The DALLAS International Film Festival Honors Pete Docter
with Texas Avery Animation Award
12 Official Selections Announced Includes 3 World Premieres
Southwest Airlines Announced as the Film Festival’s Official Air Carrier
Dallas, TX, March 3, 2010—The DALLAS International Film Festival (April 8-18) announces Pete Docter, director and writer of Academy Award® Best Picture nominee UP as the recipient of the 2010 Texas Avery Animation Award presented by REEL FX ENTERTAINMENT. 12 official selections were also announced, including 3 films (A SURPRISE IN TEXAS, THE RIVER WHY and WE ARE THE SEA) that will be making their world premieres at the film festival. DALLAS IFF also announced that Southwest Airlines would be taking a major sponsorship position, serving as the film festival’s official airline.
Docter will receive the 2010 Texas Avery Animation Award presented by REEL FX ENTERTAINMENT, which honors lifetime achievement in animation filmmaking. Docter is the director and writer of the five-time Academy Award nominated film UP (Best Picture, Best Animated Feature, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing). Previously, Docter also garnered Academy Award nominations for his work on WALL-E (2008 – Best Original Screenplay), MIKE’S NEW CAR (2002 – Best Short Film – Animated), MONSTERS, INC. (2001 – Best Animated Feature), and TOY STORY (1995 – Best Original Screenplay).
REEL FX CREATIVE STUDIOS CEO and Dallas Film Society board member Ed Jones said, “As an animator, screenwriter, and director, Pete Docter has been integral to the success of some of the most memorable animated movies of all time. The industry has watched his talent and career grow at PIXAR, and is not surprised by what he has achieved. Pete is deserving of this honor and we are thrilled that he will accept this year’s Texas Avery Animation Award. “
Making their world premieres at the DALLAS International Film Festival will be Peter Rosen’s A SURPRISE IN TEXAS, Matthew Leuwyler’s THE RIVER WHY and Neil Truglio’s WE ARE THE SEA.
Directed by Peter Rosen, A SURPRISE IN TEXAS is a documentary focusing its camera lens on the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth Texas, where 29 young contestants come from all over the world to compete for the most prestigious prize in the music world. The film highlights the story of one of them, a 20 year old from Tokyo, Nobuyuki Tsujii, blind from birth.
Directed by Matthew Leutwyler, THE RIVER WHY is a drama based on the novel by David James Duncan about a man known as “the Mozart of fly fishing” who leaves his big city home in rebellion from his family. In the process he comes in contact with an assortment of eccentric characters who help him in his journey to adulthood. The film stars Zach Gilford, Amber Heard, William Hurt, Kathleen Quinlan and William Devane. DALLAS IFF will also screen the film GREENLIT, Miranda Bailey’s documentary about the efforts of THE RIVER WHY’s filmmakers to maintain a “green” shoot throughout their production.
Directed by Neil Truglio, WE ARE THE SEA stars Jeff Childress and Allison Savoy in a drama about a young English teacher returning from the brink of tragedy to find his life exactly where he left it — in shambles. Turning cautiously to his friends, family, and even his students for guidance, he explores the possibilities for forging a future from a history of mistakes. The film features the music of Iron & Wine.
The list also features several selections from the recently concluded Sundance Film Festival, including award winners WINTER’S BONE (Grand Jury Prize Winner, U.S. Dramatic and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award) and OBSELIDIA (Excellence in Cinematography Award, U.S. Dramatic and Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize). Other films included THE DRY LAND, JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD and SKATELAND.
“James Faust, Sarah Harris and the DIFF10 programming team have spent the year crossing boundaries both geographically and metaphorically in search of new discoveries. Traveling the globe continues to be key to the high level of programming found at the DALLAS International Film Festival. We are thrilled to bring this mix of exhilarating and emotive filmmakers to Dallas where they will tell you there are no more appreciative audiences,” said Dallas Film Society Chairman, Michael Cain.
DALLAS IFF Founder and Chairman Emeritus Liener Temerlin was proud to announce that Southwest Airlines would be making its debut as the official airline for the DALLAS International Film Festival. “From the beginning of this film festival, a hallmark has been the exceptional group of talented filmmakers and stars that we have been able to deliver to the city of Dallas. Southwest Airlines will allow us to continue what I see as a grand tradition.”
Southwest Airlines issued a statement saying, “We are honored to support the DALLAS International Film Festival where vision, inspiration, and passion are celebrated. The airline salutes the filmmakers who seek new horizons and embrace possibilities.”
The twelve official selections announced include:
A SURPRISE IN TEXAS (USA)
Director: Peter Rosen
Directed by Peter Rosen, A SURPRISE IN TEXAS is a documentary focusing its camera lens on the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth Texas, where 29 young contestants come from all over the world to compete for the most prestigious prize in the music world. The film highlights the story of one of them, a 20 year old from Tokyo, Nobuyuki Tsujii, blind from birth.
THE DRY LAND (USA)
Director: Ryan Piers Williams
Cast: America Ferrera, Jason Ritter, Wilmer Valderrama, Ethan Suplee, Melissa Leo
Directed by Ryan Piers Williams, THE DRY LAND follows a young U.S. soldier, James (Ryan O’Nan), as he returns home from duty in Iraq. Having not found the direction and purpose he sought from the service, James hurls himself back into his old life and finds it no longer fits. He tries to reconcile his experiences abroad with his life in rural Texas, but despite the support of his wife (America Ferrera), his mother (Melissa Leo), and friend (Jason Ritter) he is unable to settle in. James turns to an Army buddy (Wilmer Vaderrama) for help and together they travel the country in search of redemption. Thinking that the war was behind him, James comes to realize that the fight for his life has only begun.
Director: Clay Liford
Cast: Rebecca Spence, Peter Greene, William Katt, Jennifer Sipes
Directed by Clay Liford, EARTHLING is a sci-fi drama following the events that occur after a mysterious atmospheric event aboard the international space station causes a small group of people to wake up and realize that their entire lives have been a lie. Now they have to make a choice. Live amongst men, or try to find a way back home.
Director: Miranda Bailey
Directed by Miranda Bailey (Executive Producer on THE SQUID AND THE WHALE), GREENLIT follows the production of THE RIVER WHY as the filmmakers attempt to keep an environmentally friendly set thanks to the supervision of a “green” consultant. What starts off with great enthusiasm quickly devolves in this insightful and hilarious film about the difficulties of living up to good intentions.
JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD (USA)
Director: Tamra Davis
A documentary by Tamra Davis, JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD is about the artist and phenomenon who became notorious for his graffiti art under the moniker Samo in the late 1970s on the Lower East Side scene, sold his first painting to Deborah Harry for $200, and became best friends with Andy Warhol. Appreciated by both the art cognoscenti and the public, Basquiat was launched into international stardom. However, soon his cult status began to override the art that had made him famous in the first place.
KICK IN IRAN (GERMANY)
Director: Fatima Geza Abdollahyan
A documentary by Fatima Geza Abdollahyan, KICK IN IRAN profiles Sarah Khoshjamal, a 20-year-old Taekwondo superstar and the first female professional athlete from Iran to qualify for the Olympics. This skillful vérité portrait follows the unassuming Khoshjamal in the nine months leading up to the 2008 Beijing games. Living in an Islamic country, she is required to wear a hijab at all times and, unlike her fellow competitors around the world, cannot train with men; however, the power in her fighting resoundingly breaks down stereotypical barriers.
Director: Diane Bell
Cast: Michael Piccirilli, Gaynor Howe
Directed by Diane Bell, OBSELIDIA is a romantic drama about a man writing an encyclopedia of obsolete things. In his quest to capture people, technologies, and ideas that are disappearing, he meets a free spirited cinema projectionist. Together they go on a road trip to Death Valley to interview a scientist who is predicting the eminent end of the world, and on their strange journey, they discover perhaps love is not obsolete after all.
