That’s A Wrap! What’s Up? Re-cap: The Annapolis Film Festival
Apr 07, 2016 03:41PM ● Published by Melissa Lauren
The 4th Annual Annapolis Film Festival was Thursday, March 31st through Sunday, April 3rd and presented 70 films in four days. The festivities included panel discussions with industry guests and filmmakers, Q&A’s with festival goers and filmmakers after film screenings, and fun parties.
Before the Opening Night films in Mitscher Hall at the United States Naval Academy, Co-Founders of the festival, Patti White and Lee Anderson noted, “there are 127 filmmakers here from all over the world—Copenhagen, Buenos Aires…” Mayor Pantelides welcomed the crowd to Annapolis acknowledging, “many of you are coming to the festival from out of town and we invite you to enjoy all that Annapolis has to offer”. He went on to tell the crowd about the benefits of using the Circulator bus to get around town and encouraged all to enjoy local eateries. U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral, Ted Carter introduced Midshipman and filmmaker, Ryan Tuohy. He directed the Naval Academy spirit video, Naptown Funk , which went viral—a YouTube sensation garnering nearly 5 million views. Upon viewing the film the crowd cheered and swelled with pride and applause.
One More Time starring Christopher Walken and Amber Heard was the main feature opening night. The film is about a father-daughter relationship where both characters are struggling with their individual identities as they are dissolving and evolving into something new. They are also working to reconnect with each other whether their characters realize it or not. Heard’s character is not quite a brat and Walken plays a singer whose contemporaries were part of the rat pack. Walken sees his daughter working towards her musical goals and tugs at the viewers’ heartstrings when he hollers to his daughter to hang out, “C’mon, I’m gonna die soon!” This line got the most laughs of them all! Walken is Walken in this film and although he plays a character who is deeply flawed, he still manages to charm the audience. Director Robert Edwards spoke during the Q&A after the film, “The character of Paul [played by Walken] could be very harsh. We needed an actor that could make the character more likeable. Amber Heard and Christopher Walken had instant chemistry on set.” Edwards talked about the film in its nebulous stage, “I wrote the script with no ambitions whatsoever, just as something for myself. I didn’t intend to show it to anyone.” Edwards’ writing during the family dinner scenes was particularly interesting. He really captured the fun in family dysfunction in those scenes. I’m glad he decided to share his script and that it evolved into such an eye opening film about the significance of the father-daughter relationship that can’t be ignored and must be embraced even if only for just one more time.
I Dream Too Much (My Top Narrative Film Pick) stars Eden Brolin as Dora. Here character opens the wintry film with a voiceover as she balances on ice getting out of her car about to walk into her childhood home, “I thought college would help but I’m right back where I started.” She longs to travel and wittily makes her case in a note to her mom justifying the necessity of self-exploration while exploring the world, “I’ve only been on a plane once to go to Florida and that doesn’t count because everyone on the plane was from Jersey!” The audience laughs frequently and identifies with Dora’s character whose frustration is bursting, “Why does it always seem like everything fabulous is so far away from me?” to which her mother replies, “It’s all right there in your head, you just have to find it.” She is searching and her self starts to percolate when she goes to The Catskills to take care of her Great Aunt Vera played by Diane Ladd. Ladd’s character is as strong and biting as the martinis she drinks. Her truths may pack a wallop like that first sip but her wise words settle in and warm Dora’s heart while sparking her imagination. Upon first arriving in her next chapter Dora assesses that “Life is so still at my Aunt Vera’s that a depression would be redundant!” Dora’s character is starting to realize she can rightly call herself a poet and works on her process as a writer. Katie Cokinos wrote and directed the film. She was also the co-editor with her husband. The poetry featured in the film contains gorgeous lines, “… the heart is my mostly companion”. Cokinos’ writing in the film shines. She got her start in film as location manager for friend, Richard Linklater on the set of Slacker and Dazed and Confused. Linklater has become his own ‘brand’ in the indie world especially, after the recent success of Boyhood. It was nice of him to help a friend out by producing her film but Cokinos has definitely earned it. I interviewed her after the film over sushi and much like her main character, she is chockfull of ideas for films. The Annapolis Film Festival was the last stop on her festival circuit and she said in all sincerity “this festival is my favorite!” That’s saying a lot considering her film was selected for screening at the 2015 SXSW Festival, 2015 Bentonville Film Festival, 2015 Manhattan Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, Middle Coast Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, Destiny Film Festival, Dallas Videofest, Houston Cinema Arts Festival, New Hampshire Film Festival, Sedona International Film Festival, and 2016 Gasparilla International Film Festival. I look forward to seeing more of her work and you can look forward to seeing I Dream Too Much upon its digital release on June 21st, 2016.
Driving While Black (My Top Narrative Comedy Feature)
Actor and writer, Dominique Purdy along with Director, Paul Sapiano hosted a fascinating Q&A after their film’s Saturday night screening. We were all still talking about it with them even after midnight! Driving While Black is a film I hope people will continue to talk about. The filmmakers were brilliant at unveiling this controversial topic with humor. This film is insightful with impeccable wordplay. Purdy is a natural comic actor and the film is hilarious! I loved the use of murals in the L.A. scenery, which made L.A. a supporting character in the movie. When asked about certain casting choices, Purdy reinforced the choices he made in the film were all intentional because “it is based on my life”. He also mentioned that they allowed themselves to be free and improvise by acting out the ridiculous. This film pushes the limits but it is not a farce. There’s no other way to say it, Driving While Black is really funny! Let’s hope the filmmakers find a major distributor soon so more people can be entertained and informed with their message. Big ups to producer Patrick DiCesare for making this movie happen!
