AFI DALLAS – Cool Ass Short Films (Round Two)

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 26, 2009

Okay, I figured it’s time to roll out another handful of short films that we will screen at AFI DALLAS this year. Once again, none of these have been announced – so you are getting the scoop on the pending coolness headed for the NorthPark Center or the cozy confines of the Magnolia Theater. They are each great, great stuff that I am excited to chat up throughout the film festival.

However, before I do that I want to put something out there I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

A lot.

Here it is:

I want to see a Geico ad where a bunch of homeless people tear that stack of bills with the eyes-thing apart like a bunch of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD zombies. Just tearing it apart and gorging themselves on the dollars as they stagger mindlessly into a 7-11 and buy those cheap burritos or something.

Why do I so desperately want to see this? Because it would make me happy, that’s why. And it would be a fitting coda to an insufferable tune that has played for way too long.

I write this because I thought it important to give some more context into what I personally enjoy seeing onscreen, where my mind goes, what delights it and what would make sense to me in a wonderful world of my own making. Because, let’s face it – if I’m singing the praises of films I want you to see and filmmakers I think we should all keep an eye out, then you need to know where I’m coming from.

So, here we go…

First up, we have a trio of films that played at Sundance. I wrote about them at that time, but they are worth bringing up again:

I LIVE IN THE WOODS
Max Winston’s animated short film is candy-coated ultra-violence courtesy of a mad hillbilly muppet guy who goes on an unbridled homicidal and graphic rampage. It’s fun (to me), clever, has a ton of take no prisoners attitude and has no qualms – not a moment of hesitation – to add some very over-the-top animated gore to the proceedings. The movie really upset these two horrified old ladies sitting behind me at the screening. This, of course, only added to my enjoyment because few things irritate me more than people sitting their butt down for a film they have no business watching and then blaming everyone but themselves for their error in judgement – not to mention passive aggressively trying to ruin it for those sitting near them.

Last year, we played the drama SAVAGE GRACE starring Julianne Moore. That is a tough film with some…how shall we say this politely…? ADULT scenes. And we told everyone, we did the disclaimers, damn near put brown paper wrapping on the door going into the theater. And what happens? Some doofus takes some teenage girls to the screening because it’s a Julianne Moore movie and then is shocked! Shocked, I tell you! When Julianne’s mother character really goes the extra mile to help her son with his uhmmm…tension. And, naturally this is the kind of guy that fires off e-mails to board members and uncles in high places and so on trying to make an example of everyone but the lame-ass he sees in the mirror each morning. Oh, delightful axe grinder with too much time on your hands…

Maybe I’ll send a copy of Max’s little ditty to him. Might make him smile.

FROM BURGER IT CAME
Another animated winner, Dominic Bisignano’s little film is food for the funny bone. In it, we follow the first person recounting of a young man who believes he has contracted AIDS by eating a hamburger someone has left behind. It is twisted logic rooted in naiveté that only gets more confounding and ridiculous as he winds his way through the tale. I will also say there are hints of Dimetri Martin both in form and delivery and for anyone who is a fan of martin’s I know I’ve got you now… Anyway, for me there are few things better than crazy logic teaming up with crazy animation. And this is as fine an example of that as you’re gonna get.

TREEVENGE
How can I succinctly put the joy that is Jason Eisner’s short film, TREEVENGE? How about this: A copy of it goes in my DVD library at home. (Which I hope he’ll be cool with…) I love it and I’ll watch it again and show it to friends at all of those fabulous parties I convince myself I’ll host someday.

Let me set the scene for you: A pristine field of evergreen trees faces an onslaught of violence from cruel, evil men wielding axes and chain saws. It’s a horrible scene of torture and slaughter and the trees don’t understand. (We know this, because their horrified peeps and squeaks are translated via subtitles.) Then they’re taken to Christmas tree lots and separated from their friends and family where ignorant and insensitive humans pay money to the cruel men, take them away and put them in their houses. Ultimately, they’re forced to wear gaudy decorations on their branches as the humans blissfully go about their bizarre holiday ceremonies. Eventually, of course, they exact their…wait for it…TREEVENGE. In every violent and gory way imaginable, it’s great.

THE ISLAND
This is the third film in three years we have had at AFI FEST and AFI DALLAS from Canadian filmmaker Trevor Anderson, following ROCK POCKETS and CARPET DIEM. And by this point, I almost feel as if an AFI film festival without one of his films is like a day without gay sunshine.

Because he is smart, droll, funny, whimsical and charmingly smart-assed in a very sweet way. And this is his best short film yet. Basically Trevor takes a gay-baiting hate e-mail suggesting that he and all the other gay men should just congregate on an island somewhere and give each other AIDS.

So what does he do? He dreams up a scenario where maybe that’s a good idea – that is if the island and life there is of his own colorful and fanciful making. And this is literally a lemons into lemon-AIDS tale. Accomplished is the filmmaker that can take you for a trip into the way his mind works in such a way that you want to schedule next year’s vacation there too. And now, I’ll be looking forward to the next one…

RIP AND THE PREACHER
Michael Lennox’s drama RIP AND THE PREACHER is seven minutes of intensity. It’s simple and direct and all I will say about it here is that an Irish temper and a loaded gun are maybe not the best things to have on hand for a theological discussion. Although if you put a six shooter between Rick Warren and Rob Sherman and allowed Michael Cimino to direct the proceedings that could be the best pay-per-view event ever.

If one of ‘em was Irish, that is.

In the meantime, this film will do nicely.

KATE WAKES
A product of AFI’s fantastic Directing Workshop for Women, Jasmine Kosovic’s mini-romantic comedy is a charming portrait in economy. We meet the title character as she awakens to the reality that her wedding has been called off and yet life must continue. However, possibly that awkward life might be put off by immersing herself in work helping supervise the mundane paperwork reorganization of a company’s merger. That is until she meets her counterpart for the other company (played by Adam Goldberg). The two meet cute and then proceed to find themselves drawn into their own merger in as low-key and slow burn a way as it gets. I like films that “show” versus “tell” and this one does that very well.

Ironically, the film reminded me of an unfortunate date I had with an aspiring female screenwriter years ago who informed me that every romantic comedy HAD TO HAVE a dance scene in it. She was convinced there was no debating this. Because it was a rule and I should’ve known about it. Apparently everyone else knew about this rule but me. If you had a romantic comedy without a dance scene I think there had to be an asterisk after the title because it didn’t really count. This will be of great surprise, but a lot of mocking ensued.

And there was no second date.

I bring this up because in all of her economy of writing and direction, Jasmine worked in a dance scene of sorts in her 17-minute movie. Which means that she managed to cover all of her romantic bases and there will be no need for an asterisk or a call of complaint to the ridiculous section of the WGA.

Whew.

Random Oscar thoughts as the night progressed…

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 23, 2009

THE RED CARPET….

