Five Questions With... Kana Hatakeyama, Writer/Director of OKAASAN (MOM)

After the loss of a beloved family member, a daughter returns from far away to her mother's home in Japan; mother and daughter attempt to work past the guilt and distance in order to reconnect, each in their own ways. 

We spoke with Kana Hatakeyama, writer/director (and actress and producer, too!) of OKAASAN (MOM), playing in the shorts program "Everything Is Gonna Be Alright" on Sun, June 24 at 9am. Read more with Kana and catch the film this weekend!

KANA HATAKEYAMA

KANA HATAKEYAMA

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film?

KANA: I had been working on writing several different projects, but this is the one that I ended up finishing first. It wasn't a conscious choice, but I think it did come out first because it was important to me. That being said, the film was shot in my native Japan, and it had been a goal of mine as an artist to capture what my beloved homeland has meant and felt like for me over the years--a bit different in perspective from the representation of Japan in film I'd been exposed to growing up in the U.S., which generally seems to focus more on the exotic aspects of the country and culture. I wanted to portray a mother-daughter story set in an area of Japan that I personally love, a distinct Japanese space where bits of the urban and the mythical nature co-exist. Also, as a Japanese woman and an Asian-American woman, I wanted to tell a story with two female Japanese, Asian protagonists who are fully human, complex, and do not play into any sort of stereotypes.

NFF: Why or how did you decide to have your own mother act in the film?

KANA: I had written it with her in mind, and I had always felt that something about her way of being in real life would translate beautifully on-screen. In addition, I only had 6 weeks from when I decided I was going to shoot it to production, and I was also self-financing and thus working with a very limited budget, so I had financial and time constraints that I would have had to contend with had I decided to find another actress. And although my mom hasn't been working professionally as an actress, she did theater when she was in university, so acting wasn't something that was totally foreign to her. Also, part of the reason I wanted to make the film was to get to spend time and do something meaningful with her, so I asked. Initially she hadn't thought she was going to be acting in it so she was like, "I can't," and I was like, "Mom, you must." And fortunately she ended up agreeing to do it :)

NFF: I know you have a background in theatre - how was making a film similar or different?

KANA: It was really cool and a bit surprising to discover, what I found most similar to the rehearsal process in theater was the editing process. In theater, you rehearse, you try things, and you come up with some sort of draft, a version of the scene or play. You do it, you learn from it, and then you build on it, with each new draft, new layer, new rehearsal. Sometimes you discover that what you had before worked better, sometimes you try something completely new and different. The editing process was very similar. Working with my wonderful editor Ronnie Rios, we'd come up with a cut, we'd watch it, learn from it, and try again, and with each new cut, we were able to get closer to the core of the story, which to me is exactly the same as the rehearsal process in theater. I loved it. 

NFF: Did you face any challenges or surprises while filming?

KANA: Because we had a skeleton crew--partly because I didn't have the money to hire more crew, transport them, and house them, and also because I thought a smaller crew would work better for this intimate story I wanted to tell--beyond directing and acting, there was a lot to be done, including basic but very important stuff like making sure there was enough coffee and food for everyone. I had help from my mom and our AD, but at the end of the day there was very little time for sleep, so that was challenging, wearing so many hats at once. A lovely surprise I had while filming was the fact that my dog is a very talented and eager actress, as she barked her way into more scenes than she was originally written into. Fortunately, it worked out because she was brilliant, and really brought so many additional layers to the film. She is a star, and I'm very proud of her and her work in the film.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

KANA: I'm so excited to screen in Nantucket because I've heard such wonderful things about both the festival and the island! I've never been to the island or the film festival, so am really looking forward to getting to discover both. I hope that Nantucket audiences in turn will get to discover a part of Japan that they may not have yet been exposed to, as well as relate to something explored in the film, whether that be loss or guilt or mother-daughter relationships.

