Not Just Another Face

By Dan Sorbera

Pat Cleveland

As the Montclair Film Festival wrapped up Sunday afternoon, the screening of About Face a documentary focusing on beauty and hardships in the modeling business, director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, producer Chad Thompson and one of the model interviewees, Pat Cleveland, came to discuss the documentary .

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders opened up the discussion with his reasoning behind making the film, explaining that he “wanted to get past the cliché that models are beautiful but not interesting”. Sanders went on to say  that these models “couldn’t survive without being exceptional”. When Pat Cleveland was asked what it felt like being a “racially ambiguous model”, she joked, “It feels like being a cocktail.”

Sanders went on to describe the excitement of his new film as well as having made The Black List (2008) and Latino List (2011) after which he turned his interest into the “theme of confidence in the modeling world”. After two years of production capturing models of the 1970s and 80s, HBO bought the rights to the film About Face. The film went on to be a hit at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and opened to more screens in January.

Michael Moore Speaks

By: Liz Dircks

Festival-goers began lining up well beforehand to see director and documentarian Michael Moore at the Montclair Art Museum on Sunday.

Moore, famous for documentaries such as “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” entered to a standing ovation from a sold-out audience in Leir Hall. Over the course of the 75-minute conversation, hosted and moderated by festival director Thom Powers, Moore talked community, filmmaking, politics, and even offered some advice for the future of the Montclair Film Festival.

Powers opened the discussion by asking Moore what drove him to start the Traverse City Film Festival in his home state of Michigan. Moore explained that he wanted to bring films together that wouldn’t normally be shown at the larger festivals, and also wanted to know what a festival would look like “if a filmmaker put it together.” On the value of showing films in communities, Moore mentioned that universities tend to bring more cultural exposure to small towns with their speakers and films (considering the involvement of Montclair State University in this festival, he certainly has a point).

Moore then shifted to politics. Regarding the politically-charged tones of his films, Moore said that “the politics has to come second to the art,” believing that people should be entertained first. He tries to use humor as much as possible given the sobering topics of his films, such as “Capitalism: A Love Story,” which deals with corporate corruption. Moore is a fervent liberal, but he still took time to decry both ends of the political spectrum for the current state of the country. Ultimately, though, he said, “We’re all Americans, we’re all in the same boat, and we will sink or swim together.”

The conversation briefly turned towards environmentalist issues, with Moore saying how he hates recycling because “it makes us all feel like we’re doing something to save the planet,” and the floor then opened for questions. Moore was asked to comment on the auto industry bailout, the Affordable Care Act, and the ethics of documenting an Occupy Boston police beating versus helping the victim.

Finally, Moore encouraged the Montclair Film Festival to do more next year, saying, “I think we should show films in places like Montclair that make us, liberals, uncomfortable.” Moore was particularly insistent throughout the conversation that young people be involved in the art of filmmaking, remarking at one point, “I think we’ve raised a really good generation of kids.” However, that didn’t stop Moore from fitting in a light-hearted jab that New Jersey is “just ripe for satire.” (He quickly added, “The good kind!”)

Moore’s dry, poignant humor kept the audience on their toes for a thoroughly entertaining and insightful event, to the point where people were still buzzing with questions as they filed out of the hall. Michael Moore may prove to be a hard act to follow for next year’s festival.

More photos HERE

A Restored Red Shoes

By Merve Fejzula

Thelma Schoonmaker gives the audience a lesson in film restoration.

If it were not for Martin Scorsese’s non-profit, the Film Foundation, The Red Shoes may not have made it to a screening at the festival on May 6. Mold had been eating into the emulsion, but a lengthy restoration process at UCLA returned the film to its original Technicolor glory.

So narrated Thelma Schoonmaker-Powell, a film editor who has worked extensively with Scorsese, from the days of Raging Bull until the recent Hugo. Schoonmaker is also the widow of Michael Powell, one of the directors of The Red Shoes. If that were not enough, Margaret Bodde, executive director of the Film Foundation and a Montclair resident, was also present at the screening.

In a question and answer session with festival co-director Thom Powers, Schoonmaker delved into the restoration process. She presented a clip of a pre-restored and post-restored The Red Shoes to show the incredible difference between the prints.

Scorsese considers The Red Shoes one of his top five favorite films. The characters’ devotion to their art is emblematic, Scorsese has told Schoonmaker, of the notion that “art is worth dying for.” The foundation preserves this and other endangered films from otherwise vanishing.

Long before establishing the Film Foundation, Scorsese sought to preserve the legacy of Michael Powell in a different manner. A thorough student of Powell and his creative partner, Emeric Pressburger, Scorsese revived their then fallen reputations by reintroducing them to his generation of artists and film lovers.

Powell was rejuvenated by the young director’s efforts and often said of that time, “the blood started to run in my veins again,” reported Schoonmaker. Joining Powell and Scorsese for dinner one night, she soon fell in love with him and the couple later married. She described her ten years with him as among the happiest of her life. Thankfully for her and all of us, Powell’s work has not only been preserved but warmly embraced.

