This Friday evening The Coachella Valley Art Scene Gallery will transform into a mini-movie theater to showcase the talents of local filmmaker, James Montenegro.
Montenegro recently completed his first feature length film, “Hand of God”.  Everyone involved in the project is a Coachella Valley native and all scenes were film out here as well.
Montenegro has dreams of seeing his film one day being included in a film festival.  He also has an interesting film background and influences.  Read more about the artist and two additional contributing creatives to the movie in the interview below.
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Come see the film this Friday, January 17th
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The Coachella Valley Art Scene
68571 East Palm Canyon Dr.
Cathedral City, CA 92234
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The event is open to the public.  All Ages, although the film has not been rated.
Screening #1 5:00pm
Screening #2 8:00pm
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RSVP to the Film Screening by CLICKING HERE.
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filmmaker from the coachella valley, james montenegro
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James Montenegro

Filmmaker, “Hand of God”
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Q: James –  Let’s start off by talking about how you have been curating a weekly film screening in Indio for the past couple months.  What inspired you to start such a project? 
A: SubverCinema started a couple years back, I started sharing films I enjoyed watching with friends out of my family’s apartment in Coachella. It was something fun to do. I took a year off to focus on my personal artistic endeavors, then started SubverCinema again this past summer at Coachella Valley Art Center. The inspiration was interest in sharing certain films with others.
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Q: In doing your weekly film screenings, what kind of other “film nerds” did you meet in the desert?  What did you see that was missing/an abundance of? 
A: I can’t exactly say I met “film nerds.” As I stated earlier, it was always sharing films with friends, and for a while, it was more an opportunity to hang out, watch a crazy film, and do everything else except talk about the film. It’s changed since; there are more strangers and the focus is primarily on film and film discussion. I see individuals being interested in film as an art form being a missing element. I see a lot of individuals who regard film as entertainment, something to smoke, drink, and make out to, and not take seriously. Every once in a while, someone comes along who uses the word “cool” to describe certain films and whose interest only goes as far as appreciating Tarantino and Scorsese. They’re fine directors, but I’d rather dedicate a season of SubverCinema to someone like Bunuel or Waters.
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 hand of god interview with james montenegro
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Q: Give us a brief description of your film. 
A: My film, ‘Hand Of God,’ relates the story of a schizophrenic who believes he is in touch with God. He believes God has a new “Word” for him to spread, and he has been anointed a new prophet. His journey involves breaking the Ten Commandments, something he sees as his duty to prove his favor in God’s eye. Along the way, he meets a man who is a bit of an opportunist. He tells this man all about his endeavors, and the man sees this as an occasion to create a cult for the sake of making money. Our main character is crazy, yes, but he is true to his delusions. His moralistic downfall is caused by his blindness to the intentions of the other man.
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Q: What inspired you to create this project? 
A: I’ve been interested in cults, religions, and belief systems from an early age. As a child, my parents were on a spiritual journey of sorts, and they investigated and participated in many religious orders, looking for something they could hold as spiritual truth. In my adult years, I’ve carried this interest in an academic sense, and have researched extensively anything that can be deemed “cult.” The Manson Family, Thelema, The Partridge Family Temple, Scientology, Mormonism, The People’s Temple, even The Merry Pranksters were influential in creating a film about the making of a fictional cult.
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 hand of god interview with james montenegro
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Q: Who are these characters based off of? 
A: These characters, I feel, are composites of figures I’d read about over the years. Carlos Flores’ character, Jesse, is the classic prophet: delusional, honest, forthright, and committed to the cause no matter what. My own character, William, is the opportunist who sees this as a way to make money. I see many spiritual movements as being started by people who really believed in what they were doing, then taken over by persons or even changes in personality and ideal strictly interested in making a quick buck off of peoples’ willingness to believe. The old snake juice peddlers’ routine. Perla Martinez’s character, Samantha, was someone I’d imagined as being the voice of reason, a character involved in reality and who gives the dose of reality to Jesse in an attempt to prevent from venturing further down the rabbit hole. Elias Garcia’s character, Gunnar, is the Bobby Beausoleil of the story, someone who comes into the group, is indoctrinated, and is such a personality who is eager to please, he’ll kill for the group without thinking twice.
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Q: Did you always picture it being shot in the desert? 
A: Yes, I simply didn’t have the money to re-locate for two months and shoot elsewhere. I knew the reality of the production beforehand and always pictured it being shot in the desert.
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Q: What were some challenges you faced in making a movie out here? 
A: We faced no real challenges. The only potential obstacle we faced was working with everyone’s schedules. No one was paid to make this film, and there were those in the cast who have day jobs, and we had to schedule our shoots for their convenience. That was no real problem though. Everyone believed in the project enough to dedicate a five-hour evening shoot after an eight-hour work day.
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Q: What made it easy? 
A: What made it easy was knowing everyone involved, being on great terms with everyone. We really put forth a wonderful effort, and it’s evident. A few actors had expressed doubts in their ability to perform on camera at certain points in the production, but I always let them know that when acting, one is merely playing an extension of one’s self. I feel it’s easy to make people confident in their acting ability when we’re all friends and get along well and trust each other.
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hand of god interview with james montenegro
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Q: Do you have a favorite scene? Why? 
A: My favorite scene would be one when Carlos enters his character’s apartment with a record he’d stolen (he was breaking the Commandment ‘thou shalt not steal’) and puts the record on to listen to it. I asked him to give an exaggerated response to what he was listening to, and he performed it so well. I laugh whenever I watch it.
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Q: Can you share with us some of your biggest sources of inspiration when you are creating a film? 
A: My biggest source of inspiration would be the subjects I’m interested in. For a couple years, I interested in the social and economic situations that lead young adults toward feeling alienated, and made four films that revolve around that topic, each with their own plot of course. With this, I drew on my interest in cults. Once the interest is established, I research the realities of the subject, then dive into literature and films that may be related to that subject. Flannery O’Connors’ novel, ‘Wise Blood’ was a great source of literary inspiration for me in dramatically creating the environments and situations that lead to one making a cult.
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Q: What is the dream scenario for this film?  Where do you want to see it being screened? 
A: The dream scenario for this film would be to have it played in competition in as many film festivals as possible over the course of the year. The reason we’re putting together these local screenings is to hopefully gather enough funds to cover submission and shipping fees for that purpose. I’d like to see it being screened in competition.
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hand of god interview with james montenegro
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Q: What’s in your future?  More curating community movie screenings?  Have you already started thinking   about your next personal film project?
A: I’d love to curate more community movie screenings, and as long as there’s a venue to do that, I’ll keep putting together programs of great films from the past for people to enjoy. I have been thinking about my next personal film project for some time now, but I won’t go into it. I like completing a film before I talk about it with too many people.
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Q: Who else was involved in the film and what was their role? 
A: Ken Foto was our cinematographer. He is also producer of the film and played a small role. Lazaro Sanchez helped out with creating a symbol for the fictional cult. I wanted local music in the soundtrack, and used songs from Batskinners and Youth Pollution. I personally asked the heads of each band, Tony Duran and Elias Garcia respectively, permission to use their music. The original soundtrack was recorded by Ken, Perla, Carlos, myself, and Joshua Adams of Fever Dog. He’d expressed great interest in being involved in the film since I started casting it.
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hand of god interview with james montenegro
James Montenegro (L), Carlos Flores (R), and Ken Foto (Center, #selfie)
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 Ken Foto

