Sundance Day 5: Missed Films but Great Parties

Festivals
by Sydney Levine
January 24, 2013 9:30 AM
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The problem with the top festivals is that no matter what you are doing, you feel you should be doing something else.  Whether to stay home and write or be out seeing films or partying/ networking, sometimes you feel like you're missing out of the really important things.  And I lost my hat!  If any readers find my white Russian fox hat that I bought in a Berlin flea market, please return it to me!
 
Yesterday I missed the inauguration brunch Acme PR hosted in conjunction with the film Citizen Koch  about Mayor Koch because I was trying to send out photos from my camera to my new MacBook Pro to my blog!  I also missed Occupy Wall Street.  But the truth of that is I am no longer in the mood for issue docs.  Inequality For All  satisfied my need for understanding that issue, God Loves Uganda repelled me, though one of the volunteers I was talking to was so incensed at the film's message of homophobia that I realized its value. I am going to write more on the docs in the coming days, but now just for fun, I'm going to do a survey of how many deal with personal subjects and how many with social issues.
 
I did find a great parking lot for $5, but it was so far away that I was unable to see the films Big Sur (sold out) and C.O.G.,  but I did catch the buzz film Fruitvale about the New Years Eve shooting of Oscar, a 22 year old Bay Area resident.  Starring the superb Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz and directed by Ryan Coogler, it captured the family life so beautifully, Oscar was so sympathetic, so human, so young that at its end, I was totally depressed by the gun violence done in this film and in so many incidents over this past year.  Another film about guns, Valentine Road by Sasha Alpert is getting very good buzz as well. 
 
Fruitvale
Seeing Fruitvale because it was a buzz film and was so easy to enter with my press pass meant missing out of Gideon's Army which I really wanted to see but did not realize a ticket had been reserved for me and so I missed out on seeing it.  Gideon's Army follows three young public defenders who are part of a small group of idealistic lawyers in the Deep South challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point.  I wanted to share it with my PD friends in L.A.  And the issue of justice and idealism would have taken me out of the depression over Fruitvale where the security guard who shot Oscar twice got off after serving 18 months in prison.  Since this doc is an HBO doc, I might not get another chance to see it.
 
At 4:00pm in Sundance (and Berlin, Cannes and AFM), the cocktail hour begins and we put aside watching films and switch to networking, catching up with news, meeting new people, etc. and so I went off to parties: The Louisiana Film Festival , IFP, Film Independent and Indiewire, KOFIC  (the Korean film organization) and "The Party" of Sundance hosted by John Sloss and Cinetic  were all on the calendar.  Starting at the Riverhorse on Main, the Film Independent / Indiewire party was so exciting that I missed the IFP party up the street.  
 
At the FIND/ Indiewire party, I got to catch up with so many people including Bob and Jeannie Berney who will be opening their new company Picturehouse (2) with a Metallica film in 3D which sounds like a perfect Bob Berney film.  I met Adam Donaghey, a partner of Aviation Cinemas who had been at the Arthouse Convergence.  His theater is where they arrested up Lee Harvey Oswald and was originally the flag ship theater created by Howard Hughes as part of the RKO Theaters chain.  They also have started the Oak Cliff Film Festival which is a festival of festivals, much like Toronto was in its early days before becoming the showcase and discovery festival it is today.  We spoke of a new sort of festival scam that filmmakers need to heed, called Awards Festivals.  You can buy an award so you can show your film to be a winner of a festival where it never even needs to screen!  Withoutabox even lists these festivals without warning.  Adam wishes Withoutabox would curate chosen festivals a bit more.  I agree because uneducated filmmakers often tend to think that quantity not quality of film festivals their films show at makes the look better than it might be.  For uneducated audiences who might then watch the film, disappointment may result.  For the trade, it gives the film a tawdry look.
 