THE RIVER WHY (USA)
Director: Matthew Leutwyler
Cast: Zach Gilford, Amber Heard, William Hurt, Kathleen Quinlan and William Devane
Directed by Matthew Leutwyler, THE RIVER WHY is a drama about a man known as “the Mozart of fly fishing” who leaves his big city home in rebellion from his family. In the process he comes in contact with an assortment of eccentric characters who help him in his journey to adulthood.
Director: Anthony Burns
Cast: Shiloh Fernandez, Ashley Greene, Heath Freeman
Directed by Anthony Burns, SKATELAND is a coming-of-age film set in 1983 centering on ‘Ritchie’, a worker at Skateland, the roller rink and local hangout of a small town. With Skateland due to close, the party scene getting stale, and his romantic life as cloudy as his future, Ritchie struggles to make sense of it all. When tragedy strikes his friends and family, Ritchie must face the music—and make the biggest decision of his life.
WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY (USA)
Director: Don Hahn
Directed by Don Hahn, WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY takes a look at the “rebirth” of the fabled animation studios of Walt Disney in the mid-1980s. The studio had fallen on hard times with artists polarized between newcomers hungry to innovate and old timers not yet ready to relinquish control. The conditions produced a series of box office flops and many believed the best days of animation were over. The film shines a light on an influx of new leadership and talent helped Disney regain its magic with a staggering output of hits—LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, THE LION KING and more—over the next ten years.
WE ARE THE SEA (USA)
Director: Neil Truglio
Cast: Jeff Childress, Allison Savoy
Directed by Neil Truglio, WE ARE THE SEA stars Jeff Childress and Allison Savoy in a drama about a young English teacher returning from the brink of tragedy to find his life exactly where he left it — in shambles. Turning cautiously to his friends, family, and even his students for guidance, he explores the possibilities for forging a future from a history of mistakes. The film features the music of Iron & Wine.
WINTER’S BONE (USA)
Director: Debra Granik
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser
A drama set deep in the Ozark Mountains, Debra Granik’s WINTER’S BONE follows the daring struggle of a teenage girl, ‘Ree’, who must go in search of her crystal-meth-making father, after he skips bail and goes missing. Unless she is able to find him, she and her young siblings and disabled mother will face destitution. In a heroic quest, Ree traverses the county to confront her kin, break their silent collusion, and bring her father home.
The DALLAS International Film festival will run April 8 – 18, 2010. Passes are currently on sale and tickets go on sale March 18. Passes and tickets will be made available via online (), and phone (214.720.0555).www.dallasfilm.org
The DALLAS International Film Festival Announces Ten Titles in Official Selections
Films feature such stars as
Michael Douglas, Jesse Eisenberg, John Goodman and Tilda Swinton
Lineup marks return to DALLAS Intl Film Fest by filmmakers
Alex Gibney, Steve James and Tim McCanlies
Dallas, TX, February 10, 2010—The DALLAS International Film Festival announces ten films that will screen at this year’s festival (April 8 – 18) including films starring Michael Douglas, Jesse Eisenberg, John Goodman and Tilda Swinton, and films directed by returning DALLAS Intl Film Fest filmmakers Alex Gibney, Steve James and Tim McCanlies.
SOLITARY MAN, which stars Michael Douglas and Jesse Eisenberg, as well as Swinton’s Italian love story, I AM LOVE both come to Dallas after recently debuting at the Toronto Film Festival.
Gibney returns to Dallas with his documentary, CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY following its debut at the Sundance Film Festival two years after screening GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON at AFI DALLAS. James brings his documentary NO CROSSOVER: THE TRIAL OF ALLEN IVERSON after also screening AT DEATH HOUSE DOOR in 2008’s edition of the film festival. McCanlies returns one year later with his children’s adventure film, ALABAMA MOON, after attending with his comedy THE 2 BOBS in 2009.
The list also includes two recent film festival award winners: Tom Huckabee’s CARRIED AWAY, starring John Goodman, which just won Best Feature Film at the Oxford Film Festival and Charles-Olivier Michaud’s SNOW AND ASHES which received the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Film at the recently concluded Slamdance Film Festival.
The ten official selections include:
ALABAMA MOON (USA)
Director: Tim McCanlies
Cast: John Goodman
Based on the novel by Watt Key, Tim McCanlies’ ALABAMA MOON is a children’s story of adventure and survival that follows the journey a young boy takes from Alabama to Alaska after being orphaned by the death of his anti-government radical father.
CARRIED AWAY (USA)
Director: Tom Huckabee
Directed by Tom Huckabee, CARRIED AWAY is a drama about a young man who, upon returning home to Fort Worth to find a fractured family, sets off on a cross-country pursuit after rescuing his beloved Granny from a nursing home.
CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY (USA)
Director: Alex Gibney
The latest film by Academy Award winning documentary director Alex Gibney, CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY, is a probing investigation into the lies, greed and corruption surrounding D.C. super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies.
CLIMATE REFUGEES (USA)
Directed by: Michael Nash
Michael Nash directs CLIMATE REFUGEES, a documentary that uncovers the unbelievable plight of people around the world displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters, illuminating the human face of climate change and the collision that civilization now finds itself at between over population, lack of resources and our changing climate.
I AM LOVE (Io sono l’amore) (Italy)
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti
Starring Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton and directed by Luca Guadagnino, I AM LOVE is a tragic love story set at the turn of the millennium in Milan. The film follows the fall of the haute bourgeoisie due to the forces of passion and unconditional love.
NO CROSSOVER: THE TRIAL OF ALLEN IVERSON (USA)
Director: Steve James
Academy Award nominee Steve James (HOOP DREAMS), explores the fallout from a racially inspired incident and the handling of the subsequent trial which landed a young Allen Iverson in jail and sharply divided his hometown along racial lines.
SIN ELLA (Mexico)
Director: Jorge Colon
Directed by Jorge Colon, SIN ELLA is a drama about a successful reality show producer whose life and relationship with his children is turned upside down following the tragic death of his wife. When she appears in his thoughts to tell him what she would have done in each situation, the two begin to relive their love story.
SNOW AND ASHES (Canada)
Director: Charles-Olivier Michaud
Directed by Charles-Olivier Michaud, SNOW AND ASHES is a war-based drama where a war journalist attempts to piece together the events that landed him in the hospital after he awakens from a coma to discover that his long time collaborator and photographer has not come back with him from the war zone.
SOLITARY MAN (USA)
Directors: Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Cast: Michael Douglas, Jesse Eisenberg, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Jenna Fischer, Mary-Louise Parker
Directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, SOLITARY MAN stars Academy Award winner Michael Douglas as a former car dealership mogul dealing with a string of business problems and issues in his personal life through a number of relationships with women – many women.
THUNDER SOUL (USA)
Director: Mark Landsman
Directed by Mark Landsman, THUNDER SOUL is a documentary which turns the camera on a reunion of the 1970’s Kashmere High School band and its director, Conrad Johnson, which became an international funk sensation at the time. Thirty years later, his students return to pay tribute to the man who changed their lives.
“These first 10 selections are indicative of the great variety of films we will offer Dallas audiences at this year’s film festival. They represent the latest work from Academy Award winners, inspiring films that we have found at the latest film festivals, and a return to Dallas by some of our favorite filmmakers like Alex Gibney, Steve James and Tim McCanlies that we consider to be part of the DALLAS Film Festival family,” said James Faust, DALLAS International Film Festival Artistic Director.
The DALLAS International Film festival will run April 8 – 18, 2010. Passes are currently on sale, tickets go on sale March 18. Passes and tickets will be made available via online (www.dallasfilm.org), and phone (214.720.0663).
