Watch the March 2016 Winning Short Screenplay
BEST INTERESTS Short Screenplay:
Get to know writer James M. Freeman:
What is your screenplay about?
To protest inhumane treatment and unfair rejection of his application for refugee status, a teenage Vietnamese asylum seeker challenges the authority of a Hong Kong detention camp commandant, resisting the commandant’s efforts to force him to repatriate.
Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
The plight of asylum seekers, past and present, calls attention to recurring human rights issues. “Best Interests,” tells an underreported story: what happens to a person denied refugee status.
How would you describe this script in two words?
What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
How long have you been working on this screenplay?
To collect the documentation that went into this screenplay: Twenty-five years.
To write the screenplay: Three weeks.
How many stories have you written?
Short Screenplays: “Best Interests” is the first. A second, “The Interview,” co-authored with my son Karsten, is also scheduled for a reading. I have just completed a third, “Gandhi and the Goonda.”
Feature Screenplay: “The Time of Killing,” an award-winning screenplay about a Calcutta gangster assigned to assassinate Gandhi.
Nonfiction Books: Seven. I’m a retired anthropologist and nonfiction book writer. Two of my published books provide the background for my short screenplay, “Best Interests.” The first is “Hearts of Sorrow: Vietnamese-American Lives,” which won a 1990 American Book Award. The second, co-authored with Nguyen Dinh Huu, is “Voices from the Camps: Vietnamese Children Seeking Asylum. ”
What motivated you to write this screenplay?
For twenty-five years, as co-founder (with Nguyen Dinh Huu) of two nonprofit organizations devoted to the protection and care of Vietnamese children seeking asylum, and those who were repatriated, I helped to provide assistance for these children as well as advocate for them. Their heartfelt stories are largely untold. I wrote this screenplay, a fictionalized account, so that a wider audience will come to understand what children seeking asylum, the most vulnerable victims of war, endure.
What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
I needed to distance myself for several years from many events before I could write about them as fictionalized stories.
Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Socially: Mentioned above.
Personally: Physical fitness.
What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
Invaluable: A reading and an initial response to an early stage of my writing about this subject.
Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Nothing that hasn’t been said many times over. I try to keep criticism in perspective. If one critic calls attention to a perceived flaw in my writing, I take note. If three critics call attention to the same flaw, I take their remarks very seriously–but not personally.
Producer/Director: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson