rebuttle by filmmaker

May 20, 2005

Dear Jefferson County School Board

I am writing to express my deep disappointment at the school board’s decision to deny filming of “The Sensei” at the Alameda High School. Students, faculty, staff and the Principal himself were all very excited to have the project. Local businesses would profit and the local community would be wholly involved. So, the disappointment at your decision runs deep.

As far as I can tell, the reason for denying production lies with a concern about the portrayal of athletes and the issue of “bullying”. As a professional athlete, and one who has been on the front cover of many martial arts magazines (my husband Ron is a retired professional athlete and fighter as well), I am very sensitive to how “jocks” are portrayed. In this movie an athlete actually steps up to the plate, and supports the main character by reporting the assault while becoming a friend. Hard work went into creating a balanced representation. And while we understand that bullying is a problem in today’s schools, we felt that our production confronts the issue in a sensitive and intelligent manner, creating an affirmative message and setting up positive role models. If anyone on the school board would take the time to read the script, this would be quite clear.

I do understand that, after Columbine, there is some significant sensitivity. But my film bears no resemblance whatsoever to what happened in that tragedy. There are no guns, no cults, and no extreme violence. The Sensei is a movie about respect, tolerance and personal growth. A humanitarian film about AIDS could not and should not be confused with that sort of tragedy.

Speaking personally, I am extremely sensitive about this subject as it happened in my family's hometown of Stockton, California, at Cleveland Elementary. My family is made up primarily of teachers and educational administrators throughout Stockton's school district. We've been there for 4 generations. In fact, I was in town when this happened and I first hand saw families torn apart by the tragedy. As teachers, many members of my family dealt directly with the aftermath. Thus, it is very discouraging to me personally to hear my movie attached to this kind of tragedy.

My film deals with the different forms of prejudices related to the AIDS epidemic and the social climate of that time. The school board jumped to conclusions after seeing one storyboard in one scene from the movie (the locker room scene) in a 104-page script, blowing out of proportion how athletes are being portrayed in a way that has only a specious connection to Columbine. It is truly sad that the school board would deny a wonderful community like Lakewood, and a high school like Alameda, such a fantastic opportunity without doing their homework first.

Diana Lee Inosanto
Writer/Director of "The Sensei"

Tarik Heitmann / Ron Balicki
Producers of “The Sensei”

CC: Colorado Film Commission
Lakewood Film Commission
Mayor of Lakewood
Principal of Alameda High School