More photos HERE

 

What is it? Premieres

By Liz Dircks

Rory Albanese and Adam Lowitt took time from their busy schedules producing Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to give Montclair Film Festival attendees their hilarious takes on old, educational film clips.

Albanese and Lowitt played to a sold-out crowd in an intimate setting at the Clairidge Cinema, offering their comedic insight to obscure (and somewhat bizarre) clips for “The What-Is-It?”

The event was co-presented by the Orphan Film Symposium, an organization based in the NYU Tisch School for the Arts that preserves “orphan” films, or films that don’t appear to have owners.

After a brief introduction by festival director Thom Powers, and a few words from Symposium founder Dan Streible, Lowitt was brought in, noting the absence of a stage and describing himself as looking more like “a rogue usher” than a comedian. Albanese followed a few minutes later, discussing the implications of growing up on Long Island as part of his warm-up. He quipped that the event would not be “a PG demonstration,” and told the audience, “I really hope you’re all stoned.”

Following the warm-up, the two dove right into five short film clips, dealing with the topics of coming of age, the dangers of rock and roll, marijuana, buying alcohol, and how to find a suitable husband. For  the better part of an hour, the audience was entertained by things like “blowing pot,” well-lit shots of phones, and a creepy reappearing doll, just to name a few.

The event, which seemed to invoke the spirit of midnight movie call-outs, was a success, exploiting the cultural gap between the films and the present day for comedy. Putting different words in the mouths of the on-screen actors proved to be just as hysterical as the films themselves. Albanese and Lowitt have perfect comedic timing, an essential trait for producing one of the most popular satirical shows on television. They had the audience writhing with laughter from the very beginning.

See the full gallery HERE

Tiger Eyes Debuts

By Meredith Yannuzzi

Lawrence & Judy Blume

Judy Blume has sold over 75 million copies of her well known and affecting books. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages, yet she has never made it to the big screen.

That is until now.

Tiger Eyes is about a young girl named Davey who is transplanted from New Jersey to New Mexico after the death of her father and goes on a journey “La vida es una Aventura” (life is an adventure). Judy’s son, Lawrence Blume, directed produced and co-wrote the screenplay with his mother and it is particularly meaningful because Blume was born and raised in New Jersey.

When asked why her novels have not made it to the big screen before she says it’s primarily the lack of passion on the part of other filmmakers who might not see her stories as mainstream moneymakers.

During the Q &A Lawrence talked about finding a lead actress to play Davey. They chose to go to the casting directors who worked on Winter’s Bone to find the perfect teenager to play the part. That’s when they found Willa Holland who Lawrence said really understood who the character was and that’s why they hired her.

When asked about future plans for the movie, Lawrence said that the movie will be shown at a few more festivals before seeking distribution on a larger scale.

More images from the screening & Q & A HERE.

Prep School Negro Premieres

By Dan Sorbera

Audiences lined up outside Claridge Cinemas in Montclair Saturday afternoon to see the sold out world premiere of The Prep School Negro, a documentary about the culture clashes and social alienation of black students from inner city neighborhoods in Philadelphia getting scholorships to all-white prep schools. Attending the screening was the film producer Barb Lee and director André Robert Lee who provided a quick Q&A.

Lee addressed the audience before the film began, asking them to go into the feature “thinking about where the heart and mind meet”. Lee, who also starred in the movie, asked the audience to put themselves in his shoes while trying to understand the conflict of separating his family and neighborhood values from the alien world of an all-white prep school.  He described the separation as being a “psychological homelessness.”

The world premiere of the film was received with emotional applause from the audience. When questions were opened up to the audience, many expressed a strong emotional connection to the story of Lee. When asked about the issue of race at Germantown Friends School, Lee spoke of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his ideas on Affirmative Action as being a type of social experiment. He also talked about President Obama growing up in the same type of situation and a few audience members also shared their stories.

The Prep School Negro began as a short that was taken to 176 schools across the country to spread awareness. Lee made The Prep School Negro (feature length) in order to become closer to his family while trying to understand the conflicts he came across while attending GFS. Lee mentioned that he was urged to make the short longer after conversations with The Academy of Motion Pictures. Lee says “I thought I was expanding my film but I made an entirely new film”.

More information on The Prep School Negro can be found at theprepschoolnegro.org

MFF Today – Sunday

Today’s Films & Events

11:30 AM Last Call at the Oasis Clairidge Cinema 2 Buy Tickets
12:00 PM The Atomic States of America Clairidge Cinema 1 Buy Tickets
12:00 PM Documentary: Inside the StoryMontclair Public Library FREE PANEL

1:00 PM Red Shoes Bellevue Theater Buy Tickets
1:45 PM The Art of Screenwriting Montclair Public Library FREE PANEL
2:00 PM About Face Clairidge Cinema 2 Buy Tickets
2:30 PM Brooklyn Castle  Clairidge Cinema 1 Buy Tickets
3:30 PM The Art of Editing Montclair Public Library FREE PANEL
4:30 PM Downtown Express Clairidge Cinema 2 Buy Tickets
4:30 PM King Kong Bellevue Theater Buy Tickets
5:15 PM NJ Shorts 3: Storytellers Clairidge Cinema 1 Buy Tickets
7:00 PM Calvet Bellevue Theater Buy Tickets

 

Highlights From Yesterday
Writer Judy Blume, “in the house” for sold-out Tiger Eyes screening.  More photos here.

