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Synopsis

Over seven decades, actor and activist George Takei boldly journeyed from a WWII internment camp, to the helm of the starship Enterprise, to the daily news feeds of five million Facebook fans. Join George and his husband Brad on this star's playful and profound trek for life, liberty, and love.

George Takei


Photo Courtesy of George Takei

Best known for playing Sulu on the original Star Trek TV series and six movies that followed, George Takei is unlikely social media royalty. Unofficially dubbed the King of Facebook, he counts over 5 million fans in his online empire — including Trekkies, Howard Stern listeners, and the LGBTQ community — who devour his quirky mix of kitten jokes, Star Trek references, heartfelt messages, and sci-fi/fantasy memes. An outspoken advocate for civil rights, Takei has used his unmistakable baritone in several satiric PSAs, including one in response to Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill that encourages viewers to say, "It’s OK to be Takei." His current projects include the musical Allegiance, drawn from his experience of growing up in Japanese American internment camps during World War II, and the recently published Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet.

Filmmakers

DIRECTOR JENNIFER M. KROOT directed the documentary, feature IT CAME FROM KUCHAR about the legendary underground filmmaking twins George and Mike Kuchar, which premiered at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival and won Best Documentary at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and Boston Underground Film Festival.

Jennifer also wrote, directed and starred in the gender bending, sci-fi, narrative feature SIRENS OF THE 23RD CENTURY (Frameline 2003). She has received grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation, Creative Work Fund, Frameline, the Pacific Pioneer Fund, California Civil Liberties Public Education Program and the Fleishhacker Foundation. Kroot is a Bay Area native and studied film at The San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), where she now teaches film. She has been a guest lecturer at Stanford and Denver University.

EDITOR / CO-DIRECTOR BILL WEBER is a San Francisco based documentary editor. He directed and edited the documentary feature THE COCKETTES which premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and 2002 Berlinale. Bill co-directed and edited the documentary feature WE WERE HERE, which played at the 2011 Sundance and Berlinale festivals.

Bill recently edited THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR, which premiered in 2013 at the Telluride Film Festival and the Oscar nominated documentary short film, THE FINAL INCH. He also edited the award winning documentaries LAST LETTERS HOME and THE ALZHEIMER'S PROJECT amongst other projects.

PRODUCERS GERRY KIM & MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM formed Dodgeville Films to produce humanistic narrative and documentary films. They are in post-production with the feature documentary FAREWELL, FERRIS WHEEL – an ITVS and LPB funded exploration of the H2B migrant work visa and the American carnival industry, and the romantic drama DENIZ SEVIYESI - funded by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. They are currently in development on NANCY, a narrative feature project directed by Christina Choe. NANCY was recently selected as one of twelve finalists for Venice Film Festival's Biennale College Cinema Program and participated in IFP's Emerging Storyteller's section.

Gerry produced the documentary THE HOUSE OF SUH, which premiered at the 2010 Hot Docs Film Festival, and aired on MSNBC in July of 2011. SUH won the Masters Series award for Non-Fiction at the 2012 CINE Awards.

Mayuran’s screenwriting and producing debut, THE GIRL IS IN TROUBLE was Executive Produced by Spike Lee and premiered at the 2012 Urban World Festival.

Gerry and Mayuran received MFA's from Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program, where they won the Arthur Krim Memorial Award for excellence in producing. Their work has been supported by the SYFY Imagine Greater Award, the Princess Grace Foundation and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship.

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY CHRIS MILLION received a 2004 Northern California Emmy for the PBS historical documentary RETURN TO THE VALLEY, about Japanese Americans returning to the Santa Clara Valley and the California Central Coast after the internment. He shot and produced segments for all eight years of the Emmy-winning PBS educational show REAL SCIENCE! His broadcast credits include programs for ABC, Fox Sports, History Channel, A&E and interviews ranging from Baseball Hall of Famers to Presidents. Chris was Director of Photography on the 2009 feature documentary IT CAME FROM KUCHAR. Chris is also the Director of Photography/Co-Producer of the forthcoming documentary WITH YOU: THE MARK BINGHAM STORY. Chris has a BS in Film from Syracuse University.

