A film festival can be a launching pad for a brand new release, a gratifying encounter with a live audience on the way to a national TV broadcast, a hometown celebration or just another stop on the circuit. The 2009 SFIFF has been all that and more for the numerous Bay Area filmmakers with feature-length works in the program, and who are already plotting their next moves.
The crowd-pleasing opening night film, La Mission, is slated to screen May 30 and 31 in the Seattle International Film Festival. Beyond that, director Peter Bratt and company wait to hear from other fests while they maintain ongoing negotiations for distribution that commenced with the film’s Sundance premiere. (The acquisition pace of independent features has noticeably slowed in the last year.) When it all shakes out, it would be a perfect match of movie and theater if the local venue were the Roxie.
Jonathan Parker’s (Untitled) will be released theatrically by Samuel Goldwyn Films with the Bay Area opening currently scheduled for Sept 18. The filmmaker came away from the SFIFF with at least one high-profile testimonial for the one-sheet. At the afternoon screening on April 27, avant-garde musician Laurie Anderson was in the audience with Charles Amirkhanian of Other Minds, the screening’s co-host. That night, Anderson was on the Herbst Theatre stage for a City Arts & Lectures event. Parker writes, "A friend who happened to be at the lecture reports that she announced that she had just come from seeing a ‘hilarious new movie, (Untitled), that made fun of everything I do.’"
Everything Strange and New is also going to the Seattle IFF (June 4 and 6), followed by the New York premiere June 21 and 23 at the intimate, invitation-only BAMcinemaFEST at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The European premiere will take place at the Munich Film Festival. "That’s as far out as we can currently see, festival-wise," emails director Frazer Bradshaw. "We are in talks with several potential distributors and anticipate securing a partner in the coming months, but for now we’re enjoying the festival circuit. The reception and festival acceptance that Everything Strange and New has been having is exceptional, and far exceeds my realistic expectations."
On the documentary side, Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s New Muslim Cool resurfaces with a splash June 23 in the prestigious opening slot of PBS’ annual summer "P.O.V." series. From a national media standpoint, this is as close as it gets to hitting the jackpot. (Editor’s note: New Muslim Cool won the Freedom Prize at the Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival shortly after its SFIFF screening.)
Yun Suh’s City of Borders had its sold-out Canadian premiere at Hot Docs mere days after its North American premiere at the SFIFF. From Toronto, Suh treks to the Seattle, Los Angeles and Nantucket festivals, circling back home for a midsummer screening in the Frameline LGBT festival. She also has invitations from several other queer fests in the U.S. and abroad. "I’m currently negotiating with various distributors for limited U.S. theatrical release, DVD and educational release as well as world sales," she writes from Toronto. "Nothing has been finalized yet so I can’t really go on record yet."
For Ken Schneider and Marcia Jarmel, it’s a bit premature to discuss future engagements for Speaking in Tongues. "We’ve been delighted to sell out all four of our SFIFF screenings," emails the husband-and-wife team. "Since we just finished our final technical work right before our [Apr. 26] premiere, we haven’t had much time yet to think about what comes next. At this point we’re waiting to hear about a number of spring and summer festivals—Silverdocs, Los Angeles Film Festival and others. And we’re waiting to find out where we’ll land on PBS, where we will broadcast eventually given our ITVS, LPB (Latino Public Broadcasting) and CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) support."
In the meantime, though, they’re moving ahead in other media. "In the not-too-distant future we will be launching an ambitious community engagement plan across the country, supporting communities and grassroots groups working on creating more opportunities for children to become bilingual. We’re also developing a social networking website where people can share their own stories about language, as well as producing an educational version of the film with extras in several different languages."
Allie Light and Irving Saraf independently finance their projects, with the help of a few small grants, and only start pursuing distribution and broadcast once they’ve completed a film. Their straight-from-the-lab doc, Empress Hotel, likewise sold out four SFIFF screenings, and they hope that response and the film’s local angle will translate into Bay Area theatrical bookings. They screened at the Nashville Film Festival and are waiting to hear from SilverDocs, and plan to apply to "P.O.V." Like every other local filmmaker, they had a fabulous experience at the SFIFF.
Notes from the Underground
Former SFIFF programmer Marie-Pierre Macia, visiting the festival as the producer of Hooked, is producing Bela Tarr’s current (and last, so he says) film, The Turin Horse, in Hungary. They shot for two weeks and then had to stop when spring arrived unusually early, sending up green shoots and flowers and ruining Tarr’s mise en scene. … Pig Hunt received the gold medal in the action/adventure category at WorldFest in Houston. The locally produced genre flick returns home for the Another Hole in the Head festival in June and the Sausalito Film Festival in August.
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