2020 , Andre Bolinger , a black Latino lawyer , spoke during a Zoom meeting at the Public Defender Association of San Diego County. He told board members they were alienating attorneys of color. Board member and senior public defender Supervisor Sherri Stone allegedly responded by calling Bolinger lazy. Colleagues say Bolinger is a well-respected and talented trial attorney. But Stone reportedly continued to attack him. She allegedly said , how dare he try to lynch her or the PDA board ? Given his low acumen and poor performances.
S2: Showing there's a reason why hate speech is outlawed , and that's because it has a chilling impact , it prevents others from exercising that right to speech. And this had exactly that impact.
S4: Former deputy public defender Zach Davenport was in that meeting. His coworkers were outraged over Stone's alleged comments. They came to Davenport because he is a member of the union's Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee.
S3: I'm a white guy. I don't have.
S2: The history of lynching like other folks , people of color do. And so the first thing I did was listen.
S4: And then he says he and fellow DMI committee members recommended that Stone receive diversity training.
S2: About how that was an act of aggression , and also that her role as a supervisor should be reconsidered , never asking her to lose her job.
S4: Davenport believes his recommendation ultimately cost him his job. About a month later , Davenport says Stone sat on his tenure review panel and told him.
S2: I want you to know that slights against coworkers will come back to bite you.
S4: Davenport believes he also ran afoul of management months earlier when he came out as gay to an LGBTQ panel. In doing so , he said the public defender office had not always been so welcoming to people like him. He says the backlash was immediate.
S2: I had supervisors reach out directly and express their concern about me bringing up that statement and sort of critiquing the office in that sense.
S4: Still , Davenport says he had only received stellar performance reviews , so he expected more of the same in October 2020 when he went before the tenure review panel. He was wrong.
S2: Almost , I would say the second.
S3: Or maybe third.
S2: Question after How are you was you're pretty sorry. You're pretty animated and flamboyant.
S3: Don't you think that hurts your clients.
S2: Which I don't know how to describe how that felt.
S4: But Davenport says he knew what it meant.
S3: You are too much. You are too gay. You are too. Different.
S4: He was crushed.
S3: I thought I believed that if I did everything I.
S2: Could for my clients , if I put everything into the job , it would be the time where my work would matter and who I am wouldn't be the determining factor.
S4: Davenport says supervisors then approached him in November 2020 with an ultimatum Quit or be fired. He says they told him he was not a good fit for the office's culture. Davenport is suing the county for wrongful termination. Former deputy public defender Michele Reynoso has filed a similar lawsuit. She declined to speak to KPBS. KPBS reached out to Stone public defender Randy Mize and San Diego County Council for comment. The county says it looks forward to bringing these cases to a jury to hear the facts. Davenport trial is scheduled to start next month. Reynoso is in February. Lawyer Christopher Latimer represents both attorneys. He says the allegations in their cases don't align with the values of the public defender office.
S3: The fact the type of discrimination and retaliation that the public defender's office carried out against Zach was done by lawyers makes this case even worse.
S5: KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma reported this story and she joins us now. Amita , welcome.
S4: Oh , it's good to be with you , Jane.
S5: You know , it seems like the foundation of Zach Davern , his lawsuit and that of former deputy public defender Michele Reynoso is this incident where a public defender supervisor named Sheri Stone used the word lynched.
S4: That's right , Jade. There was a meeting of the Public Defender Association back in. August of 2020. And the PDA , as it's known , is actually the Deputy Public Defenders Union. And at this meeting there is a black Latino lawyer by the name of Andre Bolinger who got out to address the board of the PDA. Sherri Stern sat on the board and Bollinger said told the board that it was alienating lawyers of color who are in the office. Stone allegedly responded to his comments by calling him lazy , and she then went on to use the word Lynch. She basically asked how dare he try to lynch her or the PDA board , given his low acumen and poor performances. To hear Davina tell it. The entire meeting , which again was on Zoom , went silent. And then he and Reynoso and a whole bunch of other deputy public defenders complained about this. And there was a committee meeting , there was a subcommittee meeting of the union , and its recommendation was that Stone receive training because of those comments and that she be removed as a supervisor. Then weeks later , both Doudna and Reynoso learned that Stone is actually sitting on their tenure review panel.
