A Child Prodigy: Chapter Two

Lorenzo Pelosini
Italian Novelist Lorenzo Pelosini

What happens to child prodigies when they grow up?

The proof that such genius doesn’t always die off is in Lorenzo Pelosini’s last novel, River Runner – The Golden Thread. It was John Irving who first noticed Pelosini’s early development as a narrative genius. The best-selling author read The Flight of the Hawk, written by Pelosini when he was only 14 years old, and decided to promote his young fellow author with a flattering introduction to his novel. And in 2014 Pelosini’s transition into a full-grown talent was confirmed with the release of his novel River Runner- The Golden Thread.

In the case of River Runner, it was the famous critic Fabio Canessa, an Italian authority on film and international literature, who discovered the novel, and expanded its notoriety across Italy. Ironically enough, the struggle for this specific form of talent to transition from childhood to maturity is also the central conflict of the story within River Runner. In fact, it is this meta-narrative reflection that makes the novel so brilliant. The main character’s battle to escape his prison is the perfect parallel to the one the author faced himself. In spite of that, this isn’t a story fueled by narcissism. It is one that’s propelled by an authentic desire for freedom, a motivation to grow into a more honest version of oneself, something we can all relate to. Although River Runner is indeed a fantasy, at least officially, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings aren’t the tales that come to mind, instead, it is a cross between Shawshank Redemption and The Truman Show.

While fantastic literature and movies of the same genre take us up in the air and out of our world for a ride, River Runner takes us deep within it, straight into the very core of our personal little world, where our greatest demons lie alongside the best parts of us. This is essentially why River Runner works. It succeeds where many stories fail in the sense that it offers us a looking glass into the terrifying and often hidden parts of our souls– which are arguably the most valuable. This is not to say that the novel is the best product to come out of the world of popular young adult narratives. In fact, we are not talking about excellence, but rather, transcendence. If we visualize contemporary literature as a two-dimensional flat land, to quote Edwin Abbott Abbott, excellence would be creating a product that extends miles and miles in the two dimensions that such flatland conceives. On the other hand, transcendence would be moving even just one inch up, into that third dimension which lies all around it, yet almost inconceivable.

There is so much more potential to be explored in Pelosini’s already breathtaking repertoire of work as a writer. His fluid style stretches light years beyond his age, something that is clearly revealed within the pages of River Runner. And whereas excellence is surely encrypted in this young author’s future, transcendence is already a part of his present.

There is a sharp edge in River Runner that tears a hole in the placenta that each person needs to outgrow in order to be reborn. Such birth isn’t the obligatory one we all undergo, nor is it a regular transition into adulthood. It is an alternative. A peek into something beyond our everyday existence and step onto a path that we do not often imagine. Not only is this transcendent quality rare, it is also essential to every time, decade and generation. And since hope and its nature is essentially the content of River Runner, we can only hope for Pelosini to soon deliver a successful continuation of this trans-dimensional saga. Thankfully for us, he intends River Runner to be the first novel in a highly anticipated trilogy.

 

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Hollywood Recognizes Filmmaker Livi Zheng as Asian Pioneer

Livi Zheng and Terrence Howard at the Unforgettable Gala

“When I first started my career in film someone told me that I am everything wrong about a director, because I am Asian,  I am a woman and I am young.” That was the opening salvo in Livi Zheng’s speech at the Unforgettable Gala. Zheng was honored with an award as an Asian pioneer in Hollywood along with the actor John Cho and the Director of Crazy Rich Asians, Jon M. Chu.  The speech was unforgettable; the crowd cheered for the young director at the conclusion of her speech.

Already a household name in Indonesia, Zheng’s rise to fame in the United States is not a surprise to her many followers back home. She is the product of three countries: Indonesia, China, and the United States. A simple search of her name will show Zheng’s popularity amongst Indonesians and Chinese and the enthusiasm they express for this talented young filmmaker.

Who is Livi Zheng? She’s an Chinese-Indonesian director who directed her first feature film at the young age of twenty-three. Her directing debut Brush with Danger released theatrically in the US and was distributed internationally. Besides directing, Zheng has spoken and lectured at more than 30 universities worldwide including Yale University, University of Southern California (USC) and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Communications University of China, and the University of Indonesia. Zheng graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Washington-Seattle and a Masters in Film Production from USC. She is a prolific and respected speaker and was invited to speak at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C..

Zheng spent her young adult life as a martial artist. She got her start as a stuntwoman but soon realized the power of storytelling. She embarked on an odyssey to realize her dreams; that decision has catapulted her as a leader in the new generation of upcoming directors in the film business. Her remarkable confidence and bubbly personality is paired with her humility. When interviewed, Zheng never forgets to mention her roots.

Just this year, Zheng brought the vibrant world of Bali: Beats of Paradise to screens when it premiered at the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences and Arts in Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.  The 1010 seat theater was filled to capacity.  The Academy security was even surprised at the draw this movie had compared to many big studio movies that have premiered at the same venue. The documentary narrative did so well that a Disney Animation Executive in attendance invited Zheng to screen the film for other heads of departments at Disney.