DALLAS FILM SOCIETY ANNOUNCES MANAGEMENT CHANGES
Tanya Foster Appointed CEO/President
Michael Cain Appointed Chairman of the Board
2010 Festival Dates Announced; James Faust Named Artistic Director
Dallas, TX – January 4, 2010 – The Dallas Film Society (DFS) is pleased to announce the appointment of Tanya Foster to the position of CEO/President of the Dallas Film Society and to the newly-created position of Executive Director of the DALLAS International Film Festival (previously the AFI DALLAS Film Festival). In her role, Foster will be responsible for overall management of the Film Society, as well as responsible for fundraising and program development and expansion. Foster comes to her new role with an active Dallas community volunteer background, which most recently includes positions at The Elisa Project, the Dallas Art Ball, and the Highland Park PTA. She is currently a member of the Crystal Charity Ball, served as Chairman of the Cattle Baron’s Ball in 2008 and the Junior League of Dallas Ball in 2002.
The Board of Directors also announced today that it has elected former Dallas Film Society Artistic Director Michael Cain to the position of Chairman of the Board. Cain co-founded the Dallas Film Society, which hosted the DALLAS International Film Festival, in 2007. Cain also was founder of the Dallas Deep Ellum Film Festival, and has produced over 20 feature films, including TV JUNKIE, which was awarded a Special Jury Prize for Documentary Excellence at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and went on to be a part of the HBO Emmy Governor’s Award winning “Addiction Series.” Cain is currently in production on the STARCK PROJECT, a feature documentary and narrative film set in 1980’s Dallas and is Executive Producer on three features currently in pre-production with M3 Films including COME BACK AFRICA based on filmmaker Lionel Rogosin’s diary of the first anti-apartheid film in 1950’s South Africa.
In addition, the Board has announced that James Faust has been promoted to Artistic Director of the DALLAS International Film Festival. Faust has been with the Dallas Film Society for more than four years, most recently serving as Director of Programming. One of the founding members of the Deep Ellum Film Festival, Faust held the positions of Associate Programmer, Managing Director and Programming Director during that festival’s seven year run. Instrumental in the formation of AFI DALLAS, Faust has also served as a guest programmer with many festivals including the Austin Film Festival and is an associate programmer with the Texas Black Film Festival and was honored by that festival as Filmmaker of the year in 2009.
“We are very pleased that we have been able to put such a strong management team in place,” said Cain. “Faust will continue to bring a strong artistic focus and continuity to our Festival; while Foster will be able to expand our programming and raise the funds needed to achieve our long-term goals.”
The DALLAS International Film Festival will be held April 8-18, 2010. Festival passes are available for sale now, and more information can be found at www.dallasfilm.org.
2009 AFI DALLAS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
FOUNDING SPONSOR VICTORY PARK,
PRESENTING SPONSOR NORTHPARK CENTER
ANNOUNCES AWARD WINNERS
“GIGANTIC” RECEIVES THE $25,000 TARGET FILMMAKER AWARD
FOR BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE
“PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI” RECEIVES THE $25,000 TARGET FILMMAKER AWARD
FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“ST. NICK” RECEIVES $20,000 IN CASH, GOODS AND SERVICES FOR THE MPS STUDIOS TEXAS FILMMAKER AWARD
“CRUDE” RECEIVES THE $10,000 CURRENT ENERGY FILMMAKER AWARD
“PRINCESS MARGARET BLVD.”, “HUG” AND “CHICKEN COWBOY”
ARE NAMED WINNERS
FOR BEST SHORT FILM, STUDENT SHORT AND ANIMATED SHORT
AUDIENCE AWARDS GO TO “SKIN” FOR NARRATIVE FEATURE, “ROCK PROPHECIES” FOR DOCUMENTARY AND “LUCY: A PERIOD PIECE” FOR SHORT
DALLAS, TX, April 2, 2008 – AFI DALLAS International Film Festival, Founding Sponsor Victory Park, Presenting Sponsor NorthPark Center, announces its 2009 award winners with Matt Aselton’s GIGANTIC as the winner of the unrestricted $25,000 cash prize for the Target Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative Feature with Peter Callahan’s AGAINST THE CURRENT receiving a Special Jury Prize, and Paul Saltzman’s PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI as the winner of the unrestricted $25,000 cash prize for the Target Filmmaker Award for Best Documentary Feature with Gustav Hofer’s and Luca Ragazzi’s SUDDENLY LAST WINTER receiving a Special Jury Prize. The awards were presented by Heather Matarazzo (WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, THE PRINCESS DIARIES) and Elvis Mitchell (THE BLACK LIST), each of whom served on the Narrative Features and Documentary Features jury, respectively, for AFI DALLAS this year.
Presented by Current Energy’s Joe Harberg, Joe Berlinger’s CRUDE won the $10,000 cash prize for the Current Energy Filmmaker Award, while MPS Studios’ Mark Stephens presented MPS Studios’ Texas Filmmaker Award and $20,000 in cash, goods and services to David Lowery for his film, ST. NICK.
Kazik Radwanski’s PRINCESS MARGARET BLVD. won the award for Best Short with Honorable Mentions going to both Todd Luoto’s OIL CHANGE and Denis Villeneuve’s NEXT FLOOR. The award for Best Student Short went to Khary Jones’s HUG. Jurors John Magary and Bent Jorgen-Pearlmutt presented the awards. Reel FX Entertainment Vice President of Creative, Brandon Oldenberg presented the award for Best Animated Short to Stephen Neary’s CHICKEN COWBOY.
Anthony Fabian’s SKIN won the Audience Award for Best Narrative, while John Chester’s ROCK PROPHECIES won for Best Documentary and Julie Sagalowsky’s LUCY: A PERIOD PIECE won the Audience Award for Best Short. AFI DALLAS Director of Programming James Faust and Senior Programmer Sarah Harris presented the awards.
The winners of the jury prizes for Best Short, Best Student Short and the Audience Awards each receive production and scheduling software from Entertainment Partners.
Faust said, “This year, we were fortunate to have so many exceptional films that challenged the audience artistically and conceptually. It was a very competitive year in that respect and while we were all the beneficiaries of that, by its nature the jury had the difficulty of having to choose one film to honor over the others.”
Michael Cain, AFI DALLAS Artistic Director, added “In our third year, the city of Dallas and the international film community truly have begun to take note of the distinctive personality of this film festival – both through the evolution of our programming and what is becoming more accepted every year – the peerless presentation and hospitality that have been hallmarks of AFI DALLAS from the very beginning.”
TARGET NARRATIVE FEATURE: GIGANTIC
DIR: Matt Aselton (USA)
Cast: Zooey Deschanel, Paul Dano, John Goodman
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: AGAINST THE CURRENT
DIR: Peter Callahan (USA)
Cast: Joseph Fiennes, Justin Kirk, Elizabeth Reaser
TARGET DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI
DIR: Paul Saltzman (USA)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: SUDDENLY LAST WINTER
DIR: Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi (Italy)
CURRENT ENERGY FILMMAKER AWARD: CRUDE
DIR: Joe Berlinger (USA)
MPS STUDIOS TEXAS FILMMAKER AWARD: ST. NICK
DIR: David Lowery (USA)
SHORT: PRINCESS MARGARET BLVD.
DIR: Kazik Radwanski (Canada)
HONORABLE MENTION: OIL CHANGE
DIR: Todd Luoto
HONORABLE MENTION: NEXT FLOOR
DIR: Denis Villeneuve
STUDENT SHORT: HUG
DIR: Khary Jones (USA)
ANIMATED SHORT: CHICKEN COWBOY
DIR: Stephen Neary (USA)
DIR: Anthony Fabian (UK/South Africa)
Cast: Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, Alice Krige
DOCUMENTARY: ROCK PROPHECIES
DIR: John Chester (USA)
SHORT: LUCY: A PERIOD PIECE
DIR: Julie Sagalowsky (USA)
2009 AFI DALLAS JURY MEMBERS:
NARRATIVE FEATURE JURY includes:
Richie Mehta is the director of 2008 AFI DALLAS Audience Award winning movie, AMAL. The film has since received multiple Genie nominations in Canada. Previous films include SYSTEM OF UNITS and ANAMIKA.