Five Questions With... Donal Lardner Ward, Writer/Director of WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH

WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH reveals the emotional life of four generations of the Copeland family. As Jean (Jeanne Tripplehorn) reckons with the consequences of an affair, her husband, Gordon (Damian Young), worries he’s falling prey to the same dementia that has afflicted his father, Theodore (Loudon Wainwright III). Their children, Otis (Noah Schnapp, Stranger Things) and Priscilla (Taylor Rose), navigate the pitfalls of first love and young adulthood, while the family’s 95-year-old matriarch, Vivian (Virginia Robinson), struggles to maintain control of the household in this comedic drama.

Read more with writer/director Donal Lardner Ward below, and join us for the WORLD PREMIERE of WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH on Thurs, June 21 at 3:30pm and Sat, June 23 at 4:15pm!

DONAL LARDNER WARD

DONAL LARDNER WARD

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film? 

DONAL: I was looking for something that could be shot on a micro budget, in a contained way, when I read my old friend, Betsy Crane’s, debut novel about a multigenerational family spinning out in different directions, in search of something they feared they’d lost or might never gain. I feel that sort of self-centered fear is endemic and destructive in contemporary life and I wanted to explore it. I also knew an increasing number of people who were dealing with taking care of elderly, sick parents and young children at the same time. What they call the “sandwich generation.” It’s a growing phenomenon, with people living longer and having kids later, and I hadn’t seen it addressed very much. By the time we finished the film I was living it. 

NFF:  The film depicts many different permutations and variations of love. What's your definition?

DONAL: Love is the particle that charges the atom of humanity, the connective tissue that gives our species dimension, shape, insulation against the chill of the great void. Without love, in all its forms, we drift apart, dissipate into nothingness.

NFF: How did Jeanne Tripplehorn become attached to the project? Had you worked together before?

DONAL: I met Jeanne through our mutual friend, Ben Stiller, many years ago. When I showed him the script for the film he thought she might be right for it. That was an understatement. 

NFF: Did you face any particular challenges or surprises while filming?

DONAL: We faced the age-old, dual challenge of independent filmmaking: lack of funds and time. There were a couple of things we missed in our lightning fast, 15-day schedule. However, by the time we organized reshoots at the beautiful old house that was our primary location, it had been sold and leveled, reduced to a pile of brown dirt. We had to recreate a section of the exterior on a shoestring. The enthusiastic commitment of our amazing cast and crew made the impossible possible. 

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

DONAL: I’m excited about screening at Nantucket because it’s a literary festival, a place where audiences appreciate thoughtful storytelling. The film is based on a novel, and books, and the concept of story, are central elements. I hope people come away from the film with a refreshed appreciation for the people and love they have in their lives. 

Five Questions With... Risa Mickenberg, Alysia Reiner, and David Alan Basche, Writer and Actor/Producers of EGG

In EGG, two former art school friends, Karen (Christina Hendricks, Mad Men) and Tina (Alysia Reiner, Orange Is the New Black) reunite in Marianna Palka’s satirical chamber piece exploring motherhood, personal freedom, and social expectations. Karen, eight months pregnant and married to a successful developer, took a different life path than Tina, a conceptual artist recently engaged to her partner. Emotions run high when Tina reveals her latest project—surrogate parenthood as performance art—and things get even more tense when her surrogate arrives.

We had a group conversation with some of the creatives on EGG - Risa Mickenberg (screenwriter), Alysia Reiner, and David Alan Basche (Actor/Producers) all came together to share their thoughts on the film. Read more with them below, and see it on Friday 6/22 at 8:45pm and/or Sun 6/24 at 5:45pm!

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film, and for Alysia and David, why you wanted to get involved?

RISA: Writing this film was a way to air things that had not been said about some of our deepest thoughts and instincts. It was a way to take risks.

ALYSIA: David and I did a workshop of the script years ago, and we never stopped thinking about it. To quote a recent review in The Hollywood Reporter, the film “explodes cliches about motherhood, marriage and career...laced with unblinkered truths about the sometimes ruthless, sometimes warm-hearted ways that women see themselves and each other.” 

DAVID: We bumped into Risa again and realized it had never been made, and we felt compelled to be the ones to tell the story on film.