S5: I mean , it seems of interest that Sherrie Stone would then sit on the tenure review panel for these two lawyers.
S4: Well , that's just it. That same supervisor Stone , whose comments they had reported to management , is then allowed to sit on their tenure review panels and make recommendations about their continued employment. And while on that panel , Davis says that Stone , who knew about those complaints before she went into those two tenure review panels , said to him , slights against co-workers will come back to you. So in the case of Reynoso , again , she wouldn't speak with me. But she says in her lawsuit that that Stone harshly interrogated her about her social justice views and asked her to justify them. And then , as you heard in the story , Davenport talks about how he was incessantly questioned about his sexual orientation and gender expression. And I should also add that both of these two people , former deputy public defenders , say that they had received excellent performance reviews while in the public defender office.
S5: And in this story we just heard , it really focuses on the actions of board member and senior public defender supervisor Sherrie Stone , which points to a bigger problem.
S4: He says in his lawsuit that the office culture was disdainful toward gay people. He said that the public defender office had not always been very welcoming to people like him. And he said that publicly when he came out before an LGBTQ panel in July of 2020. And he said after that happened , he started hearing negative comments from others in the office about his pierced ears , his hair , his nail polish. And then in his lawsuit , he alleges that the pressure became so great that at one point he told a supervisor , You know , I've cut my hair. I took off my nail polish , like you said. And he says that he did this only because he feared and hoped to appease the public defender's office. He was trying to keep his job and continue while continuing to represent a community that he says he cared deeply about.
S4: And he said many of the county's anti discrimination , anti retaliation policies , both of which are being alleged in both of these lawsuits , are so antiquated that they don't even include sexual orientation.
S4: I reached out to county council. I was basically seeking comment on these two lawsuits. I was told by the county that , you know , the office doesn't discuss pending litigation , especially on the eve of trial. However , they did issue a statement. They said that that the county looks forward to bringing these cases to a jury to hear the facts. So it does appear that these cases are going to trial. I believe Davern his trial starts early next month , and Rayna's trial is scheduled for February.
S5: I have been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma. Amita , thank you.
S4: Thank you , Jade.
S5: You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maggie Perez. Maureen CAVANAUGH is off. Yesterday , the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Qatar with Ecuador beating the host country two nil. More games are being played today , including the U.S. whose first match is now underway. But so far , issues off the field have often overshadowed the tournament. Controversy has seemed to follow this World Cup since Qatar was announced as the host country , from accusations of corruption to the host nation's treatment of the LGBT community , as well as its harsh treatment of migrant workers. All these stories have made it hard for many fans to focus on the games being played. Joining us now from Qatar is ESPN soccer writer Safa Hernandez. Welcome to Midday Edition.
S2: Thanks for having me on the show.
S5: So you've been in Qatar for about a week now. Paint a picture for us.
S2: And I guess if for if we're telling San Diego , too , how it feels like it kind of feels like when you walk around the Gaslamp Quarter during daytime , right before Comic-Con , that's sort of what it feels like , where it feels like people are scrambling to set up fan activations. People are scrambling to set up activities and restaurants and shops , and it almost feels like there's actually some sort of symbolism there for the country that seems to have built things at lightning speed in recent years , perhaps even too fast. You know , this is a fairly poor country until a discovery of oil and gas of the 20th century made them into an incredibly wealthy nation that they are now. So before fans started showing up , it felt somewhat odd to be wandering around these fancy buildings and stores and beaches that felt quite empty , almost dystopian , to be honest. And also , you don't really interact with many Qataris out here in most states , the massive population of migrant workers to do everything and anything across the city and and keep it going. So a little bizarre. But as fans have started to pile in , it's got a little bit more of a sense that the World Cup is is fully underway.
S2: It really transcends so much. And it does feel like the world does start to watch it all unfold. Let's take the Super Bowl , for example. I mean , you have examples of over 100 million people watching those games , which is probably closer to 150 million new global audiences as well. The last World Cup final in 2018 , that final was watched by 1.1 billion people and that tournament averaged 191 million viewers per match. So when people ask me about the World Cup and they ask me to compare it to , let's say , the Super Bowl , what I like to say sometimes is that the World Cup is basically 64 Super Bowls all packed in to a matter of weeks. Hmm.
S2: You know , this is a World Cup played where homosexuality is illegal , where there's criticism , you know , the lack of women's rights. Of course , you know , the issue with the prominent issue of migrant workers being exploited out here. But some reports saying that thousands have died building stadiums and the size of Qatar is interesting as well. It's by far the the smallest country that has been given a World Cup. I mean , the country is actually just only slightly bigger than San Diego County. And most of the tournament , it's centered in just the city of Doha. So the fact that that they're throwing this tournament in such a tiny , tiny space is very , very bizarre. The fact that they've changed the usual summer date to the winter to accommodate for the pretty brutal heat out here , which you still feel in November , I will say that temperatures have dropped down to the low seventies at night , but during the day , even in November , you know , it can definitely hit the nineties. So it definitely feels a little odd. And there are fans who feel a little , I don't know , just a little confused about supporting this tournament.
S5: Mm hmm. You know , as we speak , the U.S. team is playing its first match against Wales. Tell us about this American team. Yes.
S2: Yes. So this US men's national team side , you know , it's it's it's one that is full of youthful players. It's one that's promising. You know , they have an average age of 24 within the roster. So they're the second youngest squad at the World Cup. And after being unable to qualify for the previous World Cup , which was seen as a massive , massive failure for U.S. soccer , there is almost a , I'll call it , a reset of sorts with more trust being put into this younger generation. Over half the roster is 25 or under. And I think the big question is if a lot of these players , you know , some of them you can even say kids , you know , they seem that young. You know , you know , you're wondering if they're ready to make this huge leap in their careers , you know , on the world stage. Or if at the very least they'll show glimmers of hope that they'll be reaching their peak and they'll be truly thriving. When the US , Mexico and Canada host the next World Cup in 2026. And of course , there's a local connection to keep an eye on. San Diego's a 24 year old midfielder , Luka dilatory. He's currently recovering from an injury. I can't imagine he'll be getting many starts , but I imagine at the very least he'll be getting some minutes either today or late in the group stage for the United States.
S5: And our neighbours to the south. The team known as Altri are also in Qatar. Mexico plays its first match tomorrow.
S2: So it's almost in the exact opposite manner of the United States , to be honest. It's Mexico is a is an aging squad. There is a single player under the age of 23 in the squad and a lot of Mexican soccer fans. They're feeling a little frustrated with this. But this generation of players , this aging group of players , this national team that was once seen as the undisputed giant in North American soccer , but has also had issues with teams like the United States and Canada recently. But Mexico does have history on their side , though. They're incredibly consistent and they've made it into the group stage or made it out of the group stage in the last seven World Cups that have then immediately been knocked out in the round of 16. And also , speaking of local connections , a big one , as Hector Herrera is with Mexico. He's set to be one of their key players. But also that said , like many within Mexico's roster , he's now 32 and seems to be slightly past his peak. Hmm.
S2: They're a very well-balanced team. They have an immense amount of talent across the roster. And most importantly , they have an in-form. Lionel Messi was arguably the greatest soccer player of all time. He's won anything and everything that he could possibly earn for club or or country. But the one thing that has eluded him is a World Cup. So keeping in mind that he's 35 years old , this could be his last chance. And I think more than likely he'll be up for it and I think he'll be getting that World Cup.
S5: It's amazing how these matches really do bring the world together and put a focus on things that are happening around the world. To Cesar Hernandez is a soccer writer with ESPN. Sansar , thank you so much for joining us.
S2: Of course. Thanks as well.
S1: The strike of 48,000 academic workers at the University of California is now entering its second week. That includes picket lines at all ten UC campuses. There are 7700 union members on strike at UC San Diego , where the issues include pay raises and better working conditions. Joining me now is Alex Wenzel , who is a PhD student in Biomedical Informatics at UC San Diego and a member of the newly formed union Student Researchers United. Alex , welcome to Midday Edition.
