Commentary by Briege McGarrity
The LA edition of the New York International Film Festival hosted a memorable four-day event at Raleigh Studios from January 30th to Feb 2nd, 2013. Those in need of a satisfying indie film fix were treated to an interesting variety of features, shorts and documentaries from around the globe.
Wednesday marked the beginning, with an opening shindig at Confidential in Beverly Hills. An array of international filmmakers were interviewed and photographed on the red carpet step and repeat all night long. The evening also included a special awards presentation for previous NYIFF award winners.
“The internationality of our festival is something we are very proud of,” said NYIFF manager Rich Rossi. “Our winter event encompassed screening the work of bright and talented filmmakers, networking with press and industry and welcoming LA indie enthusiasts. Many of the films won audience approval with several sold-out premieres contributing to the festival buzz,” continued Rossi.
The packed screening of Matt’s Chance directed by Nicholas Gyeney stood out in the feature film category and is a strong contender for Best Feature Film. It tells the story of Matt (Edward Furlong), a down-on-his-luck loser who on his birthday night discovers his fiancée, Jessica, in bed with another man. As Matt learns the true depth of her betrayal, he begins a downward spiraling revenge-quest that pits him face to face with a range of characters, including an Eastern European mobster; an eccentric pawn shop owner (Gary Busey); an ageing stripper (Margot Kidder), and a barber with an agenda (Lee Majors). Notables at the screening included members of Julien-K band and actress Brandy Kopp (The Butterfly Effect).
LA Superheroes also had a solid turn out. The comedy drama tells the story of Helena, a beautiful, struggling immigrant who buys a forged birth certificate from a small- time crook to get an American passport. She ends up getting busted by the FBI. To avoid jail and deportation, she gives out names. Her struggle in Los Angeles intensifies as she wonders if she is going to get whacked. LA Superheroes was co-directed by Yelena Popovic and Alexandros Potter and starred the talented Yelena Popovic, Dannon Green, and Cindy Marinangel.
Unusual comedic feature Welcome Back Satan, directed by Sara Lohman, also grabbed attention. In their film, a camera crew had the unique opportunity to record Satan in his natural habitat and it looks like he’s quite happy with it. He has the perfect job, he is, for the most part, feared and respected, and his minions jump to his every whim. After 6,000 years he is invited back to heaven, and he goes – expecting to return to his place beside God as Lucifer, the Angel of Light. But when it turns out the invitation is not for the expected welcome home, but is rather for Christ’s Second Coming-out party, things quickly go to hell. Worse, his former girlfriend is now partnering with the biggest douche-bag in Heaven. Satan decides he misses the place anyway, and wants back in. So he decides he needs to find a way to win back God’s respect. We learn that the Devil does for once care – kind of…
A major highlight in the documentary category was the screening of For the Love of the Music: The Club 47 Folk Revival. This wonderful documentary narrated by Peter Coyote (E.T. – the Extra Terrestrial) explores the history of Club 47 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with emphasis on the years 1959-68. It traces the career of Joan Baez and the evolution of the folk revival from the interpretation of traditional ballads to the singer-songwriter era. Featured are interviews with Joan Baez, Taj Mahal, Judy Collins, Tom Rush, Maria Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur, Jim Kweskin, Jackie Washington, Jim Rooney, Peter Rowan among others. Audiences were delighted when Carolyn Hester performed an impromptu folk song on the red carpet. Thankfully, IFQ-TV’s Rich Rossi was on hand to capture this special moment.
The multi-award winning short film Reign starring Andrew Fognani (Madoff: Made Off With America) definitely reeled in some new fans after its successful screening. Tipped to win further awards, including the coveted NYIFF Audience Award for a Short Film, the film centers around a clash of cultures in Iraq, resulting in local civilians getting caught in the crossfire, and a soldier who is forever changed by an encounter with an Iraqi woman.
As always, Stuart Alson, CEO of ITN Distribution Inc. hosted important panels on the thorny issue of distributing your indie film in the US and internationally. Awards are currently being decided by the NYIFF jury in 10 categories with the verdicts being announced by Friday, March 1st.