Kevin Hamedani (on right in photo) is a filmmaker who is both brave and a bit crazy. While touring the country's film festivals with his first indie feature, Zombies of Mass Destruction, he got the bright idea to make and star in a comedic film about film festivals. Even after one of his closest friends told him, "It's really good but you're screwed because festivals won't show it," Hamedani finished it. And, as predicted, Junk was rejected quickly by one of the nation's largest film festivals.
But none of this is surprising if you know anything about the man or his films. Zombies of Mass Destruction was inspired by the sudden flameout in 2006 of evangelist Ted Haggard who was alleged to have paid a male masseuse for sex and drugs. Hamedani had been struggling with the script for Zombies when the scandal broke. "I thought it was disturbing but hilarious," he recalls, "What if I made the film about a gay guy who comes out to his zombie mom?" The priest in the film is named Ted Haggis, a nod to the plot line's inspiration.
So how does a second generation Iranian-American growing up in Washington state become a bona fide filmmaker in LA? Hamedani likely has it in his genes. His father, a restaurateur in Washington state, was an actor/singer before he emigrated to the U.S. in 1978. And when it became clear that his middle son was obsessed with films, the senior Hamedani pointed his 12 year old to the Godfather films. Kevin's mother is a makeup artist who did the makeup for the cast of Junk.
Kevin explains his route to filmmaking this way: "I was one of those seven year old kids who just knew. I grabbed a camera and started filming everything. I made my first feature in high school. But no one will ever see it because it's too bad." He was a fan of John Cassavetes, but realized quickly that he didn't have the gravitas to make films with dark storylines at such an early age. He majored in cinema studies at the University of Washington and watched films when he wasn't in class.
His all-time favorite film is The Godfather: Part 2 because, he says, "I like big epic Shakespearean films and small nuanced human interactions. There are only a few films that do that well and The Godfather 2 is one of them."
Junk will be released in March in Los Angeles and Seattle, and will then be available for purchase. It is a witty and entertaining film co-starring Hamedani and his friend and collaborator Ramon Isao. Kevin is proud of it. "It is a story about friendships, working together with a partner, and it's for people who want to have a good time. It is a love letter to B films." It is also a film about film festivals, with action and wit, and music by OK Go. While it was not uniformly welcomed by film festival programmers, it won the Audience Award at the 2012 Austin Film Festival. This despite the comment by the programmer at another festival: "This is a really good film but you made us very uncomfortable."
Only 30 years old, Kevin Hamedani has decades to reach the heights of Cassavetes or Coppola. In the meantime, he is driven to write and direct and network with Hollywood's other young filmmakers. But no matter how high he ascends, he vows that his mother will continue to do makeup for his actors and his father's restaurant will have a cameo in his films.