What’s Actually Happening – March 6 (Movie Stars, Money and no Mediocrity)

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 7, 2010

Okay, technically I’m writing this on March 7 (it’s close to 1AM). But, you know, it’s my blog and I’ll….anyway…

MOVIE STARS

That’s what the DALLAS FILM FEST is all about for me right now because we have to have them show up. Bottom line. And it’s always this ordeal of a process to figure out (say, in the case of the DALLAS Star Award) who you want to honor, who “deserves” to be honored, who would even consider making the trip, who is “easy” because they’re nice, their publicist isn’t lazy or an ass, or who you can simply call because you’ve worked with them in the past and their experience at your past event was amazingly easy for them, you had your thing down and they enjoyed themselves.

Okay, now I’ll take a breath.

So – I’m into that right now. And it is NEVER easy. But there is one thing that is leaps and bounds better than in years past with DALLAS FILM FEST: a lot of the conservative shroud has been lifted off what we are doing this year. In the past, the potential DALLAS Star Award honorees had to be vetted by as many people that have worked on the health care bill. There always had to be some major anniversary of a film or the person had to be ancient or a very typical honoree choice…but not too big, not such a big fish because that person needed to be utilized (read exploited) for something that could make some folks some money somewhere.

NOT ANYMORE.

So, I’m really hoping that some of the people we are going after say “yes” because they won’t be people that have been trotted out countless times, they aren’t the kind of people where we’d just recycle their clip montages from Santa Barbara or Palm Springs or the Hollywood Film Festival, etc. It would be cool to give these people a nod. Sit down in front of a Dallas crowd to talk about their careers…

(And by the way, if you ARE a publicist reading this – YOU CAN NOT DO BETTER than a Dallas audience for your client. No audiences are as engaged as these audiences are. Not just fans – which they are – the Dallas filmgoers are appreciative, interested and absolutely fascinated by the artistic process. Liener Temerlin and Michael Cain knew what the hell this town wanted and needed when they created this film festival. Trust me on that.),

…and go on record as “saying” that this actor or actress or director or cinematographer, editor, designer, you name it is an artist and someone with a vision.

And then there are the jurors and the panelists and the people that will actually have movies in the film festival. I know that we have to get people here. I mean, that knowledge plagues me. Especially since I’m the freakin’ red carpet guy. You don’t put on the red carpet show without stars and filmmakers. You just don’t. That’s not a red carpet anymore. It’s a red heartbreak. For me, that is. For the press it’s irritating, if not infuriating. There’s a step-and-repeat behind it with logos and stuff, sure. But you might as well have your attendees taking prom-style pictures with powder blue tuxes and corsages and stuff. Because all-of-a-sudden, your event is the school dance with the “Under the Sea” theme. Sad.

Fortunately, we’ve already got a decent handful of people that we’ll be telling everyone about over the next couple of weeks, so no one has to worry about doing a slow dance to “Through the Years” with a lonely shorts director or the one actor that had family in town therefore they decided to make the trip. No, magic 8-ball says we’ll be well attended by out-of-towners once again.

THE VISION THING

That’s why FESTWORKS was created (by Rose Kuo). And that’s why the idea had me before she could completely say it out loud when she introduced it to me. I talked to her this morning and there are possibilities and things on the table for various film festivals and conferences and screening series all over the damn world. And no, the vast majority of them won’t happen. (I say, because I cannot fathom doing every single one of these jobs and projects.) But, how goddamn cool to work with someone that keeps pushing and pushing and saying, “Why not?” “Let’s try this?” “Have you considered this idea?” and “We should give this a shot because no one else has before.”

I was talking to a PR dynamo named Cristina Uranga on Friday. She has been one of the amazing stalwarts I sincerely lean on in Dallas to help us pull off what we do with this film festival. I’ve written about a few of them on this blog before, but I could write about them endlessly and I’d never be able to pay back what they make possible with this thing. To a person, they aren’t just absurdly generous with their time they ARE GOOD. They make me and the film festival look good and I consider them great friends too. Anyway, in 2008 Cristina was my Latin Media Specialist and she rocked the PR house. Just cut a swath through this town on behalf of our films from Mexico and Spain and Latin America. Smart, driven, relentless, charming, thorough – man, it was brilliant. Even wrapped it all up with one of those reports that they throw around in commercials for Kinkos and Fed Ex, you know, with pie charts and graphs and stuff. So, last year I say, “Hell, she pulled that off. Let’s have her run the entire Ethnic and Special Interest outreach! Give her the keys to that part of the kingdom! And let’s add on an “Adopt a Film’” component as well!” Didn’t work. And not because of her at all. Because I screwed up and tried to advance the plan to far and too fast and way too vast for just one person – even one that is a certifiable rock star like Cristina.