Michele Satter, Founding Director, Feature Film Program of the Sundance Institute and Paul Federbush, International Director of the Feature Film Program invited me to tomorrow's Mahinda Global Filmmaking Awards Reception which awards $10,000 to 4 filmmakers with projects which give voice to issues needing to be heard. Again I have to miss something if I go there…Narco Cultura plays at 6:30pm, the Awards ceremony starts at 6pm, AND I have been invited to my host's dinner party. I hope I can catch Narco Cultura (ISA: K5) on Cinando!  The winners are Sarthak Dasgupta,The Music Teacher from India; Jonas Carpignano, A Chjana from Italy-US; Aly MuritibaThe Man Who Killed My Dead Beloved from Brazil; and Vendela Vida & Eva Weber, Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name UK-Germany-US. See more here

Rick Allen, Founder and CEO of Snagfilms (the owner of Indiewire) and I spoke of their ever-growing developments and I was startled and very happy to hear him praise my blog.  Stefanie Sharis, COO and Andrew Mer, VP Content Partnerships of Snagfilms and I spoke of our plans in Berlin and Cannes.

Quvenzhané Wallis and Chesley Heymsfield
Louisiana International Film Festival and Mentorship Program
 party where, for the second time during this festival, I caught a fantastic musical performance.  The first was at the New York Film Lounge.  This one was a "love riot" performance by jazz pianist extraordinaire, actor and educator Jonathan Batiste . Both the groups are represented by N.Y. Attorney Stephen Beers .   I was with Ula again, and Indiewire's James Israel, doing the party circuit.  I hope Ula will bring this fine New Orleans jazz pianist Jon Batiste to The American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland.  He had the room rocking with a sax, drums and -- was that a tuba? -- backing him up.  I have filmed both groups and hope I can upload them for your enjoyment!  The Louisiana Film Festival  will be held in April and includes a mentorship program.  It is being organized by our friends Jeff Dowd and Dan Ireland.  Dan is now working on his next feature which sounds great with a cast of great actors.  I want to go to this new festival to celebrate my birthday especially since my parents met in New Orleans as university students there, married and moved to L.A. where I was born, so it means a lot to me.  Coincidently, when I mentioned this to the Executive Director and filmmaker Chesley Heymsfield, telling her my father was in med school at LSU, she told me her father was Chancellor of the LSU Medical School.  In addition I am thinking that perhaps we can join forces with their Mentorship Program with The Literacy Project
, which I began 4 years ago at El Centro del Pueblo in Echo Park.  Their Mentorship Program, from what I understood, is headed by a Nobel Prize Winning Scientist.  I may have heard wrong however, because the noise at this party was horrendous and the speech given was too long for sustained silence.
 
Ula, James and I proceeded to the Korean party was a different group of folks gathering of the trade.  While there I could do some matchmaking, one of my favorite pastimes, introducing Ula to Kiril of the Moscow Film Festival, seeing Clay Epstein, party organizers Henry Eshelmann and Mark Rabinowitz, being introduced by Ula and Kiral to the Busan International Film Festival/ Asian Film Market's Steering Committee Deputy Director (who is responsible for international marketing of the market, Chanil Jeon, who then introduced me to the programmer for North American films, Dosin Pak  whose email is "Program [AT] biff.kr" for all you North American filmmakers looking to break into Asia.  I have written about Busan several times because I think South Korea's development and support of filmmaking, film education and film financing through its pre-sales market is a model other countries would be wise to follow.  I would personally love to create an educational initiative there about cross-cultural competence.  During one Cannes Festival, I spoke to their education director about that.  So perhaps, with a little more time, I will be able to speak of how to actualize this idea.
 
From the Korean party we went (EARLY) to John Sloss's Cinetic party, THE HOT TICKET party for me.  I know I'll see old friends there and meet new and not only interesting but important people in the business, and sure 'nuff, I did.   I also know that if you come late to this party you are liable to spend a long time shivering in the cold waiting to be admitted.  There was Anne Thompson holding court, Christine Vachon holding court and I am sure many others.  I got some good face time with Cotty Chubb  who has 3 films nearing completion, and Carol (whose last name I have forgotten regrettably without her card to jolt my memory) whom I last saw in Paris many years ago and has now returned to filmmaking.  She in turn introduced me to the L.A. Based Rio Film Commissioner who works with the Rio-based  Steve Solet.  We gathered with old friends Tom Davia (of Shoreline) and Rodrigo Bellot whose film he wrote, We Are What We Are (ISA: Memento), just sold to eOne for U.S. for a low 6 figures.  Eone already has Canada and U.K. 
 
That's enough for now. 
See you tomorrow!!
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