Heather Matarazzo is an acclaimed actress known for her award winning performance in WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. Heather is also know for her role in THE PRINCESS DIARIES series and HOSTEL 2. She has also appeared on hit TV series such as LAW & ORDER, LIFE ON MARS and THE L WORD.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE JURY includes:
Elvis Mitchell is a former film critic for The New York Times, and is currently the host of KCRW’s pop culture and film interview program “The Treatment.” Mitchell recently produced THE BLACK LIST with director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. The film examines race, culture and the seeds of success through portraits of 20 influential African Americans.
Doug Pray is documentary filmmaker and the director of ART & COPY, which screened at the 2009 AFI DALLAS International Film Festival in the Documentary Showcase. Past films include BIG RIG, SCRATCH and HYPE!
CURRENT ENERGY EARTH FRIENDLY JURY includes:
Current Energy is a Dallas-based company that provides energy efficient solutions that are environmentally friendly. The company was founded in 2001, anticipating the impact that energy deregulation would have on companies, and was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy in the fall of 2007 with an Energy Innovators Award.
MPS STUDIOS TEXAS COMPETITION JURY includes:
David Pomes is the writer/director/producer o COOK COUNTY, which won the2008 AFI DALLAS MPS Studios Texas Filmmaker Award. David quit his job as a lawyer to film his movie in Texas.
Meredith Stephens is Vice President of Business Development at MPS Studios and served on the board of the Women in Film- Dallas and the former President of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance.
SHORT COMPETITION JURY includes:
John Magary won the 2008 AFI DALLAS Short Jury Award for his film THE SECOND LINE. Past films include OUR NATIONAL PARKS and SITE IN FISHKILL CREEK.
David Zellner is an Austin filmmaker whose movie GOLIATH screened at the 2008 AFI DALLAS International Film Festival. Past films include AFTERMATH ON MEADOWLARK LANE, REDEMPTITUDE and FLOTSAM/JETSAM.
STUDENT COMPETITION JURY includes:
Bent-Jorgen Perimutt is the 2008 AFI DALLAS Student Short award winner for his movie THE VULNERABLE ONES (Les Vulnerables).
Andy Anderson is an accomplished artist and filmmaker who served as Chair of the Art and Art History Department at University of Texas at Arlington, where he now continues as a Professor and Writer in Residence, teaching Introduction to Screenwriting, Advanced Screenwriting and the Narrative Film class.
ANIMATION COMPETITION JURY includes:
Henry Selick – Director, Tex Avery Award winner
Henry Selick is the director, production designer and screenplay adapter for CORALINE, the first stop-motion animated feature film ever produced in stereoscopic 3-D. His feature film directorial projects, including the iconic NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH.
Brandon Oldenberg/Reel FX
Brandon Oldenberg is Vice President of Creative at Reel FX Studios.
Reel FX Creative Studios, founded in 1993, is an award-winning creative studio where accomplished artists and preeminent technology converge to produce extraordinary creative solutions. Their services include visual effects, animation, design and creative editorial.
AFI DALLAS kicked off with the Opening Night Gala presentation of Rian Johnson’s THE BROTHERS BLOOM with Johnson, Adrien Brody and Rinko Kikiuchi in attendance on Thursday, March 26, 2009 at the AMC NorthPark in Dallas. The evening’s festivities also included the presentation of the AFI DALLAS Star Awards (designed from Steuben Crystal, courtesy of Neiman Marcus) to Brody.
Other highlights included a Centerpiece Screening of Guillermo Arriga’s THE BURNING PLAIN with Arriaga and Joaquim de Almeida in attendance, a screening of the cinema classic CHINATOWN with Robert Towne including the presentation of the AFI DALLAS Star Award to him prior to a special Q&A with film critic Richard Schickel and a special screening of THE LAST PICTURE SHOW with Peter Bogdanovich in attendance (and set to be honored with the AFI DALLAS Star Award the following day at the AFI DALAS Texas Day celebration). Also honored with the AFI DALLAS Star Award were Kathryn Bigelow, prior to a screening of her film THE HURT LOCKER and Rita Hayworth (presented posthumously), while Henry Selick was given the Texas Avery Award. The festival also featured Talk Show panels at the Nasher Sculpture Center and Speakeasy panels at the AFI DALLAS Festival Lounge.
The festival closed with AFI DALLAS Closing Night Gala presentations of Louis Psihoyos’s THE COVE and James Toback’s TYSON on Thursday, April 2, 2009 at the AMC NorthPark in Dallas attended by the two directors.
Other notable attendees at this year’s AFI DALLAS Film Festival included Alice Krige, Jordan Ladd, Patton Oswalt, Rob Siegel, Devon Aoki, Robin Wright Penn, Justin Kirk, Jeremy Renner, Jason Ritter, Jess Weixler, Patrick Warburton, Elaine Hendrix, Tiffany Shepis, Monique Parent, Carlos Cuaron, Matt Tyrnauer, Lou Gossett Jr., Doug Pray, Tim McCanlies and Janine Turner.
Overall, the 2009 AFI DALLAS International Film Festival showcased 81 features and 96 shorts for a total of 177 films from 22 countries.
Tze Chun’s CHILDREN OF INVENTION is a timely film. The story of a Chinese immigrant mother desperately trying to make enough money to support her two kids with little to no help and a wandering eye toward one dubious entrepreneurial opportunity after another is familiar. Too familiar. And that’s why it will last and still resonate long after our country rights itself toward the next period of prosperity. Because that elusive dream of instant wealth and relief from the struggle and embarrassment of not being able to pay rent or properly feed your kids will always be here – for someone. And the fear of that happening to all of us and the curiosity of how we would respond to that bleak situation – remains with everyone. But the magic of the film is that Chun illustrates the other hopeful side effect of that struggle in the persons of the mother’s young son and daughter – and that is the spirit of innovation to survive.
1 There is a strong autobiographical inspiration behind this film. Why was it so important for you to make this film?
It’s always hard to say why a certain script will inspire you while you’ll lose interest in another. I will say that as we were making the film, the cast (Cindy, Michael, and Crystal) continued to inspire me and kept the material fresh.
When I wrote the film, I was writing a personal story about the world I grew up in – a subculture of Americans trying to get-rich-quick in order to get themselves out of a financial hole. I didn’t foresee the current crisis. But with the economy tanking now and foreclosures going through the roof, it seems like everyone’s living through some version of what the Chengs go through in the film.
I hope this film can be a reminder that we’ve had bad times before, individually and as a country, but we’ve always made it out fine.
2 At this point in your life, are you comfortable with people who exhibit that get-rich-quick mentality or does your experiences growing up make you recoil from that?
The only thing that disturbs me is the get-rich-quick mentality without regard for hurting or exploiting others. But there are tons of harmless and brilliant get-rich-quick schemes that I’m very envious that I didn’t come up with — the Million Dollar Homepage, for example.
3 What is the best thing about having your film at AFI DALLAS?
Being eligible for the 25k prize! Also, hanging out with (programmers) James Faust and Sarah Harris.
4 Be honest here – Did you invest any money with Bernie Madoff?
Independent filmmakers generally have little to no money to invest in anything other than their own films, so luckily, no.
5 What should a director do that they never think of until it’s too late?
Wear layers when you go on set. Directing a movie is stressful, and your body temperature fluctuates a lot!
6 What’s the most underappreciated job on the set?
Hmm… The most underappreciated job on set has got to be the first Assistant Director, who keeps the crew on schedule. People always complain that the first AD isn’t giving their department enough time to get everything perfect before the shot is taken, but no one thanks them when they get to go home on time.
7 What kind of responsibility comes with being one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film last year?
The main responsibility that came with that article was having to buy a dozen copies of the magazine and mailing them to various aunts and uncles in Asia.
8 Do you still have one of those spinning spaghetti fork inventions the kids make in the film? And if so have you ever used it?