COMPOSER MICHAEL HEARST is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer. His film scores include Magic Camp, The House of Suh, Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger, and The Good Mother. Hearst is co-founder of the band One Ring Zero, which has released nine albums. As a solo artist, his projects include Songs For Unusual Creatures and Songs For Ice Cream Trucks. He is also the author of the books Unusual Creatures and Extraordinary People.

Variety Sundance Film Review: ‘To Be Takei’

Apr 24, 2014 / Gerry Kim

Jennifer Kroot's documentary deftly showcases the many roles played by George Takei.


Ronnie Scheib

A unique blend of camp and conviction, “To Be Takei” deftly showcases George Takei’s eclectic personality and wildly disparate achievements, from “Star Trek” crewmate to gay-rights activist. Arguably more famous as himself than he was as Sulu, Takei goes from Comic-Con conventions to Congressional hearings, with stints as Howard Stern’s announcer in between. As with her delirious 2009 documentary “It Came From Kuchar,” director Jennifer Kroot grants her subject’s past and present endeavors equal vitality, effortlessly jumping backward and forward, and creating an alternate continuity that owes little to straight-ahead chronology. Results should wow auds of various persuasions. 

Kroot’s task is simplified by the fact that Takei’s activities at any given point incorporate earlier incarnations. On the simplest level, his role as Sulu in the original “Star Trek” TV series leads to his reprisal of the part on the bigscreen. Kroot briefly interviews fellow cast members, including a typically phlegmatic Leonard Nimoy and considerably more enthusiastic cohorts Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig. But by far the most amusing moments arise from William Shatner’s denial of friendship with Takei and his obvious discomfort with Takei’s homosexuality. It’s unclear whether it was Takei’s or Kroot’s idea to interpolate a veritable gallery of pornographic Internet artwork imagining Shatner and Nimoy locked in homoerotic clinches. 

On a deeper level, Takei’s childhood years in desolate internment camps during WWII and his family’s loss of their home, business and savings (Kroot supplies archival photos of the prison-like barracks and the hateful graffiti greeting Japanese-Americans upon their release) becomes the topic of Takei’s college lectures, his testimony before Congressional redress committees and a Broadway-bound musical called “Allegiance.” Likewise, his crusade for ethnic equality fuels his fight for gay rights after he triumphantly emerges from the closet in 2005. Ever one for self-reinvention, he now sees his Facebook followers numbering in the millions. 

Although Kroot structures her film around Takei, her focus is dual: Takei’s partner of 25 years, Brad Altman (or “Brad Takei,” as he has been known since their marriage, introduced as such in the opening credits) shows up in virtually every scene. A complementary part of Takei’s private and professional life (George as idealist, Brad as pragmatic worrier), he helps to give the picture its peculiar give-and-take rhythm. Thus Takei’s gigs at Comic-Con, where he signs autographs at $35 a pop, represent anything but a sad comedown, functioning instead as an object lesson in relationship interdependence: Acknowledging the camera, stage manager Brad sheepishly stuffs bills into his fanny pack, leaving a smiling George to exude charm to faithful fans. 

Throughout, Kroot blends in a plethora of well-chosen clips from Takei’s neverending career, from his first, promising TV appearance on the prestigious “Playhouse 90” (in an episode entitled “Made in Japan”) to his less expansive if not downright stereotypical movie roles in “Green Berets” or “Which Way to the Front,” as well as smallscreen standbys like “Perry Mason” or “Mission: Impossible.” Paradoxically, his career really caught fire after he came out, with guest shots on “Will and Grace,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “The Apprentice”; famously, he and Brad pioneered same-sex coupling on “The Newlywed Game.”  For sheer entertainment, however, nothing can top Kroot’s inclusion of campy “Star Trek” excerpts as Takei, impressively bare-chested, manically wields a fencing foil or fearfully edges away from an alien femme fatale bent on seduction.

