Verona Fonté Portfolio

Digital Media / Films & Animations

Verona has been working with digital media since mid 1990 when she decided to make a film about Dagestan, a region of the former Soviet Union, when she visited there with on a project with a former graduate student who worked with former Vietnam soldiers who had PTSD.
Below is a list of videos she has made over the years; some for non-profits through the organization she runs, Iris Arts and Education Group, some for other projects.
Gusein Magomaev is the "peaceful warrior in Dagestan is a Russian region where, in 1994, there were 36 tribal groups and 22 languages with 5 different linguistic roots. Historically the "warrior archetype" has predominated here and throughout the Caucasus. During a visit to Dagestan in 1994, before the region's first democratic elections, I found every man carried a weapon - but they did not take it out to use it unless there was a tribal issue at stake. As a nonviolent activist, I was interested in how and why Dagestan had avoided the violent upheavals that occurred with their neighbors in Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and Georgia after the break up of the Soviet Union. I also became interested in the work of Gusein Magomaev who had been the head coach for the National Karate team in the Soviet Union before martial arts were banned by the KGB. He and his wife, Olga moved from Moscow to his homeland in Dagestan and founded a school to teach children how to channel the aggressive impulses of the warrior archetype through martial arts and artistic expression. Children from all over the Soviet Union came to learn from him, and his student were consistently National champions in martial arts. I filmed initially in 1992 when on a trip with a nonprofit organization, Olympia Institute, supporting war veterans who had experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. I was able to film many of the upcoming leaders in Dagestan who planned to run for political office in the regions first democratic elections. I returned to Dagestan in 1996 with a well know cinematographer, John Knoop, filming many of these men, the sons of former tribal leaders, who now had political positions. We witnessed the impact democracy had had on a culture that had been unchanged for decades. This was the first film produced by Iris Arts with a budget of $5000 provided by Alan Slifka, who has contributed on a large scale to the peaceful co-existence movement. The final product was on video which was produced with the level of technology available to Iris Arts at the time.
This film was produced by the Ansel Adams Gallery and was shown at the Centennial Celebration and was shown at a gathering sponsored by Jeanne and Michael Adams in Yosemite in 2002. Produced by Iris Arts & Education Group. Director Verona Fonte, Cinematography Tom Bair, Editor Verona Fonte

The story behind this film......
Heyjin, a Buddhist monk in Seoul, Korea, met and supported the first “grandmother” to testify publicly about the plight of the “comfort” women, who were taken from their homes and forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during WWII. After this first testimony was made several hundred women contacted Heyjin about their forced sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese government during WW II. Many of the women were homeless and had struggled all those years to support themselves. Heyjin then helped develop a center for these women, The House of Sharing, which housed women who had no place to live. The women created a museum there to share the story of the comfort women with the world.
Heyjin asked these women what they wanted or needed. Many said they had never gone to school and they would like that experience. So Heyjin put an ad in a local paper for teachers, and among those who showed up was an art teacher. These grandmothers began to paint their experiences.
In 2000, Robert Levering made a business trip to Seoul, during which time he met Heyjin, who had been helping the comfort women since 1991. Heyjin wanted to bring the women’s artwork to the United States. Robert came home and called me up and asked if Iris Arts would be the fiscal sponsor for this project.
The story of Kim Duk Soon
In 2001, Heyjin and Soon Duk Kim, one of the former comfort women, now affectionately called “grandmother,” came to the United States to tour with their artwork. They had shows in New York, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. On the last night in San Francisco, they were here the curriculum development organization Facing History and Ourselves had a workshop for community teachers to show them how to use artwork, such as the comfort women’s, to teach history. In the middle of the workshop Soon Duk Kim went from painting to painting describing what the art reflected, as well as her experience as a young woman being taken from her home.
I followed her and filmed her tour of the gallery. About three months later, a representative from Facing History and Ourselves called to ask me if I would take an intern. My thought was to make a 90-second film for her class. But as I began reviewing the material, I became intrigued with how to tell this story in a way that the viewer could stay with it. I decided to use the comfort women’s artwork to tell the story of one woman, Soon Duk Kim; and to have the narrative follow her experience from being taken from her homeland, Korea during WW II, up to 2000 with her work as a global activist. She explained her motivation - so “this terrible thing will never happen to anyone again.”
This short designed and produced by Verona Fonte using the images of the artist Roman Llaguno from the province of Oaxaca in Mexico. The narrative was also written by Verona Fonte and is based on Roman's description of his life and work. All of the images in his paintings at the time Verona met him in 2004 were his family - his wife and children. And the dream sequence described in the beginning of the narrative is a repetitive dream Roman had. Roman's work was influenced by Marc Chagall and by his dreams.
THE MISRA YANTRA is one of the four distinct astronomical instruments of the Jantar Mantar observatory located in New Delhi, India.[1] Each instrument at the Jantar Mantar is a separate brilliant architectural constructed based on mathematical observation and help in calculating different aspects of celestial objects and time. It's widely believed that the Jantar Mantar was constructed in the year 1724. The four instruments of Jantar Mantar are Samrat Yantra (a large sundial for calculating time), Jay Prakash Yantra (2 concave hemispherical structures, used to ascertain the position of Sun and other heavenly bodies), Ram Yantra (2 large cylindrical structures with open top, used to measure the altitude of stars based on the latitude and the longitude on the earth) and the Misra Yantra (meaning Mixed Instrument, since it's a compilation of further 5 different instruments). The Misra or composite Yantra is composed of five different instruments. This Yantra is unique to the Delhi observatory. It is believed to have been constructed by Maharaja Madho Singh (1751–68), the son of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. The five component yantras are the Dakshinottara Bhitti, Samrat (a smaller version of the large sundial, attached to Misra Yantra, in two halves), Niyat Chakra, Karka Rasivalaya, and the Western Quadrant.
The Dakshinottara Bhitti was also built in the Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi and Mathura observatories. It is a modified version of the Portable Meridian Dial present in Greek, Arabic, Hindu and European systems of astronomy. The Dakshinottara Bhitti of the Misra Yantra is in the form of a graduated semicircle located on the Eastern Wall

The narrative of this video is a poem by Guadalupe Urbina. The visuals and soundtrack under Guadalupe's voice are created and edited by Verona Fonte. 
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