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Article by Winnie Czulinski for "The Bulletin" Toronto Newspaper 2009 Flipbook PDF

An article exploring the work, themes, experience and issues of Toronto filmmaker and actress Tijuana Layne.






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21 Dec 2010

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Biracial filmmaker overcomes obstacles By Winnie Czulinski Print this story

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A woman searches for love, compassion and integrity, while answering the needs of sexual addiction. Viewers were riveted to these film images unfolding on the wall of Parkdale gallery Culturshoc one night recently. But filmmaker, director, and west Downtown resident Tijuana Layne, who plays lead in her short film “Need,” stayed in the back of the darkened gallery. “I was feeling everything. Every single moment of it was painful. In it, I had to go to a place that was so dark. But one woman Tijuana Layne said that for her the (character’s) switching back and forth between a position of power and control, and of vulnerability, was a standout.”

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In her other short film screened that night, “The Weight of Tradition,” Layne is a dancer, and a bride corseted for a ritual marriage. Using elements from different religious cultures, the film explores how traditions symbolize the burdens of a controlled society. “It’s the first time a biracial woman is viewed in that kind of storyline,” says Layne of both films. Thoughout her life, Layne, 34, has presented subject matter like sexual and gender issues, sexual abuse, oppression and racism. “I’ve always gone outside the box and created films with a vision of how those who are unique are seen.” “In The Name Of Love” is an erotic story of a woman’s sexual journey through S&M and intimacy. In Layne’s new film “Love Me,” three woman of colour deal with identity and sexual morality. She is producer of “Sad Eyes,” a story of a mixed African heritage woman caught between grief, love and the brutality of the human trafficking trade. But acting, writing and producing to empower the marginalized was not Layne’s youthful vision. Originally from Arizona, she found herself, at a gifted-kids’ camp, taking theatre/stage instruction because the visual arts program she wanted was full up. At 21, she had her own theatre company with 40 members and also had roles in over 50 major stage productions, in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle. “But I was also told, ‘We don’t care how much talent you have—you’re not the right type. You’re not white and you’re not black, so you’re invisible and you must remain invisible.’” Layne disagreed. She also become aware of addiction and other issues. She worked with New Beginnings, an organization for battered women and their children, and with Local Access, a theatre troupe with a program on domestic violence and child abuse. “That whole time I was with those companies educated me, on how sexual abuse can happen, how power imbalance happens. This was a lesson in reality in front of me.” Layne also was realizing she was a film, not a stage, actor. She came to Vancouver seven years ago, doing jobs like a spot on The X-Files TV series. In 2004, she founded her film company, Three Eagles Productions. But Layne says she found the male-dominated industry in Toronto clique-ish. She was told she was too ethnic. With her film “Need,” she says, “I really felt I understood that woman and her sadness. I even wrote a journal of this character.” Layne also spent a lot of time at Toronto Reference Library, to clinically understand sex addiction and the traumas often behind it. “But the script happened first, before I did my research. That’s what’s interesting, to find out that what I had written was actually factual and that I just intuitively understood.” In her own life, a bad rental situation including carbon monoxide poisoning, sexual harassment and violence, led to another education. Layne found herself living in a women’s shelter for a week. “I saw all these situations —how women were treated, how they were thrown away—that most people, especially the politicians, don’t see. I was privileged to see that. That’s why I’m committed to doing these films in a certain way, in a realistic way. Not as documentaries, but in a way that people can relate to, because I’ve been there.” Of Layne’s new feature-length screenplays, “Blind Embrace” is the story of a mixed black heritage woman’s journey of self-discovery and healing, from an abusive relationship with a younger Caucasian man, through the passion of the tango. Her partner is an African man, brought into an ad agency to take a higher position over a Canadian man. “Swimming in Vanilla Dreams” is set in a futuristic world in which being of mixed race is illegal. “It talks about what hate and fear does within society. Fear of immigration, fear of ‘the other.’” Layne says that in her film career she’s seen male film editors edit her films to present the women within as simply victims. She’s had her filmwork stolen and reclaimed it. She’s also fired several film directors. Her belief in not compromising and not backing down has been played out many times since one dark night years ago, when, “with pigtails and braces,” she drove off a would-be attacker. She’ll pull people off the street if they’re the right ones to help her achieve her film goals. Her filmwork also has been optioned and distributed. “It’s the old Malcolm X thing,” says Layne. “By any means necessary is how these films were done. Not illegally, but any means necessary through the one vision. “I never went to film school. But by doing, we give ourselves exposure, and by learning to do this, we find ways to get it out there.” Culturshoc Gallery, 1205 Queen St. W., is screening Layne’s films “Need” and “Love Me” on Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. It’s also a silent auction fundraiser for Three Eagles Productions. Visit or 2009-11-08 16:08:09 Home | Archive | Calendars | About us | Advertise | Contact us | Login | Join | Shopping

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