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

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Extraordinary Art of the Transient Canvas

Two films show that brushes and easels aren't required for art

There are many documentaries about artists, but few about the canvas. Two documentaries in this film festival do exactly that. They focus on the unique choices and sublime passions of artists who go beyond the traditional flat cloth.

The first is Michael Ciancio's ANATOMY OF A CANVAS - a series of interviews with the artists and performers of the stunning Dallas-based Body Art Ball.

The second is Pablo Aravena's NEXT: A PRIMER ON URBAN PAINTING which follows five major cities and the heroes of the graffiti art subculture.

Timed just under an hour, Anatomy of a Canvas follows the artists and performers in Candy Smith's incendiary show. The artists use the canvas of the human body and the models (dancers, acrobats, singers, etc) become living art as they perform in full body paint.

Next captures the underground art culture that started in America's urban streets and evolved into a global phenomenon. Focusing on specific cities around the world, the film shows interviews with graffiti artists, scholars, critics, and other members of this socio-political movement.

Whatever assumptions one may make about these unconventional art forms, the documentaries expertly break stereotypes and explore the culture of art in all its forms. Each interview and clip exposes the motivation of these artists, and in doing so, the focus is lifted off the taboos of the naked body or the ethics of street art and put on the passion for transient, experimental design.

Both films enlighten us that the artist's canvas can be a city wall or a living form and what always lies just under the paint is passion, commitment, and beauty.

By Justina Walford, Staff Writer


Draw! Animated Films Take on Lives of Their Own

If you have ever taken a film class, you have probably encountered at least one instructor who dared to ask (possibly with raised eyebrows), "what is film?"

After a detailed and drawn-out discussion that you only narrowly survived, it turns out that film, like you already guessed, is something different for everyone who experiences it. For some it is instructive. For others it is cathartic. And for others it's a creative way to pass the time.

But no matter who you are, films allow you to escape. The stream of images before your eyes turns off your mind, and you are lost within someone else's world for an hour and a half. This is especially true for films with animation.

In THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, a stop-motion rendition of Edgar Allan Poe's classic story, director Marc Lougee crafts a fantasy world that is dark and dismal. A mid-19th century man, who is imprisoned for reasons he was never told, explores his pitch-black cell and narrates his findings: a seemingly-bottomless pit in the ground and a swinging metal scythe hanging from the ceiling.

Lougee, whose stop-motion experience includes everything from MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch to those famous ABC Saturday Morning "We'll be Right Back" interludes from the 80s, feels that the one-room setting of the The Pit and the Pendulum increases its potential to trap the viewer inside. And it was a cheap set, too.

"When we pitched the story, we knew it would be less involved logistically," says Lougee. "Hey, it's a guy in a large, dank, dark, rat-infested room, right? How could we go wrong?"

Another animated short that can't go wrong is ONE RAT SHORT, which was created as a self-professed "work of love" by Charlex Films in New York. Drawing their inspiration from The Red Balloon, director Alex Weil and others create a poignant and engrossing world where one rat (hence the title) stumbles into a high-tech science lab where hundreds of mice are being kept and barcoded.

As we've come to expect in CGI-animated films, a mild love story (between the rat and a blue-eyed mouse) intermingles with the action. But vastly unlike what we've come to expect in CGI-animated films, the "characters" (if you can call them such) in One Rat Short are in no way cartoonish. They do not talk. They don't sing. They
don't dance. And this is how Weil intended it.

"Using music, SFX and Hollywood camera angles, as well as editorial and filmic techniques that draw the viewer into the film, it was my goal that the emotional flow of the film occur completely in the mind of the viewer and not on the face of the character," he says. "I didn't want the viewer to see a rat be sad, I wanted the viewer himself to become sad."

On a more whimsical note is COWBOYS AND INDIANS by director Justin Harder who currently works at Reel FX Creative Studios in Dallas. The shortest of the shorts (two minutes, to be exact), Cowboys shows why it's a bad idea to gesticulate toward your crotch when you're trying to entice a voluptuous Native American woman.