So, what’s the point? I’m getting to it – patience, already. The point, as I told Cristina, is that we tried something that didn’t work. But we tried. We tried to do more, we tried to go farther, and we weren’t satisfied with the amount of press and attention we got for our films and filmmakers the previous year so we tried something even more ambitious. And, of course it doesn’t always work. And, of course, it will never always work. BUT, it will ALWAYS work in one very important way. It will keep us from being mediocre. It will keep us from being lame. Complacent at best. Hacks at worst.

So Cristina had gone to the International Film Festival Summit in Vegas in December. Now, I had gone too but I went during a different portion of this thing. Second year I’ve gone. And I think this “summit” has a lot of potential to do good stuff and spread some information and help a lot of regional film festivals (and the people that put them on) all over the country. But Cristina had gone to a part of this thing specifically to learn more about everything she could about the film festival machinery. And what happens? She gets told (as did the rest of the unfortunate people attending this “class” with her) by some PR or marketing type that they all needed to forget about social media because it was pointless and never helped a single filmmaker actually get people to attend their screenings, blah, blah, you’re fucking blah, kidding me, blah.

And that’s why FESTWORKS is important. And that is why I so appreciate Rose Kuo. Because there are people out there that pass themselves as being in-the-know veterans that are gonna give you the lowdown on how to put on your event and the truth is, they’re gonna regale you with stories of what they did during the Toronto Film Festival for that Disney film in the mid-80s or how they pulled that Oscar winning director out of their hat for their film fest two decades ago.

And you won’t learn a thing. Because that’s how long it has been since they knew anything worth learning. Which is fine unless you’re passing off bad info to a Fresh Princess of PR like Cristina. Man, that story pissed me off.

A NEW HOPE.

I’ll finish with this: This morning I got a call from a friend letting me know that she had a conversation with someone at a production company about STRIPPED. Now, I’m still meeting with anyone that will let me in the door or on the phone or in a crowded elevator about getting the last of the funds to finance this thing completely before we start shooting at the end of May. So, apparently this guy at this production company is a good script read away from giving me that golden production ticket and more.

And, of course, I’m not holding my breath anymore than I am about the two indie movie stars that have the script with the idea that they could reunite on my film giving me three “box cover names” for a project that Justina and I had conceived and developed and produced expressly so we would not have to depend on “names”. And then, of course, Rose’s husband Larry Gross got on my case for not putting it out there because, in his opinion it was more than worthy for snagging someone stellar (stature-wise) due to what Justina and I written. And when a guy with a Waldo Salt Award, a try to keep up with the cool filmography and the kind of film knowledge that send you running for the Criterion section of your DVD store after the most casual of conversations prods you like that….

Anyway, we’re trying. And now this thing. I mean, we have four or five people circling with their checkbooks and it’s all very promising but I won’t be able to imagine that aspect of it (even as I design business and marketing plans to go along with the actual film itself to make it as investment tasty as I can), because with everything that I’ve done all around the camera and various offices and events and shows related to moviemaking – the reality is that this will be the first time that I have done this one specific thing: raise funds to make a feature film.

Movie stars and money. And no mediocrity. That’s what we’re working for here.

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DALLAS INTL FILM FEST Announces Texas Avery Honoree & 12 Official Selections

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 5, 2010

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.

EARTHLING (USA)

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.

GREENLIT (USA)

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.

OBSELIDIA (USA)

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. 

SKATELAND (USA)

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

DALLAS Intl Film Fest Announces Mayor Tom Leppert & Laura Leppert Honorary Chairs

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on January 20, 2010

DALLAS MAYOR TOM LEPPERT AND LAURA LEPPERT NAMED

AS HONORARY CHAIRS OF DALLAS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

THE DALLAS FILM SOCIETY ALSO ANNOUNCES

FIRST MEMBERSHIP INITIATIVE IN THE HISTORY OF THE ORGANIZATION

Dallas, TX – January 14, 2010 – With preparations well underway for the DALLAS International Film Festival (April 8-18). The Dallas Film Society (DFS) announced today that Mayor Tom Leppert and his wife Laura will serve as Honorary Chairs for the film festival. The Dallas Film Society also announced the creation of its first membership program, the Circle of Stars.

“Mayor Leppert and his wife, Laura have been stalwart supporters of the former Film Festival since its inception in 2007,” said Dallas Film Society Chairman Michael Cain. Leppert’s assistance and support of the inaugural edition of AFI DALLAS proved invaluable for what became a heralded first year for the film festival. They have both continued to back the subsequent editions, with Leppert joining Governor Rick Perry, Peter Bogdanovich, Ross Perot, Jr. and others at last year’s Texas Day celebration of film at Victory Park which served as a culmination of the 2009 event.