AIN'T IT COOL NEWS REVIEW

Apr 24, 2014 / Michael

January 20th, 2014

My parents came from a generation that didn’t have much tolerance for gay men and women. It may or may not have been intentional on their part, but they did their best to raise me to be a homophobe. They were both highly educated, and highly intelligent people. They were world travelers, students of history, frequented cultural centers all over the globe, and generally loving and generous. My father was even a straight ticket 80s Democrat, and my mother in her teens fought on the side of integration in a small Texas town in the 60s… yet they both taught me that “most gay people were turned that way by being molested as a child, and are most likely molesters themselves.” They also heavily subscribed to the “biblical abomination” theory, but would never go as far to say that any harm should come to gay people. They were just to be avoided in your personal life. 

The topic came up a lot in my family because I always asked why we never saw my father’s brother. They explained to me that they didn’t trust him around us kids, because he was gay. My parents didn’t say these things with any kind of hateful stereotypical redneck malice, to them it was a scientific, or at least cultural, fact that homosexuals were not only “sexual deviants”, but most likely deviants in general, and not to be associated with. They were… not like us. 

It wasn’t until college that I realized how much of this wrong headed thinking towards homosexuals they had managed to pass on to me on a subconscious level. I was a pretty cynical kid, so I never quite bought into their theories about gay men and women being molested/molesters, but I realized that I was severely shielded from any gay culture or images of loving gay couples my entire young life. It was to the point that well into my early 20s I still sort of internally cringed when I’d see two men kiss- but couldn't articulate why I had that reaction, or even why that was something I should work on. I had no ill will towards gay people at all, but I also didn't give much thought to their plight or my own inherited bigotries. 

Of course, by the time I was in my mid 20s, I had thought about it and had made friends with enough people that were gay to realize that even having that internal “cringe” was a bigotry I needed to squash. It didn't match up to my conscious thoughts on equal rights (which I was in favor of), or even the way I felt about my friends that were gay. It was a tumor that had to be actively removed with reasonable thought, self awareness, logic, and compassion. The biggest part of that was seeing gay culture start to emerge in TV and movies, and start bringing the ideas of normalcy and commonality to gay orientation and gay couples (something I think a lot of anti-gay movement people are very afraid of… if it becomes normal, then their bigotry becomes the abnormal). 

That’s what I loved most about TO BE TAKEI. It shows George and his husband Brad Takei in a very NORMAL marriage. They don’t try to sugar coat it or show the perfect version of their marriage. It has love, passion, but also little spats and disagreements that can get quite messy emotionally. It’s not “gay” marriage, it’s just marriage. That picture of commonness is very important for people that were raised to be homophobes, like me, to be exposed to. It opens up the mind and makes you actively question the premise of why these fellow humans were meant to be shunned or restricted in the first place. 

The movie is also as funny and charming as Mr Takei’s Facebook feed. For anyone that follows him there, you know how entertaining his daily muses can be. In this movie we get a behind the scenes look at where that insight and humor springs from. George Takei has faced hardships beyond most of our comprehension, from having to endure Japanese-American internment camps as an adolescent after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to fighting Asian stereotypes in Hollywood roles, to having to hide his sexual orientation for the majority of his working career, and, of course, working with William Shatner (who comes off as the biggest jerk in the world in his interviews for the movie… still, I love Captain Kirk.) He faced all of these challenges with humor and the personal motto of rejecting negativity in his life. It’s all very uplifting and inspiring. 

I do have to wonder what would have happened if Takei had decided to come out a little earlier in his career. I was a huge Trek fan as a child in the 80s, and to have one of the crew of the Enterprise come out as gay might have made me question my parents a little more. Perhaps even been an earlier advocate in my life for equal rights for homosexuals. Still, I can’t blame him for that. He even questions his own timing and if he should have done it earlier, but realizes that if he had, he wouldn't have been in the public light as much now to be such a strong advocate when history was ready to shift to the side of the righteous on this issue. 