"When you’re dealing in a silent world like this, all you've got for communication is body language. And this [the gesticulation] just happened to be one of the first things that popped into my head," Harder says. "What can I say? I’m a simple man."

In DREAMS AND DESIRES - Family Ties, director Joanna Quinn shows how a girl with a new video camera keeps a video diary of her friend's wedding with disastrous and hilarious consequences.

In Kun-I Chang's FISSION, a man envisions himself as graffiti on the wall, while director Dony Permedi's KIWI! shows how far a feathered underdog is willing to go to achieve his dreams.

In THE PRINTED RAINBOW, director Gitanjali Rao depicts the journey of a woman and her cat through magical worlds of beauty and delight, while THE SILENT CITY by Irish director Ruairi Robinson shows a world of war and desecration.

MIRAGE, written and directed by Youngwoon Jang, crafts a wondrous realm where humanoid creatures must destroy in order to survive. Says the tagline, "The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart."


Actor's Corner: Michael Beach, AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

What is pretty? Who looks good? Who are we trying to please when we scrutinize ourselves in the mirror? Darryl Roberts' documentary AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL (7:15 p.m., March 26 @ Magnolia and again at 10 p.m. on March 28) poses the big and intimate questions about the assault the beauty industry makes on the female psyche on a day-to day basis. Actor Michael Beach steps behind the camera to support Roberts' film and mission after a career with successes on the big screen (from Short Cuts to Waiting to Exhale) to television (E.R. and Third Watch).

Q: After a decade of constantly being on screen or on TV, why become a producer now, and why executive produce a documentary about the psychological abuse of the beauty industry for your first time in that role?

A: Hard as it may seem, I've been on TV and film screens for over two decades now. But I decided to become one of the executive producers for this film because Darryl Roberts, the director, came to me with such a strong idea and some interesting footage. He had an idea but wasn't sure what direction to take it in yet. Of course, it made the rounds about which specific direction it should take but he always knew he wanted to investigate the problem that America had with our images of beauty. That was very interesting to me. And when I saw the footage of Gerren and a couple of other little girls, I thought immediately that it should center around what this "hard sell" was doing to young girls. Mainly because I have three daughters. We talked a little more and I was in. I never thought about this being my first time behind the camera or anything like that. I just thought that it was a strong subject and something that would be interesting to examine.

Q: Did you come into this project having a strong personal opinion about the beauty industry and its effect on the women in our country?

A: I've always thought that this country had an unhealthy obsession with the idea of beauty but have never actively done anything about it. Until now, I guess.

Q: After this experience, do you have a different appreciation of what it takes to get the cameras rolling?

A: Well, making a documentary is very different from making a narrative film. I've made a couple of short narrative films and am about to make a feature-length film. Documentaries are, or seem to be, primarily created in the editing room. Even though you have a strong idea about your subject from the beginning, things start coming together as you start editing. Then you start to realize that if you could get an interview with this type of specialist or someone from this line of work or someone with this point of view it would really help your piece. It starts to make sense and gain shape and come to life the more you edit. But Darryl did so much of that work. It really is his film. I just helped him out. But I definitely have an appreciation for the patience and tenacity it takes. Darryl did a hell of a job.

Q: Tyra Banks - Groundbreaking influence on young women who should be celebrated or dense self-promoting ex-model leading girls like Gerren down the wrong path?

A: I think Tyra Banks is continuing her career and trying to hold the industry that made her famous to a higher standard than they had when she was coming up. She knows so many inside details and I think that trying to take the industry down is useless. She seems to be letting the average person get a glimpse behind The Wizard's curtain and allowing everyone to see that none of these people are perfect. She has her own personal flair in the way she does it and that's okay with me. She has earned the right.

Q: After working on this project, do you watch commercials and look at ads differently?

A: Honestly, I don't watch much TV anymore. I have come very close to cutting it out of my life entirely. And the couple of shows I do watch are TiVoed anyway. So no commercials for me!

