The Secrets of Medea // Oakland Tribune

Dave Newhouse: Oakland film director anxious to ‘roll’
By Dave Newhouse
Oakland Tribune columnist
Posted: 06/26/2011 12:00:00 AM PDT


Feeling identical to a certain movie classic, Daniel Julien will always have Paris, the city of his youth, and where he envisioned becoming a film director.

But unlike Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca,” Julien is longing to return to Paris — to finish his latest, and biggest, film project.

There’s just one holdup. Julien is currently waiting on investments at his Oakland hills home in order to complete the movie. He’s hoping to leave this fall for Paris and Morocco, where the final scenes of the movie will be shot.

“Until you have the checks in the bank, it’s a matter of sticking with it,” said Julien, 64. “Hopefully, it will happen.”

His movie project, “The Secrets of Medea,” stemmed from a book interview he heard on radio in 2009. After contacting the author, they agreed to share the film-writing.

The plot is about Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s, when Islamic extremists kidnapped 40,000 women. Some of them were killed, while others were raped or kept as concubines.

Julien’s movie will focus on a young schoolteacher who lived in Medea, Algeria, who was kidnapped but survived. It’s a true account, and a few scenes already have been shot by Julien’s company, Swift Productions.

This isn’t Julien’s first film about Algeria, however.

After majoring in Russian at a suburban Paris university, he received a grant in the early 1970s to study in Russia, only at a Moscow film institute, where he focused on making films — certain kinds of films.

“The students were very cautious, knowing which films they couldn’t broach,” he said of then-Soviet Russia.

He later entered film school in Paris and did a documentary about an Algerian man killed by police in Versailles. An Algerian movie director was impressed by Julien’s work and hired him, at 24, to be his assistant.

That was 40 years ago. There have been detours and delays since, but Julien has managed to keep his cinematic dreams alive.

After meeting his wife, Melissa, who’s a Californian, he moved to Oakland in 1980. He started a student exchange program in 1988 that took him through most of the ’90s.

Then someone who worked for him as a coordinator became the subject of a documentary he produced and directed several years ago.

Miya Rodolfo-Sioson was among six University of Iowa students shot on campus by a graduate student in 1991. She was the only one to survive, but as a quadriplegic who then helped other disabled people as an activist — before dying of breast cancer.

Her documentary, “Miya of the Quiet Strength,” was accepted at various film festivals and shown on Bay Area television for five weeks last fall.

Julien recently rejected an investment offer for “The Secrets of Medea” that would have meant surrendering his film entirely to another entity.

He has made some progress on the film. His 40 actors are in place, as well as the extras and technicians. Julien has scouted locations in Morocco and Paris. His objective: to shoot 18 days in Morocco and 12 days in Paris.

He’s also planning distribution of a movie that isn’t yet filmed — ah, the precarious life of movie directors who aren’t Steven Spielberg.

But after the filming and six months of editing is over, Julien, with fingers crossed, hopes his film will be released by July 2012 — the 50th anniversary of Algeria’s independence.

“The perfect springboard,” he said.

More information about his film is available at

Julien has other film projects in mind, but he’s in no rush.

“The good thing about this profession: There is no retirement age,” he said, citing the careers of directors John Huston and Clint Eastwood. “If you do it as a passion, you can do it until you die.”

It’s easier, of course, to have every investor in place.