I highly recommend seeking this documentary out for anyone that is a Takei fan, a Trek fan, and for people that still need a dose of seeing a loving gay couple as normal and deserving of the same respect and rights we all should be able to enjoy.

Starz Digital Beams Up George Takei Documentary

Apr 03, 2014 / Michael

STARZ DIGITAL MEDIA NETS RIGHTS TO THE FILM TO BE TAKEI

A 2014 Sundance Film Festival Premiere That Explores the Life and Career of Pop-Culture Icon George Takei

AUSTIN, TX –– Heading into the annual SXSW festival, Starz Digital Media has snagged the rights to the film, To Be Takei.  The documentary about pop-culture icon George Takei premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was directed by Jennifer M. Kroot (It Came from Kuchar).  The company has acquired all rights for U.S. and Canada.  The company will distribute with a theatrical release planned for 2014.  The announcement was made today by Kevin Kasha, Head of Acquisitions for Starz. 

“George has become a true icon who gracefully moves from comic conventions to Congressional hearings,” commented Kasha.  “To Be Takei takes us into George’s life in a witty, familiar and delightful way.  Starz is pleased to share his inspiring story with audiences.”

“We’re extremely thrilled to partner with Starz Digital Media on To Be Takei,” said Kroot on behalf of the filmmaking team. “They understand and embrace George’s diverse audience and we know that the film is in great hands.”

To Be Takei is an entertaining and moving look at the many roles played by eclectic 76-year-old actor/activist George Takei whose wit, humor and grace has allowed him to become an internationally beloved figure and internet phenomenon with over 6-million Facebook likes. It balances unprecedented access to the day-to-day life of George and his husband/business partner Brad Takei with George's fascinating personal journey, from his childhood in a Japanese American internment camp, to his iconic and groundbreaking role as Sulu on “Star Trek,” to his current gig as “Official Announcer” of “The Howard Stern Show.”  The film shows what it truly means To Be Takei.

To Be Takei features interviews with “Star Trek’s” William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig, as well as journalist Dan Savage and popular radio host Howard Stern.  The film is a Rainbow Shooting Star Pictures and Dodgeville Films production and was directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, edited and co-directed by Bill Weber and produced by Gerry Kim & Mayuran Tiruchelvam. The deal was negotiated for the filmmakers by Josh Braun, David Koh and Dan Braun of Submarine Entertainment and attorney Lisa Callif of Donaldson + Callif.

TO BE TAKEI is Going to Park City!

Apr 03, 2014 / Michael

FROM VARIETY.COM

By Justin Chang

An unusually strong international flavor pervades the Sundance Film Festival’s Premieres slate, with new pictures from British helmer Michael Winterbottom, Irish directors Lenny Abrahamson and John Michael McDonagh, Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn, Welsh-born action maven Gareth Evans and Iranian-born French auteur Marjane Satrapi figuring prominently among the 17 world-premiere titles unveiled today alongside the Documentary Premieres section.

SEE ALSO: Sundance Unveils 2014 Competition, Next Lineups

For director of programming Trevor Groth, the flowering of international auteur talent in Premieres is the result of a considered effort that began shortly after he and fest director John Cooper launched their first edition in 2010. While their immediate focus was on beefing up the dramatic competition as a showcase for new filmmakers, broader international outreach across all sections of the festival became a similar priority.

“I think we’ve really built the dramatic competition up in a way that it’s firing at the level we always hoped it would,” Groth said. “In the last couple of years, we’ve wanted to extend beyond that and let people know Sundance can be a place to launch new films from more established filmmakers. Internationally, it’s really world-class.”

Cooper added that despite their international provenance, these filmmakers should expect an informed and intelligent reception from audiences in Park City, Utah. “American audiences have knowledge of their work; young audiences have knowledge of their work,” he said. “It’s fascinating that they’re seeing what the festival can do for them.”

SEE ALSO: Sundance Announces Midnight, New Frontier, Spotlight Films

As the festival’s highest-profile program and an annual hotbed of distributor interest, Premieres should continue to see plenty of star wattage from a full panoply of actors including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, Elizabeth Banks, Steve Coogan, Paul Rudd, Ryan Reynolds, Shailene Woodley, Michael Shannon, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.

