Review: Sense 8 (Netflix Original Series)

Sense 8 PosterCan we connect to someone across the world? The creators of Sense 8 (the Wachowski’s) seem to think so.

There is an ever expanding theory that we, as humans, can open our minds in a way that we can connect to the rest of the world. This includes connect with people on the other side of the world, witness events as if you were there – and explain it as a vision or dream you had one time. A fuzzy one, so that people won’t think you’re crazy or dabbling in the dark arts or something. But what if you could do more than that?

In the Netflix Original series, Sense 8, we see people doing just that; experiencing life as one when they’re eight. People who have never met each other and live in various countries/continents of the world (Korea, Nigeria, USA, London/Iceland, Germany, India & Mexico) – suddenly can see, speak, and experience one another’s emotions as their own. Even, fluently speaking another language – surprising not only themselves, but the people around them.

The Characters are already complex to begin with. As we’re introduced to each of them through the ‘birthing’ process of their sensate mother Angelica (brilliantly played by Darryl Hanna) these complete characters are thrust into each other’s lives, with this, they start thinking they’re going insane, a very natural thought. However, as the first episode of season one shows us, Nomi (Jamie Clayton), Will (Brian J. Smith), Riley (Tuppence Middleton), Lito (Miguel Angel Silvestre), Sun (Doona Bae), Capheus (Season 1: Aml Ameen, Season 2: Toby Onwumere) Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) and Kala (Tina Desai) become what is immediately known as a ‘cluster’ as they try to go about their daily routines and living their already complex lives. The first experiences are incredibly funny and as a viewer we can immediately identify with the characters as “I’d react the same way” if that sort of thing happened to you/us.

However, not all is fun and games – there’s a danger with being different.  Not only are these characters navigating the difficulties and fears of being trans, gay, immigrants, religious, police officers in a hostile environment, women in an oppressive environments, fighting for the longevity of a family member with HIV in a hostile environment, and being considered a wild card in organized crime (more like the Russian Mafia), these characters have a new set of ‘bad guys’ who are doing everything possible to control the sensate (or homo-sensorium)after them. And these bad guys really do not play and they will go to any lengths possible and probable to get what they want.

Enter Jonas (Naveen Andrews), a shady character who we’re still not sure if he’s bad, or good, or just trying to survive and Whispers (Terrence Mann), this is the dude everyone is afraid of, and with good reason. Whispers, is, in one very understated word: psychotic – his ultimate goal is yet to be determined, but his intentions are clear: get all the sensates (and their respective clusters) he can get his hands on.  From the first episode Whispers is established as a force to be reckoned with – he’s the boss of the white coats and can make anyone and any timeline disappear – Jonas is known to collaborate with him, but he’s also helping our heroes figure out who and what they are – so that’s why we’re not sure if he’s bad or good, or what….then we have the haunting images of Angelica warning her last cluster and urging them to stay safe and keep their cluster safe at all costs. But one thing that Angelica didn’t foresee was the strength of this last group and how they are, not only strong as individuals but stronger as a group – even if they’re thousands of miles apart and this, gives Whispers a challenge he’s never faced before and the viewers riveting action sequences that will keep you at the edge of your seats while chewing your nails out, and quite possibly screaming at the screen…

The show is filled with mind bending and challenging realities that make sense but are also pure fantasy. The writers and directors do an amazing job at presenting possible realities for people who believe in spiritual and mind awakening and the concept of being connected to more than just your own life as well as how ‘normal’ people would react to discovering that they, or a person they love is a different type of human that can do much more with their brains than anyone can imagine. But it’s not all crazy serious, the dialogue, while often technical, is also chock-full-of quips that will make you laugh and fall in love with each character and something else that is worth noting; in Sense 8 there is a constant and consistent great representation of men, women and the LGBTQ community. It doesn’t only put one gender or race as the savior to all, but present the idea of how we are strong in certain areas and how we can use help in other areas. Where Will is lacking, Sun picks up, where Wolfgang, Will and Sun can’t figure out a solution Kala steps in – it’s all amazing, because they are all the solution, the saviors, the heroes, they are all strong and meaningful to the story and significant to the survival of each and every character.

It also has tons, and I mean tons of crazy sex/love scenes that are overwhelmingly intense and filled with love in an artistic form – I mean, they’re so jaw droppingly beautiful…I can’t help but feel that this is the Wachowski’s way of making love to our (the viewers) brains and senses and I love them for that. Also, there’s tons of intense action. Edge of your seat-type action, some action that has funny moments, others that make you go “take that you asshole!”.

Let me not close this post without mentioning the incredible supporting characters who are equally as important and have almost the same amount as screen time as the cluster, further showcasing how important a supportive network is to our survival as a species. Felix, Hernando, Daniela, Amanita, Bug, Jela, Rajan and Kala’s parents – mainly her father, Detective Mun are so important to the story as they further develop. There is no detail left to wonder, and there is no character that isn’t quite necessary or just “decorative” in this series. Everything has a purpose for their place, time and episode, so watch Sense 8 and expand your mind.

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Review: 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons WhyThere is no sensible way of talking about assault, victimization and suicide – there is only the matter of fact way to address these problems and the new Netflix show does just that.

Based on the bestselling YA novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why the series, is elegantly shot and performed. It is focused on a group of teenage students dealing with the suicide of one of their own, the show travels easily through past and present scenarios. As a viewer you’re engaged with each emotion Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) are feeling and you’re left wanting a friend like the wise Tony (Christian Navarro) who will protect your secrets and honor your memory.

