FILM- Eat flesh, film local: Best o' the Fest picks from homegrown producers
With 100 screenings crammed into four film-packed days, our heads were spinning at the choices to be made at this year's Virginia Film Festival. So we asked the experts.
Four local filmmakers have offered up their top five for the November 4-7 cinemania. With incredible restraint, they didn't pick their own movies–- mostly–- and didn't load up on their friend's movies. Mostly.
Here are roughly 20 professionally vetted recommendations of what to see at the Film Festival. Good luck whittling these down.
The Taqwacores (2010)
Looks like a hardcore Muslim Trainspotting. Punks and prayer rugs. So nice to see another side of Islam and Arab culture. A while back in Cairo, I witnessed the same dichotomy of piety and all-night partying. I wrote a script based on it titled The Werewolves of Ramadan. (Can you say fatwah?) I may need to temper the weekend with Four Lions (7pm Saturday, Regal 4)–- which is jihad comedy. We don't get enough of that.
8pm Saturday, Newcomb Hall
Arias with a Twist (2010)
OK, Joey Arias is a complete freakshow. But you've got my two favorite things: cabaret and puppets. Plus, alien abduction and underwater fantasy burlesque. Hey, usually to get my underground avant-garde kicks around here, I have to find [local performance artist] Jennifer Tidwell. But as I'll be wanting (and Bodo's isn't always enough) this'll be my festival taste of the NY scene (or is it Berlin).
1pm Sunday, Paramount Theater
American Grindhouse (2010)
The history of exploitation film (so far, anyway). I grew up with grindhouse. Still love it (Cannibal Holocaust, anyone?) And my patron saints are Russ Meyers and Roger Corman, who helped define the niche. It's why I put half-naked nuns in gas masks in my last film. And why I put zombies on the streets in Charlottesville. Gotta have a hook. (Wait, is this an exploitation newspaper?)
10:30pm Thursday, Regal 3
I Am (2010)
Last year I saw Tom Shadyac dedicate the Haven to Charlottesville's homeless and explain his passion to help right the wrongs in the world. Here was a guy who had it all–- and was giving it up to help heal the collective soul of the planet. And was pledging to eradicate poverty. I'd like to see what he's discovered–- and take a dose it myself.
2pm Saturday, Newcomb Hall Theater
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
It won the Palme d'Or this year. C'mon. Apichatpong Weerasethakul is one of the best directors on the planet (even if you can't pronounce his name). And it's got ghost monkeys. I say, see it at the Regal at 4:15pm Saturday and follow it up with a nice big bowl of Tom Ka Gai around the corner at Downtown Thai–- where you can contemplate your arguably banal existence (and past lives).
4:15pm Saturday, Regal 4
The Last Picture Show (1971)
This is one of my favorite films of all time. I've seen it many times and am looking forward to the after-screening discussion between Peter Bogdanovich and David Edelstein. It was a landmark film at the time and is a seminal film for the independent film industry.
1:30pm Saturday, Culbreth Theatre
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)
I have not seen the film and will attend for the opportunity to hear Guillermo del Toro and Mark Johnson discuss. Both Guillermo and Mark are heroes of mine and I would not miss the opportunity to experience musings from their brilliant minds. [Editor's note: Alas, del Toro canceled.]
9pm Saturday, Paramount Theater
Lighthouse Studio Short Films
Lighthouse is an amazing local organization that I was fortunate to be part of in the early days. I'm consistently blown away by the work from the local filmmakers. The unadulterated self-expression of the teenagers and the sophistication of their storytelling inspire me as a filmmaker.
11:30am Saturday, Regal 3
I believe Paul Wagner is one of the top documentarians working today, and he's particularly good at finding the stories within a story. The thoroughbred world is a rarified microcosm of both hard-working everyday people and some of the wealthiest people in the world. I'm particularly looking forward to the panel afterwards with bloodstock manager Debbie Easter.
1:15pm Sunday, Culbreth Theatre
Kevin Everson is an one of the most interesting and talented filmmakers I see these days. He has a uniquely personal style, and his narrative choices are always surprising and give me new ideas for how to tell stories with a camera. Most of Kevin's films I've seen have been local, and I'm very keen to see what he found in the Republic of Congo.