NFF: Alysia and David - you're married in real life, but although you share a lot of screentime, you play spouses of other people in this movie. Was that a decision you came to as a collective production team?

ALYSIA: We were cast that way in the original reading and loved these roles so much we had no desire to change it!

DAVID: Agreed, but strangely enough, now that we’ve made the film, there’s a part of me that would love to play “Wayne” because that’s such a great role, too!

NFF: Is it easier or harder to work with actors/partners you love and know well?

ALYSIA: Easier! We've worked together a lot before. In our early 20's when we did our first play together we fought like cats and dogs, but now we have good healthy boundaries - something neither of our characters in the film have learned!

DAVID: We were both producing and playing leads in the film, so with that amount of work and responsibility, we really needed that extra sense of safety and comfort that comes with a trusted creative partner.

NFF: Did working on the movie change your view of parenthood in any way?

ALYSIA: When I first read this script I was not yet a mother, and not 100% sure I was ready to be one.  Exploring the character at that time made me go deep about IF and WHY I truly wanted to be a parent, and what it means to be a parent and an artist at the same time. Now, making the film as a mother, as both producer and actress I was deeply devoted to exploring and advocating choice for women, and love and acceptance for all choices in parenthood - including choosing not to have children. I also feel the film is so much about friendship and loving and supporting your friends, even when their choices are different from yours.

DAVID: Similarly, I wasn’t a dad when I first read EGG, but it moved me nonetheless. Working on the film now that I am a father opened my eyes to the different things people go through and the ways families can be constructed. In the end, it's all about allowing other people the integrity of their own choices.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

RISA: This film is like Nantucket’s relationship to the rest of the world. Such beauty on the surface, with such dangerous shifting sands below, so daring to navigate. The film is powered by a leviathan of a theme with indelible characters who are not afraid to go way out into unexplored and dangerous waters. I hope people appreciate the daring of thought. I hope they feel something has been let loose in their conversation and that it leaves them feeling raw and fired up and powerful and alive.

ALYSIA: The first time I was at the Nantucket Film Festival, I felt like I was just dreaming of really being in this business. I saw so many films, loved them all, and met Paul Giamatti at the screening of AMERICAN SPLENDOR which I thought was outrageously brilliant. I made a wish to someday work with Paul and someday be at the festival with a film I was in. Well, a year later I got to act with Paul in SIDEWAYS, and here we are at the festival with EGG! Both dreams came true!!! So yes, I am beyond thrilled to share EGG with the NFF audiences.

As for take away, of course I want to entertain people, for them to laugh at themselves and the moments of recognition in the film. But more deeply, I hope it makes people explore their own complexities and contradictions. I love when people say they can’t stop thinking and talking about the film weeks later. Another review I loved said it all: “This film is wonderful for the way it takes you into yourself and exposes you to your own contradictions and emotions…” To me that's what great entertainment is about, it makes me laugh, think and feel.

DAVID: What she said!

Five Questions With... Charlene deGuzman, Actor/Writer of UNLOVABLE

After a night of alcohol-fueled sex with strangers, actress Joy (Charlene deGuzman) hits rock bottom and attends a 12-step meeting for sex and love addiction. There, she convinces Maddie (Melissa Leo) to be her sponsor. Maddie allows Joy to recover in her grandmother’s guesthouse, but sets strict rules, including forbidding her from interacting with Jim (John Hawkes), Maddie’s estranged brother and their grandmother’s caregiver. But Joy and Jim each end up being just what the other needs to heal in this fresh dramatic comedy.

We spoke with Charlene deGuzman, who both wrote and stars in UNLOVABLE. Read more with Charlene below, and catch the film on Wed, June 20 at 8:15pm and/or Thurs, June 21 at 8:45pm!

CHARLENE DEGUZMAN

CHARLENE DEGUZMAN

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film?

Charlene: UNLOVABLE is inspired by my personal experiences with sex and love addiction and recovery. I wanted to bring awareness to sex and love addiction, help get rid of the stigma, show a female perspective, and help people feel understood and less alone. And I wanted to do it in a way that uses light, hope, comedy, and music.