Q: Finally, could the French ever convince you that you weren't good looking?

A: Nothing against the French but I don't really listen to anything they say or do. So the answer would be no.

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, 7:15 p.m. today (and again at 10 p.m. Wednesday) @ Magnolia. Michael Beach will appear at today's premiere screening.

By John Wildman, Staff Writer


Fort Worth Actress Says Her Life Is a Lot Like Her Roles

The AFI DALLAS International Film Festival's Texas Competition proudly features the best films produced and shot in the Lone Star State, and gives Texas filmmakers and talent a chance to be seen on an international stage.

Jessica McClendon, a self-proclaimed "Texas girl" and an actress to watch, stars in two AFI DALLAS films. The Fort Worth native holds her own next to a noteworthy cast in THE NIGHT OF THE WHITE PANTS and brings depth to a small-town girl in the Texas Competition film MIDLOTHIA.

Jessica plays April, an aspiring writer in the fictional small town Midlothia who is afraid to strike out on her own and leave the community where everyone knows each other and the emphasis is on family.

"She doesn't really know herself and having a boyfriend gives her an identity," Jessica says of her character, who is stuck in a dysfunctional relationship with a local boy, Fred, played by Bill
Sebastian. "She was too scared to follow her dream without having a family which is why she latched on to Fred at such an early age."

Like April, fear first kept Jessica from pursuing her own dream. But she also accounts her success to a strong support system.

"I always wanted to act but was too scared to audition in high school," she says. Her turning point was when the high school theater teacher delivered the news that Jessica's mom refused to pick her up until she auditioned for the school musical. She auditioned - in tears - and got the part.

"It was all out of love," she says. "Their encouragement is the reason that I had the courage to be a theatre major.

"I understand [April's] struggle with having the courage to go after her dream, because it's not easy at all."

Despite the encouragement she received from home, she says many of her professors didn't think much of her abilities. But by then it didn't matter. While shooting MIDLOTHIA, she also juggled a full course load at Texas Christian University and 20 hours of rehearsal a week for a theater production. She woke up at 4 in the morning, filmed until late at night - and proved her doubters wrong.

"It’s amazing what your body can do when you have to do it, but it was a blast and I wouldn't have done anything different."

In NIGHT OF THE WHITE PANTS, Jessica shows off her versatility, (getting laughs at FRIDAY NIGHT'S PREMIERE) as the ditzy, pill-popping Naomi. With little dialogue, she gives a poignant performance and turns Naomi into one of the film's most memorable characters. She credits the depth behind Naomi’s humor to Amy Talkington's writing.

She says having a family that talks to her openly and honestly helped her find a way to connect to her characters handle it emotionally.

"It’s funny how everything's connected."

MIDLOTHIA, 5:15 p.m. today (and 9:45 p.m. Friday) @ Magnolia

By Brittan Dunham, Staff Writer


The Next Two Days

Things you don't want to miss during the next two days.

March 27 - SMU Presents - 10 p.m. @ Magnolia - Filmgoers who like to experience the full range of their emotions won’t want to miss this program of 11 shorts that’ll take them from Paranoia to Invertigo in 71 minutes.

March 27 - Marvin Hamlisch Live - 7:30 p.m. Nasher Sculpture Center - You know his scores from The Sting, Ordinary People and The Way We Were, now it’s time to see him live where you can experience the work of some other great artists, too.

March 28 - THE ORANGE THIEF (Dirs. Boogie Dean, Vinnie Angel and Artie Wilinski) - 5 p.m. @ Magnolia (and again March 31, 6 p.m.) - This Italian film by three first-time filmmakers and non-professional actors is soaked in the sun and dangers of living in Sicily - especially if you swipe citrus.

March 28 - AMERICAN FORK (Dir. Chris Bowman) - 5:15 p.m. @ Magnolia 5 (and again March 29, 10:30 p.m.) - Part of the American Visions series, An overweight, poetry-writing grocery clerk searches for fame while weathering his family's good intentions and the comedy of everyday life.


