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Sonoma Film Festival Day Three: Food, Wine and Taboo Subjects on Film

Thompson on Hollywood By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood April 13, 2013 at 5:05PM

Today's Sonoma Film Festival theme: subjects once considered taboo explored on film. First up, "A Teacher," a brisk 75-minute first film written and directed by Hannah Fidell, well-received at Sundance, about a high school teacher's reckless affair with one of her AP English students -- he's in it for playful and casual sex, while she becomes obsessed and self-destructive.
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"Laurence Anyways"
"Laurence Anyways"

I stick around to see a 6 p.m. screening of "I Do," a passion project by Gary Saperstein and Mark Vogler of  Out in the Vineyard  starring screenwriter/actor David W. Ross as a hunky British photographer's assistant who has to choose between a sham green card marriage or leaving the U.S. permanently to live with his lover in Spain. The attractive cast includes Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Ross's lesbian best friend and Alicia Witt as his sister-in-law, and, in a delightful surprise for me, my friend Mickey Cottrell in a star turn as Ross's wise older pal. As I leave, I tell Saperstein and Vogler that it's a pity that the budget couldn't stretch to include shirts for its leading man.

I wander over to the Sebastiani Theater, the most comfortable and venerable screening venue, for "Mia," a first film written and directed by a young Argentinian actor, Javier van de Couter, with the 120,000 euro prize he won in a screenwriting competition. I wish there were more people there, because it's the discovery of the festival for me so far: a transgender woman who lives in the endangered Pink Zone, a squatter's slum largely inhabited by other transgendered women, who stumbles across a journal written by the dead Mia of the title while picking up cardboard to sell at the recyclers, and becomes entwined with Mia's young daughter and widower.

The film is delicate yet compelling, well-acted, convincingly sentimental without being maudlin. I'm especially taken with the two lead actresses, Camilla Sosa Villada, as the transgender Ale, and Maite Linate as the young Julia.  Camilla Sosa Villada manages to incarnate both Julie-Andrews-as-Mary-Poppins-the-ideal-nanny and Audrey-Hepburn-as-Eliza-Doolittle-transformed without being saccharine.  When she dresses up, near the end of the film, she looks so good that I thought of Dustin Hoffman's sadness when he realized that he could never look as good as the character Tootsie as he wanted to; Sosa Villada, a real transgender, found after van de Couter auditioned a hundred transgendered performers, can.  Maite Linate, conversely, was the second kid actress he auditioned.  As soon as I get home, close to midnight, I email a number of friends to look out for it in their festival rounds.  And that's why we keep going to the movies, kids!

SPINNING PLATES - Alinea clip from Spinning Plates on Vimeo.

This article is related to: Sonoma International Film Festival, Festivals, Reviews, Laurence Anyways


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.