S2: Thanks so much for having me.
S1: Alex , Let's start with the latest on the picket lines. How are things going today ? Absolutely.
S2: Things are still going strong. We have pickets at multiple locations across campus and we are continuing to turn out large numbers for each of those groups. And many and most most researchers , as well as teaching assistants , are continuing to withhold their labor at our campus here at UC San Diego and then also across the entire institution.
S1: I was on the picket lines with you last week covering the story. One of the shouts was Shut it down.
S2: To a large extent there. Of course , the teaching assistants , a large number of them have walked off the job. So grades are beginning to back up. Discussion sections are not being taught and many professors also in solidarity , are canceling their lectures. The lectures that do take place certainly have had a hard time continuing , what with the noise and general disruption that we were able to cause. And we are also causing delays on the research side as well as we continue to withhold our essential labor to demonstrate the necessity of the university bargaining in good faith and coming to a contract that will allow us to be able to move and survive in the current economic context and be able to carry on both our teaching and research more effectively.
S1: Do you have the support of your students ? Yes.
S2: Many of the undergraduates are very supportive. In fact , I've met a number of them on the picket line and they've been incredibly supportive. Even though this causes a disruption in their learning environment , as we often say , and as the undergraduates also agree , our living conditions or our working conditions , I should say. Are there learning conditions and a teaching assistant who is struggling to pay rent or is not sure where they're going to live or is not sure if they can afford food is not the most effective teaching assistant that a student can have.
S2: The university has come to the table on some of our issues related to appointment length and appointment security , which is a large deal to us , as I also mentioned a moment ago. Student Researchers United has now for the first time been able to get a contract tentative agreement for paid time off , which is not something that we have had the benefit of in the past , as well as workers compensation , since there have been incidents in the past of students being injured in some way in the course of their research , either in the lab or in the field , and then not being able to get any kind of support after that's happened.
S1: Alex , we assume that someone who has a Ph.D. has really reached the ultimate in a career , and that would mean financially , but that is not necessarily the case.
S2: You're right , that is not the case , especially for postdoctoral researchers. The pay and benefits of working in a lab at the University of California have not really kept pace with the cost of living or what a such a highly qualified and specialized researcher is worth to the university. We note that currently compensation for graduate students , for example , amounts to only 1% of the university's budget. Despite the fact that we perform the majority of the research and a large amount of the teaching as well. We believe that certainly our compensation , especially for the postdoctoral researchers who are , as you point out , extraordinarily well qualified and highly trained and specialized , is not keeping up with what is appropriate , considering the cost of living near both at UC San Diego and then also near most of the other campuses as well. That is that is one of our central arguments in what we believe we deserve in a fair contract.
S2: Units in negotiations will reach a tentative agreement with the university and we will have a chance to vote on that. And that is likely seems to be likely to happen after the holiday. Obviously , things can change very quickly. It's impossible to say for sure. And I'm not a member of bargaining team , but both sides are considering the size of the strike and a number of people on the picket as they make their decisions on how to proceed. And so far , our numbers are strong. I believe the university , like we expected us to last a day or two , but now we are well into the second week. And even with the holiday and vacation plans and and other things going on , we are still maintaining strong picket lines and we are ready to stay out here until we went in for a contract.
S1: I've been speaking with Alex Wenzel , who is a PhD student in Biomedical Informatics at UC San Diego and a member of the newly formed Union Student Researchers United. Alex , thank you.
S2: Thank you so much for your time.
S1: We will say that the University of California , San Diego , did release a statement saying at this time , we believe that the best path to an agreement is with the aid of a third party mediator and have proposed to the United Auto Workers enlisting the assistance of a neutral private mediator so that we can achieve a compromise. We continue to encourage the union's participation in pursuing mediation.
S5: Another bad report for San Diego's ambulance provider. Falck is set to see fines after failing to meet response times and staffing goals again. KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman has more on changes that could be coming in the new year.