Haha, they kept on breaking on set. We went through a bunch of them. They work well for ramen, but spaghetti will break it in two.
9 What was the last film that made you cry? Laugh out loud?
Last film that made me cry was Spike Lee’s WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE. I hardly ever cry at narrative films, but I will cry at almost any documentary about any serious subject. Also at E.T. The last film that made me laugh out loud was H.P. Mendoza’s FRUIT FLY, which I just saw at the San Francisco Int’l Asian American Film Festival.
10 Popcorn or candy?
As I get older, I can’t bring myself to eat anything in the theater… I just don’t need those calories.
You and Anna Boden seem to keep trading off on each other’s skills: She edited WINDOWBREAKER so you painted the poster for HALF NELSON. Now she has edited CHILDREN OF INVENTION. So, what do you owe her now?
God, I think I may be all out of skills to trade. We edited the movie at Anna’s apartment, so I also owe Ryan Fleck for kicking him out of his own place for an entire month. Maybe I’ll clean their bathroom or something.
AFI DALLAS 2009 INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
FOUNDING SPONSOR VICTORY PARK, PRESENTING SPONSOR NORTHPARK CENTER ANNOUNCES
THE BROTHERS BLOOM AS OPENING NIGHT GALA
FESTIVAL ALSO ANNOUNCES
AFI DALLAS STAR AWARD RECIPIENTS
AND FESTIVAL LINEUP
DALLAS, TX, March 4, 2009 – AFI DALLAS International Film Festival Founding Sponsor Victory Park, Presenting Sponsor NorthPark Center announces Rian Johnson’s THE BROTHERS BLOOM, as the festival’s Opening Night Gala presentation.
The eight-day festival (March 26 – April 2), will feature 173 feature films and shorts with 150 screenings. Once again, the Target Narrative and Target Documentary Feature Competition winners will each receive a $25,000 unrestricted cash prize.
This year, the AFI DALLAS Star Award, which is presented annually by the AFI DALLAS International Film Festival to a select group of film artists in recognition of their unique contributions to cinema, will be given to Kathryn Bigelow, Adrien Brody, Rita Hayworth (posthumously) and Robert Towne.
Brody will receive the AFI DALLAS Star Award prior to the Opening Night Gala screening of THE BROTHERS BLOOM, Bigelow will be presented her AFI DALLAS Star Award prior to a Centerpiece Screening of her film THE HURT LOCKER, Rita Hayworth’s AFI DALLAS Star Award will be presented to her daughter, Princess Yasmine Aga Khan on behalf of her late mother’s remarkable body of work, prior to a screening of GILDA, and Towne will be on hand at a special presentation of the 35th anniversary of his classic, CHINATOWN.
Director Henry Selick will be the recipient of the Texas Avery Animation Award presented by Reel FX Entertainment, which honors lifetime achievement in animation filmmaking. The award will be presented to Selick prior to a special celebration of his career in animation.
THE BROTHERS BLOOM will screen as the AFI DALLAS Opening Night Gala presentation on Thursday, March 26, 2009 at AMC NorthPark 15 in Dallas. Directed by Rian Johnson the film tells the tale of two brothers who are the best con men in the world, swindling millionaires with complex scenarios of lust and intrigue. However, the younger brother’s desire to retire inspires the decision to take on one last job – showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life with a romantic adventure that takes them around the world. The film stars Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, and Rinko Kikuchi. The evening’s festivities will also include the first presentations of the Festival’s AFI DALLAS Star Awards (the award is designed from Steuben Crystal, courtesy of Neiman Marcus) to Brody. Also attending will be Johnson and Kikuchi.
In addition to the Centerpiece Screening of THE HURT LOCKER, AFI DALLAS will present the Centerpiece Screening of THE BURNING PLAIN. Featuring highly anticipated films and attended by top filmmakers and stars, these screenings are held in the festival’s largest houses and will be the highlight of that evening’s red carpet event.
Saturday, March 28
Centerpiece Screening at Landmark’s Magnolia Theater
THE HURT LOCKER will screen on Saturday, March 28 at the Magnolia Theater. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Evangeline Lilly, David Morse, Guy Pearce and Jeremy Renner, director Kathryn Bigelow shows an elite Army bomb squad forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of the Iraq war. The unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb. Bigelow will receive the AFI DALLAS Star Award prior to the screening. Also attending will be Renner.
Monday, March 30
Centerpiece Screening at AMC NorthPark 15
THE BURNING PLAIN will screen on Monday, March 30 at AMC NorthPark 15. Directed by Guillermo Arriaga and starring Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger. the drama employs multiple storylines featuring a mother and daughter who try to form a bond after the young woman’s difficult childhood. The film also stars Jennifer Lawrence, José Maria Yazpik, J.D. Pardo and Joaquim de Almeida. Attending the screening will be Arriaga and de Almeida.
Last year, AFI DALLAS established itself in only its second year as a major and significant film festival on the international and national front by seeking out and bringing the best films on the film festival circuit to Dallas audiences, while continuing to provide a spotlight for local film artists as well. Commenting on the 2009 lineup, Director of Programming James Faust said, “This year’s films really strike a true balance between the films that spoke to us from the most prominent film festivals this year as well the exceptional work we always seek to highlight from our Texas-based and Dallas-area filmmakers.”
Victory Park will again serve as the epicenter for the festival, with screenings and red carpet entrances at NorthPark Center and Landmark’s Magnolia Theater, award presentations, filmmaker panels at the Nasher Sculpture Center and the AFI DALLAS Festival Lounge, parties, and other special events celebrating film at The Crow Collection of Asian Art and area high schools and universities, culminating in an awards ceremony held at NorthPark Center on Thursday, April 2. Victory Plaza will also host film screenings on its high definition superscreens, as well as a myriad of events as part of the film festival’s Family Celebration taking place there and at NorthPark Center over the weekend of March 28 and 29.
In addition to the Target Filmmaker Awards, filmmakers will vie for $20,000 in cash, goods and services from MPS Studios for the winner of the Texas Competition and a $10,000 prize from Current Energy for the winner of the Environmental Visions Competition. Additional awards will be presented to the jury winners of the Animation, Student Film and Shorts categories, as well as audience awards for Narrative Feature, Documentary and Shorts.
AFI DALLAS Artistic Director Michael Cain said. “In our third year, we are seeing the personality and reputation of this film festival firmly establish itself both within the city of Dallas, but also as a striking representative of the city itself, nationally and internationally. Each year the flavor and character of our programming and events has further distinguished itself as we work to set ourselves apart and reach to achieve the goals we have set for AFI DALLAS for three years now.”
AFI DALLAS Board of Directors Chairwoman, Stephanie Hunt also announced that the 2009 festival would be dedicated to Ruth O’Donnell Mutch for her invaluable support and contributions to AFI DALLAS since its inception.
“We are delighted and honored to dedicate the 2009 festival to Ruth O’Donnell Mutch,” said Hunt. “She exemplifies the steadfast support that has made this film festival the amazing achievement that it has been and will continue to be this year.”
AFI DALLAS’s founder and former Chairman, Liener Temerlin praised the Festival’s founding and presenting sponsors saying, “This year’s edition of AFI DALLAS owes a great debt of gratitude to both Victory Park and NorthPark Center. At a time when many sponsors are having difficulty maintaining their support of events like ours, they have been energetic in their efforts to help us make this year’s film festival more than exceptional.”
David J. Haemisegger, president, NorthPark Management Company said, “We look forward with great anticipation to welcoming everyone to NorthPark Center for this unforgettable film event which has garnered world-wide attention through the creativity and dedication of AFI DALLAS. As the presenting sponsor and primary location for this year’s festival, we are excited to roll out the red carpet in NorthCourt for the many Hollywood filmmakers, directors and stars who will be in attendance.”