NFF: Have you acted in pieces that you've written before? Do you prefer to be in your own work?

Charlene: This is my first feature film I've ever written or acted in, but I've acted in other pieces I've written before - I wrote a few shorts that went viral on YouTube, "I Forgot My Phone" was the one that got the most international attention! It changed my life. I love performing my own work, it's how I can be the most ME. There is no one better to express your own voice than yourself. Plus, I like to write things from my own personal experiences, and the only one who has lived my life - is me.

NFF: How did Mark and Jay Duplass become involved with the film? Had you worked with Mark before as a writer?

Charlene: In 2013, Mark Duplass started following me on Twitter. I sent him a DM telling him that he was my hero. He DM'd me back and told me that if there was anything I had written that I wanted to show him, to send it over. (Tweeting sad and funny thoughts and ramblings is what originally got me a following.) I didn't have anything at the time, but a year later, I started recovery for sex and love addiction. While in my first months of withdrawal, I was in physical and emotional pain, and the thing that kept me going was exploring my creativity. I ended up writing a TV pilot in five days inspired by my own experiences. I sent it to Mark, and the next day he wrote back - he wanted to meet, and he wanted to make a movie!

NFF: Did you face any particular challenges or surprises while filming?

Charlene: So many! I had major Imposter Syndrome - every day I couldn't believe that it was happening, and I kept thinking I had tricked everyone into being there. It was hard to act in scenes with John Hawkes or Melissa Leo and not think, "How am I in a movie with my favorite actor John Hawkes?" or "Oh my God this is Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo." As you could imagine, the pressure to not completely make a fool out of myself in front of these pros was high. I ended up learning so much from the both of them. It was also intense to act out scenes that would have happened in my past. I got triggered a few times. But every time I took a deep breath and remembered why I wanted to make this film, how I wanted to help people, it kept me going.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

Charlene:This is my first time in Nantucket so I'm excited to be there! I hope I inspire others to tell their story. We all have a story to tell, we may even feel ashamed of it at first, or embarrassed, or scared it won't be good enough. But the truth is, telling your story gets rid of the shame. Because you will find that your story is a huge gift you have, because it can help so many people. Humans crave the truth, and they don't even realize it, until they experience it. I hope my movie and story will inspire others to share their truths too!

#NFF18 Showtime's Tony Cox Feature Screenplay, Episodic Screenplay (60 Min), and Shorts Writer FINALISTS Announced!

Read more below about our finalists, their scripts, and the prizes up for grabs!

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Feature Screenplay Finalists:

CAMBRIDGE by Henry Hayes and Zolan Kanno-Youngs
The life of Boston Bomber, ‎Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as seen by friends who knew him before the event, and who struggle to rationalize their friend with the killer he became.

THE NOVICE by Lauren Hadaway
An overachieving novice rower becomes obsessed with making the Varsity team, to the point that she starts to lose touch with reality.

QUEENS by Max Sokoloff
Sperm donor, Ben, meets his crossing-dressing middleschooler son for the first time and has to decide if he wants to be a dad. 

Finalists Receive:

  • VIP week-­long Pass to Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Attend Showtime ­sponsored reception during the Film Festival;
  • Participation in Mentors Brunch with prominent screenwriter during the Film Festival;
  • Name inclusion on Festival catalogue and website as Competition winner;
  • Print and media coverage.

And One Winner, to be announced during the Festival, will receive:

  • $5,000 cash prize from the Nantucket Film Festival;
  • All expenses paid, month­-long stay at exclusive Screenwriters Colony on Nantucket in October;
  • VIP week-­long Pass to Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Round­ trip from New York to Nantucket to attend Film Festival;
  • Accommodations in Nantucket during the Film Festival;
  • A Showtime­ sponsored reception during the Film Festival in the winner’s honor;
  • Participation in Mentors Brunch with prominent screenwriter during the Film Festival;
  • Name inclusion on Festival catalogue and website as Competition winner;
  • Print and media coverage.
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Episodic 60 Min Pilot Screenplay Finalists:

BETWEEN THE EYES by Gregory Levy
America's first female detective is hired by Abraham Lincoln to ensure his safety in traveling to Washington, DC for his inauguration.  