Mayor Leppert said, “Laura and I are both honored and thrilled to serve as the Honorary Chairs for the DALLAS International Film Festival. It’s wonderful to be part of an event that puts forward the best of this great city to a host of international filmmakers and literally brings a world of film and the top film artists to this community.”

The Dallas Film Society also took another major step toward energizing the Dallas film going community with the announcement of its Circle of Stars membership program.

Circle of Stars members will receive an array of benefits and privileges created to maximize the experience with The Dallas Film Society and its many year-round programs and events.  Benefits include invitations to exclusive events, invitations to Premiere Screenings and other Dallas Film Society events, complimentary passes to the annual DALLAS International Film Festival, recognition in event programs and on the Society’s website. Individual Circle of Stars memberships begin at $2,500 and can be paid in installments throughout the year.

“Circle of Stars members will help leave a lasting impression on how the world views Dallas while also providing a solid foundation to ensure the legacy of filmmaking,” said Tanya Foster, President and CEO, Dallas Film Society.

The Dallas Film Society and its annual programs are sustained by the generosity of its patrons and corporate sponsors.  The Dallas Film Society inspires artists to explore film’s power to reach all ages, societies and walks of life – educating, motivating and entertaining. Through this focus on the art of filmmaking, the Society is committed to enhancing the arts in Dallas. In just three years, this philosophy has inspired and driven the creation of one of the most prestigious film festivals in North America with a combined attendance of over 110,000 and notable attendees including Lauren Bacall, Sydney Pollack, David Lynch, Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron and Adrien Brody among others.

More information on the Circle of Stars membership program can be found on the DFS Web site at www.dallasfilm.org.

Dallas Film Society Announces Management Changes

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on January 4, 2010

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.

AFI DALLAS Announces Award Winners

Posted in Uncategorized by Wildworks on April 9, 2009

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

AND

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.”

JURY AWARDS:

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)

AUDIENCE AWARDS:

NARRATIVE: SKIN
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 Stevens/MPS
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
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
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 Perlmutt
Bent-Jorgen Perimutt is the 2008 AFI DALLAS Student Short award winner for his movie THE VULNERABLE ONES (Les Vulnerables).

Ben Levin
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.

AFI DALLAS Announces Full Schedule

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 4, 2009

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)

DOCUMENTARY SHOWCASE

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

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

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)

WORLD CINEMA

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

FAMILY FRIENDLY

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)

COMMUNITY SHOWCASE

HAZE – DIR: Pete Schuermann (USA)

THE LEAST AMONG YOU – DIR: Mark Young (USA)

WARRIOR QUEEN – DIR: Hezekiah Lewis (USA)

MIDNIGHT SPECIALS

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

STUDENT COMPETITION

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

SHORTS COMPETITION

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.

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

Dealing With Arrogant Films

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 4, 2009

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.

Arrogant.

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…

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.

“I haven’t fallen in love yet, but I would sleep with PAPER HEART”

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on January 20, 2009

Back at Sundance – Day #1

After two years away due to the initial AFI DALLAS launch and scheduling issues the second year, I’m back in Park City to get a head start working on the films we’ll be picking up, get some face time with the journalists in town and possibly help Artistic Director Michael Cain and the programming dynamic Dallas duo of James Faust and Sarah Harris maybe find a couple more must haves that they somehow didn’t catch in their exhaustive non-stop movie search. Oh – and I’m also doing a Sundance story for Envy Magazine as they continue to stretch the boundaries of the “local social/ entertainment” magazine.

First impression – the reminder that you can’t park a car in Park City. Unless of course, you have a roll of bills like a mobster at hand to pay or you won the parking lottery. Point is – they don’t want you to park here. They don’t want you to have even owned a car. Ever. It’s understandable why. I mean, of course, I get it. And the public transpo is great. But there’s kind of an angry aggressiveness about the parking moratorium. And the tow trucks? Like sharks. Trolling for cars left behind by the weak-willed and desperate to make a movie or a meeting.

Scary. If you happen to have a car here – like me.

Anyway, if you’ve been here before then you know the drill and if you haven’t, you’ll learn fast. And ultimately, you won’t care because it’s all about the movies. Because if you’re here, even if it is for work, you likely view movies a little differently than the general public. At my first press screening, I asked a guy what he had seen that he had loved. He said, “I haven’t fallen in love yet, but I would sleep with PAPER HEART.” He also said he would have a one-night stand with LYMELIFE. Which leads me to think he would also buy PAPER HEART dinner a couple times as well.