Reynolds stars in Satrapi’s dark, surreal-sounding “The Voices,” about a young man with two talking pets, while Woodley stars in “White Bird in a Blizzard,” the latest effort directed by Gregg Araki, a Sundance veteran (“The Living End,” “Splendor,” “Smiley Face”). Winterbottom, another Park City regular who was previously in Premieres with this year’s “The Look of Love,” is back with “The Trip to Italy,” a sequel to 2010′s foodie-funnymen crowd-pleaser “The Trip.” Speaking of sequels: “The Raid 2,” Gareth Evans’ ambitious follow-up to his 2012 Sundance hit “The Raid: Redemption,” should be one of the festival’s hottest tickets, particularly among hardcore genre fans.

Both “The Trip to Italy” (IFC) and “The Raid 2″ (Sony Classics) will arrive at Sundance with distribution already in place, along with David Wain’s romantic-comedy spoof “They Came Together” and Corbijn’s John le Carre adaptation “A Most Wanted Man,” both of which are being released in the U.S. by Lionsgate.

That leaves 13 Premieres titles still in the hunt for distribution, among them two films from screen actors making their directorial debuts: “Hits,” a comedy about fame in the viral-video era from David Cross, and “Rudderless,” a story of grief and rock ‘n’ roll helmed and co-written by William H. Macy, starring Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin. “Rudderless” has been selected as the festival’s closing-night film.

A number of directors represented in Premieres have had films in past Sundance competition slates, including McDonagh, who made a splash with 2011′s World Cinema entry “The Guard” and returns with another Brendan Gleeson vehicle, “Calvary.” Mike Cahill, whose “Another Earth” was in the 2011 dramatic competition, is back with another science-fiction-flavored tale starring Brit Marling, “I Origins.”

Ira Sachs, who competed two years ago with “Keep the Lights On,” makes his Premieres debut with another gay New York romance, “Love Is Strange,” starring Lithgow and Molina as a longtime couple. Lynn Shelton, who competed at Sundance earlier this year with “Touchy Feely,” will bring her latest effort, “Laggies,” starring Keira Knightley and Sam Rockwell. And Jordan Vogt-Roberts (whose “The Kings of Summer” premiered at the most recent Sundance festival as “Toy’s House”) heads in another direction with “Nick Offerman: American Ham,” a taping of the popular comedian’s one-man show.

Eleven nonfiction titles will make their debuts in Documentary Premieres, which, like Premieres, is chockablock with Park City veterans including “Paradise Lost” trilogy helmer Joe Berlinger, back with “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger”; Steve James, returning with “Life Itself,” a profile of the late Roger Ebert; Alex Gibney with “Finding Fela,” about the Nigerian musician and human-rights activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti; and Amir Bar-Lev with “Happy Valley,” an inquiry into the Penn State sex-abuse scandal.

In addition to “Life Itself,” two personality-focused pics likely to generate particular audience and buyer interest are Greg Whiteley’s “Mitt,” which was filmed during Mitt Romney’s failed presidential run, and Jennifer Kroot’s “To Be Takei,” about “Star Trek” thesp and human-rights activist George Takei. Cooper noted that Chapman and Maclain Way’s “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” about the rise of the Portland Mavericks, was one of two strong baseball-themed docs in the 2014 selection, the other being the U.S. docu competition entry “No No: A Dockumentary.”

The 30th annual Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 16-26.

PUBLICITY CONTACT: Shannon Treusch • Falco Ink • (212) 445-7100 • shannontreusch [at] falcoink.com

SALES AGENT CONTACT: Josh Braun • Submarine Entertainment • 212.625.1410 • info [at] submarine.com

FILM FESTIVAL BOOKING: Jeffrey Winter • Film Collaborative • 323.207.8321 • jeffrey [at] thefilmcollaborative.org

GENERAL CONTACT: tobetakei [at] gmail.com • info [at] dodgevillefilms.com

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