S3: I'm sure we all agree this is not where we thought we'd be a year ago. San Diego Fire Rescue Chief Collin Stoll is not seeing the high level of service promised by the city's ambulance provider , Foulke. This is not getting any better any time soon. We're seeing the trends right now in the staffing , and I do not feel like anything is going to be corrected in the very near future if we just wait this out and wait for staffing to improve. It's been just about a year since Falk fully took over San Diego's 911 contract. They provide emergency ambulance services throughout the city of San Diego. To get that contract , they promised more paramedics and EMTs. But data from the city shows they haven't once met their monthly staffing goals. This week's update to City Council focused on the months of July , August and September. Fox , San Diego's managing director , Jeff Baime , says low staffing levels have continued hurting response times. July in terms of compliance was was very good. August became a little worse than we saw September being one of our worst months of the year. Next to January. And a lot of that certainly due to staffing , illness , injury. Foulke has already been fined $1.5 million and the fire department says more fines are on the way. Foulke says there's a nationwide shortage of paramedics and EMTs. Also , they admit recruiting has been a challenge , even after offering sign on bonuses. This ebb and flow is very obvious. The problem we have here is they are not competitive. Anthony Saucy is a 25 year paramedic and he's also president of the union representing fall employees. He says staffing shortages are forcing overtime and first responders are burning out. Our members share experiences of helplessness , mental anguish that has resulted in increased numbers of physical injury , illness , PTSD and serious clinical depression. Source. He also says lack of staff has ambulances traveling all over the city , pushing up response times and even forcing the fire department to take their own measures. These delays have resulted in critical patients being transported to area hospitals by San Diego fire engines because the fire crews could not longer wait at scene for an ambulance to become available for their calls. City data shows the amount of time that no paramedic ambulances are available has risen since April. Councilmember Raul Campo was not pleased with the lack of improvement. I really just I'm disappointed that we seem to be in a position where we can't provide our residents with what was promised to them. It's a it's the same song again. Councilmember Marni von WILPERT says she doesn't need to hear any more.
S4: It seems that we have a pretty serious problem with this contract.
S5: Who is is. Failing.
S3: Fire Chief Stoll is preparing for the worst. He commissioned a study to look into what it would take for the city to take over emergency medical services. Those options are set to be presented in January.
S4: Whether it's an amendment to the.
S5: Contract or if we have. To.
S6: Do some.
S2: Kind of.
S4: A bond or takeover of the program or bring another company in to.
S5: Help , we need to do something.
S3: Falk Officials also maintain that one reason for delays is ambulances are being held too long at hospitals. They're getting some pushback. Scripps health officials say emergency rooms are busy , but data shows most patient drop offs happen on time. Councilmember Monica montgomery steps says bottom line. No more excuses.
S2: I just don't want.
S5: To hear that anymore.
S6: We need to put.
S5: Solutions on the table.
S6: And I'm glad that we're going to be coming back in January.
S3: Falco is working with the city and other stakeholders on improvements. Falk officials say they remain committed to San Diego. Matt Hoffman , KPBS News.
S1: I'm M.G. Peres with Jade Hyneman. You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. With Thanksgiving coming up , our midday film critics wanted to highlight a movie they feel thankful for. So here are KPBS cinema junkie Beth ACCOMANDO and movie Warriors podcaster Yazdi Pippa Bhalla singing the praise for Todd Fields talk.
S6: Before we start discussing the film and its many facets , let me just introduce it to listeners who may not be familiar with it. Filmmaker Todd Field wrote Tara specifically for actress Cate Blanchett , and if she had turned down the role , he said he would have shelved the project. Fortunately , Blanchett accepted the role , and she plays an arrogant but breathtakingly talented conductor named Lydia Tarr. The film opens with an extended scene that is nothing more than a sit down interview between Tarr and Adam Gopnik. So let's hear a little bit of that scene.
S5: Time is the thing. Time is the essential piece of interpretation. You cannot start without me. So I start the clock. My left hand shapes , but my right hand , the second hand marks time and moves it forward. However , unlike a clock , sometimes my second hand stops , which means that time stops. Now the illusion is that like you , I'm responding to the orchestra in real time , making the decision about the right moment to restart the thing or reset it or throw time out the window altogether. The reality is that right from the very beginning , I know precisely what time it is and the exact moment that you and I will arrive at our destination together.