Funny couples moment that wasn’t even a Hollywood couples moment with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick when it became obvious during their response to the E! interviewer that she picked out his clothes for the night.

E!’s Giuliana squeals like an idiot upon seeing Brangelina. Really? (pause) Really?

I’m thinking that possibly the toughest thing about Loki’s passing (Mickey Rourke’s dog) is it throws into doubt who will accept the Oscar for Heath Ledger.

I feel for all the guests of stars on the red carpet who get directed off-camera to get out of the interview shot.

Okay, I’ve heard Kate Winslet’s story about her son’s speech advice twice in 5 minutes now. Time to put that little chestnut away…

Now I have reached critical mass with Mickey Rourke and the Loki memorial.

Diane Lane and Josh Brolin – that is some Hollywood Royalty the way it SHOULD be played. Style…mutual support…sharing the right perspective…

I’m enjoying Miley Cyrus blatantly campaigning (and sounding like she expects) to be nominated for her damn HANNAH MONTANA movie next year. Oh, country mouse…


AND THEN THE SHOW BEGINS…

Wait a minute – Is this Supporting Actress thing is like a Skull & Bones initiation ceremony? Will there be hazing involved – like paddling? Because that would be hot.

I have to think that Dustin Lance Black’s acceptance speech for Screenplay just scared the crap out of the hard core red staters. “How can we demonize that?”

The Art Direction winners stand at a little table thingy – looking like they’re at an awkward singles mixer.

Wait a second – Did they make Pattinson and Seyfried present from the “kids’ microphone”?

I’m having very happy thoughts about not having to do a post mortem on one of Ben Stiller’s award show bits at IDPR the next day. “It was funny, right? People seemed to think it was funny, don’t you think? What did your friends think? He picked the right idea. I mean, the TWILIGHT idea was funny too, but the Joaquin thing was better. Right? Okay, get him on the phone…”

Okay, if I had a lot of extra fabric for Jessica Biel’s dress, where would I put it? Uhmm..not there.

Damn, that Holocaust thing even works for short films at the Oscars.

Now we get the big “musicals are back!” number. And I have to think THIS is how middle America likes its gay!

However, does Beyonce HAVE to be the default for these things…?

After each one of these Supporting Actor “a speech from your peers” things, I expect the presenter to say, “You can go now.”

Jerry Lewis proves humanitarian mettle by giving a mercifully brief speech. Think about it – he easily could have done the buck toothed gag or the water glass in the mouth bit or launched into a few versus of his Muscular Dystrophy theme song/ So – thank you – and bring on the commercial break.

They’re rolling out the documentary nominees and people around the country are thinking, “Do I have to watch these movies – like homework or something? I mean, not one of ‘em has a wise cracking panda or adventurous French mouse or even a romantic robot…”

And, courtesy of Mr. MAN ON WIRE, we suddenly have the Cirque de Soleil.

The audience was trying to figure what the titles were for the foreign films after that confusing presentation. Then the winner’s announced and they went wha..?!

Time for the Best Song performances – Hey, is there gonna be a musical rumble here?

I swear this is like YOU GOT SERVED Indian-style!

To this day, Reese Witherspoon opens her mouth and I see and hear ‘Tracy Flick’ from ELECTION. And it scares me just a little.

Danny Boyle wins, does some ‘Tigger’ jumps for his kids and then compliments the production of the show during his moment. He’s like a goodwill juggernaut.

The Best Actress presentations…

Face Off #1: Angelina Jolie can’t help but think that she has more kids than Nicole Kidman – so she wins!

Face Off #2: Dude, I think there’s gonna be a throwdown between Sophia Loren and Meryl Streep…

It’s cool that Robert Garlock got shout outs from both Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz tonight. He was a publicist who was a good guy. One I really only knew peripherally and yet knew very well of his reputation for old fashioned and basic decency. Because it’s rare in personal PR.

Sean Penn wins and is eloquent yet pointed. He is self aware, but he’s not going to back down from the haters.

Finally, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE wins it’s last award – but only because there are no more left to give out. But wasn’t that little movie supposed to go straight to DVD…? Wha.. happened?

If there is one thing I know after watching the show tonight, it is this: Meryl Streep has received 15 nominations. I know this because it was repeated so often, I thought there was a promotion somewhere, like “Tell us how many nominations Meryl Streep has received and get a free Oscar Taco or Oscar Meyer Oscar Weiner Oscar Hot Dog” or something. And in the words of Kate Winslet, “You’ll just have to suck it up, Meryl.”

At least until next year – and nomination number 16.

Don’t expect me to just kiss its Palme d’Or-winning ass.

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 22, 2009

So the new D Magazine (March issue) just came out. D Magazine is the equivalent to Los Angeles Magazine (for those of you in L.A). Thematic pieces about the city it hails from, trends, social press with pictures of what happened the previous month and tons of restaurant ads, lawyer listings, and other essential stuff from their editors and publishes point of view about the city.

Anyway, in the front of the magazine there is a big’ol feature with full-page photo of James Faust and Sarah Harris. Now, I knew it was happening because I helped coordinate it, but….nice. Sometimes, the results of what we’re trying to do live up to the hopes you had for it in the first place. And while it felt like it kinda landed in my lap, there was still some pursuit and romancing of that magazine for a good couple of years to do this particular piece.

Fortunately, the editors and writers (in this case, Eric Celeste), while having to defend themselves against countless e-mails and pitches, etc. still manage to take the time to put stuff into context and respond and write accordingly. And it all worked out this time. Of course, you’re thinking, “Well, duh – they did an AFI DALLAS feature. Of course, you’re all about D Magazine now.”

Well, maybe you should slow down a little and not get ahead of me. See – here’s the deal: Originally, they were going to just do the feature on James. Which mind you, still would have been great except for this: We already had another feature due out on James in another magazine. And when you factor in the fact that the Texas Black Film Festival just honored him and he recently made a trip to the White House on behalf of AFI DALLAS, 2009 has already been showing Faust-About-Town a lot of well-deserved love.

And the truth is – those two are a true team. Yes, James is the Director of Programming and is clearly the leader, but if Sarah went down in a hail of crossfire at the hands of some rogue filmmaking storm troopers, then so would his protective programming force field. (and that imagery was all for James’ benefit, just so you know).

And to Eric’s credit, he understood that and decided to adjust his approach on the story. But here is the point I took so long to get to: I believe they are a great programming team because they argue with each other about the films they are considering and you can argue with them. They have opinions about the films they like and program and they’ll let each other and you know about it.

But here’s the best part – they don’t freak out if you disagree. And they’ll debate. Real debate. They won’t pull that crap about you having to love every damn film they program just because you’re one of the AFI DALLAS family. Because they’re bright enough and self-aware enough to know that will never happen. Certainly not with me. Now – to put this in the proper context – I absolutely can appreciate every film they program. Just as I can for AFI FEST, IFFLA, Lone Star and the Feel Good Film Festival. I can understand the merits of the filmmaker’s work, I can get behind the reasoning for the spot it is taking in the schedule, the politics that are sometimes involved, and how it all comes together as a greater whole.