DETESTABLE by Brandon Morrissey
The closeted son of a pastor arrives to a Christian university where his understanding of the world is challenged by his peers.

LEGACY by Kellen Hertz
An elite Connecticut University finds a doll reenactment of a heinous crime (which was committed 20 years ago) at the original site, The Founders Tomb, and it seems an important legacy student is  somehow connected with the current crime.

One Winner Receives:

  • $1,000 cash prize from the Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Private one-on-one consultation with Showtime executive;
  • VIP week-­long Pass to Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Attend Showtime ­sponsored reception during the Film Festival;
  • Participation in Mentors Brunch with prominent screenwriter during the Film Festival;
  • Name inclusion on Festival catalogue and website as Competition winner;
  • Print and media coverage.
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Short Screenplay Finalists:

ASSISTS, GOALS, SAVES by Kelly Pike
Rising field hockey star Emmie starts to change after a visit to the team doctor.

CINDERELLA WAR by Margaret Kane-Rowe
A quaint family in Ireland receives a hostile visit from the Irish Republican Army. 

THE INVISIBLE MONSTER by Gordon LePage
A boy at the beach, playing pretend from his favorite TV show, finds a monster.
 

One Winner Receives:

  • $500 cash prize from the Nantucket Film Festival;
  • VIP week-­long Pass to Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Attend Showtime ­sponsored reception during the Film Festival;
  • Participation in Mentors Brunch with prominent screenwriter during the Film Festival;
  • Name inclusion on Festival catalogue and website as Competition winner;
  • Print and media coverage.

Finalists Announced for Showtime's Tony Cox Episodic Screenplay (30 Min) Competition

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Congratulations to our three finalists in Showtime's Tony Cox Episodic Screenplay (30 Minute) Competition:

ALL WE DO IS NGUYEN BY HUONG NGUYEN
An ambitious woman’s fast ride to the perfect life is interrupted when she moves back to her hometown and attempts to fix her hillbilly immigrant family.

FINALE BY GREG FUSCO
When the creator of the world’s most popular show tragically dies its clueless producers must juggle a disorderly cast, a rabid fan base, and an impending deadline to write the perfect three hour finale to a series they know nothing about.

GOING VIRAL BY JORDAN PICK
A half-hour, episodic comedy series about two knuckleheads failing to make their videos go viral.

The winner receives:

  • A $1,000 cash prize from the Nantucket Film Festival
  • An all-inclusive two-weeks-long writer's retreat on Nantucket in June with the Screenwriter's Colony and NFF
  • One-on-one consultation with a Showtime executive
  • A VIP week-long Festival Pass to all events
  • Participation in our Mentor Brunch during the Festival
  • A Showtime-sponsored reception during the Festival in the winners’ honor
  • A Custom leather bound copy of the script, courtesy of Showtime
  • Print and media coverage
  • Name inclusion on Festival program materials as a competition finalist and winner

Stay tuned for the announcement of our winner!

Five Questions With... Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse, Writer/Directors of COUP D'ETAT

NFF is delighted to showcase Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse’s satiric comedy COUP D'ETAT, originally presented as a staged reading at the Festival in 2006! Putting a rebellious twist on a high school English assignment, 16-year-old Tatiana (Odeya Rush) strikes up a pen pal correspondence with Anton (Michael Caine), the notorious dictator of an island nation. When his people rise up and depose him, Anton escapes to the last place anyone would think to look: the suburban home Tatiana shares with her single mom, Darlene (Katie Holmes). As he plots his return to power while in exile, Anton takes on Tatiana as a protégée, helping her plan the overthrow of her high school’s ruling mean girls. What could possibly go wrong?

We chatted with Lisa and Joe - read more below, and join us at COUP D'ETAT on Thursday, June 22 at 6:15 PM, and/or Friday, June 23 at 4:30 PM!

Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse

Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse

NFF: How do you work together as co-writers and directors? Does one of you handle certain tasks more than the other, or do you divide everything down the middle?