Interview with Director of A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar

A Lawyer Walks Into A Bar is the new documentary by director Eric Chaikin. Find out why the Bar Exam is no laughing matter. Read Chaikin's interview with Pop Syndicate here. And see his documentary at the AFI DALLAS International Film Festival, Tuesday, March 27, 5:00pm, and Saturday March 31, 4:00pm, SMU Hughes-Trigg.


Seven More Days of Free Classic Film

As AFI DALLAS celebrates contemporary, international cinema, it also honors the classics. Enjoy AFI's 100 Years... series with free screenings, open to the public, on the Victory Media Network Screens at Victory Plaza.
Monday March 26
  • 12:15pm Tootsie
  • 3:00pm A Streetcar Named Desire
  • 6:00pm Jaws
  • 9:00pm Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Tuesday March 27
  • 12:15pm An American in Paris
  • 3:00pm Mutiny on the Bounty
  • 7:45pm Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • 10:30pm King Kong
Wednesday March 28
  • 12:15pm Double Indemnity
  • 3:00pm The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • 7:45pm Rear Window
  • 10:30pm Duck Soup
Thursday March 29
  • 12:15pm High Noon
  • 2:30pm Gone with the Wind
  • 7:00pm Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • 10:00pm Dr. Strangelove
Friday March 30
  • 12:15pm The Maltese Falcon
  • 2:45pm 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • 7:45pm ET the Extra-terrestrial
  • 10:30pm Frankenstein
Saturday March 31
  • 12:15pm Some Like it Hot
  • 3:15pm Sunset Boulevard
  • 6:00pm The Wizard of Oz
  • 8:30pm Singin' in the Rain
Sunday April 1
  • 12:15pm It's a Wonderful Life
  • 3:15pm On the Waterfront
  • 6:00pm Casablanca
  • 8:30pm Citizen Kane


Daily Email Newsletters

Daily email newsletters for the AFI DALLAS International Film Festival:

Sign up for future free newsletters here.


Trailer for Park

Trailer for Park on Vimeo

Park screens at the AFI DALLAS International Film Festival, Wednesday March 28, 7:30pm, and Thursday March 29, 9:45pm, at The Magnolia , 3699 McKinney Ave. [map].

More than 60 additional trailers linked here.


The Next Two Days

Things you don't want to miss during the next two days.

March 26 - A Conversation with Gregory Peck - 5:30 p.m. @ SMU Hughes-Trigg Theater - Barbara Kopple's profile of one of American Films most beloved actors, whose roles ranged from the brave and noble Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird to the evil Dr. Mengele in The Boys from Brazil.

March 26 - THE KING OF KONG (Dir. Seth Gordan) - 9:30 p.m. @ Magnolia - Part of the Premiere Series, two mad video gamers go after the world record for Donkey Kong. Why? Because it's important.

March 27 - SMU Presents - 10 p.m. @ Magnolia - Filmgoers who like to experience the full range of their emotions won’t want to miss this program of 11 shorts that’ll take them from Paranoia to Invertigo in 71 minutes.

March 27 - Marvin Hamlisch Live - 7:30 p.m. Nasher Sculpture Center - You know his scores from The Sting, Ordinary People and The Way We Were, now it’s time to see him live where you can experience the work of some other great artists, too.


Closing Night Screening Tickets Now Available

A limited number of tickets to the Closing Night screening of Away From Her, Saturday March 31, 7:00pm, Inwood Theatre [map], are $20 each. They include admission to the post-reception. Buy them at the AFI DALLAS online box office here.


In the March 25 Daily News Print Edition

Look for print editions of the official AFI DALLAS Daily News at venues and theaters all around Dallas. In the March 25, 2007, edition:

A Question of Faith

Films that look at the who, what why and how of religious beliefs

Like any true film festival, AFI Dallas showcases a vast sampling of romance, horror, comedy and drama. But unlike those other guys, we're also bringing you a four-course feast for the soul.