Zheng is not only an inspiration to young women and people of color within the United States but also to people around the world. She’s truly a one of a kind director who bridges the West and the East .

“Promised” star Daniel Berini on authentic storytelling

In an industry that claims to be constantly innovating and chasing the latest trend, it’s always refreshing to encounter actors and creatives who maintain a solid grounding that renders them eternally appealing no matter what age or what the marketplace is like. Australian actor Daniel Berini has built a firm footing in his niche as a profoundly heartfelt actor who transcends time and place. Indeed, there’s a recurring trend in Daniel’s recent work of him being cast in projects set in the mid-20th century, the most obvious of which is the feature film “Promised”, co-starring “Strictly Ballroom” legend Paul Mercurio and famed-performer Tina Arena.

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Daniel Berini as shot by Marnya Rothe

“Promised” concerns two young Italians in 1970s Australia dealing with the terms of their arranged marriage as negotiated by their fathers when they were born. Set against the backdrop of an Australia that was becoming increasingly liberal alongside fading traditions, “Promised” hails from “Hippocratic Oath” filmmaker Nathan Primmer and writer/director Nick Conidi.

A celebrated and impressive roster of filmmakers might make one expect there were clashing egos on set, but Daniel attests to how the production became something of a family during shooting.

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Daniel Berini behind the scenes on the set of Australian feature film, “Promised”

As Daniel explains, “[a]s an Italian myself, I was able to appreciate and understand the world of Promised, which made the whole experience so very rewarding. Rocking up on set everyday felt like rocking up to Christmas lunch at my Nonna’s house, surrounded by cousins that you didn’t realise you had, and enough good food to feed an army. There was a sense of family around the production; family being the central tenet of the story.”

The story, which quite literally revolves around Robert, is a heartfelt one that resonates with audiences around the world despite the specificity of its time and place setting.

As Daniel explains, “[i]t was quite refreshing to read a script that celebrated Italian culture in Australia but didn’t make fun of it. This is a story that follows two people from two Italian families in Melbourne, but it doesn’t feature Italian cliches that are so often presented in film. There are no ‘lounge suites wrapped in plastic’, ‘concrete backyards’, or colourful depictions of ‘sauce day’ and stuff like that.”

Put more distinctly, Daniel highlights why he thinks viewers relate to the story and therefore why the film is an acclaimed one. “Promised is a story about relationships, that comments on Italian culture and the changing times, but ultimately it’s about Robert and Angela. This is a love story,…audiences…relish in its ornate simplicity.”

Daniel, who’s also known for his roles in TV in shows like “The Secret Daughter” and “Black Comedy”, has been affiliated with period pieces before. Notably, he appeared in the 1970s set Logie-award winning show “Love Child” in a key role as a part of the most recent season.

“Love Child is one of Australia’s most-loved television shows, and joining the final season was a real privilege,” Daniel beams.

Daniel’s experience on family-oriented shoots like “Promised” probably serves him well in an industry that can oftentimes be intimidating. With an acclaimed career like Daniel’s however, it’s unsurprising that he’s an actor who can not only ingratiate himself into a period TV show effortlessly, but also the cast and crew that makes it happen.

“I must admit, it was a bit intimidating arriving on set amidst a show at the tail end of its run,” Daniel concedes.

“You feel like you’re intruding on a family affair in a way, everybody there has been working together for years now and are all very comfortable. However, the cast and crew of Love Child could not have been more accommodating towards me and very quickly made me feel like I was also apart of the family.”

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Daniel Berini alongside “Doctor Doctor” star Chloe Bayliss and AACTA-winner Mandy McElhinney in a scene from “Love Child”

Daniel served critical moments in the emotional arc of “Love Child”s story. His truly honest portrayal of a young man nervous about the birth of his first child was both memorable and refreshingly authentic. Daniel’s unique look, incredibly befitting of the show’s 1970s setting, proved him irreplaceable within a production that prides itself on portraying the period as authentically as possible – an element that no doubt has led to “Love Child’s” numerous award-wins. This, coupled with the fact that he shared screen-time with AACTA-nominee Andrew Ryan and “Doctor Doctor” star Chloe Bayliss as his wife, both Australian household names, firmly cements Daniel as an actor working at the top level of his field.

This aside, Daniel’s clearly committed to character and serving the story, a testament to his dedication to authenticity and artistic integrity.

“It can be really good fun diving into a ‘period piece’ as an actor. There’s a weight to your choices, as you’re not only representing a person, but you are also representing the views of a time period, and you want that to come across as genuine as possible. It goes far deeper than tone and costume. It’s about finding the truth of your world, and then allowing it to influence your motivations as that character. I feel very privileged that I’ve had this opportunity on numerous occasions.”

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Daniel Berini in a scene from the 1970s Channel Nine show, “Love Child”