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Professor Chris White’s short film, ‘Mud Lotus,’ opens to DePauw

Published: Friday, November 8, 2013

Updated: Friday, November 8, 2013 00:11

mud lotus 11.8.13

HOANG NGUYEN / THE DEPAUW

Associate professor of English Chris White, Nuwang, Adam Tran and Ron Dye answer questions during the Mud Lotus panel Thursday evening in the Union Building Ballroom.

Associate English professor Chris White’s short film “Mud Lotus” opened to a nearly full Union Building Ballroom on Thursday night, just two weeks after it was revealed at the New Hampshire Film Festival.

This 23-minute film, produced by professors White and Jonathan Nichols-Pethick was shown to students and faculty and was followed by a question and answer session that lasted nearly an hour.

The film, which follows a Tibetan monk in search of the reincarnation of his late teacher, was set entirely in Putnam County. Audience member and English professor Joe Heithaus was particularly drawn to the landscape scenes.

“I was looking at certain scenes, and just thinking, ‘This is beautiful’” he said.

White followed this with a story of the film’s time at the New Hampshire Film Festival.“People kept coming up to me and saying, ‘Wow, I had no idea Indiana was so beautiful,’” she said.

Certain scenes were shot in the St. Andrews Episcopal Church and the indoor scenes were set in the home of the Parkers, a local family.

Many DePauw professors, faculty and students were involved in production. When Nichols-Pethick asked audience members who had been involved in the film to stand for a final round of applause, approximately ten people stood.

The film began as a full-length play written by White and when the project began, the plan was to use this summer to create a trailer, which would later be followed by a feature film.

“Then partway through we decided we really wanted something that was finished and that we could hold in our hands, instead of something that was leading to something else,” White explained.

In order to make this happen, White had to cut the screenplay from 85 pages to 23.

“It was a big rewrite,” she said.

Even once the script had been cut to 23 pages, more cuts were made in the editing room.

“The film got even shorter in the editing. There were many scenes we shot that had to be cut,” said associate professor of English and Communication and Theatre Ron Dye, who played one of the four characters in “Mud Lotus.”

A quiet and appreciative question and answer session was given an edge when first-year Midori Kawaue entered the ballroom.

“I didn’t actually see the film, but a few of my friends are Buddhists and they left really offended that there was a monk drinking alcohol and hitting people,” she said.

Adam Tran, another actor in the film, defended the controversial moments in the film when a monk takes a sip of alcohol and hits a man with a stick.

“You have to understand he wasn’t getting drunk and beating people up, it wasn’t meant offensively,” Tran said.

White, a Buddhist herself, also explained her motivation behind these scenes.

“I think he took a small sip because he wanted to accept her offer of hospitality, and so he chose to take a drink in that moment.”

In a way, this moment is key to the film as a whole for White.

“There’s this beautiful thing that grows from this very difficult thing and not only can it grow from it, but the mud is essential for the beautiful flower to grow.” 

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