The documentary KNOCKING follows the day-to-day, door-to-door struggles of America's often misunderstood denominations: Jehovah's Witnesses. Providing a solid history through a consistently unbiased perspective, the film places particular emphasis on lives of Seth Thomas, a 23-year-old Witness whose faith conflicts with his serious medical condition, and Joseph Kempler, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who has since converted.

While director Joel P. Engardio is not a member of the church, he believes that Jehovah's Witnesses embody a crucial, democratic principle.

"There is nothing more American than the pursuit of religious freedom and personal liberty," he says. "And KNOCKING aims to show Jehovah's Witnesses as something much more than the one-dimensional caricature you see on your doorstep."

In the divinely funny mockumentary THE PROPER CARE AND FEEDING OF AN AMERICAN MESSIAH, we are given an in-depth look at the spiritual side of Brian, an average, working-class Joe who believes he is The Messiah.

Well, technically, he thinks he is "a" messiah, and not "the" messiah, but the point is all the same. Having claimed his divinity, Brian (played by Dustin Olson) and his siblings aim to put together a rally in their Florida 'burb. During which, they hope, God will reveal to Brian his ultimate purpose.

"In a way, Brian represents my own ambitions as a filmmaker," says director Chris Hansen (who, by the way, swears he's not the guy from Dateline NBC, though my suspicions remain).

"In some ways, you really have to believe in yourself, which then leads you to start thinking you're a little crazy."

Meanwhile, a skydiver becomes permanently lodged within the Earth's crust, a librarian goes on a blind date with Jesus, a surgeon leaves a tool inside a patient as a joke, and two neighbors race to see who can collect the most cat scan machines.

These are just four of the ten skits you'll find in David Wain's star-studded comedy THE TEN, which takes a twisted look, one by one, at each of the Ten Commandments.

Parlaying his experience in sketch comedy (including both Comedy Central's The State and the more recent Stella) Wain places ordinary people in unusual circumstances - each with biblical ties.

Though it would seem like a true test of faith to craft a humorous story for every single commandment, Wain, who makes a brief appearance in THE TEN (alongside Jessica Alba, Adam Brody, Paul Rudd, Winona Ryder and Ken Marino), says otherwise.

"The premises came relatively easily because each theme does lend itself lots of real-world applications."

And finally, in a small town in Mexico, faith is put to the test in aless comical way when the sudden apparition of the Virgin Mary is spotted in the street. The events that unfold, including the influx of 10,000 devout believers, are depicted in Fernando Frias' 10-minute documentary LA VIRGEN DEL ASFALTO (THE VIRGIN OF THE ASPHALT).

But when the source of the image is revealed to be a hoax, the majority of townspeople refuse to let go.

"Believing in this vision," says Frias, "[is to] believe in things that you can only explain with nothing more than [your] faith."
  • KNOCKING, 5:00 p.m., March 26 @ AFC.
  • Magnolia.
  • THE TEN 6:45 p.m., March 31 @ Angelika.
  • THE ASPHALT VIRGIN (part of Documentary Shorts), 5:00 p.m., March 29 @ AFC 6 (and again at 6:30 p.m., March 31 @ SMU Hughes-Trigg Theater)
By Chad Jones, Staff Writer


Spotlight on the Texas Competition

In THIRD WARD, TX, Director Andrew Garrison profiles a group of Houston artists that took over several abandoned houses in an impoverished neighborhood. This vibrant community now faces trouble from outsiders.


Filming with Sharks!

In the world of film, one quite often hears, "You have to see it in the theater." That command is most often being uttered in reference to a large studio film. Usually fictional. Usually using visual spectacle to cover lack of character and storyline.

This time, you will hear it about a documentary that is replete with character and story.

Sharkwater's cinematic love letter to the species begins as a stunning collection of underwater video mixed with classic clips of shark mythology from 40s military reels to modern day cinema.

