In all my years living in the city during the 1980's, and all my visits back to NYC and IFFM/IFP Market business trips, I saw something on Thursday morning that was an absolute first. Heading down to the Angelika Theaters and Puck Building about 10 AM for the last day of Market screenings and video library time, I was walking on Bond street between Bowery and Lafayette. On the side of the street, right next to the sidewalk, a man was roasting a whole, very large, pig. Not on a spit mind you, but the pig was laid out stomach side down on some type of metal rack, and this guy was stoking the flames of the logs or coals underneath. Amazing...only in New York! Whether or not it came with fries and slaw is another matter...
As far as the Market goes, it was another good year for docs with a lot of potential and more of my fellow festival programmers seemed to be in attendance this time around. The Angelika itself was in better shape than usual, with no leaky ceilings and an "Up" escalator that worked the whole time--what a nice concept. The projection and sound (can't do anything about the subway rumblings so that always becomes part of the soundtrack) were improved from last year, and only Tuesday seemed to have some screenings coming off (as much as 30 minutes) late due to the ripple effect of one problem earlier in the day. Disappointingly, the venue did not provide complimentary popcorn and soft drinks as in the past, but maybe this was a sponsorship issue of some kind.
After narrative feature screenings got the boot a couple of years ago, it was the narrative shorts' turn to vanish this year. Again, a little disappointing but not a major shocker. What was a bit disheartening was that there were only 6 doc shorts to screen in the whole Market, after at least a dozen last year (many of them quite good as evidenced by 3 playing in the 2007 Florida Film Festival: MAN UP, FRIDAYS AT THE FARM, and MURIEL). Apparently this was due to a lack of submissions in the category, something that probably needs to be addressed. Perhaps it was the residual effect from dropping narrative shorts or perhaps the screening fees are too high--whatever the reason, if you're only going to screen docs for the companies participating in the Market, then an ample selection of doc shorts should be part of that programming.
The IFP could've used another long table in the Puck building area where some of the panels and Meet the Programmers meetings were held; you know, the room with the filmmaker mailboxes. The one display table for film and call-for-entry postcards, magazines, sponsor materials, etc. was inadequate and an absolute mess most of the time.
Film-wise there were plenty of things to look forward to besides those titles I previously discussed in my last blog, though it may be months, or in some cases years, before they come to fruition. Popular themes for the docs included post-Katrina life for hurricane survivors, artistic creation, films about the director's father, health care both here and abroad, the political process, racial issues, and Africa stories. Some films I'm especially looking forward to seeing a completed cut of are: Caroline Suh's FRONTRUNNERS; about a student government election at the country's most competitive high school (fellow indieWIRE blogger Michael Tully is credited as the Music Consultant so you know the score is hip at least!); Clayton Brown and Monica Ross' THE ATOM SMASHERS, in which a bunch of American physicists race against time and the rest of the world to find the so-called God particle, or the legendary subatomic "Higgs boson," Virginia Williams' FRONTRUNNER, about a woman running for President in (of all places) Afghanistan; GRAMERCY STORIES from Joyce Chopra (remember SMOOTH TALK, the film that put Laura Dern on the map?), about a foster care resiednce for gay and transgender boys; JOURNEY THROUGH AN INVISIBLE WALL from filmmakers Rick Minnich and Matt Sweetwood (HOMEMADE HILLBILLY JAM), in which Minnich investigates his father's curious case of long-term amnesia after a fairly innocuous, yet ultimately life-changing auto accident; Rick Goldsmith and Judith Ehrlich's THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS, a highly relevant and infuriating look at the most famous whistleblower of all time from the director of the Oscar-nominated TELL THE TRUTH AND RUN: GEORGE SELDES AND THE AMERICAN PRESS; and P STAR'S REDEMPTION from Gabriel Noble (AUTUMN'S EYES), which follows 4+ years in the life of a 9-year-old Puerto Rican rapper with the weight of her family's well-being on her little shoulders. Throw in a couple of provocative subjects like the only residence in the country that houses over 50 convicted sex offenders and rapists in PREDATOR HOUSE, and the expose and community silence about rabbis accused of molesting young boys in THE EVIL TONGUE (the Jewish HAND OF GOD?), and you can see there's plenty of non-fiction features coming down the pike that should be worth waiting for.
Now it's back to my own bed (those weary travellers who did both Toronto and NY know exactly what I'm talking about) and a return to reportedly rainy Orlando...