S6: So this is just two people talking. Now , it's very simple on a certain level , but on another level , this is kind of like a radical challenge to what people expect from a movie. So let's just begin by talking about how effective this opening scene is.
S5: It's always show , don't tell , and the director just uses this wonderful device so that by the time that opening scene is done , 10 minutes in , you know so much about the central character , it allows him an opportunity to introduce her to this audience for The New Yorker. But at the same time , he's introducing the character to those who are watching the film. And it allows us to see her in her glory when she's raining. And you could get such a good sense of her as a character.
S6: And what's great is you are getting so much information about her. She's talking in these eloquent sentences that are designed to sound spontaneous. But as we watch this play out , we know she has rehearsed this like 100 times because her assistant is reading the words along with her lip synching to it. So there's just so many elements to the visual style and the editing and the scripting that give us so much more information about her than what the surface of the scene tells us.
S5: Yeah , she's really commanding the room. She is in control of that conversation and it does seem like it's spontaneous , but it's not because it's all rehearsed and it's all again demonstrating how much confidence and control she has over what she's previewing , which is this orchestra.
S6: And she's got it down to the clothes she wears , her gestures , everything feels carefully rehearsed to appear absolutely natural. Yes.
S5: Yes. Yes. There there's the cadence to how it all comes off , seeming totally superior.
S6: She's depicted as this incredibly talented , arrogant person who is willing to crush anyone in her path to get what she wants. So after the screening , a number of people came up to me who said they were. They actually resented having had to spend time with a person that they felt was so horrible. But I found her character absolutely riveting. And I'm just wondering how you feel about how she is presented and whether it really matters if she's sympathetic or likable.
S5: The major reason why I love it is precisely because this movie has you play this game at every minute of you judging her as the viewer and deciding if she is a bad person , bad , morally bad , criminally. I mean , there's no question about it. She's very arrogant. She's totally at the top of her form in terms of her talent. And she's using her status and her privilege to get things done. And the movie asks you , is that necessarily a bad thing ? And like , you bet , I could have watched her for another 3 hours. This is a long movie , but I found it so riveting because we are used to seeing complicated , flawed male characters. But we so seldom see women characters who are allowed to be all of these things that. This movie allows Tara to be.
S6: Yeah , I think there's a lot of focus sometimes on presenting women in a positive light because there aren't as many representations. But part of what I really want to see is women depicted in this very complex , flawed , vulnerable way where they're not role models. But that's what makes them so interesting. I mean , to me personally , perfect characters or ones that are too good or too nice are kind of boring. I don't learn from them. I learn from the characters , from things like Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro , Rupert Pupkin or Travis Bickle or any of these films. Uncut Gems is a recent one , but one of the things I really love about this film is it never tells you what to think. It never really explains anything to you. It presents her life and allows you to make determinations about what we're seeing and what's happening and whether she's guilty of things she's accused of or whether she's committed some of these acts. And I just love a film that doesn't condescend to the audience to say that. Go figure it out yourself.
S5: Yeah , like , you bet. I think this movie is so unrepentantly cerebral. It is presenting things intellectually to you and presenting this character , and it's not going to fill all the gaps for you. And I love that the movie is very masterly in its script , but it's also very masterly in terms of how it's put together , because like you said , you are not given all the information and you are constantly , again , trying to figure out link all the pieces together in real time and kind of make your own judgment and your judgments kind of changing as we find out more and more about her. But you never find out everything. And I think that's what makes the movie special because that's how the real world is. You will never know a person completely. You are always exposed to half truths or limited truths , and we have to make our judgments based on that.
S6: Well , I hope this discussion has inspired a few people to go check out this film. It's not often that you get a movie that you can sit and talk about for potentially hours and still not even scratch the surface of some of what it's doing. So thank you , Yazdi , for talking about Tor.
S5: My pleasure. And we haven't even talked about the great acting or about the MeToo aspects. Exactly. I can talk about this for another hour with you , but I hope I really do hope that people seek out this film. It's something else.
S1: That was Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with Yazdi Pittsboro. You can hear their full discussion of the film take on Beth Cinema Junkie podcast Wednesday.