But love everything? It’s bad enough nudging up against that “flak” description with this job; if I start edging toward “shill” then I descend into loathsome ‘Peter Keating’ territory from The Fountainhead. I think being tough on that is vital to me having any kind of authority to deliver the message on why people should come to the film festival or see the films I’m singing the praises of. Because, you have to be able to trust what I’m saying. Not that you’ll necessarily agree with me – but you will at the least be able to respect where it is coming from. Otherwise I’m another asshole flak just pushing product.

And that would be gross.

Two years ago, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the critically acclaimed 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS. I understood where the praise was coming from, and it certainly was no mystery why it was a great film for us to have at AFI FEST that year. But it didn’t “do it” for me. Appreciating isn’t the same as liking. But, let’s just say there was a lot of “concern” that I didn’t want to automatically give the film a big wet smacker on its Palme d’Or-winning ass. And my response at the time was to challenge someone to justify it beyond a rubber stamp of what Cannes had done. Eventually, that did happen, but not until a month after the festival was over – during a conversation with Artistic Director Rose Kuo and her husband, screenwriter and scary-smart cinephile Larry Gross. And it was that compelling argument on behalf of the film and response to what hadn’t worked for me that put the film and my expectations as an audience member in a more appreciative perspective.

The inspiration for this thought is the fact that I have been particularly relentless about one of the films Sarah and James programmed for this year. And rather than give me a “just because” or use another festival as a not-to-be debated-with seal of approval, Sarah stood her ground and got the best of me in the deliberations. The jury would have easily ruled in her favor. And I would’ve had to pay the court fees too. AND I will be much better equipped to argue on behalf of that film myself now because of it.

And that filmmaker is lucky to have her on their side.

IFFLA Wine Tasting Luncheon at Malibu Family Wines on March 15

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 20, 2009

The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA)
and Wells Fargo Present

A “Wine-Tasting Luncheon” at Malibu Family Wines
with Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat on March 15

WHAT:    The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) will team with Wells Fargo to host Bollywood star Mallika Sherawat at a special wine tasting luncheon and fundraising event at the Malibu Family Wines vineyard on Sunday, March 15, 2009.

Located at the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, the event will feature a guided tour of the Malibu Family Wines vineyard, wine tasting, celebrity auction, sumptuous meal prepared by IFFLA caterer Chakra Cuisine, dance performances, celebrity live auction, and a sneak peak at the films on tap for IFFLA 2009.

Guests will experience reserve varietals of Malibu Family Wines, tour areas that are routinely off-limits to the public and meet Bollywood star Mallika Sherawat (MURDER, PYAAR KE SIDE EFFECTS), as well as Rupak Ginn (THE CHEETAH GIRLS: ONE WORLD), Vik Sahay (NBC’s CHUCK), and others in an intimate setting.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

Guided tour of Malibu Family Wines: The 65-acre private estate is home to 60,000 vines, a horse stable, vintage wagon collection, retro trailer park and exotic animals such as zebras, llamas, camels and peacocks.

Wine Tasting: Guests will enjoy a tour of the winery with a stop at the picturesque tasting center.

Celebrity Auction: Featuring Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat (MURDER, PYAAR KE SIDE EFFECTS), Rupak Ginn (THE CHEETAH GIRLS: ONE WORLD), Vik Sahay (NBC’s CHUCK), and more.

Lunch by Chakra Cuisine: Delicious lunch by IFFLA caterer and recipient of numerous awards including the AAA Diamond Award.

WHEN:    Sunday, March 15, 2009

WHERE:    Malibu Family Wines, 31727 Mulholland Highway, Malibu, CA  90265

TICKETS:     $125 per person (tax deductible), $75 (students) $50 (children 5+)

To pay via PayPal, please click here:
http://www.indianfilmfestival.org/support.html
Then click on “make a donation” at the bottom of the screen.

OR

Mail a check made payable to “Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles” before March 6: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles,     5657 Wilshire Blvd., #130, Los Angeles, CA 90036).

RSVP:    RSVP by March 6 to PHENOMENON Events at rsvp@phenomenon.com. Subject line: IFFLA.
Group Sales: Call Dulari Amin at 310.967.1473.

AFI DALLAS – Cool Ass Short Films (Round One)

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 18, 2009

AFI DALLAS – Cool Ass Short Films (Round One)

From the first moment I began doing film festival PR, I wanted to figure out a way to get some attention for the shorts and the filmmakers who made them. Some of my favorite films regardless of length have been the shorts that have played at AFI FEST and AFI DALLAS.

Among the films that have stuck with me are Moon Molson’s searing and tragic drama, POP FOUL; Leo Ricagni’s ethereal ode to the positive power of education, FEATHERS TO THE SKY; Alexandre Franchi’s brilliant vision of twisted romanticism TROLL CONCERTO and Lilah Vandenburgh’s almost perfect treatment of bitter romance in glorious black and white, BITCH. In fact, if in some wonderful world of my dreams, I was the a member of The Medici Family during the Renaissance I would sponsor anything Lilah Vandenburgh wanted to do – wouldn’t even have to be art – anything. If Lilah wanted to do a filmed still life treatment of an old pizza box next to an empty can of Mountain Dew, I’d write the check because somehow she’d figure out a way to make that pizza box rueful and surly and the soda can its distrustful partner-in-crime. I think she’s that good.

Anyway, the point is, I have seen it as a particular mission of mine to do things for our shorts filmmakers that no other film festivals do (or certainly not to extent that we do) whether it be putting them on the same red carpets as everyone else, including them in the daily interview junkets, placing them on panels, scoring radio interviews, weaving the subjects of their films in stories about the themes playing out in feature films within the same festivals, to doing features on the directors themselves (even if I have to write the bulk of those stories myself).

Because let’s face it – it will be a cold day at a major publication before someone will do a feature or any kind of significant story on a shorts filmmaker. Can’t hold that against them – as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, it’s all about movie stars or at least what passes for that these days. They literally have bigger fish with longer running times to fry.

So here’s another way for me to get the word out. This blog. I’m going to tell you about some really cool ass short films that Sarah Harris, the patron programming saint of shorts and James Faust have chosen for the schedule this year. And by the way, why aren’t the single male directors romancing the shit out of Sarah Harris? And I don’t mean in a cynical “maybe she’ll program my short if I fork over dinner and a movie AND open the car door for her”… I mean, she’s got the in-the-know smart and funny goods, can hang socially with the indefatigable Faust-about-town, and is the kind of unassuming cute that saves those guys from their worst tongue-tied nature. I know, I’ve seen that scenario play out right in front of me.

I’m just sayin’.