9:45pm Friday, Regal 3
If you hate reality television and red-faced, screaming political pundits, you will love the pure form of Primary. The film follows John F. Kennedy's race for the Democratic nomination for president in 1960, and it captures two beginnings: the early days of cinéma vérité documentary and America's first televised political campaign. Notice what isn't there: no narration, scripting, or experts telling you what to think. Both the filmmaker and the politician allow you simply to observe.
3:15pm Friday, Regal 3
Freedom Riders (2010)
What were you doing when you were 21 years old? If you're Congressman John Lewis, you were on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement–- getting beaten nearly to death by angry mobs in the deep South. Violence against Lewis and other Freedom Riders marked a turning point as the federal government finally stepped in. Archival research for the film was exhaustive–- gathering footage from people's attics, international archives, and even the FBI.
6pm Friday, Culbreth Theatre
Hurry Tomorrow (1975)
If you've ever watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and shared my reaction–- "This could never happen in real life–- right? Right???"–- this film could give you an ulcer. In 1975, a film crew was locked in a Los Angeles mental institution to document patients' experiences. What they saw was shocking–- chemical companies marketing psychiatric medication to doctors, who turn their patients into walking zombies. It's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ... but real.
6pm Sunday, Regal 3
Rabbit à la Berlin (2010)
One of my most vivid childhood memories is driving through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. Totally scary visit and a sigh of relief when our family crossed the border back into West Germany. This film tells the story of East/West Berlin through the eyes of the thousands of rabbits who lived in the No Man's Land at the border. A bunny rabbit point-of-view. That's different. Oscar nominee.
6:15pm Saturday, Regal 3
World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements (2010)
"Is 2010 the year of the education documentary?"–- USA Today. Absolutely! Charlottesville's own John Hunter is the teacher you always wanted as a kid. He's respectful, kind, patient, funny... and he created an incredible teaching tool called the World Peace Game. World Peace follows a group of fourth graders as they play the game over the course of a school year. See this film to learn what's right about the public school system: our best teachers.
3:15pm Sunday, Paramount Theater
Make Believe (2010)
There are several excellent documentaries made by local filmmakers showing at the festival, and you should see them all if you haven't already. But there are other films with local connections. Ron Tweel is a Charlottesville attorney and Downtown Mall denizen. Clay Tweel, son of Ron and Lynda, copped the top prize at the Los Angeles Film Festival this past summer. (The prize, BTW, was $50,000!) Make Believe follows six teenagers vying for the title of Teen World Champion at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas. Clay will be at the festival screening and, no doubt, his proud parents.
1:30pm Saturday, Regal 3
Journey Through Hallowed Ground
This being Charlottesville, you can't escape the influence of Thomas Jefferson– even if you're a 6th-grader at Sutherland Middle School. Journey Through Hallowed Ground is an organization that raises awareness of the remarkable history of the region stretching from Gettysburg to Monticello, and the importance of preserving it for future generations. With guidance from this organization, a group of Sutherland kids has produced nine short videos about Monticello and the great man himself.
10am Saturday, Regal 3
I Am (2010)
Tom Shadyac is a UVA grad and the very successful director of one of my favorites, Ace Ventura, and the Bruce Almighty/Evan Almighty films. You may also know that he purchased and renovated the former church that now houses The Haven–- Charlottesville's space for the poor and the homeless. A few years ago, in the wake of suffering a traumatic head injury, Shadyac took a serious look at life and put it on film. This should be very interesting.
2pm Saturday, Newcomb Hall Theater
Adrenaline Film Project
I guess most locals familiar with the festival know about the Adrenaline Film Project. Every year, teams write, shoot, and edit short films in just 72 hours during the festival. If you've never actually gone to the screening of the films, you've got to check it out. Not only are the films surprisingly good, the scene at the screening is a blast.
10pm Saturday, Culbreth Theatre
10:30am Sunday, Regal 3
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
A few weeks ago, before the festival announced this film, our older daughter, who is 20, sang virtually the whole score, doing all the voices, male and female, with all the signature accents and inflections. She grew up with Belle. Our younger daughter, who is 12, listened, mesmerized. Great family films never go out of season, and this really is a great one to see on the big screen, rather than at home on a DVD. Plus, Belle will be there!
10:30am Saturday, Paramount Theater