The first film I saw was BIG FAN. The film follows a sad sack parking lot attendant who loves his New York Football Giants like no other. Until a disastrous incident occurs during a flukish meeting with his all-time favorite player, that is. I’m interviewing Patton Oswalt, the star of the film, tomorrow – AND I had insider info that it was gonna be a good one so I was looking forward to it. And it didn’t disappoint. It’s funny in a “real” way and it’s not afraid to go to some serious places you wouldn’t expect of Mr. Oswalt. But not earnest Oscar grab kind of going to those places. Probably because that sort of play would never enter Patton’s head in the first place. Written and directed by Robert Siegel with the same unflinching look at both the humor and you have to say it – pathos, that he brought to the script for THE WRESTLER. There’s also a nice understated turn by Kevin Corrigan as Oswalt’s character’s partner in fandom. The film draws conclusions that may not be the best on paper for all concerned, but (and I’m going to hate myself as I write this) that’s why they play the game. Finally, BIG FAN has, hands down, one of the best payoffs I have seen in a very long time.

Nice start, huh?

Film number two was THE COVE. Again, I was looking forward to this one from the moment I heard about it. The film is an expose’ on the dolphin industry and in particular the wholesale slaughter of dolphins that takes place in a little cove in Taiji, Japan. And it is as riveting as it gets as we follow a group of activists who hatch and execute an elaborate OCEAN’S 11-type operation for the express purpose of filming and documenting what goes on there. Led by Ric O’Barry who has been on a crusade for some 35 years to thwart an industry he feels greatly responsible for inspiring due to his work as a dolphin trainer on the original FLIPPER TV series, the group and the film work toward unmasking the many wrongs – animal cruelty to the nth degree and the willful spread of mercury poisoning to the entire country (with an emphasis on their children) among them. THE COVE invites immediate comparisons to SHARKWATER, which we had at AFI DALLAS in 2007 and which won the prize for Best HD Feature. And that comparison weighs very heavily in THE COVE’s favor. While SHARKWATER’s campaign against the illegal shark finning industry was easily just as genuine, it was burdened by the weighty ego of its filmmaker and “star.” O’Barry and the principals involved with THE COVE never waver on where their focus and concern lies –with a species with an intelligence and self awareness that could possibly exceed our own. And our kind’s typical bent to destroy that. Don’t miss this film when you get the chance to see it.

Number three? Chris Rock’s documentary, GOOD HAIR. This was an eye opener. Black women’s (and some men’s) love affair with relaxer (or “creamy crack”) and weaves is equal parts hilarious and frightening. Not surprising, mind you. Not when, as Nia Long describes the desire for “white hair” – there has long been a steady drumbeat for generations of black women to seek “the lighter, the brighter, the better,” as she says. To see what the principal chemical component in relaxer can do to a coke can in 3 or 4 hours is bad enough. Realizing that same stuff is being put on the heads of children after hearing the horror stories of the scalp burn from people like Ice T (yes, that Ice T), places it in a whole other arena. And then there are the secret societies of women with weaves, descriptions of how they pay thousands upon thousands of dollars for those weaves and how women in India literally have their hair “stolen” – cut off while they’re asleep or watching a movie in a theater – to fulfill that demand/obsession. It’s a lot to take in. And while I laughed throughout, I actually have gained much empathy for the men who must negotiate their way around their woman’s weave. Because, Rock makes it very clear – she may be worth it, but that’s some heavy lifting.

Finally, it was off to Slamdance to see a film we are romancing to bring to AFI DALLAS – ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD. First off, there was a gift bag on the seat for everyone attending the premiere with a poster, fangs, t-shirt, etc. Thoughtful. Vampire thoughtful. And the film was proceeded by a short film – bonus, right? Entitled HORSEFINGERS 3: STARFUCKER, it was everything you would hope from a twisted bizzaro little short about romance and tough it is already to date without also having to work around having two giant hooves (or “horsefingers”) on your hands.
While describing the film, the director (Kirsten Kearse) had the second best quote of the day, “People are boring. But put them in animal outfit…”

As far as the feature presentation is concerned, what can you say about a film that follows a theater director’s struggles as he finds himself caught in the middle of a two thousand year out conspiracy involving Shakespeare, the Holy Grail and vampires? It was funny, it was silly, it was inventive. That’s what you can say. You can also say it starred Jake Hoffman (displaying some natural dead pan talent), Devon Aoki, Ralph Macchio and Jeremy Sisto among an eclectic cast. And music by Sean Lennon. Mind you, I saw the film during its world premiere which might have doubled as a cast and crew screening so it was a mad house and a very happy, giddy mad house. But Jordan Galland’s dead little valentine would have held its own regardless and brought the funny. This will be a fun movie to have in Dallas and a great cast to have on a red carpet.