Nine feature films will be making their world premieres at AFI DALLAS 2009. Those films include BOLLYWOOD BEATS; DESDEMONA: A LOVE STORY; HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM; LOCK AND ROLL FOREVER; ONE NATION; THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE; PEARL; ROCK PROPHECIES and WHATEVER IT TAKES.
Eight feature films will be making their U.S. premieres. That group includes AMERICANA; AMERICAN TRAP; FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING; FOOD, INC; GIGANTIC; MORENITA; THE SEVEN OF DARAN and YOROI: THE SAMURAI ZOMBIE.
The AFI DALLAS film categories are as follows:
TARGET Narrative Feature Competition;
TARGET Documentary Feature Competition;
Documentary Showcase features the most cutting-edge, informative documentary work, not up for competition;
Deep Ellum Sounds, which honors the rich music culture of Dallas’ historic Deep Ellum neighborhood by showcasing music documentaries;
Special Presentations features films that fall outside of the festival’s programming categories yet deserve screenings on their own special merit;
Dallas Premiere Series features the best new films on the horizon that are making their debut on Dallas screens, including top studio films and top industry talent;
Texas Competition sponsored by MPS Studios, which encourages and promotes Texas filmmaking by showing both short and feature films produced and shot in Texas;
Environmental Visions Competition sponsored by Current Energy highlight films and filmmakers that best communicate the importance of environmental conservation through the art of film;
World Cinema features diverse cinematic voices from around the world—including Australia, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia—giving local audiences the unique opportunity to engage with these innovative films and filmmakers;
Family Friendly features dynamic and adventurous films that are uniquely suited for the family viewing experience;
Animation Competition features films that explore the many potential avenues and media utilized in film animation today;
Community Showcase highlights films that feature the achievements of local individuals and groups;
Midnight Specials features on-the-edge films that relish both the genre and outré filmmaking worlds;
Shorts Competition presents the most innovative films from around the world that push the edge of traditional storytelling in 30 minutes or less.
Student Competition showcases the best from up-and-coming filmmakers across the world, including both short and feature length films created by high school and college students; and
Local Student Shorts features the best work from students of local universities and high schools.
The AFI DALLAS full festival lineup will showcase 77 features and 96 shorts (including the Education/Student shorts) for a total of 173 films from 22 countries.
AFI DALLAS films (by category) are as follows:
TARGET NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION
AGAINST THE CURRENT – DIR: Peter Callahan (USA)
Cast: Joseph Fiennes, Justin Kirk, Elizabeth Reaser, Mary Tyler Moore, Michelle Trachtenburg
BIG FAN – DIR: Robert D. Siegel (USA)
Cast: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport, Marcia Jean Kurtz
CHILDREN OF INVENTION – DIR: Tze Chun (USA)
Cast: Cindy Cheung, Michael Chen, Crystal Chiu
GIGANTIC – DIR: Matt Aselton (USA)
Cast: Paul Dano, Zooey Dechanel, John Goodman, Ed Asner, Jane Alexander
THE MISSING PERSON – DIR: Noah Buschel (USA)
Cast: Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Frank Wood
MORENITA – DIR: Alan Jonsson Gavica (Mexico)
SKIN – DIR: Anthony Fabian (UK/South Africa)
Cast: Sam Neill, Sophie Okonedo, Alice Krige
TARGET DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
AMERICANA – DIR: Topaz Adizes USA)
THE EYES OF ME – DIR: Keith Maitland (USA)
HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM – DIR: Nicole Torre (USA)
PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI – DIR: Paul Saltzman (Canada)
Featuring: Morgan Freeman
ROUGH AUNTIES – DIR: Kim Longinotto (UK)
WHATEVER IT TAKES – DIR: Christopher Wong (USA)
ART & COPY – DIR: Doug Pray (USA)
DUNGEON MASTERS – DIR: Keven McAlester (USA)
FOOD INC. – DIR: Robert Kenner (USA)
THE GARDEN – DIR: Scott Hamilton Kennedy (USA)
TYSON – DIR: James Toback (USA)
Featuring: Mike Tyson
DEEP ELLUM SOUNDS
RIP: A REMIX MANIFESTO – DIR: Brett Gaylor (Canada)
Featuring: Girl Talk
ROCK PROPHECIES – DIR: John Chester (USA)
Featuring: Jeff Beck, Slash, Santana, Steve Vai, ZZ Top, Def Leppard, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Sick Puppies, Panic at the Disco
SAY MY NAME – DIR: Nirit Peled (USA)
Featuring: MC Lyte, Eryka Badu, Estelle, Big Manda, Chocolate Thai, Monie Love, Dr. Roxanne Shante, Mystic, Princess and DIamond, Remy Ma
SOUL POWER – DIR: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte (USA)
Featuring: Muhammad Ali, James Brown, B.B. King, Don King, Celia Cruz
CHINATOWN (1974) – DIR: Roman Polanski
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) – DIR: Billy Wilder
Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1955) – DIR: Howard Hawks
Cast: Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn
GILDA (1946) – DIR: Charles Vidor
Cast: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready
THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971) – DIR: Peter Bogdanovich
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Randy Quaid, Timothy Bottoms, Ben Johnson
ROCK SLYDE – DIR: Chris Dowling
Cast: Patrick Warburton, Andy Dick, Rena Sofer, Elaine Hendrix
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD – DIR: Jordan Galland
Cast: Jake Hoffman, Devon Aoki, John Ventimiglia, Ralph Macchio, Jeremy Sisto
DALLAS PREMIERE SERIES
THE 2 BOBS – DIR: Tim McCanlies (USA)
Cast: Jay Chandrasekhar, Leonardo Nam, Mika Boorem, Devin Ratray
ADAM RESURRECTED – DIR: Paul Schrader (USA)
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe
ALIEN TRESPASS – DIR: RW Goodwin (USA)
Cast: Eric McCormack, Robert Patrick, Jenni Baird
THE BROTHERS BLOOM – DIR: Rian Johnson (USA)
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi
THE BURNING PLAIN – DIR: Guillermo Arriaga (USA)
Cast: Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, Joaquim de Almeida, Jennifer Lawerence
HUNGER – DIR: Steve McQueen (UK)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Stuart Graham
THE HURT LOCKER – DIR: Kathryn Bigelow (USA)
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, Evangeline Lilly
LIGHTBULB – DIR: Jeffrey Balsmeyer (USA)
Cast: Dallas Roberts, Jeremy Renner, Ayelet Zurer
LIKE DANDELION DUST – DIR: Jon Gunn (USA)
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Barry Peppers, Cole Hauser
LYMELIFE – DIR: Derick Martini (USA)
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Kierin Culkin, Rory Culkin, Cynthia Nixon, Timothy Hutton
MOON – DIR: Duncan Jones (UK)
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott, Benedict Wong, Matt Berry
PETER AND VANDY – DIR: Jay DiPietro (USA)
Cast: Jason Ritter, Jess Weixler
SUGAR – DIR: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (USA)
Cast: Algenis Perez Soto, Rayniel Rufino
VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR – DIR: Matt Tynauer (USA)
Featuring: Valentino, Giancarlo Giammetti
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER – DIR: Marc Webb
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zoey Deschanel
TEXAS COMPETITION sponsored by MPS Studios
BOLLYWOOD BEATS – DIR: Mehul Shah (USA)
Cast: Sachin Bhatt, Lillete Dubey
DESDEMONA: A LOVE STORY – DIR: Phillip Guzman (USA)
Cast: Jorge Jimenez, Denton Blane Everett, Cindy Vela
ONE NATION – DIR: Justin Wilson (USA)
THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE – DIR: Justin D. Hilliard (USA)
Cast: Arianne Martin, John Elliot, Frank Mosley, Drew Waters
ST. NICK – DIR: David Lowery (USA)
TATTOOED UNDER FIRE – DIR: Nancy Schiesari (USA)
ZOMBIE GIRL – DIR: Aaron Marshall, Justin Johnson, & Erik Mauk (USA)
Featuring: Emily Haggins
ENVIRONMENTAL VISIONS COMPETITION sponsored by Current Energy
AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD – DIR: Dan Stone (USA)
CRUDE – DIR: Joe Berlinger (USA)
SUNDANCE CHANNEL – ECO TRIP: COTTON SHIRT (SHORT)/ADDICTED TO PLASTIC (FEATURE) (USA)
UPSTREAM BATTLE – DIR: Ben Kempas (Germany)
THE AMERICAN TRAP (Piège américain, Le) – DIR: Charles Binamé (Canada)
Cast: Gérard Darmon, Colm Feore, Joe Cobden, Janet Lane
EMPTY NEST (NIDO VACÍO, EL– DIR: Daniel Burman (Argentina, Spain, France, & Italy)
Cast: Carlos Bermejo, Eugenia Capizzano, Inés Efron
EVANGELION: 1.0 YOU ARE (NOT) ALONE – DIR Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hideaki Anno (Japan)
HEAVEN ON EARTH – DIR: Deepa Mehta (Canada)
Cast: Preity Zinita, Balinder Johal
HELLCATS (Ddeugeoun-geosi joh-a) – DIR: Chil-in Kwon (South Korea)
Cast: Mi-suk Lee, Min-hie Kim
KASSIM THE DREAM – DIR: Kief Davidson (USA/Uganda)
Featuring: Kassim Ouma
LULU AND JIMI – DIR: Oskar Roehler (Germany)
Cast: Jennifer Decker, Ray Fearon
PARIS 36 (FAUBOURG 36) – DIR: Chirstophe Barratier (France)
Cast: Gérard Jugnot, Clovis Cornillac
RUDO Y CURSI – DIR: Carlos Cuaron (Mexico)
Cast: Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Guillermo Fracella
LOCK & ROLL FOREVER – DIR: Chris Grismer (USA/JAPAN)
Cast: Lucas Grabeel, Ike Barinholtz, Taylor Negron, Brad Dourif
PEARL – DIR: King Hollis (USA)
SEVEN OF DARAN – DIR: Lourens Blok (The Netherlands)
THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE – DIR: Stephen Hillenburg (USA)
ANIMATION COMPETITION presented by REEL FX Entertainment
CHICKEN COWBOY – DIR: Stephen Neary (USA)
FROM BURGER IT CAME – DIR: Dominic Bisignano (USA)
I AM SO PROUD OF YOU – DIR: Don Hertzfeldt (USA)
LIES – DIR: Jonas Odell (Sweden)
MUTT – DIR: Glen Hunwick (Australia)
TOKEN HUNCHBACK – DIR: Tim Reckart (USA)
UNBELIEVABLE4 – DIR: Sukwon Shin (USA)
HAZE – DIR: Pete Schuermann (USA)
THE LEAST AMONG YOU – DIR: Mark Young (USA)
WARRIOR QUEEN – DIR: Hezekiah Lewis (USA)
GRACE – DIR: Paul Solet (USA)
Cast: Jordan Ladd
NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD – DIR: Mark Hartley (Australia)
YOROI: THE SAMURAI ZOMBIE – DIR: Tak Sakaguchi (Japan)
Cast: Tak Sakaguchi
COMMUNION – DIR: Markus Kirschner (USA)
Cast: Louisa Krause
THE EARLY NINETIES – DIR: Andrew Mailliard (USA)
HUG – DIR: Khary Jones (USA)
LOVE, SADIE – DIR: Naiti Gámez (USA)
LUCY: A PERIOD PIECE – DIR: Julie Sagalowsky (USA)
SLEET/SNOW – DIR: Daniel Laabs (USA)
TAG – DIR: Alex O’Flinn (USA)
LOCAL STUDENT SHORTS
NORTH TEXAS COLLEGE SHOWCASE
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON BLOCK
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOLS’ BLOCK
ACTING FOR THE CAMERA – DIR: Justin Nowell (USA)
CHINA’S WILD WEST – DIR: Urszula Pontikos (UK)
DANSE MACABRE – DIR: Pedro Pires (Canada)
DANZAK – DIR: Gabriela Yepes (Peru/USA)
ELLA AND THE ASTRONAUT – DIR: Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck & Robert Machoian (USA)
GRANDE DIP – DIR: Angelo Restaino (USA)
HEADSHOT – DIR: Miles Fisher (USA)
THE HORRIBLE SLOW MURDERER WITH THE EXTREMELY INEFFICIENT WEAPON – DIR: Richard Gale (USA)
HUNGER – DIR: Chad Jackson (USA)
I LIVE IN THE WOODS! – DIR: Max Winston (USA)
THE ISLAND – DIR: Trevor Anderson (Canada)
KATE WAKES – DIR: Jasmine Kosovic (USA)
Cast: Adam Goldberg & Antoinette Valente
LAST MEAL – DIR: Mark Stern (USA)
MAKE MY DAY – DIR: Pelle Møller (Denmark)
THE MANAGEMENT OF GRIEF – DIR: Sai Selvarajan (USA)
MEGATRON – DIR: Marian Crisan (Romania)
NEXT FLOOR – DIR: Denis Villeneuve (Canada)
OIL CHANGE – DIR: Todd Luoto (USA)
ONE CUP OF COFFEE – DIR: Sarah Adina Smith (USA)
Featuring: Rohan Marley
POETRY OF EXACTITUDE – DIR: Alan Govenar (France/USA)
PRINCESS MARGARET BLVD – DIR: Kazik Radwanski (USA)
PUSH BUTTON HOUSE – DIR: Robert Profusek & Ryan Silbert (USA)
RIP AND THE PREACHER – DIR: Michael Lennox (UK/Ireland)
SHORT TERM 12 – DIR: Destin Daniel Cretton (USA)
Cast: Brad Henke, Tania Verafield, Phoenix Henke, & Adam Shapiro
SISTER WIFE – DIR: Jill Orshel (USA)
SMALL COLLECTION – DIR: Jeremiah Crowell (USA)
SMOKEY – DIR: Scott Thurman (USA)
SNAKE MOUNTAIN COLADA – DIR: Calvin Reeder (USA)
SUSANNAH – DIR: Evan Nicholas (USA)
TEAM TALIBAN – DIR: Benjamin Kegan (USA)
TRECE AÑOS – DIR: Topaz Adizes (USA/Cuba)
TIPPING POINT – DIR: Javier Solis (USA)
TREEVENGE – DIR: Jason Eisener (Canada)
UNDONE – DIR: Brian Lee Hughes (USA)
AFI DALLAS 2009 will run March 26 – April 2, 2009. Passes are currently on sale; tickets go on sale March 4. 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.
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
Director, Press and Public Relations
AFI DALLAS Presented by NorthPark Center,
Founding Sponsor Victory Park
Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, then later today we’ll be rolling out the full schedule for this year’s AFI DALLAS Film Festival. And if all goes according to a still forming new plan, there could be some cool surprises in that schedule that may be added almost up until the last minute before I hit the send button to rocket that thing off to the first journalist to make it all official and in-the-news.
This is the time where Artistic Director Michael Cain and Director of Programming James Faust (or as you probably know him: Faust-About-Town) trade phone calls and e-mails with various studio, production, and distributor heads, agents, managers, and publicists to get a final determination on whether or not we can screen those last few films we want on our schedule.
But more to the point, they – along with the charmingly British Artistic Coordinator Emily Hargrove and AFI’s tireless, yet gentle Talent Coordinator Christine Calandra are trying to get an honest bead on what directors and stars will accompany those films to Dallas.
Because it’s a film festival. And, the truth is, that’s why we go to film festivals – to see the films and then see and hear the people who made those films and were part of the creative process – talk about them. We want to see them in person, we want a chance to ask them what their inspiration was, how they pulled off making an accomplished feature film for the price of an economy car, did they luck out when that butterfly flew into the shot or was it planned, and what the hell were they thinking by not having the guy kiss the girl in the third act?
Stuff like that.