It is no secret that Hannah Baker commits suicide. What is yet to be determined is why. As depicted in the preview, Hanna Baker is dead – you can hear her voice hauntingly telling you that she is. You can see her face and Clay’s reaction when she says that the tape he’s listening to is the first of 13 tapes that list the reasons why she’s dead – true to the tone set on the preview, the show opens with Hanna Baker’s voice and the introduction to the tapes that reveal the reasons why she committed suicide. Placing the blame on each student that are mentioned in each one of them. But why does she blame them? What happens next is a slew of unimaginable happenings in teenagers’ lives that not only opens the door to traumas, but addresses the behavioral signs every parent or educator should pay attention to, and most importantly, it showcases the grief and love every parent of a child who dies or commits suicide goes through. It’s raw, emotional and educational all at once.

While slow paced (which I sometimes found infuriating) it is with purpose: there is a reason why there’s no rushing into the reality of things. In real life these issues don’t happen as quickly as one may think. It’s a buildup of everything and anything. As Hannah goes on to tell us, there is a start to her thoughts of suicide and she continues to narrate, she points out that every little thing counts – be it towards life or against it.

Along with mortality, the show also addresses rape, consent and the murky waters a teenager has to navigate to understand what it really means to be in a healthy relationship with another person. It addresses survivor’s guilt. Another thing that it addresses is the ongoing issue with teenagers today, especially since so many parents still don’t know how to speak to their children about sex, relationships and most importantly: consent. I did find the show lacking to address the issue properly since consent is a responsibility for both males and females; they both have to consent to have sex with one another – it’s not just the guy who has to make sure the girl wants to have sex.

The issue of sexual identity is also addressed here. There are plenty of characters who are gay, some are presented as ‘matter of fact’ others are presented as still struggling with their identity and do whatever it takes to protect their ‘secrets’. The issues teenagers face: sexuality, depression, anxiety, bullying, drunk driving, societal and peer pressures, self identity and academic responsibilities are a huge part of this show as it is in our daily lives. These issues drive the characters actions, choices and it affects them all in different ways. Like I mentioned before, the show is elegantly performed, directed and shot. Each episode is riddled with emotion that will cause you to feel everything its characters are feeling. It does a great job at not shying away from the uncomfortable topics and it addresses the complexities of victimization and predator like behavior with an equal complex view of it all – it is never black and white when it comes to these things.

But it’s not all heavy, within the heavy topics dealt with in the show; there is a tender awkward teenage love story. Similar to the awkward one we’ve all experienced in our youth – with misunderstood intentions and unsaid words that lead to further confusion and decisions made under duress and ignorance.

I highly recommend people to watch this show because it tells more than just one story. It tells a complex story about parents, teenagers, educators and life itself – and since I don’t want to give much of plot line away, so go stream it now.

I further recommend, as a survivor of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, as well as survivor of a suicide attempt – that if you have these feelings, to speak to someone about it – to be clear about your emotions, however hard they may be. There is no shame in being a victim, there is no shame in being depressed, and there is no shame in having dark emotions – but please, speak to someone because suicide is not the answer. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel you’re passing through at the moment.

For help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time 1-800-273-8255 (US) or if you’re outside of the States check this list of suicide prevention websites in your country: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html.

The stories as they should be told

The beauty of being a filmmaker is that I’m able to work on so many projects in different genres – but I keep on being asked “why are documentaries important to me?”

As a journalist and overall filmmaker I think that telling the stories, as truthful as possible, whenever I can is a responsibility that I have to my audience. Yes, I would love to, in a near future, direct scripted material – but for now I feel there are so many stories, involving the violation of both human and environmental rights that I need to further develop these stories and start a conversation that no one is having.dr-vibe-interview-transcript

I want to talk about domestic violence for a second (or two, or three)…

There has been a lot of talk about the struggles men face while coming out as victims of domestic violence – while the issue has been surging for the past few years there’s still a long way to go when it comes to providing help for men who say they’ve been abused by their partners – an injustice if you ask me.

According to a recent Business Insider article “a report released Tuesday by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) shows that Jacob, whose story is detailed in the report, was hardly alone in his struggle to find help. Surveying 1,976 instances of LGBTQ intimate partner abuse from 2015, NCAVP found that nearly half of survivors (44 percent) had been turned away from shelters.”

Why? Because most shelters have a “no men” policy in order to keep the women they’re helping safe – and they should be kept safe, but the administrations to these shelters and clinics should also recognize that men can and often are victims of domestic violence, rape and child sexual abuse – and rarely, if at all get any help.

While, and I reiterate here, the progress in the help women have gained throughout the years has been great and should be continued in order to help those who have been victimized by their partners – I feel there is a large demographic that is being ignored here, and until we address the other victims of domestic violence, we are only doing half of the work that is required to put an end to partner abuse and/or domestic violence.

Which is why the film Forced into Silence came about and now Silent no More is a docu-series will further explore the issues presented in the film. My hope is that people will see the importance of a gender-inclusive conversation of victims of domestic violence and will begin to realize that men and those in the LGBTQ community that face the gender-restrictions that force them to continue to go through these human rights violations, when they clearly need help to get out of their abusive situation.

As of today I began making the first edits to the interviews I’ve done for the pilot of the series, once done with that, I’ll be submitting it to festivals and pitching for funding for more episodes. All with hopes that producers  and/or financiers see the need to have this conversation, if I’m not successful with that, the docu-series will be available to be seen in different online platforms such as Vimeo and/or YouTube for everyone to see, learn and interact with. The point is to keep the conversation going and to help bring awareness that domestic violence is not a gender-exclusive problem, but everyone’s problem.