The film then focuses on the filmmaker's narrative about his childhood passion for the species and decades-long journey to study and co-exist with sharks. Rob Stewart says the tipping point for his cinematic crusade on behalf of sharks came during an assignment in the Galapagos Islands.

Stewart says, "I was there to photograph hammerhead sharks in all their majesty, but instead spent a day cutting dead or dying sharks from long lines. This opened my eyes to the reality of shark fishing - that they were being fished even in the most protected areas on earth. I started trying to get the word out there that sharks were being wiped out using print media - magazine articles and photo essays. It didn't have the impact that I wanted, as I couldn't get people into an emotional relationship with sharks, so I decided to make a film."

With his knowledge and courage, Stewart is able to swim with the many types of sharks unharmed. But there are dangers. Stewart's love for one of the most feared animals of the deep exposes him to the benevolence of human politics and greed.

While traveling with conservation activist Paul Watson, Rob Stewart faces Costa Rica's Fin mafia and together they are threatened with arrest. While Watson works on keeping them out of jail and on the seas fighting for the rights of sharks and other endangered sea animals, Stewart faces severe illness when he is diagnosed with the flesh eating disease.

But through all this Stewart finally finds hope. Their work, while fraught with challenges and disappointments, inevitably inspires a country to fight back against a black market endangering the sharks and other sea creatures.

But is Stewart's camera turned to often toward himself versus the sharks and their plight? Stewart believes that the content of the film was dictated both by fate, happy coincidence in the structuring and finally, what the audience for the film seemed to demand.

He explains, "When I started making the film, I wanted to make a beautiful underwater film, one without people. One month into the filming I hadn't been underwater yet, but we ended up filming ourselves so we would have a record of what happened to us in case we ended up stuck in a Costa Rican prison for the rest of our lives.

"Upon returning from the trip, we had very little underwater footage, but this crazy human drama, which I still thought would be the making of."

He continues, "There was very little of me in the film at that point, and all of our test screenings and distributors urged us to bring more of the human story into the film, and make it my story. We also needed to show that sharks weren't dangerous, leading us to the scenes of me free diving with sharks.

"After nearly a year of crafting the film very much without the human element, we succumbed to the pressure and let it follow my journey. What happened to me followed textbook story structure, which is why we're fortunate enough to have a documentary with such an incredible story. It was however really difficult to see/hear myself on camera - like listening to your voice on an answering machine and saying, 'Wow, do I really sound like that?'

"I think that by having a story like this, we're going to engage more people, and thus more effectively bring the plight of sharks to light."

There is the crusade and there is the film. Stewart sees the two feeding off one another to a mutual benefit and one that he will continue to use.

"We're in a time now where future generations' survival on the planet is in jeopardy," Stewart says. "We need a more sustainable relationship with the natural world, or risk being wiped off the planet. For this sake, stories need to be told, and conservation needs to become cool.

"I'll use the most powerful medium to do this. And that's film."

Throughout, the film captures the majestic oceans around the world. The cinematography is nothing short of awe-inspiring. And with that beauty and Stewart's tenacity and passion, the shark is seen as not a fierce monster of the deep, but instead a gorgeous, sympathetic victim of inefficient fishing techniques, greed, and media fed fear.

SHARKWATER, 7:45 p.m., March 30 (and 8:30 p.m. March 31) @ Magnolia.

By Justina Walford, Staff Writer


Images from Day Three

Marking a third day at AFI DALLAS International Film Festival with new photographs from March 24, 2007.

Actor's Corner: David Boyle, BIG DREAMS LITTLE TOKYO

Writer and director David Boyles comedy BIG DREAMS LITTLE TOKYO (Screening Saturday, 3/24 at 12:00PM and Sunday, 3/25 at 12:00PM) is a bizarre, yet charming story of an off beat teaming of a young American man yearning to be a Japanese businessman and his Japanese-American roommate who yearns to be a sumo wrestler. The film has a lot going for it, not the least of which is Boyle's odd ball performance as the young man desperate who can translate Japanese flawlessly, but struggles to translate the world he wants to be a part of with the one he actually lives in.

