It seems in today’s Hollywood, we are bombarded with movies that are sequels, reboots, and prequels. Add to that the overabundance of superhero films and it seems the movie industry is running out of original ideas.
Every once and a while, an independent film comes along that is not only something different but tells an amazing story and has a message. A movie that fits that mold is Clarity, which was written and directed by Peyv Raz.
Clarity, which stars Dina Meyer, Nadine Velazquez, Tony Denison and Maurice Compte, is a film that we hope will get more exposure as more people see and talk about the film.
We sit down with Peyv to talk about the inspiration for the film, what it was like directing this stellar cast and what message, if any, he’d like viewers to take away from the film after seeing it.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us what inspired you to write the script for Clarity?
Peyv Raz – What inspired me to write Clarity was my youngest son, Oscar. He was 2 years old at the time when I was made aware of an unusually common crime that happens all around the world but I was sheltered from. I heard of Human Trafficking but I saw a news report one day in 2013 about this specific problem of young babies, 2 years of age and under, being stolen from 3rd world country resorts and immediately shipped out of the country for illegal adoptions.
I thought a great deal about my 2-year-old son and imagined what I would do in that situation. I did not have the funding to make a large film about it so I decided to tell the story in a different way. To examine what would happen in one person’s situation where the adoptive parents had to find the original parents and how that interaction might go.
Pop Culture Principle – From initial concept to its release, how long did it take for you to get the film made?
Peyv Raz – It was only a 14-day hectic shoot in Las Vegas and Mexico but we had to split it up for Christmas break. Then about 3 months later after editing and post-production it was ready for release.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us the basic plot for the film Clarity?
Peyv Raz – The plot centers around 22 year old Maggie coming home from college to see her family. She suddenly collapses into a coma, and the doctors diagnose her with a genetic kidney disease. They discover that she is already in the end stage of the disease and must receive a kidney transplant from a family member which needs to be a perfect match.
Unknown to her and her siblings the truth comes out that she was illegally adopted from Mexico. WIth little time left her adoptive mother, who raised her for the last 20 years, must locate and convince her real mother to come and give up her kidney to save Maggie’s life.
Pop Culture Principle – The film features a stellar cast including Dina Meyer, Nadine Velazques and Tony Denison. Can you talk about working this the cast?
Peyv Raz – It was really a joy, a learning experience, and something I will never forget. I could talk forever about each one and how professional, talented, and seriously they took this small film. Sitting with each of them one by one and going over each days schedule and scenes was the most collaborative and rewarding experience as a director.
The respect and time they each put into each of their roles and how open they were to work together with a first-time feature film director was very surprising and I will forever be grateful for their talent, class, and commitment they made.
The film deals with some difficult subjects with one of them being human trafficking. What kind of research did you do on that subject for the film?
Peyv Raz – I read, then I read, and I read some more. I never realized how serious of a problem this is, and I think the part of it that really bothered me and does to this day is that it is such a large industry that is driven purely by the consumer. If there wasn’t a demand for slaves, there wouldn’t be the elaborate worldwide networks of human trafficking.
It makes you really look at the world and the people all around your communities differently. In the United States we are the largest consumers of this crime and you don’t know if there is a solution for it. Clarity is not as much a film about the problem of human trafficking on the large scope that it is, but more so a film about how many victims just one act of this travesty can consume.
Pop Culture Principle – Another important issue raised in the film is the issue of economic class. One family being rich and another family being poor. Can you talk a bit about its importance to the film Clarity?
Peyv Raz – This is the backbone of the entire theme of the film. I have been on both sides of this issue myself as my family had to flee Iran in 1979 from the revolution there. I was four years old and I don’t remember much but I do remember seeing the violence on the streets as we left our lives behind and went to Canada as refugees. I remember having a nice life there and initially living in a one bedroom apartment and sleeping on the floor in Canada.
I did not speak a word of English at the time and my parents had to start completely over in life. Go back to school and get their degrees again as there was a quiet racism as my parents degrees from Iranian Universities didn’t seem to count. I saw what financial struggle was like and having two parents sacrifice everything to give me and my brother a life. I then worked like an animal while others were partying in my youth to elevate myself in the financial services industry so I don’t have to go through that same struggle. I have learned a good deal by seeing what poverty looks like and what wealth looks like, I have seen the way many wealthy people view the poor and vice versa.
I can say that it is like we are living in two different realities, parallel universes. I tried as best I could to portray what I have seen and experienced in a subtle way in the film. I do believe very strongly that although it has been this way from the beginning of time, in today’s world your economic class has a strong bearing on your options and freedoms in life. I wonder how Clarity would be different if Maggie was the child of a poor family in another country, what recourse would that family have to save that child? Would they be able to easily find the original mother and fly them out to even have this interaction? I can say with all certainty money will not make you happy, however lack of it will limit your options in life, sometimes in the most important things.
Pop Culture Principle – There are some very heavy emotional scenes for the cast in Clarity. Can you talk a little about how you approached those scenes with your cast?