Lisa & Joe: We’ve been screenwriting partners for twenty years so we’ve ironed out working together. We are usually of one mind, which is good and bad. It’s good because we don’t fight that much. It’s bad because if we are going off a cliff, no one stops us. In general, though, Joe is the ‘idea’ guy, and Lisa is the ‘decision maker.’ Joe comes up with a million ideas, and Lisa tells him what seems to work, what doesn’t; what’s funny, what isn’t. Also, on set, Joe is usually there with the actors and Lisa is watching through the monitor to see if it’s working. Before directing, we storyboard together. Unlike most indies, there is no handheld in our film (on purpose) because we wanted to create a more heightened, stylized reality. This is very hard to achieve on a short shoot like this one (19 days) so we really had to have our shots nailed down. Similarly, we didn’t have much rehearsal time, so we had to know in advance what we wanted from the actors. We had such super pros, they understood what we were going for very quickly but if there was any confusion/debate, we’d usually tag team until we got our way. 

NFF: Can you talk a little about casting, and how your actors came to the project? Did you write this with any of them in mind?

Lisa & Joe: We always thought of Jason Biggs because we knew him and had worked with him before. At various times there were many other actors in the lead roles, including for the staged reading we did at your festival ten years ago. For that, we had Jimmy Smits as our dictator and Heather Graham as the mom. Later, we had Alfred Molina, Robert DeNiro, Anthony Hopkins, but our heart always was with Michael Caine. He has the gravitas but also pairs that with the most subtle wit. We were blessed to have him.  We also got very lucky with Odeya Rush. She came in just weeks before shooting and she blew us away. 

NFF: The production design and art direction is so specific to the storytelling. Did you have the world in mind when you were writing, and/or was it a collaborative effort with your team putting it together?

Lisa & Joe: On a small budget,  the art department is the most under-funded area. Directors should have very clear ideas because it’s hard to create a look with no money or crew. We had a very specific vision for Tatiana’s room. We wanted no punk rock posters and wanted it to look like the character hand-made everything. In real life, we made the decor with our kids and a student from SCAD. The idea of defacing cute animal pics later became Tatiana's DIY motif, she then defaced her backpack, her boots, her school etc. 

We wanted suburbia and Tatiana’s town to showcase consumerism gone awry. Lots of Americana.  When choosing locations, anything kitsch we used— the huge globe, the mall with the insane train and toy animal play area,  the school that looks like a post modern fortress.  We wanted America to be Disneyfied and not totally real because we felt that would allow people to believe the very unlikely story. When choosing props, we went for gaudy color, especially yellow because it reflected Anton Vincent’s flag and also made the world a little more fantastical. (We used yellow for Darlene’s hygienist outfit, her silly car and the crazy adult tricycle)!

By contrast, we wanted the island nation to look deprived and rural, like Guiana/Cuba. we also wanted to push the dictator’s Soviet imagery, with his very eastern european fortress, his retro Rolls Royce and his very Fidel style propaganda posters. since we shot everything in Savannah, we are pleased that it actually does look like a different country. 

NFF: This is a satirical look at family, relationships, and politics, among many other topics. Would you say you approach the world or are you drawn to stories from a place of humor?

Lisa & Joe: We always start with our own stories from our lives. In PARENTAL GUIDANCE we used our real stories with our kids. In Coup D’etat, we used stories from both of us growing up with single moms.  Joe’s mom really did force him to spy on her boyfriends. Lee’s mom really did date a convict because he could fix her car and make her life easier. 

In high school, we were very into punk rock and always wanted to find a way into a story about teens, punk and moms. When Saddam went missing, we imagined him hiding in suburbia and that became the thread to weave our real stories together.  

NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Lisa & Joe: We love Nantucket. We are from upstate NY and CT and we both went to Connecticut College. We had many summers on New England beaches and on Nantucket, so it feels like home to us. Also, we think Nantucket could use some punk rock and DIY spirit, so, we hope everyone becomes galvanized to spark their own revolutions. 

COUP D'ETAT

COUP D'ETAT