Q: You wrote and directed BIG DREAMS LITTLE TOKYO, but we are going to focus on your work as the star of the film. First off, do you think your director gave you enough close ups? And just between us, how much did you improvise from the script that was given you?

A: We had a really tight shooting schedule - about 19 days total - so there really wasn't any room to improvise that much. When Rachel Morihiro arrived to play the part of Mai, she and I ad libbed a little bit. But we tried to stick with the script as much as possible.

Q: Did you do a lot of rehearsals before shooting? And if so, do you think they benefited you more as an actor or as a director?

A: We did some rehearsal, but since most of our actors were out of LA, the time was extremely limited. For some scenes, our rehearsals were limited to a few times before we rolled camera.

Q: How difficult was it to deliver a performance as an actor when part of you had to focus on all of the other issues and challenges inherent with directing the film?

A: It was more exhausting than anything else. Luckily, the character I play is somewhat of a robot, so it didn’t take much to get into the deadpan mood of the role. The hardest thing was trying to be the infallible director at the same time that I was missing my marks and blowing my lines as an actor!

Q: Was there any point where you considered casting someone else in the lead role, or would that have been too difficult due to the language issues?

A: It was pretty much an uncastable role. I come from a garage band tradition of filmmaking where you do everything yourself, so it made sense to play the lead role. When I was younger, I wanted to be an Albert Brooks, or Woody Allen type actor-director, but now that I got it out of my system I can move on and do new things!

Q: How did you negotiate saying "cut" at the conclusion of a scene?

A: I had my First A.D. Jonny Craddock say both "action" and "cut" for any scene that I was in. That made things easier.

Q: Any schizophrenic moments on the set due to the different hats you were wearing?

A: No schizophrenic moments per se. But plenty of hectic ones. During the climactic Tatami Room negotiation scene, we were so short on time that I rarely had a chance to check the viewfinder (not to mention that I was in the background of many of the shots). I really had to trust my cinematographer, Bill Otto but somehow it magically turned out to be my favorite scene in the movie. It pays to have great collaborators.

Q: Honestly, how many takes did you choose in editing because you thought you looked really good in that scene?

A: Any shot where I looked good got cut! Honestly, I was trying to make my character look ridiculous wherever possible. Hopefully I succeeded. Some people watch the movie without ever knowing it's me, and I hope people don’t get my character mixed up with my true personality.


By John Wildman, Staff Writer


DIVINE SOULS: Unglamorous Look at Unglamorous Profession

Jim Dolan, Nancy Chartier, Kelley West, Kevin Smith in Divine Souls

Let it be known that television feeds you lies. (Surprised?) ABC's Gray's Anatomy says that there is something sexy and suave about being a doctor. Fox's House suggests that this "something" is a dignified dose of cynicism and the potential for flash-bulb epiphanies. And NBC's Scrubs pretends that medicine is something doctors can do between day-dreams and dance numbers.

In truth, being a medical professional is no fun. And not sexy. In fact, it's probably the least fun thing you could do. Less fun than breaking rocks with bigger rocks. Less sexy than Condi Rice in a one-piece.

This notion is supported by the film Divine Souls, which centers around a nurse named Kerri (played by Nancy Chartier) whose personal life and mental health is bombarded by her consistently-depressing job at an AIDS clinic.

Filmed in Caddo Mills, Texas (roughly twenty miles northeast of Rockwall) Souls takes a non-glamorous look a truly non-glamorous profession. David, a nine-year-old boy under Kerri’s care, is losing his sight.

"Does it hurt to die?" he asks one day. Kerri, of course, cannot answer. Meanwhile, Stacy (Kelley West), a fellow nurse, is being abused by her boyfriend. And Lisa, a recovering victim of rape, shares her sordid past.