Cinematographer, “Hand of God”
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Q: If I am not mistaken, this was your first film/movie project that you have worked on, correct?  Had you ever considered this type of art form before?
A: Yes, it was my first movie. As someone who thinks that they have an ability to arrange things well within a frame, I thought potentially, I mean this was probably years ago, that this was something I could do. I never pursued it until Mr. Montenegro approached me to help him with his project.
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Q: From your creative eye, what is the difference between a movie picture and a still one?  The big difference vs. the small differences.
A: I think in a movie, the creation of an image… it has to inform the telling of a story, you know, the constructed image can’t distract from it. In a movie, there’s a specific goal. A still image… is it more specific? I don’t know. With my still photography, I’m just looking for an individual image, it’s just in one place at one time. A moving image exists in more than one place over a period of time, no doubt. There are some technical differences too, just in how you use the equipment. So, there was a learning curve, just for me to shoot video, even though the camera I use for still images is an excellent video camera, though I hadn’t used it as such until recently. It was an educational process.
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Q: What about this project taught you the most?
A: The goal is to get the footage. I don’t have to put every two cents in that comes to my mind, so at times my desires became secondary to the task at hand, which was to make a film. Also, working with a group of people in a creative project, because my main creative endeavor is largely a solo project, except when I’m working with others to put on an exhibition. And playing music; that can be a group activity.
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Q: Do you see yourself working on more film projects in the future?
A: Possibly. James promised me $50,000 to work on his next project (laughs). That would motivate me! I have been shooting a little bit more video, but I don’t know how to edit it. I don’t even know how to post a freaking video on Instagram. I’m going to try it right now.
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hand of god interview with perla
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Perla Martinez

Actress, “Hand of God”
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Q: We know Perla as that chick in Las Feas.  It’s cool to see you in a film.  Was this your first acting role? 
A: I’m not just the girl from Las Feas, I’m the bassist! No, this isn’t my first role; I’ve worked with James in some of his prior films. I believe this is the fourth film of his I’ve been in.
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Q: Tell us about your character you played.
A: Sam… I feel that she’s like the reporter in this movie. She’s always trying to get the story straight. Unlike a reporter, she’s more concerned about the well-being of Jesse than the story though.
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Q: Is she far off from who you really are? 
A: Not so. Like my character, I feel at times I ask too many questions, and they always seem to get me in trouble (laughs). I can’t help it, I’m a critical thinker by nature. I guess it’s not that bad. It usually gets me into story-worthy situations.
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Q: What did you get to learn from her? 
A: My character has taught me that you can’t always be taking care of people or going out of your way for them, especially when your own well-being is at stake.
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hand of god interview with james montenegro
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You can RSVP to the Film Screening BY CLICKING HERE
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