Popular dramatic movie “Love Kennedy,” premieres in Saipan

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YVONNE Bennett, one of the actresses at ‘Love, Kennedy’ graced the premiere showing of the film at the Regal Theater on Sunday. She played one of Kennedy’s friends Lexi Velasquez.

Love, Kennedy is a film based on the life of 16-year-old Kennedy Hansen who is dealing with debilitating Juvenile Batten Disease. The story is about her legacy of love and friendship.
Bennett, who was here to celebrate Thanksgiving with her parents – Ambrose and Lillian, said she had gone through a long journey before landing a role in the film.

“It started in Boise, Idaho. After graduation, I looked back and see everything that I have accomplished and the things I want to pursue as well. I want to go into acting. So I did my research, I looked for an agency. I did start taking classes. I took classes for two and a half years before I even 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 have been doing,” she said in an interview.

Yvonne Bennett plays Lexi Velasquez in ‘Love, Kennedy.’ Photo © Lyn Lirio

Bennett said she was invited for audition for ‘Love, Kennedy’ by one of the directors that she worked with in one of her acting workshops.

“I went to the audition. Two weeks later I was told that I got the part at ‘Love, Kennedy’. It was quite a journey,” she said.

Bennett said the film was her first movie. She had done commercials and modeling in the past. She confessed that one of her biggest challenge was “to bring the emotions needed in the film.”

“One of the days it was all of my scenes. I had to film all of the heavy emotions. The challenge is to bring those emotions to do justice for the film. But that was also the most rewarding because having to do it right for the family and is such a joy to know that you told the story right. The fact that they approved it meant more to me than what the producer or the director though. It was their [Hansen] story and they were there,” she said.

The film was shot in Utah. While filming, she made friends with the Hansen family.

“They took me under their wings. They became my parents on set. They are really nice and sweet people.”

On working with production staff, Bennett said she was comfortable working with them.

“There was a lot of singing, joking. It was a great experience. It is almost not working because you are having such as good time,” she recalled.

While filming, Bennett confessed that Kennedy’s life became her inspiration.

“Kennedy – she never let her define who she was. She is an inspiration to me as well. She just created a huge impact to everyone. This is more than just a movie. Through this movie, I made new friends and family out of that.”

Bennett was born in Guam but raised on Saipan. She graduated high school at Kagman High School. She attended a year at the Northern Marianas College and then transferred to Boise, Idaho and then moved to Utah.

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

On becoming an actress Bennett said she knew she wanted to be an actress when she was 11 or 12 years old.

“I was watching a kid film. At the end the movie, my sisters and I were watching special feature interviewing the kids – sharing their experiences. I asked my parents how to be in the movie. They said I have to work hard and do some acting workshops. I didn’t pursue until college,” she said.
She continued her education and sports.

“It was one of the terrifying decisions [to finally pursue her acting.]”

Gov. Ralph Torres, First lady Diann and family with Yvonne Bennet’s family at the Regal Threater during the premiere showing of Love, Kennedy. Photo © Lyn Lirio

Bennett’s parents thanked Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, First lady Diann Torres and Women’s Affairs Office for bringing their daughter back home. They said she has been away from home for five years.

“We are over excited about her. I am that they are pursuing what we taught them – to be themselves and to focus on the goal,” Lillian said.

“Sky is the limit. Reach for whatever they want in life,” she added.

Ambrose said he was astounded with her daughter’s achievement but he was not surprised because “we always encourage them to pursue their dreams.”

About the film In an interview, the governor said the film was good.

“It was really touching. It makes you really appreciate life. It means a lot when you have kids and you never know what happens in 10 years. Appreciate life and thank God for what you have,” he said, adding he held his tears.

“I want to thank the Women’s Affairs and Lady Diann Torres foundation for bringing Yvonne back during the holiday.

“When you have success like this outside, you want to emphasize it, and you want to embrace it. Everybody has dreams, she did step by step. We have her support,” the governor said.

Lady Diann Torres said Yvonne Bennett’s accomplishment is a message that “dreams do come true.”

“Even if you come from a small island like Saipan, Tinian or Rota, you can make it big out there.”

“If you have a dream, try to go out and reach for that. I think that is what Yvonne did. In this case, we need to build self esteem amongst young women. I’m supporting her. She goes out and inspire young people. I think everybody can do that next step to go and went out and think big,” she said.

For Ms. Marianas Peachy Quitugua said the movie was beautiful and was really touching.

“Love comes first, positive thinking, just live your life to the fullest even in negative situation,” Quitugua said.

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