Oversimplification Q & A

By Merve Fejzula

Cartoon characters bloom on the screen, stop-motion wooden figures make calculated steps towards each other, suddenly we return to the photographic depiction of a couple, alternate between films as a narrator pauses to inform us of the change – Terence Nance’s debut film “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” is nothing if not complex. But that complexity is one that rewards its audience with a realistic and artfully made film about the nature of relationships and our memories of them.

The film follows the story of a couple in 2006 played by Nance and Namik Minter, at once a true depiction of their relationship and yet a retelling of it. “It all really happened,” Nance told the audience in a question and answer session conducted with festival director Thom Powers. He was quick to add, however, that the film was not a documentary. He humorously noted it was more like “one-sided nonfiction.”

The audience gathered at the Clairidge Cinema on the evening of May 4 was treated to an extended festival cut. Apart from festivalgoers, no one else will be able to see the film in this lengthier form. Fresh from its enthusiastic Sundance reception, the film has also gained much attention at international film festivals.

Coming from an artistic family – Nance’s mother was an actress and father a photographer – the tools of filmmaking have always surrounded him. In addition to film, Nance pursues his other artistic passions, including: music, writing, performing, and visual arts.

Visual and narrative themes recur in the film, which led one audience member to ask about the nature of this repetitiveness. Nance remarked that this effect was intentional and meant to convey the repetitive style of the blues.

This kind of depiction of a black relationship is certainly not a feat that is either repeated or duplicated in mainstream cinema. The trials of young love are a universal experience, and as the Montclair Film Festival audience discovered, is one that can be depicted with  a black couple with as much universality as a white one.

MFF Today – Saturday

Today’s Films
11:30 AM Flat Daddy Clairidge Cinema 2 Buy Tickets
11:30 AM First Position Bellevue Theater Buy Tickets
2:00 PM Unraveled Clairidge #2 Buy Tickets
2:00 PM The Perfect Family Bellevue Theater Buy Tickets
4:30 PM Lemon Bellevue Theater Buy Tickets
4:30 PM Tiger Eyes Clairidge Cinema 2 Buy Tickets
5:00 PM Kumaré Clairidge Cinema 1 Buy Tickets
7:00 PM Robot & Frank Bellevue Theater Buy Tickets
7:30 PM The What-is-it? Clairidge Cinema 1 Buy Tickets
9:00 PM Filmmaker Party Montclair Station Restaurant Buy Tickets
9:30 PM Hysteria Clairidge Cinema 2 Buy Tickets

Dukakis Brings Cloudburst to MFF

By Merve Fejzula

To describe Cloudburst in brief, it is something like, “Thelma and Louise for the assisted living set.” So joked Mary Alice Williams, as she began the question and answer session with Olympia Dukakis following the screening of her latest film.

In actuality the movie is an uproarious telling of an elderly lesbian couple (Dukakis and Brenda Fricker) who escape from an old age home in order get married in Canada. Running from the police and picking up a hitchhiker, the two endure many adventures along the way, and the viewers at Bellevue Cinema were moved to both laughter and tears by the story.

Dukakis noted that it was the first time she was seeing the film with an audience. Sold out not long after the tickets were posted, the event was particularly meaningful for Montclair residents, some of whom remember Dukakis as a neighbor in the thirty years that the city had been her home.

During the Q&A session, those very years were the focus of several questions from audience members. They asked about her experiences with the Whole Theater Company, which she co-founded in 1971 in Montclair with her husband, Louis Zorich. Due to a faltering budget, the company closed its doors in 1992.

At the time, coincidentally, the company was putting on a play about a lesbian couple trying to have a child and create a family. The play received widespread attention but not all of it positive – Dukakis thought the controversy it generated may have contributed to the demise of public support for the company.

Similar problems seem to be plaguing Cloudburst, which is having a difficult time finding distribution in the United States because of its subject matter. Dukakis noted that it is a testament to both Montclair and New Jersey about its commitment to the arts that such a film was screened here, and such a festival could have been created.

A veteran theater and film actress, Montclair was extremely fortunate to have been home to Dukakis’ artistic ventures then and now. Explaining her idea of what art brings to a community, Dukakis quoted Frederico Garcia Lorca, “The poem, the song, the picture is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink – and in drinking, understand themselves.”

MFF Today – Friday

Today’s Films

David Bromberg

7:00 PM 2 Days in New York Bellevue Theater Buy Tickets
9:15 PM Your Sister’s Sister Bellevue Theater Buy Tickets
9:30 PM At the Jersey Shore Clairidge Cinema 1 Buy Tickets

 

Highlights From Yesterday

An interview with Olympia Dukakis for her new movie Cloudburst.