Daily updates from the first annual AFI DALLAS International Film Festival presented by Target, founding sponsor Victory Park, March 22 to April 1, 2007

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Babies on Board, Like It or Not

BELLA and KAMP KATRINA deal with unexpected gifts – children.

To some, children are miracles. They are angels, precious treasures and the wondrous embodiment of all that is pure. To others, they are an unwanted burden, an accident and a life-altering mistake.

Two AFI DALLAS films in particular - one documentary and one gripping drama - depict characters who struggle with the unexpected arrival of one of these "bundles of joy."

In a true dose of reality television, KAMP KATRINA is a documentary by first-time director Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, which profiles a cluster of hurricane-displaced New Orleans refugees who take residence in the backyard of a woman named Ms. Pearl.

Earning their room and board by working in Ms. Pearl's construction company by day, the campers in this make-shift commune search for meaning, restitution and a way to get by.

Particular focus is placed on a young pregnant brunette named Kelley, whose sometimes-violent relationship with her husband Doug is only worsened by their mutual substance abuse.

Living in the tent for more than a year, the filmmakers' camera catches it all: drunken threats, curses, laughter, punches, prophecy, Mardi Gras and drugs.

Naturally, Sabin and Redmon say it was difficult to watch the well-being of Kelley and Doug's marriage, and unborn child, disintegrate before their lens.

"This film brings up many ethical questions as far as the role a filmmaker has. We did turn off the camera a number of times but, of course, the audience doesn't see this," says Sabin. "Once, David had a long conversation with Kelley, and he asked her if she felt OK with us filming when Doug was being violent. She requested that he film because the footage [could be used as] evidence."

BELLA is the story of three New Yorkers whose whole lives are changed in a single day. Jose (played by Eduardo Verástegui) is a former professional soccer player turned chef who now labors in an upscale restaurant. One afternoon, when a waitress named Nina (Tammy Blanchard) comes to work late for the third time in a row, her boss Manny (Manny Perez) cruelly fires her, compelling Jose to bail in the middle of an important luncheon.

What ensues is an engrossing, heart-felt twenty-four hours wherein it is revealed that Nina is pregnant, that Jose is still haunted from the accident which cost him his career, and that Manny is actually Jose's adopted brother.

"I believe that all of us will at least one experience in our lives that will somehow change us forever," says director Alejandro Monteverde. "And if it hasn't happen to us yet, it will."

BELLA Centerpiece Screening and Reception, presented by VISTAS, 7:00 p.m., tonight @ AMC Northpark (and again at 5:00 p.m., March 28 @ AFC)

By Chad Jones, Staff Writer