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Monkton film company releases its first feature-length movie

MONKTON — Jonnie and Jennifer Corcoran developed a passion for film when they were growing up. Their mother wrote, directed, shot and edited 8mm and 16mm films, as well as plays. She introduced her children to Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mister Magoo and, as they grew up in Italy, to the pantheon of iconic Italian filmmakers. 
Though their lives took them in other directions, the brother and sister maintained a love of movies and a fascination with moviemaking. Eventually, they decided make their dream of a movie production company a reality and founded Circeo Films.
“We never let go of the idea,” said Jonnie Corcoran, a Monkton resident. “In 2010, we agreed, it was time.”
Circeo, based in Monkton, recently released its first film, “She Sings to the Stars,” and it will screen in Middlebury at the Marquis Theater this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Jonnie Corcoran, who was producer of the film, and Jennifer Corcoran, who wrote and directed “She Sings to the Stars,” will do a question-and-answer session after each screening, which begin at 7 p.m. They will host a more extensive “Meet the Filmmakers” event at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the Southwestern Café in the Marquis Theater.
“She Sings to the Stars” offers a glimpse into an unknown America. It centers around three people: A Native American grandmother who lives alone in the desert without water, her half-Mexican grandson who is caught between life in modern Los Angeles and the traditions of the Native American world of his grandmother, and a down-on-his-luck magician who finds himself lost at her door.
Jennifer Corcoran said she met the grandmother character, “Mabel,” in a dream.
“She said, ‘It’s time to sing the song. Listen. It will take you four years,’” Jennifer recalled.
As preparation to write the script, she constructed three life-size, newspaper-stuffed dressed figures of the characters and listened. She and her brother assembled a cast, arranged to shoot the film at a location in the desert Southwest, and took the leap. Just as the dream predicted, the effort to complete the film took four years.
The idea that such a big project should grow out of a dream is not so unreasonable to Jennifer. She said in a director’s statement that as a young child she made a box with a hole in the top that let in light that fell on a piece of paper inside. She tied the box to her head when she slept in order to capture her dreams.
She notes that our culture has created a separation between “what we call magic, or the ‘impossible,’ and what we call reality, where there is none.”
Children don’t see the separation, she said.
“We knew this unequivocally as children. Everything was alive, interconnected and we existed in a continual state of reciprocity,” she says. “Indigenous cultures still know this.”
The Corcorans were quite pleased with the actors they got to play the three main roles.
Larry Cedar, who plays Lyle the magician, is best known for his role as “Leon” in the HBO series “Deadwood.” Jesus Mayorga, who plays the grandson, has appeared in “Breaking Bad” and “Sicario.” Fannie Loretto, who plays grandmother Mabel, is a first-time actress who rose to the occasion.
How’d they do?
“She Sings to the Stars” has been well-received at film festivals where it has screened, and Loretto has been nominated for awards three times by film festivals.
The film has been selected by the Montreal World Film Festival, Red Nation Film Festival (Los Angeles), Blow-up Arthouse Film Festival (Chicago), the Queens World Film Festival (New York), the American Indian Film Festival (San Francisco) and the Albuquerque Film and Music Experience (Albuquerque, N.M.). It earned the “Best Feature” award at the Toronto Independent Film Festival.
Well-known actor Sam Waterston, whom the Corcorans have known since he was at the Yale Drama School, was impressed with the film.
“It’s not an ordinary look at the world — you will find the images and the vision coming back to mind long after you’ve finished watching,” he said in a statement. “Watch it on the biggest screen you can get at: In this movie, the size of the night sky matters.”
This is the first in a series of films that Cicero Films has in the works. Jennifer describes the series as “about women and their relationship to the indefinable, what lies beyond the veil of enculturation.” They are already at work on the second  film, which they plan to film in 2018 in West Cork, Ireland, and hope to release in 2020.
The film company this week will launch a crowdfunding campaign on the Seed and Spark website to raise money to get “She Sings to the Stars” distributed. Head online to www.seedandspark.com/shesingstothestars to find out more. They say that getting a film broadly distributed can be quite a challenge given that only one out of every 250 films made gets wide distribution and seen by the general public.
Jonnie Corcoran, who is known locally as the executive director of the Addison County Relocalization Network, looks forward to getting this first Cicero film out to more audiences. But, he said, in many ways it is already a success.
“When we first started, we said to one another that, if we moved just one person in an audience, we will have succeeded.  And we have,” he said.
Editor’s note: The filmmakers asked that those who plan on coming to the Thursday “Meet the Filmmakers” event at 6 p.m. at the Southwestern Café in the Marquis, RSVP by Monday to [email protected] so they can be sure to have enough food.

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