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‘Love, Kennedy,’ featuring Yvonne Bennett, premieres on Saipan

YVONNE Bennett, who is featured in “Love, Kennedy,” was on Saipan for its local premiere at the Regal Theatre on Sunday.

Bennett played one of Kennedy’s friends, Lexi Velasquez.

“Love, Kennedy” is a film based on the life of 16-year-old Kennedy Hansen who had to deal with the debilitating Batten disease. The movie is about her legacy of love and friendship. She passed away in 2014.

Bennett, who was here to celebrate Thanksgiving with her parents, Ambrose and Lillian, said she went through a long period of preparation before landing a role in the film.

“It started in Boise, Idaho. After graduation, I looked back and saw everything that I had accomplished, and forward to the things I wanted to pursue as well. I wanted to go into acting. So I did some research, I looked for an agency. I took classes for two and a half years before I landed this role. There’s a lot of training, going to auditions, going to modeling classes. There’s a lot of prep work that I had to do,” she said in an interview.

Bennett said she was invited to audition for “Love, Kennedy” by one of the directors she worked with an acting workshop she attended.

“I went to the audition. Two weeks later I was told that I had gotten the part. It was quite a journey.”

Bennett said although the film was her first, she has also done commercials and modeling.

In the movie, she said, one of her biggest challenges was “to bring the needed emotions.”

“One day we had to shoot all of my scenes. I had to show heavy emotions. The challenge was to do justice to the film. But that was also the most rewarding because it was such a joy to know that you told the story right. The fact that they [the Hansen family] approved it meant more to me than what the producer or the director thought.”

The film was shot in Utah. While filming, she made friends with the Hansen family. “They took me under their wing. They became my parents on set. They are really nice, sweet people.”

As for the production staff, Bennett said she was comfortable working with them. “There was a lot of singing and joking. It was a great experience. It was almost not working because we were having such a good time.”

Bennett said Kennedy’s life inspired her. “She never let her illness define who she was. She is an inspiration to me. She created a huge impact on everyone. This is more than just a movie.”

Bennett was born on Guam but raised on Saipan. She graduated from Kagman High School and attended Northern Marianas College for a year before moving to Boise, Idaho and then to Utah.

She is scheduled to shoot a horror movie early next year.

Bennett said she knew she wanted to be an actress when she was 11 or 12 years old. “I was watching a film for kids. At the end the movie, the kids shared their experiences in an interview. I asked my parents how I could get to be in the movies. They said I had to work hard and do some acting workshops. I didn’t pursue it until college,” she said. “It was one of the most terrifying decisions I’ve ever made.”

Bennett’s parents thanked Gov. Ralph Torres, first lady Diann Torres and the Women’s Affairs Office for bringing their daughter back home. Yvonne had been away from home for five years, her parents said.

“We are excited about her. I am happy that she and her sisters are pursuing what we taught them — to be themselves and to focus on their goals,” Lillian said. “The sky’s the limit. Reach for whatever it is they want in life.”

Ambrose said “we always encouraged them to pursue their dreams.”

In a separate interview, the governor said the film was “really touching — it makes you really appreciate life. It means a lot when you have kids. We have to appreciate life and thank God for what we have.”

He thanked the Women’s Affairs Office and Lady Diann Torres Foundation for bringing Yvonne back to her home island for Thanksgiving and for the local premiere of the movie.

“When you have success like this, you want to embrace it. Everybody has a dream and she is trying to make it come true step by step.”

First lady Diann Torres said Yvonne’s example shows that “dreams do come true.”

“Even if you come from a small island you can make it big out there. If you have a dream, try to reach for it. That is what Yvonne did. We need to build self-esteem among our young women. That’s why I’m supporting her. She goes out there and is inspiring other young people. I think everybody can take the next step — think big.”

Miss Marianas Peachy Quitugua said the movie was “beautiful and was really touching.”

“Love comes first, stay positive and just live your life to the fullest even in a negative situation,” she added.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/100391-love-kennedy-featuring-yvonne-bennett-premieres-on-saipan

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