For the sake of accuracy and sincerity, writer and director James McDonald drew from his own visits to an AIDS clinic when constructing the film.

"It was like a morgue," he says. "No visitors, no children running about. This was a place where people went to spend the rest of their last days. It was very sad."

But the most depressing aspect of this film is actually not its storyline. In a freakish coincidence, Jeffie Legend, the actress who plays Lisa, passed away late last year from cancer—an ailment that none of the cast, crew or even her own family knew about before it was too late.

"What's so ironic is that her character contemplates dying and what it will be like," says McDonald. "And in real life, she must have been asking herself those very same questions."

DIVINE SOULS will play at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28th at the Magnolia. Mrs. Legend’s son will be in attendance.


Director James McDonald
Kelley West

By Chad Jones, Staff Writer


On the Spot Interview: Will Wallace

CAKE director Will Wallace stopped by the AFI DALLAS offices yesterday for a chat.

Well, really he had a slight billing problem with his hotel, which our intern Lisa Mall immediately and flawlessly rectified. Anyway, we grabbed him in the hallway to see what he thought about the festival.

"I think it’s great," said the director, who looks like he should be in front of the camera, instead of behind it.

"We went to the Lauren Bacall-Humphrey Bogart screening, GO-GETTER and RED ROAD," Andrea Arnold's feature about a surveillance camera operator who seeks revenge on an ex-convict.

"We’re loving it, and we’re really excited about our own screening tonight. There's a lot of friends asking me for tickets."

CAKE tells the story of a wedding gone horribly awry, when the bride and her overbearing mother make plans without the groom's knowledge. Family friction develops on both sides of the wedding parties.

"It ends up that there’s two rival wedding receptions and no wedding at all," says Wallace. "It's a fun film that we hope will make people smile."

CAKE already had its premiere, but you can still RED ROAD at 1:30 p.m. April 1 @ AFC.


Interview with Director of El Mechanico Loco

Director Chad Jackson talks with Pop Syndicate about Jeff Milburn and how one man went from rebuilding cars to rebuilding his life in his new film El Mechanico Loco. Read the interview here.


View Film Festival Trailers, A to Z

Thanks to the Dallas Observer Unfair Park Blog for assembling much of this list.
  1. 10 Items or Less
  2. Away From Her
  3. Bad Boys II
  4. Beings
  5. Bella
  6. Berkeley
  7. Blind Dating
  8. Buddha’s Lost Children
  9. Cake: A Wedding Story
  10. Canvas
  11. Darius Goes West: The Role of His Life
  12. Dark Matter
  13. Dark Passage
  14. Divine Souls
  15. Drama/Mex
  16. Eagle vs. Shark
  17. El Cortez
  18. El Mechanico Loco
  19. Eve of Understanding
  20. Exiled
  21. Fido
  22. Gilles
  23. Helvetica
  24. Hot Fuzz
  25. Inland Empire
  26. Kamp Katrina
  27. Knocking
  28. Kurt Cobain About a Son
  29. La Vie en Rose
  30. A Lawyer Walks into a Bar
  31. Life Support
  32. Linda Linda Linda
  33. Living and Dying
  34. The Lycanthrope
  35. Man in the Chair
  36. Midlothia
  37. Milk & Opium
  38. Netherbeast Incorporated
  39. Next: A Primer on Urban Painting
  40. The Night of the White Pants
  41. Operation Homecoming
  42. Paprika
  43. Park
  44. A Place to Dance
  45. The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah
  46. Punk’s Not Dead
  47. The Rape of Europa
  48. Red Road
  49. The Rocket
  50. Screamers
  51. Severance
  52. Sharkwater
  53. Sk8 Life
  54. The Sting
  55. Strong Enough to Break
  56. Swedish Auto
  57. The Ten
  58. Third Ward, TX
  59. To Kill a Mockingbird
  60. Trade
  61. The Valet
  62. Veritas, Prince of Truth
  63. War Dance
  64. The Way We Were
  65. Who Loves the Sun
  66. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait