by Rika Ohara


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Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872) preceded Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 25 years and inspired the latter. My new film,Carmilla, places Le Fanu’s female vampire against the backdrop of historical conflict between the East and the West, and finds the origin of the popular myth in racial and cultural fears that shaped our culture.

Having come to the U.S. in 1980 and observed expressions of xenophobia during the “trade war with Japan,” I have focused on the East-West conflict as the subject matter of my work in performance, installation and film. While researching my performance piece Tokyo Rose (1993-95), I learned that the phrase “Yellow Peril” was first used by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1895. This made me realize that there is an older, deeper fear of “the Orient,” an abstraction that stretches from Vienna to Tokyo and which represents everything the Occident is not.

In the age of AIDS, the vampire has been widely accepted as a symbol of the Black Death, itself a result of Europe’s contact with its neighbors to the east and south. The fact that the vampires’ prototype is found in the folklore of the Balkans –– the geographical bridge between Asia and Europe –– led me to suspect that the “evil” had a human face after all. A meeting with a Transylvanian Saxon woman who was interned in a Soviet labor camp after WWII moved me to expand the definition of the East to include the Cold War period to the present.

Le Fanu’s protagonist prefers same-sex victims and pursues them with erotic fervor. The lesbian overtones of Carmillaheightened the character’s “otherness” to its Victorian readers. I chose to focus on Carmilla over Dracula because her gender and sexuality make her a personification of “The Other” the West has defined itself against. The Orient of my Carmilla is dark and feminine; with Carmilla, I continue my exploration of the history and evolution of negative female figures that symbolize age-old fears of the foreign, defined by gender and race.

In 2012, I was able to complete the screenplay and exhibit two video installations thanks to fellowships from the City of Los Angeles. The film’s Facebook page (, also begun in 2012, is gaining momentum, now reaching 25,000 people weekly.

This year, I want to shoot several episodic scenes that anchor the narrative in history and suggest the visual scope of the film –– including the “Mata Hari’s dance” scene and the “Harem” scene with E.W. Lane, the Orientalist and translator of One Thousand and One Nights. Your tax-deductible donation will not only pay for the purchase, rental and/or fabrication of the costumes and props, but will also pay for my time to complete the CG Harem set and produce a series of concept sketches. 

In case of over-funding, we can begin production on the “Maria Tanase” scene, with music by Mia Doi Todd; additional funds can also help me in my October 2013 residency at Bucharest AIR.

Match Funds are not currently available.

Previous donations matched by:

    • March 28, 2013 Rika Ohara Artist

      Thank you for visiting this page. We have less than five days to go - and we are getting there! Please be sure to click on the "Updates" and watch my Campaign Video #2, too!

    • March 25, 2013 Rika Ohara Artist

      1,866 page views!? Fantastic! Can we take it to $2,500 today!? I have updated my "thank & brag" page to accommodate the growing Horde: It's been a profoundly humbling experience: to know that this project is being funded by REAL PEOPLE. Getting public funding always made me renew my commitment, but this time, more so - by about 5000%.

    • March 05, 2013 Rika Ohara Artist

      Thanks to you - Isabel, Derrick, Chad, Rex, Oliver, Sara, Sorina, Patrick, Sophia and Thomas - the project has reached 10% of its fundraising goal. And now: 1+1 match fund is available! Which means: If someone contributes $10, it becomes $20, $25 becomes $50 and so on. Spread the word! Love, Rika

    • February 22, 2013 Rika Ohara Artist

      Dear Isabel, Oliver, Sophia, Rex & Chad, Thank you all for contributing. I realize that the only way for me to send a "Thank you" note to some of you is through here! The campaign has already been an amazing experience. I just couldn't wait to set up this "campaign page" on my website to thank you. Thanks again, XX Rika