Where was I? The shorts… Okay, these films haven’t been announced yet. It’s the first you’re hearing about them, reading about them, getting the scoop…

That’s right – these are official selections and they haven’t been announced! Holy crap, start twittering! E-mail your friends! Look ‘em up on IMDB, and if they’ve got a site then check it out and tell someone who already got their pass they should check them out! If you know them, tell them it’s safe to get their laurel wreath on because the PR guy went nuts and he’s gone on a leak the info bender!

Okay, if you haven’t got the point by now you’re slow. And good luck with that “Palin in 2012” thing. Let’s start, shall we?

Speaking of politics, yet not really is Sukwon Shin’s animated film, UNBELIEVABLE4. Okay, let’s pretend that George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield and Condi Rice were members of an elite squad on a super cool mission to uhmm, do something cool to stop something bad (like you know, racing around in sports cars and motorbikes and stuff) AND they were also members of a rockin’ 80s band in their own music video playing their own theme music which happens to be….wait for it…”The Final Countdown.”

It’s too perfect. I just heard a quote that you can never really know your country until you view it from another country. Well, Sukwon just saved you the trip.

How many shorts pursue the elusive pristine snapshot of a the male/female dynamic in a relationship? I won’t make you guess. The answer is lots. Too many would be an acceptable answer too – if you’re just angry by nature or someone of the opposite sex hurt you along the way. Well, Todd Luoto’s OIL CHANGE gives you a developing Polaroid of a relationship that is not just “wrong” in the first place, it steadily descends into an uncomfortable rock and a hard place with no room for polite escape. Simply, a mismatched couple go on a needlessly tension-filled first double date with another couple that gradually ratchets up the bad moments until it all reaches a point of no return.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I will say that a monologue is involved that is one of the best be-all/end-it-all out-on-a-point-of-no-return limb moments that I have seen in quite awhile.

Sometimes with a short – for me, it’s all about style. And that’s why I love both Denis Villeneuve’s NEXT FLOOR and Pedro Pires’ DANSE MACABRE. NEXT FLOOR lets us watch a decadent feast in progress that is a dual portrait in gluttony and the grotesque as channeled through Terry Gilliam. Attentive servants keep serving and dishing up the food until the entire table of people crashes through to…the next floor. The servants follow, dust off their charges and start serving it up again. Until happens again. And again. And so on…

Pires’ DANSE MACABRE is literally a dance of death – precisely executed and exquisitely choreographed. The film is so artfully done that a corpse can achieve a beauty in its movement and placement and a body in a morgue can be visually manipulated with the snap shot imagery of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s title sequence to effectively intertwine beauty and horror.

I’ll finish with silliness. And silliness that leaves no stone unturned in the playing out of its title idea. And that film is Richard Gale’s THE HORRIBLY SLOW MURDERER WITH THE EXTREMELY INEFFICIENT WEAPON. It’s simple: The film delivers what that title promises. In sequence after sequence, Gale gleefully plays with what we have already guessed might happen once a stock movie trailer voice over presents the idea that someone has made a movie about the ultimate slowburn torment of an ordinary man being terrorized by the character of ‘Death’ as he would be presented in VH-1’s version of Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL. Oh, and I almost forgot -‘Death’ is armed with a spoon. That’s right. Voice over guy promises (and I quote) “20,000 spoonfuls of terror!”

Hard to top that…

AFI DALLAS Announces Robert Towne and 10 Official Selections

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 16, 2009

2009 AFI DALLAS International Film Festival

Presented by NorthPark Center, Founding Sponsor Victory Park
Announces

Robert Towne to Receive AFI DALLAS Star Award

Ten Titles in Official Selections

Dallas, TX, February 16, 2009—AFI DALLAS 2009 International Film Festival Presented by NorthPark Center, Founding Sponsor Victory Park announces that Academy Award® winner Robert Towne will be presented with the prestigious AFI DALLAS Star Award in recognition of his career as a filmmaker and screenwriter on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the cinema classic, CHINATOWN.

AFI DALLAS also announces ten films that will screen at this year’s festival. Those films include an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature (Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s THE GARDEN); and the Jury and Audience winner for Best Documentary at last year’s AFI FEST as well as the SILVERDOCS Award (Kief Davidson’s KASSIM THE DREAM).

Adding to the list of films making their US premiere at AFI DALLAS, will be Topaz Adizes’s AMERICANA and Charles Binamé’s THE AMERICAN TRAP.

Adizes’s AMERICANA is a documentary following the experiences of two young men from a small town in Arizona as they prepare to join the military to fight in Iraq. That preparation involves travel abroad and encounters with people from other countries with varying views on what America means to them, as well as how their close-knit community handles their imminent deployment.

Also making its US premiere will be Binamé’s dramatic thriller, THE AMERICAN TRAP. Set in a world of global intrigue and corruption, the film stars Rémy Girard, Gérard Darmon and Colm Feore in a tension-filled story of a man attempting to uncover the truths behind the JFK assassination.

The first selection in the Environmental Visions Competition, UPSTREAM BATTLE was also announced. Ben Kempas’s documentary chronicles the battle between Native Americans and an energy corporation as they seek to protect the salmon they depend on for their survival. Their struggle may trigger the largest dam removal project in history. The film will vie for the Current Energy Filmmaker Award and the $10,000 unrestricted cash prize that comes with that award.

The first 2009 AFI DALLAS Star Award honoree announced, Towne will be presented with the Festival’s AFI DALLAS Star Awards (the award is designed from Steuben crystal, courtesy of Neiman Marcus) prior to a screening of CHINATOWN, for which he won an Academy Award for his original screenplay in 1974. Towne was also nominated in the same category for SHAMPOO (1975) and for his screenplay adaptations for THE LAST DETAIL (1973) and GREYSTROKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES (1984). The prolific writer’s credits include notable titles such as PERSONAL BEST (1982) which he also directed, TEQUILA SUNRISE (1988), DAYS OF THUNDER (1990), THE FIRM (1993), LOVE AFFAIR (1994), MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (1996), WITHOUT LIMITS (also written and directed – 1998), MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II (2000) and ASK THE DUST (2006). Following the screening of CHINATOWN, Towne will participate in a special Q&A moderated by TIME Magazine’s Richard Schickel.

“It is a thrill to honor an accomplished artist like Robert Towne,” said Michael Cain, AFI DALLAS Artistic Director. “This is someone that had a hand in creating some of the signature films of the 70s—one of the legendary fertile periods in American film history, not to mention the other major films within his body of work. And to have an opportunity to see a classic like CHINATOWN on the big screen and then have one of the architects of that film discuss it afterward? That’s a date you automatically mark on your calendar.”

The ten announced selections include:

AMERICANA (USA)
Director: Topaz Adizes
Documentary follows the experiences of two young men from a small town in Arizona as they complete their last semester of high school and enlist in the Army to join the fight in Iraq.

THE AMERICAN TRAP (Canada)
Director: Charles Binamé
Cast: Rémy Girard, Gérard Darmon, Colm Feore, Joe Cobden, Janet Lane
Thriller set in a world of global intrigue and corruption, as a man attempts to uncover the truths behind the JFK assassination.

EVANGELION 1.0 YOU ARE NOT ALONE (Japan)
Director: Hideaki Anno, Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Film is the first in a four-part series adapted and re-imagined from the legendary NEON GENESIS EVANGELION anime series.

THE GARDEN (USA)
Director: Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Documentary traces the events that led to the creation of a 14-acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles and the struggle between the urban farmers, the City of Los Angeles and a powerful developer who sought to evict them and build warehouses on the property.

KASSIM THE DREAM (Uganda/USA)
Director: Kief Davidson
Documentary profiles Kassim ‘The Dream’ Ouma, who survived being a child soldier in Uganda to becoming a champion boxer.

LIKE DANDELION DUST (USA)
Director: Jon Gunn
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Barry Pepper, Cole Hauser
Drama pits a couple versus a parolee father who seeks to take custody of their six-year-old adopted son.

LYMELIFE (USA)
Director: Derick Martini
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Kieran Culkin, Rory Culkin, Jill Hennessy, Timothy Hutton, Cynthia Nixon, Emma Roberts
Drama set in Long Island during the late 1970s, follows the intertwining lives of two families focusing on the teenaged children and their attempts to cope with the times.

RUDO Y CURSI (Mexico)
Director: Carlos Cuarón
Cast: Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal
Drama about the turmoil between two brothers who compete against each other in the world of professional soccer.

TYSON (USA)
Director: James Toback
Documentary takes an unvarnished view of the controversial former heavyweight champion boxer.

UPSTREAM BATTLE (USA)
Director: Ben Kempas
Documentary chronicles the battle between Native Americans and an energy corporation as they seek to protect the salmon they depend on for their survival.

AFI DALLAS 2009 will run March 26 – April 2, 2009. Passes go on sale February 6; tickets go on sale March 2. Passes and tickets will be made available via online (AFIDALLAS.com), phone (214.720.0663) and in person at the Box Office located at the AFI DALLAS locations at NorthPark Center and Victory Park.

About AFI DALLAS International Film Festival
The AFI DALLAS International Film Festival celebrates films and their impact on society, honors filmmakers and recognizes their achievements and contributions in enhancing the creative community, provides educational programs to students to develop better understanding of the role of film in today’s world, and promotes the City of Dallas and its commitment to the art of filmmaking. AFI DALLAS is a presentation of the nonprofit Dallas Film Society.

About NorthPark Center
As one of the premier shopping centers in the United States, NorthPark Center (www.northparkcenter.com) proudly offers shoppers the best of the best in every category represented, including the finest in luxury retail and exclusives in the Southwest. Offering an unparalleled selection of international designers set amid timeless modern architecture and a world-class art collection, NorthPark Center has established a new standard in the United States for innovative retail destinations.

NorthPark Center is owned, managed, operated and leased by husband and wife David J. Haemisegger and Nancy A. Nasher. After a $250 million expansion in 2006, NorthPark Center became the largest shopping center in North Texas and one of the top shopping destinations in the United States. NorthPark Center will continue to open more luxury boutiques, exclusive stores and dining options throughout 2009 and beyond, culminating in more than 235 stores and restaurants.

NorthPark Center is located at the intersection of North Central Expressway and Northwest Highway in the heart of Dallas. Stores are open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Department store, theatre, restaurant and spa hours vary.

About Victory Park
Victory Park is Dallas’ most dynamic urban neighborhood—and one of the most significant and innovative urban developments in the United States. The neighborhood is a carefully crafted collection of upscale retail shops, distinctive dining, modern office space, dramatic residential units, the W Dallas Victory hotel and signature entertainment venues, including the American Airlines Center and House of Blues. Victory Park is a development of Hillwood, a Perot Company. For more information on Victory Park, visit http://www.victorypark.com.

Additional Sponsors
In addition to NorthPark Center and Victory Park, AFI DALLAS 2009 major sponsors include American Airlines, Bank of America, Barefoot Wine, Blockbuster, Brierley+Partners, CBS Radio, City of Dallas, Current Energy, The Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, DG FastChannel, Dallas Film Commission, DART, DCVB, e-Rewards Market Research, Entertainment Partners, El Creative, Faulkner Design Group, Jones Day, KERA, MPS Studios Dallas, Neiman Marcus, Post Asylum, Premiere Video, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Pure Evil Music & Sound, Reel FX Entertainment, Screen International, Scott Yung LLP, Sony, The State of Texas, Studio Movie Grill, Target, Temerlin Consulting, Texas Film Commission, TM Advertising, 2929 Entertainment, Texas Association of Film Commissions, TXMPA, vitaminwater10, W Dallas Victory, WFAA, Whole Foods and WRR.

PRESS CONTACT FOR AFI DALLAS
John Wildman
Director, Press and Public Relations
AFI DALLAS Presented by NorthPark Center,
Founding Sponsor Victory Park
Tel: 323.600.3165
Tel: 214.720.0555
Fax: 214.720.0551
jwildman@AFIDALLAS.com

PART TWO: INVITING PRESS TO COVER THE FILM FESTIVAL

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 11, 2009

This discussion begins with Jeffrey Wells’ shenanigans at the Oxford Film Festival and continues with Karina Longworth’s (and Mark Bell’s and Dave Poland’s, etc.) attempts to broaden the discussion into something beyond his bad behavior into the question of who leads and who chooses the music during the ethics dance that takes place when a film festival arranges for airfare/ accommodations for a journalist to attend their festival.
The discussion won’t end here, but I’ll continue it from the viewpoint of someone who has done exactly that for AFI DALLAS, as well as having done the low grade version (inviting to attend premieres, panels and parties, but not having to take care of flight and room) for my other film festivals (AFI FEST, IFFLA, Lone Star and the Feel Good Film Festival).

There are two key points that all of this hinges on. The first being the thing that for my money was the most egregious of Wells’s way-off-the-mark crap-havior, which was his statement that the lunch he was served at a certain point at Oxford was of much more interest to him and his readers than the film that was playing that day.

Ass.

Simple as that.

Because this stuff begins and ends (and throw in the middle part too) with the filmmakers and their films. Bottom line.

It is why the first thing I did upon my arrival at AFI FEST was institute the nightly red carpet which would involve every filmmaker and attending cast for the films that were premiering that evening. Feature or short, big budget or made with what was left from their school loans, auteurs, legends, or first timers – it didn’t matter and it doesn’t matter. They all get that “rock star” moment, because if they made it through the ringer and got their film programmed, they deserve it.

Now, I know the press on that red carpet wants and needs the movie stars to bolster their coverage because I am well aware of the Brangelina thing. However, what’s just as important (and personally – more important) is to get the other filmmakers in the mix. Because, while a picture of David Beckham posed all cozy-like next to an Audi has cashed my check with the sponsor, having Chris Hansen blog about his experience being sandwiched on the red carpet interviews between Bill Paxton and Lou Diamond Phillips while talking about his quirky little comedy THE PROPER CARE AND FEEDING OF AN AMERICAN MESSIAH is easily the bigger home run.

Because he’s gonna make more movies. And when that happens, I want him back at my film festival. And other filmmakers reading that blog will also put my film festival at the top of their hitlist.

This past fall at one of the AFI FEST premieres, a writer from In Touch Magazine arrived late for the red carpet and threw a lot of entitlement-laden attitude at me when I put him toward the tail end of the press line. As if it was my first movie star picnic, he said, “I’m always put up there where you’ve got Entertainment Weekly and People.” I told him he was lucky I was able to squeeze him in there in the first place and he’d get plenty of people to talk to.

What I didn’t tell him was this – he was even lower on my personal totem pole than the place I put him because I knew he was just there to get a quote from someone like Meryl Streep that night. Who wasn’t? Everyone there was going to try and score that one. I was being kind by putting him where I did knowing the extensive in-depth film festival coverage that we rely on In Touch for.

The movie star coverage? That’s not special. Do I need it? Sure I do. But everyone will clamor and claw for it, so that will take care of itself as long as I make the access to Meryl reasonable and convenient for all concerned.

The other part is tougher. Getting press for the unknowns, the first timers, and dear God…the shorts filmmakers. And that’s the most important part for the long term health of this whole thing. Because those guys, those girls, those men and women haven’t just made very cool films or exhibited some insane potential in what they’ve delivered to that particular festival. Often that’s just the beginning. And when the next one rolls around, I want first dibs.

But it SHOULD BE just as important to the journalists. Because that’s the “new.” Those people are the potential big story if someone has the foresight and good taste to single out a Wes Anderson after his BOTTLE ROCKET short, as opposed to his RUSHMORE arrival. Ramin Bahrani? That guy is exciting to me. I caught up with him on CHOP SHOP. Hell, that was after MAN PUSH CART. I still feel bandwagon guilt with him. The director/star tandem of Richie Mehta and Rupinder Nagra of last year’s AMAL? When people start latching on to them after the next or maybe third film, I’ll feel the same way Springsteen fans felt after the glut of “Born in the USA” people joined the ride.

The second key to all of this is the ethics involved when a journalist or critic is “brought in” by a film festival. This was the thing Karina was trying to get into. And it’s something that all of this discussion has caused me to reassess how we will approach this with AFI DALLAS this year and with all of the festivals I work for in the future.

The question is how much coverage (or more to the point – positive coverage) is implied or even possibly agreed to when that deal (so-to-speak) is struck. Frankly, I want all the coverage I can get from someone we are bringing in. And I’ll talk up the storylines that I feel are running through the festival that year or even the individual stories that have struck my imagination. But that’s all I can do. I would never expect I could ask for a set amount of coverage or demand a positive tenor in that coverage. But it wouldn’t matter to me because I believe so much in the festivals I work for. Each one has a distinctive personality and flavor with solid to fantastic people programming the films. Simply put – I trust. I trust that any coverage can’t help but be positive overall because the films are great and I expect the experience to match that.

Does that mean I expect every film to get a rave review? Of course not. But I’ll let the films and the filmmakers present the argument for themselves. Now, I’ll try to “set the table” – prepare a journalist or critic for what’s in store so they won’t go sit down for a dark, surreal comedy expecting TALLEDEGA NIGHTS, but other than that…that film was programmed for a reason.

BUT…

I now think that I may have to make an adjustment to “protect” the journalists I invite, by ensuring their presence is tied to participation on a panel or a jury. Not everyone assumes fair play is the rule of the day here just because I say it is.

Yes, I would love for the attending journalists to “find” stories like Jeffrey Goodman’s struggle to find the 48 investors in Lafayette to make THE LAST GOODBYE and help Tom Sizemore remember what it feels like to put everything into a performance again or see the genuine spark of improv funny for the bargain price of $50 in Dann Sytsma’s and Daniel Jones’ COMIC EVANGELISTS. But, not only can I not dictate that, I need to do something extra to ensure no one could possibly get the impression that would ever be part of the equation. And other than involve them in specific ways to create that balance – I’m not sure now.

What I am sure about is that the effort to make it work is worth it. Otherwise, those same journalists are going to be stuck reviewing an ever increasing delivery of homogenized and product placed middle-of-the-road films courtesy of the most recent movie studio-media conglomorate-foreign or mass consumption product merger at a multi-plex near you.

So – if they want an alternative to Brangelina, they need to put the same energy into finding something and someone else to write about. Because, let’s face it – as prolific as they are – those two can only make so many films…and so many kids.

To Hell With Brangelina – Part One of Two

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 10, 2009

The title of this post is what the first of this two-parter comes down to: To Hell With Brangelina.

And to be fair, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie probably feel the same, much in the same way that John Lennon and Yoko Ono felt about what would have been billed “Jonoko” in their day. I’m sure they’d be fine with a little less scrutiny over public perception of Brad with or without mustache or heated debates over Angie’s weight or speculation about whether or not she’s prepping her incubator again.

Because I’m not talking about them personally, but that media phenomenon.

It’s boring. It’s stale. And the only thing keeping it alive as well as the rest of the celebrity-overkill-TMZ-stalking-entertainment media is laziness. Laziness on the part of entertainment journalism, but worse – the trusty-you-can-depend-on-it laziness that is us. Or U.S. as in U.S. of A. It’s the same crap that makes an absurd box office hit out of movies like WHAT HAPPENED IN VEGAS or HE’S NOT REALLY THAT INTO YOU or TITANIC for that matter, or keeps people watching any show that has the name of a city + CSI after it in its title or sit-coms like TWO AND FOUR FIFTHS OF A KID GOING THROUGH HIS AWKWARD YEARS or a small screen classic like STEP BY STEP (Oh, the comic stylings of a seasoned Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers) on the air for a decade at a time.

I come to this from a two different angles:

One – Rare is the festival sponsor that isn’t benignly evil

And Two – What Jeffrey Wells reminded us about at the Oxford Film Festival

PART ONE: THE SPONSORS

I had a conversation recently with Christian Gaines of Withoutabox/IMDB about how film festival press is evolving in the wake of the internet rapidly usurping the print media. He was imploring me to educate anyone that had any governing interest in what I was doing as the Director of PR for AFI DALLAS and AFI FEST (not to mention my other film festivals) to educate them that it’s all changing and they better prepare for that, realize it, and come to terms with it or a shitload of disappointing was heading their way in a Mrs. Beasley’s muffin basket as the nature of the press coverage began to roll in and the final impressions numbers rang up on the big tote board for Jerry’s filmmaker kids.