Peyv Raz – I was very fortunate that I had a great cast that was very open to direction, talking about the scenes and working it out. I have so much respect for Dina, Nadine, Dana and Lourdes. They had the most emotional (crying scenes), and I cannot tell you how difficult it is to get yourself to that place emotionally, to shoot the scene. Then just to have the director say, let’s do it again. Then move the camera and do it again. Start all over and get yourself to that emotional state and make it look believable. No matter how much you go over it with the actors, when the time comes to shoot it, they have to have the talent and emotional depth to pull it off. I was very fortunate to have a cast that was so prepared and focused on that heavy task.
Pop Culture Principle – With the subject matters explored in this film, has there been any controversy that you are aware of and did you expect any when the film was released?
Peyv Raz – I have not had any controversy, however, I have had a very unusual response to the film depending on the background and socioeconomic class of the viewer. When we screened it to a room full of economic middle class or lower audience they really connected with Nadine’s character and very emotional. Then without giving out much about the ending, I can say when I have shown it to an audience that would be considered upper class, they seemed to feel more for Dina’s role and feel her plight was uncalled for.
However, I have not received much feedback that would be controversial. The film originally showed in Spain and I had hundreds of messages to our Facebook page from people who saw the film there saying that they must know more about the ending so they can go on living their lives in peace, but that isn’t really a controversy.
Pop Culture Principle – How important has streaming services and video on demand been not only important to independent filmmakers but specifically for you and the film Clarity?
Peyv Raz – I think Netflix, Amazon, Youtube Red, Pongalo, Hulu, etc… Are crucial to independent filmmakers. WIthout them we would not have an outlet for these smaller films and audiences would never be exposed to as many of them. The world has changed and is changing, even more, every day. People are now watching movies/shows on their phones and tablets just as much as television. The audiences are growing for streaming services that outnumber traditional cable outlets and the choices are amazing.
The only problem that exists is that there are just so many choices now, that it is hard to even imagine how people can be made aware of a small film like Clarity. I guess then people such as yourself or podcasts and social media become even more crucial to get the word out about the film. I am amazed when anyone watches Clarity, even if they don’t like it I am so grateful that they even found it in the massive sea of content out there. Overall it is just the beginning of the new revenue sources created by these new streaming services and VOD, the future is exciting for someone like me that has so much content that I have written.
Pop Culture Principle – The ending to Clarity is one that many won’t see coming. Did you have the ending for the film already in your head from the beginning and did you intentionally leave it to the viewer to come to their own conclusion?
Peyv Raz – Well without talking too much about it, if you mean the last scene, that sort of took a form as I wrote the final version of the script. If you mean Carmen’s ultimate plan, that was the whole point of her going to America to meet the other family. It was the moment that most people never get a chance for in life, to confront someone who has wronged you so immeasurably. We all would react differently and I think if I give a hint early on the film of the type of complex person Carmen is in her interaction with the young Omar.
The ending though is more about the possibility of once there is clarity from the lies that people tell, there is a chance of peace. I didn’t anticipate how many people would talk about their theories of what happened. I find it fascinating and unexpected. However, I can say it has caused people to talk about it after the film is over, and that is a good thing. I don’t know how many times I have seen a film and the person I saw it with says, “So what did you think?”, and I would respond, ‘It was okay”, then we move on. I like that at least people are discussing what they think happened after the movie is over.
Pop Culture Principle – What messages, if any, would you like viewers to take away after watching Clarity?
Peyv Raz – I would hope they would take the message that the world is complex, and people are complex as well. You don’t really know people unless you have lived their lives, and we shouldn’t prejudge anyone. You never know what really goes on in the homes around your neighborhood, you never know who is a victim or a perpetrator of a horrible crime. You never know the next time you walk by someone that you see as an immigrant, what their story really is.
Could they be someone that is fleeing a potential war, death sentence, crime, or persecution that could one day be creating a job for you or your loved ones in this country? I think we are at this point in our country where people have decided that they know other people without ever taking the time to know them. That is very dangerous state of affairs, and I hope a small film like Clarity can at least get people to feel that living in truth and not judgments or preconceptions is the path to peace and happiness.
Pop Culture Principle – Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Peyv Raz – Yes, thanks for asking, I have two films that we are preparing to film in the next 12 months. The first one is called Possessions that we are aiming to start in November of this year in New England Studios outside of Boston. It is the first film of a trilogy and without saying too much about it, I feel it will be a supernatural thriller that most people have never seen. It is about the problem of extreme hoarders and like Clarity, it tells a much larger story starting in a very small way.
We are actually also releasing a graphic novel with the same name to start to share with the world this exciting mythology behind this epic story. The second film is a dark comedy called The Collapse, which we plan on filming in Las Vegas, which tells the story of a neighborhood during the housing collapse of 2006-2007 and the collapse of a man that lives in that neighborhood. We hope to be able to shoot that one in April/May 2018.
We’d like to thank Peyv Raz for taking time from his schedule to talk with us. We hope that you all take the time to find the film Clarity and watch. It is now available on VOD and DVD!
**Photos courtesy of Iadowr Films and Vision Films**