From visionary new director Arvi Raghu and starring Christian James (Hell Fest, Nashville), Alexis Lemire (The Half of It) and acclaimed actor James Russo (Django Unchained, Beverly Hills Cop), Cerebrum is released today in its 4th edition. May 2021 available on call.
To make ends meet, Tom signs up as a guinea pig in a home lab, but when he commits a crime he can’t remember, he has to risk his own sanity to find out the truth.
Starring John Ruby (Justified) and Aniruda Pisharody (Goldbergs), Cerbroom will be released on the 25th. April at the 54th Annual World Festival in Houston.
Hello. Where do you live now?
I lived in Houston for over twenty years. It’s a house.
And that’s where you were born?
South India is my birthplace. I grew up there until I was twenty-one before moving to the United States.
Is that where you started your career?
Yes, I began my career as an engineer and filmmaker in Houston.
I was about to be inducted into the Geek Hall of Fame until, by a happy coincidence, movie fever overtook me. The graduate school required that I take a minimum number of credit hours to qualify for the tuition waiver. One semester there were no required courses in computer science, so I enrolled in a theater course. What started as a stopgap measure became a lifelong interest. Several private courses followed in Los Angeles and Austin. After acting in several short films and feature films, I fell in love with the technique of filmmaking and started making short films. They led to my first feature film, Cerebrum.
Well made movies make us laugh, cry, fear and hate. They are cinematic spas where we go to relax and heal. Developing a small idea in my head into a form that can influence others is a source of pride and humility for which I am very grateful.
What was your first project?
My first project was the short film Neighbours, which I wrote and directed with a friend. We filmed it with a mini DV camera and used a built-in microphone. It was awful. But making these experimental shorts has been a great experience, and I’ve learned a lot from each one. Cerebrum is my first feature film.
How do you think you’ve changed as a director since then?
My approach to the script has changed considerably. I used to start filming every script I made immediately, without letting it develop and mature – a process that took space and time….. and revisions! I analyze the theme, pace and perspective of the audience. I also let other people write, edit, vfx, etc., whereas before I was rarely relieved of tasks. This experience taught me the power of co-creation. In my early years, I was an arrogant, bossy know-it-all.
Have you noticed that the industry has changed a lot since the beginning?
Absolutely. When I started, producing a feature film was already a big deal. Seeing his film on the big screen meant everything. The landscape is very different now. Anyone with a camera can record a feature film and distribute it via streaming services. It’s good and bad. The good thing about this movie is that it is democratized; it is not limited to the rich. It’s bad enough that our little screens are filled with clichéd and repetitive movies. Like any other consumer-oriented industry, the new business model for the film industry will take care of itself.
What is the Cerebrum?
Cerebrum is a science fiction thriller about a man who volunteers to test a new memory transfer technology. When he commits a crime he doesn’t remember, he risks his sanity to find out the truth.
The film is made up of three phases.
The first level is science fiction: a man invents a cure for Alzheimer’s disease by digitally copying a person’s memory and reproducing it on demand.
The second level is a thriller – the main character commits a crime he doesn’t remember, he has to rely on his questionable memory to figure out why he committed the crime.
The third layer – the deepest – follows the divorced father and son in their healing process.
The subtlety and suggestion of the niche between the layers throughout the film.
Lots of research on the subject?
Of course it is. Our memory chip – a half-dollar-sized disk we call Little Noggin – is based on a real memory chip called Superman Crystal, which can store 360 TB of data. I have exchanged emails with a researcher who is currently working on this technology. I also consulted neuroscience references for information on memory, brain circuits, neuroplasticity, etc. What legitimizes the ability to save, I tried to find and read.
What did your actors bring to the characters that wasn’t on the paper?
I have two words for you, James Russo. He introduces Dr. Kirk Davis, the inventor of brain memory transfer technology. I had imagined him as a mild-mannered nerd – an urban scientist who moved to the country – but Mr. B. is a very different person. Rousseau created a Texas grater with a brain designed for revolutionary science. It was a pretty brilliant dichotomy. Viewers who have seen his portrayal of Kirk Davis cannot imagine the character any other way. James Russo delivered a memorable performance in this film.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on some ideas. Surprise, these are science fiction concepts. One concept close to my heart is dystopian time travel. Once I have the plot worked out, I can start on the script. I’m really looking forward to the next big challenge.