He was doing that because it is becoming all kinds of different and because he’s nice enough to be concerned about the perception those people would have on how I do my job. Here’s the deal (if you don’t know):

Sponsors dictate a lot of what a film festival can or can’t do because that’s where the lion’s share of the money comes from to put on the thing in the first place. And they want to justify what they’re getting for their money. Simply put – they want to translate that money spent into exposure and exposure and then some exposure. They want their image to bask in something that isn’t a blatant commercial, but they still want the commercial. They just don’t want it to be blatant. Or they at least want to be able to delude themselves that it isn’t blatant.

So – when the dust has cleared and the last screening has been held and the last award has been given out, we have to ring up the impression numbers. (An impression being every time someone has seen the film festival’s – or more precisely – the company’s name or logo in an ad, on a billboard or in my case in an interview or in a picture with a movie star.)

The first challenge (I won’t call it a problem – yet…) is that the majority of film festival coverage is now done by writers on the internet. Online columns, interviews, reviews, blogs, etc. Which is fine – EXCEPT, that no one really has an absolute formula for either tracking down and recording what those numbers are exactly, nor do they have a set and uniform formula for justifying the “worth” in dollars and cents for all of those numbers.

Let me make it simple – for AFI FEST this past fall, the press report we compiled for the coverage we could find and track down on the festival filled two five inch binders and a third four inch binder. The majority of all that content was online press. And we were able to find “numbers” for a third of that.

That’s a lot of work that in a bottom line world that ends up being pointless in the minds of a handful of people that don’t understand at all why someone like me couldn’t instruct Tom Cruise to position his head on the red carpet in such a way that their logo could be seen clearly by the photographers taking his picture.

That’s right, they complained that he wouldn’t move his head the right way so they could see their logo. And it was someone’s fault. If you asked Tom, he’d probably blame psychiatry, but that’s just a guess.

My friend, Mark Woodvine, once told me he actually subscribed to the L.A. Times because they had sponsored the LA Film Festival and he so appreciated their support of that event that he saw rewarding them with his business as the right thing to do. Integrity. Based on him telling me that, I brainstormed on creative ways to pump up the name of our sponsors beyond the old title cards and name following the film festival’s name stuff. I spoke to them about preaching the gospel to the press and public of a real partnership with the film festival. Integrating them in the viral promos we were creating and shooting with our filmmakers. Not just a giving a check for more impressions and movie stars thing.

That’s because I’m a Pollyanna when it comes right down to it.

And they could not have cared less. And I know – I’m a dumbass for thinking that a corporation would have any inclination to embrace an endeavor like a film festival or anything beyond an out-and-out commercial in that way. Because to do otherwise would take some creativity and energy and some longterm vision.

Now here is the capper (and one of the prime inspirations) to this chapter. In a conversation with someone associated with one of the festivals (I’ll be just as vague as I have to be to have a semblance of plausible denial…) we were told that “while the festival was okay the past couple of years, you really haven’t delivered since that red carpet when you had those twenty movie stars come to your premiere.”

This was after the festival has garnered very impressive critical notices and audience numbers that exceeded all expectations for the years in question.

Logic should tell anyone that we’re largely at the mercy of who is in the cast of the films we program. Doesn’t matter. They don’t care. Film? Art? They want movie stars. But make sure it’s the right movie stars. And if the film happens to be “PARIS HILTON AND KIM KARDASHIAN’S PLAY-DOH JAMBOREE,” that’s fine as long as George Clooney, Kate Winslet, Becks and Posh, Ashton and Demi, and early Lindsay Lohan (before she started sleeping with that DJ chick with the hat) show up too.

Oh, and if you could guarantee Brangelina…

“RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN? How about Race to Original and not Mediocre Mountain?”

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 6, 2009

Here’s the deal: I haven’t even seen this movie. Just the trailer. And already – exhausted by it. Just worn out, because it’s just so rote and over and “what is the point, really?”

I’ll start with something I put on my facebook status thing today: Enough with the car or truck or train slow motion crumple effect as it hits the superhuman guy or girl standing in its path. Whether it’s HANCOCK or that silly-ass Abercrombie & Fitch pretty teens with way too much supernatural power on their hands movie, THE COVENANT to this damn thing, every time I see that slow motion crumple effect I just want some cop to be around to give that person a jay walking ticket or something. You know, just get to the other side damn side of the street already. Fine, you can’t be budged because you’re all powerful – we get it. Now, how about looking both ways before you cross next time? The only time I want to see that effect again, is if they do it with a kid riding his big wheel.

Anyway, here’s the one liner: A UFO expert enlists the help of a cabbie to protect two siblings with paranormal powers from the clutches of an organization that wants to use the kids for their nefarious plans.

Did I mention it was Disney? Would I even need to? Look, I know the kids need something exciting to watch sans f-bombs and boobies. But seriously, they already Escaped from Witch Mountain and then Returned to Witch Mountain. Is it really necessary to Race to it yet again? How about this – Let’s Race To the WALL-E DVD and watch that movie again!

Here’s the other thing that sucks about this movie: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino are in it.

And that’s sad.

Because I not only like them as actors when they’re onscreen, I feel for them as actors that get stuck in crap like this because they obviously are much too nice to say “no” to it.

Let’s start with Dwayne Johnson: The Artist Formely Known as The Rock. RUNDOWN, the WALKING TALL remake. Those films almost define not-so-guilty pleasure popcorn good time movies. And who else was more of the heir apparent to the action lead throne? Vin Diesel? Right, if the preparation for every role was: What if (fill-in-the-blank) was also a douchebag bouncer at a club…? As in, “Vin, you’ll be playing an ex-Secret Service agent assigned to protect the President’s daughter.” Or, “Vin, in this film, you’ll be portraying Picasso during his “Blue” period.” Then Vin says (in either case), “Okay. But what if he was also…”

Re you with me?

And Johnson will do anything a director asks. And it doesn’t matter who the director is. Don’t believe me? Watch BE COOL or SOUTHLAND TALES. He’s game. He’ll dance around for you, he’ll do those acting and breathing exercises they made you do in college. Doesn’t matter. Truth or dare? The Rock will always pick dare. But someone needs to tell him it’s okay to say “no” once and awhile. You don’t have to buy the bag of oranges every time from the guy on the corner and you don’t have to do every single Hackney, uhm…Disney movie that comes along.

And then there’s Carla Gugino. Great. Beautiful, Versatile. Hot. I can’t tell you how many times I see her in a movie and my first reaction is “Carla Gugino’s in this?! Well, okay…I’ll leave it on this channel two more seconds…”

Two words: SIN CITY.

I think there were some other actresses in that film, but I KNOW she was in it. Because she insisted on playing a character as well as letting Robert Rodriguez properly glorify her body. Sometimes she’s sneaky that way.