Missing People (My Top Doc Pick)
Missing People is a nonfiction mystery storytelling parallel narratives that intertwine. Filmmaker, David Shapiro is a visual artist who met his first subject of the documentary, Martina Batan when she bought a piece of his art. She is known in the New York art world for curating modern adventurous art. “She hesitated to do the film for two years”, he noted at the post-screening Q&A. His initial subject started to exhibit a second subject, Roy Ferdinand, a visual artist in New Orleans who died in 2004. Shapiro expertly displays a well-balanced narrative of both subjects who use art to illustrate what is in the mind’s eye and the world around us as we see it, and as we look away from it. This beautiful film teaches the viewer that even when we look away at what is hard, we are surprised by what we are forced to face head on. Those surprises, however challenging, illuminate grace in the changing light of the human experience. Martina talks about her own photography that makes use of deeply saturated negative space, “I see the images as ghosts.” Ferdinand talks about his art in the film, “It’s guns, it’s drugs, it’s violence, it’s church”. His art depicts 90s violence in pre-Katrina New Orleans with vibrant colors in reverence of the culture. “I wanted to do something a little bit more meaningful”, Ferdinand explains when asked why he stopped being an active gang member and actively pursued his art. As Martina, Roy, and David look for meaning with their visual art, they combine forces to create a compass for the audience who is left with a meaningful experience that is delicate and lovely.
Hitchcock/Truffaut (My Top Filmmaker’s Filmmaker Award)
In 1962 Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets behind the mise-en-scène in cinema. Based on the original recordings of this meeting—which produced the mythical book Hitchcock/Truffaut—this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time. Hitchcock’s incredibly modern art is elucidated and explained by today’s leading filmmakers. They remark “Hitchcock was a mathematical genius” when it comes to framing and composition. “You could watch Hitchcock films as silent films and you would still understand the plot”, notes Richard Linklater. The documentary features interviews with Martin Scorsese , Peter Bogdanovich ,Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Desplechin, James Gray, Paul Schrader, and David Fincher. I was pleased to see the film spent so much time on my favorite Hitchcock film, Vertigo, which was a commercial flop yet remains a movie masterpiece. The venue was packed with Annapolis Film Festival filmmakers who were reminded again why it is easy to be awestruck at Hitchcock’s highly sophisticated and detailed process. He was notorious for saying, “All actors are cattle” but that can be forgiven in his genius.
Nascent (My Top Short Doc Pick)
Nascent is a documentary short film about two children on opposing sides of Central African Republic's civil war. Director of Photography Jon Kasbe excels at the grand sweeping imagery that pairs with the words of the children to create a stunning visual tone poem. The children ask: “When Christians see Muslims they kill them so we fled. They took everything. No child should see this. Forgiveness is like water. I want the country to find peace so we can all move on together. Do you think the war will ever stop?”
Kandahar Journals is an award winning critically acclaimed documentary film, which follows the story of a photojournalist who reflects on the events behind his psychological transformation after covering frontline combat in Kandahar, Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010. Upon interviewing filmmaker Louie Palu, he noted there was a bird every two minutes in the film. Seeing birds, dogs, and a black sheep bleating in the frames makes the experience of seeing this challenging film more human somehow. Palu is a renowned war photojournalist. The cinematography took my breath away in more ways than one. Some scenes were extremely devastating and difficult to see but the film is not exploitative. His film is an honest depiction of what war is. The filmmaker is treading on the road, steadfast, rapid wind, scared shallow breathing. You see the dividing lines on the road, road becomes covered with more and more pebbles, then debris –covered, dirt, demolished truck sunken into the road that is wartorn in the foreground. He holds shrapnel in his hand. Cut to those bloody mountains that are responsible for the people of Kandahar caught in the war as those impenetrable stones pierce the clouded sky. Palu travelled 40 hours from doing work in the Ukraine to be at the Annapolis Film Festival. While talking with him one on one, I realized how thoughtful he is. He really connects and makes the most of fleeting moments, humble and present.
Colin Hay: Waiting For My Real Life (My Top Editing Award)
“Colin Hay is from the television show Scrubs!”
“What is Scrubs?! He is from the band Men at Work! Everyone knows that!” Hay relates this story upon meeting two fans at a coffee shop in the documentary that illustrates how his musicianship and storytelling has attracted fans across generations. The film shows excerpts of him telling the same story at different gigs while marrying them together seamlessly and capturing Hay’s loveable personality minus the Men at Work persona.
Catalyst (Local Focus and my Local Favorite)
When business owners of Tsunami Annapolis Restaurant in Historic Annapolis respond to a citation from the City to paint their building by commissioning a 1000 square foot mural by muralist Jeff Huntington on the building's facade, a heated debate ensues. Director Brian White’s use of time lapse photography makes the viewer appreciate the work and mastery of mural creation. The question is asked: “Does this change the structure of the building?” Does it distract from the historic nature of Annapolis? Does it supplement local history by creating art history? No matter what side of the debate you land on, there is no question, this mural has made history.