Otherwise we could watch these films when they come out in general release or when they hit the Sundance Channel or DVD or on our laptops.
The worst part about this time is when some studio or production company decides it’s not that important to send anyone at all to represent their film at our film festival. This kills me. Kills me. Let me put this simply: Rare, oh so rare is the film so good, so brilliant, a work of unqualified genius, that we are blessed just to bathe in the glow of its glorious cinema.
We have a few films that have major stars in them that can’t find their way clear to make it to Dallas for a couple days to show up for a Q&A or two. Now, for one of those films they are able to pull off a trip to South By Southwest a week or so earlier but Dallas – yeah…well, they’ve got this thing and it’s tough but they’re like busy and stuff and…
For another, no one out of a good half dozen possible cast members we’d be thrilled to have can make it because they have a press day scheduled two days after their film screens at AFI DALLAS. The hilarious thing is that the production company originally said that none of their stars could attend because they were too busy promoting their film. Uhmm…wait…we do this thing called a film festival and one of the super neat things it does is like, totally promote your movie!
In the third case, we’ve got a producer who wants to hold back his biggest star because he’s saving her for a New York premiere.
And you know what? I can respect that. Of course, I get it. The guy has a tiny indie film, and he has a money-in-the-bank star that will help him sell it AND he knows that he has her for a limited number of appearances on behalf of that film so he has to parcel out his cast as best he can. He’s dealing with personal publicists that are telling her to do as little as she has to do because it’s not something they can exploit to great effect and so he needs to pick his spots. And he’s been up front about it from the beginning. Now, we may go after the personal publicist ourselves if he thinks that will buffer him from the responsibility for the “ask”. Or we may just settle for another couple of stars from the film. But at least it is all above board and we feel he’s playing fair and respecting us.
Those first two examples. Not so much.
Let’s take version number one. I understand the desire to go to SXSW. This is only our third year and we don’t have the same cache yet. Not by a long shot. However, there is a PR philosophy behind what we do on behalf of the films that come to AFI DALLAS and AFI FEST (not to mention IFFLA, Lone Star and Feel Good) that is aggressive and personal and inventive. We work hard for each film and filmmaker we have here. And frankly, to not even consider coming to AFI DALLAS is lazy. It’s rote. And it smacks of a dump. The film company gives us a few of their titles, but doesn’t see any need to support those screenings either by sending talent or screeners (for press) or even posters for the films.
Version number two. We caught this film at Sundance, immediately got onboard and invited them to AFI DALLAS. It’s all going to be great and then suddenly there is a New York press day that has been scheduled and that press day takes precedence over the film festival. The problem is, no one informed us as to the date for that press day as we were putting together the schedule. AND – even after we made efforts to move the screening dates after the fact, no one was willing to budge.
What’s interesting about this is that I used to work for the PR firm handling that film and consider them friends. I have even pinch hit for them at screenings and events long after leaving for AFI-land. But the truth of the matter is that kind of thing rarely, rarely, let’s do this one more time for emphasis – rarely…matters. Because that kind of consideration and possibly extending yourself to make something work in a case like this can fly right out the door once the key voice of reason and integrity for your company goes on maternity leave.
And what’s left is arrogance.
So we will work even harder on behalf of the films with filmmakers coming to town, we’ll exhaust every idea to get the word out and make sure that the theaters are filled and that national and international press takes note of those films as well. It doesn’t mean we’ll score features for each and every one of them, but each one of those filmmakers will know they had a lot of people genuinely busting ass for them.
And those others? Well, check out the AFI DALLAS website. We’ve got a lot of movies this year…
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.
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…
Back at Sundance – Day #5
Today turned out to be music day. Not by design, really, but by this point you almost change your movie watching plans hour by hour depending on what films have tickets you can still get your hands on, how much time you’ve got to make it to the theater, and how vociferously the woman sitting behind you on the tram just trashed what you were planning to see.
So, first up – Jeff Lipsky’s ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. I wasn’t originally planning on seeing this. But then I ran into Jeff and his producer Paul Jarrett at a party. Here’s the deal: a few years back, I was part of the PR team that repped Jeff’s great (and despite our efforts, I still feel under sung) relationship drama, FLANNEL PAJAMAS. So, I was hoping I’d see him while we were here at Sundance, but I also had missed the press screening of ONCE MORE WITH FEELING so I figured that wasn’t in the cards. Well, the weird thing about directors and producers is that a lot of the time they have tickets to their own movies.
The film stars Chazz Palminteri as a successful psychiatrist who rediscovers a lifelong dream of a singing career thanks to the siren song of karaoke. Meanwhile his eldest daughter, played by Drea de Matteo is a mother of two being driven to distraction thanks to neurotic thoughts about getting older and not feeling attractive. Oh, and naturally they’re part of a huge Italian family full of quirky characters and precocious personalities. Because they’re Italian and those are the rules. Don’t even pretend like you didn’t know that. And then, Palminteri’s character confuses his singing dream for something else with his karaoke muse (played by Linda Fiorentino). Again, I think it’s more than natural to cross the line with your karaoke muse. I mean, you’re trying to follow the lyrics on that little blue screen, there’s pressure to say, bring sexy back and it happens. And there are misunderstandings and hurt feelings and we all learn a little something about…karaoke.
To Lipsky’s credit, his characters are grown ups and likeable and while a lot of the elements in the film are by the numbers, those are issues I had with the script he was given. I think it will eventually be one of those films that will play forever on cable. You know, the kind that you flip by constantly – always at the same point in the movie.
The other beautiful thing about the screening is that it provided that perfect cliché Sundance moment during the Q&A where some old person complains about every other film at the festival ending in misery or bloodshed and then praises the filmmakers for making the only film they’ve seen that left them with a smile on their face.
Of course, it’s funny to me because I giggled out loud during GRACE and WHITE LIGHTNIN’. A lot.
Anyway, back to the music. And next up was Davis Guggenheim’s documentary, IT MIGHT GET LOUD. This film is like shooting rock n’ roll fans in a barrel. Basically, three generations of guitar heroes (Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White) are brought together to talk music, play music and maybe learn a little something about karaoke. I’m kidding – no karaoke. There is a lot of great stuff to be had: Cool moments like the Edge doing yoga while checking his blackberry, Jack White describing how he took the bed out of his bedroom growing up so he could fit in more music equipment, and Jimmy Page describing how far ahead Led Zepplin was as he recounts their legendary fourth album (which included “Black Dog,” “When the Levee Breaks,” and “Stairway to Heaven”) garnering a one paragraph review because no one knew what to do with it when it first came out.
The film excels in illustrating the mutual love affair all three have had with music and the electric guitar in particular as each contemplates and discusses how fate and their various musical influences led them to their respective successes. My favorite quote coming from the Edge when he says, “If we believed what we were about was much more important than how well we played.” However, I can only give a mild endorsement because the entire thing was so manufactured that at times I found myself wondering how necessary the film itself was.
I finished the day with a screening of JOHNNY MAD DOG. Jean-Stephane Sauvaire’s fictional look at a platoon of child soldiers fighting a civil war in a fictional African nation is intense, visceral and unrelenting. AFI DALLAS Head of Programming James Faust loved the movie and wanted a second opinion, so it won my personal last minute Sundance movie lottery. I haven’t talked to him yet, but he’s not going to be happy. Three words will describe perfectly what I feel is wrong with this film: CITY OF GOD. Fernando Meirelles’ film is one of my favorites and this one shares many of its themes, yet is very pale in comparison. Add to that mix the recent award winner from AFI FEST, Kief Davidson’s documentary KASSIM THE DREAM, and it’s also screwed because that film delivers the real thing and thanks to that film’s protagonist, we like and care about the real person who lived through those atrocities and made it out. Even with his hands bloodied, we gain some respect for what it must have took to survive and then make it out. JOHNNY MAD DOG just doesn’t have the stuff that either of those films had respectively.
Worse yet – no karaoke.