And then there are films like SNAKE EYES with Nic Cage and THE ONE with Jet Li, which I believe are some kind of requirement that SAG makes actresses do to get full dental coverage or something. Remember TIME COP with Jean Claude Van Damme? I’m pretty sure Gloria Reuben needed some bridge work done at that time. Then there’s the SPY KIDS movies and TV up the ass. In fact I think that was the title of one of her series: UP THE ASS. It was on the Spike Network for 6 weeks. Co-starred Curtis Armstrong (“Booger” from REVENGE OF THE NERDS) and one of the Coreys.

She just isn’t appreciated enough or she has some veneer work from hell, because she deserves much better. They both do. But instead, they’ll play costumes and action with two “who-are-they” cookie cutter Disney kids in a babysitter movie that will eventually be put on a “package DVD with BEDTIME STORIES.

Because that’s such a deal.

AFI DALLAS Announces 15 Official Selections

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 3, 2009

2009 AFI DALLAS International Film Festival Presented by NorthPark Center, Founding Sponsor Victory Park Announces Fifteen Titles in Official Selections

FILMS INCLUDE THREE WORLD PREMIERES AND THREE U.S. PREMIERES

Dallas, TX, February 3, 2009—AFI DALLAS 2009 International Film Festival Presented by NorthPark Center, Founding Sponsor Victory Park announces fifteen films that will screen at this year’s festival (March 26 – April 2) including the World Premieres of the documentaries ONE NATION, PLAYGROUND and ROCK PROPHECIES as well as the U.S. Premieres of FOOD, INC., GIGANTIC and THE SEVEN OF DARAN.

The three world premiere documentaries include:

Justin Wilson’s ONE NATION – the film utilizes a pastiche of images and sounds to create an artful profile of the year, 1968. The film examines the struggles of power vs. protest, affluence vs. poverty, and human rights vs. the tyranny of want and ignorance.

Libby Spears’s PLAYGROUND – Executive produced by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney, the film follows a young woman and other children like her, who are victims of the American child sex trafficking industry. Examining America’s legal and social system, the film delicately and responsibly details our country’s most alarming, insidious secret.

John Chester’s ROCK PROPHECIES – The film is a backstage pass into the eccentric world of rock n’ roll from the vantage point of an obsessed photographer, Robert M. Knight, who at 18 years old captured and befriended Jimi Hendrix and the members of Led Zeppelin, well before they became the iconic stars we know them as today.

Among the U.S. premieres are:

Robert Keener’s FOOD, INC. – The documentary takes a look at food preparation, industrialized and otherwise for the mass population, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA.

Matt Aselton’s GIGANTIC – Starring Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, Jane Alexander, Edward Asner, the offbeat comedy is centered around a mattress salesman who wants to adopt a Chinese baby, and a young woman he meets at his store. Together, they negotiate their increasing intimacy, and the appearances of their many eccentric relatives, as Brian awaits the call from the adoption agency.

Lourens Blok’s THE SEVEN OF DARAN – Children’s tale follows an English boy on an African adventure with the help of a talking giraffe and a precious medallion.

AFI DALLAS also announces three films that recently played at the Sundance Film Festival that will screen for Dallas audiences for the first time at the festival – ART & COPY, CHILDREN OF INVENTION and MOON, as well as ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD, which just debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival.

“These initial 15 selections are indicative of the exciting variety of films we will offer Dallas audiences with this year’s programming. They represent accomplished directors, including Guillermo Arriaga and Doug Pray, compelling subjects, and both provocative and entertaining work,” said Michael Cain, AFI DALLAS Artistic Director.

The fifteen announced selections include:

ART & COPY (USA)
Director: Doug Pray
Documentary explores the creation of the modern advertising industry, the people behind it, and its influence on popular culture.

THE BURNING PLAIN (USA)
Director: Guillermo Arriaga
Cast: Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger
A drama with employs multiple storylines featuring a mother and daughter who try to form a bond after the young woman’s difficult childhood.

CHILDREN OF INVENTION (USA)
Director: Tze Chun
Cast: Cindy Chung, Michael Chen, Crystal Chiu
Drama follows a Chinese American family as they struggle to achieve the American Dream in suburban Boston.

FOOD, INC. (Canada)
Director: Robert Kenner
Documentary takes a look at food preparation, industrialized and otherwise for the mass population.

GIGANTIC (USA)
Director: Matt Aselton
Cast: Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, Jane Alexander, Ed Asner
Comedy is centered around a mattress salesman and a young woman he meets at his store.

HUNGER (United Kingdom)
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham, Liam McMahon
Drama takes a harrowing look at the last six weeks in the life of imprisoned Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands.

MOON (United Kingdom)
Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey
Drama follows the lone occupant of a lunar mining base as he prepares to return to earth and his life at home.

ONE NATION (USA)
Director: Justin Wilson
Documentary provides an artful look at 1968 through a pastiche of images from that year.

PLAYGROUND (USA)
Director: Libby Spears
Executive Producers: Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney
Documentary explores the rampant worldwide child sex trafficking industry.

RIP A REMIX MANIFESTO (Canada)
Director: Brett Gaylor
Documentary looks at the changing landscape of music in The Internet Age focusing on the line between musical inspiration and copyright infringement.

ROCK PROPHECIES (USA)
Director: John Chester
The documentary is a backstage pass into the eccentric world of rock n’ roll from the vantage point of an obsessed photographer, Robert M. Knight, who at 18 years old captured and befriended Jimi Hendrix and the members of Led Zeppelin, well before they became the iconic stars we know them as today.

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD (USA)
Director: Jordan Galland
Cast: Jake Hoffman, Devon Aoki, Ralph Macchio, Jeremy Sisto
Comedy about a theater director who finds himself in the middle of a two thousand year old conspiracy involving Shakespeare, the Holy Grail and vampires.

THE SEVEN OF DARAN (USA)
Director: Lourens Blok
Cast: Jonathan Harmse, Ketrice Maitisa, Caroline Goodall
Children’s tale follows an English boy on an African adventure with the help of a talking giraffe and a precious medallion.

SKIN (UK/South Africa)
Director: Anthony Fabian
Cast: Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, Alice Krige
Set in 1955 and based on a true story, the film looks at the social and personal impact on two white Afikaner parents and their daughter in rural South Africa, after the girl is born with dark skin.

SUGAR (USA)
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Cast: Algenis Perez Soto, Rayniel Rufino
Drama about a Dominican baseball star that is signed to a minor league contract.

AFI DALLAS 2009 will run March 26 – April 2, 2009. Passes go on sale February 6, Tickets go on sale March 2. Passes and tickets will be made available via online (www.AFIDALLAS.com), phone (214.720.0663), and in person at the Box Office located at the AFI DALLAS locations at NorthPark Center and Victory Park.