Thursday, May 11, 2006

Harry Burrus Has Gone from Winning Tennis Championships To Writing Poetry Books To Directing And Producing the Movie 'Marrakech'

When I grow up, I want to be like Harry Burrus.

I mean, Burrus has been a tennis professional and a tennis champion in Iowa.

He's a poet who has written seven books and helped out on others.

He's the writer, director and producer of the movie "Marrakech."

He has already written 1,200 or 1,300 pages of a novel.

He wants to write a children's book.

If you're wondering what Burrus, 61, does in his spare time, he's planning a move from Houston, Texas, to Mexico with his wife, Megan.

"San Miguel would be the place," Burrus said. "It's in a state north of Mexico City. What I like about San Miguel is that there are so many writers, painters and so forth. It's an interesting environment.

"When I'm in Mexico, I'm going to be doing the same thing I do here -- trying to make films."

I got to know Burrus when he was a young man and I still thought I was a young man.

He was playing tennis -- and playing well -- in places like Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Burlington and Keokuk, and I was producing stories about him in an earlier writing life.

"I haven't hit a tennis ball since 2000," Burrus told me the other day. "That surprises me. It's mostly because of my priorities. We spent a lot of time with the movie, and it's still taking time. I didn't feel right going out to play tennis. So I'm in a dormant period.

"Maybe I'll be like a volcano and erupt again. Tennis has always been such a big part of my life -- at least until the last six years."

Burrus attended graduate school at the University of Iowa in 1970-71, then was the tennis professional at old Racquet Club West in Des Moines from 1973-77. He has degrees in film, dramatic arts and poetry.

For a while, Burrus spelled his first name Hari because his late father's name was also Harry.

Indeed, on the cover of one of his early poetry books -- "I Do Not Sleep With Strangers -- Confessions of a Tennis Pro" -- his name is spelled Hari Burrus.

Burrus mailed that book to me a number of years ago, and the thing that immediately got my attention was that the photograph on the cover was of several women lying on a beach.

And they weren't wearing much clothing -- at least not on the tops of their bodies.

Burrus' other books include "Bouquet;" "A Game of Rules;" "Without Feathers;" "For Deposit Only;" "the Jaguar Portfolio;" and "Cartouche." He has also co-edited with Peter Gravis of Black Tie Press "American Poetry Confronts the 1990's."

Copies of all of them arrived in my mail a while back. Thanks, Harry.

Burrus' movie, "Marrakech," is called "a contemporary, independent feature film....In a riveting, fractured narrative, newlyweds Arden and Sierra Cole return from their honeymoon in Mexico are stalked by a killer who believes they witnessed his crime.

"He befriends them, and then, in an evil game of manipulation and cunning, applying 21st-century technology, the killer sets out to erase any memory they might have of the event...."

Burrus said the movie has been cut from 2 hours to 90 minutes -- "98 with credits" --and "it's going to the [upcoming] Cannes film markets."

Included in the cast is a character named Calla, whose role is played by Ruth Mirelly Osuna [left].

Osuna says working on the film was a pleasure. In publicity for the movie, she said:

"I would love to work with Harry Burrus again because he is extremely respectful of everyone on the set, and has the patience of 1,000 men. When all is chaotic, Harry walks around like world peace has just hit....."

[Burrus and Osuna are pictured at the top].

Calla is described as someone "who amuses herself, and fascinates others, with exotic self-portraits and veil dancing [right]. [She] yearns to escape from Texas to Marrakech. She lives with Ned Prime, a smooth wealthy Texan who is enticed by her, but cannot possess her."

Burrus said he doesn't appear in the movie.

"I wrote the script, wrote the screenplay, directed the movie and I'm one of the producers," he said. "We hired the people, the crew, the casting. Megan took care of the legal contracts. She's a lawyer, and helped a lot with the film.

"Megan suggested that I should be like Hitchcock and be in the film. I didn't do it."

Alfred Hitchcock was the movie genius who often made cameo appearances in his films.