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Tupelo Film Fest, Movies and More

May 16, 2009

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Although I didn’t make it to the entire festival this year, I hit up the Tupelo Film Festival on Friday to visit with friends and to catch a few short films. I was clearly in the minority this year as the crowds were small all afternoon but began to pick up in the evening for the locally shot “Chasing the White Dragon.”

The director, writer and producer, Kat Phillips was on hand and as always it was wonderful to catch up with her. She recently had some good news when  CWTD won Best Ensemble Cast at the FirstGlance Hollywood Film Festival last week and her  short films including “Katrina’s Wake” have been purchased for a DVD. More here on both.

Michael Rose returned this year as a judge and we had a wonderful conversation about independent film and our common love: documentaries. Rose recently created Elvis: Return to Tupelo which plays on PBS. Rose is a member of the International Documentary Association and is quite the fantastic person with whom to discuss distribution models or anything indie film.

I also had the opportunity to meet the other two judges, Michael Swanson (of which I am about to go rent both his feature films, All About You and All About Us). Michael was nominated for a Student Academy Award for his short film Two Seasons, which played at Sundance a few years ago. Philece Sampler, better known as Renee on Days of Our Lives and Donna on Another World,  was also the producer for Del Shore’s great stageplay “Sordid Lives.”She has just formed with Charlene Keel a new production company, Hopeful Romantics, that will produce films based on best selling romance novels. She is also working with local writer Peggy Webb to create the film “Driving Me Crazy,” based on Webb’s novel.

The festival itself is run by some of the most courteous people in the film festival circuit. I honestly think Pat Rasberry should be shipped out to all festivals to welcome filmmakers. Roy, Jim, Sean and so many others make you feel right at home no matter if you are a filmmaker, a local, or a random Oxonian like me.

And yet, where are the locals? Why are they not turning out in droves for the festival? It is honestly WAY too cheap for tickets and you can buy in blocks to see a chunk of films for $5. The people are great, and they are bringing in some interesting filmmakers. The fest supports student films and music videos, two areas that a lot of other festivals have cut out or don’t place in a prominent screening time. Tupelo intermixes student works with other short films and documentaries letting people have sort of a buffet to choose from in the theater. Their one disadvantage may be in some of the film selection – only having one screen to show they are limited to a smaller amount of films.

Enough ranting, onto the films:

I started things off with a student film, Le Paradis de L’Imbecile which had some humorous moments and definitely played on french new wave aesthetic especially with the somewhat absurd but well-done ending. I missed the first two minutes of the 13 minute film so I won’t say much more about it.

However, up next was Treasure Diversity from young filmmaker Drew Goldsmith who talks with varying levels of autistic people about their own version of the world. In nine minutes I learned a few things, had my heart strings pulled. The interviews were the highlight, some of the focus on posters could be removed to make a very strong documentary.

Out of my former hometown of San Diego (technically Oceanside), Rachel Earnest (writer/director)’s Le Retour was a delightful student short. At 19 minutes long there was about 1 or 2 minutes that I could see trimmed or better explained (a party that had no explanation of why she would be there other than to show her frustration), but the rest is lovely. Katherine studies abroad in France and returns home to Southern California. She quickly realized readjusting to her old life is much harder than she thought as her experiences have changed her. For anyone who has ever traveled abroad, adjusting back to a daily routine is often difficult. The film captures that moment perfectly with Katherine trying to adjust to find a balance between homes.

The Line by Kent Bassett and Open Air by Shira-Lee Shalit and writer David Paterson were also two that I enjoyed. Shalit was otne of the 12 finalists for the Fox show On The Lot. The film about two women trying to live a normal existence while trapped under sniper fire is meant to be in any war-torn country, Serbia, etc. but was actually shot in Brooklyn. The setting and performances give somewhat of a theatrical air, but Sex and the City’s Lynn Cohen is outstanding. Paterson has a way of providing a somewhat other-worldly view of unusual circumstances. He is best known as the screenwriter of Bridge to Terabithia, based on the novel his mom wrote.

Then I saw The Last Page, by Kevin Acevedo which was a fun 12-minute short about Jason who is trying to overcome writer’s block and find the perfect last line. Unfortunately, wandering around the streets in a writer’s haze is not quite so safe for Jason as he ends up in awkward and painfully funny situation after situation. Sure, it is a little zany but Andrew Burlinson as Jason is quite the actor – I look forward to seeing more of him in the future. Emily Rose (ER) and Mark DeCarlo (Jimmy Neutron), and Megan Cavanagh (what hasn’t she been in?) also star.

Movies continue through tonight with awards at 9 p.m.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 20, 2009 2:42 pm

    I can’t speak for others, but I think possibly the reason the attendance was down this year was because the vast majority of local filmmakers were rejected. With them; they bring friends, family, and fans as supporters. I think that attendance in general is down because they don’t aim any advertising (or pick movies) at young people.

    We were out of town until friday night…and stayed home the rest of the weekend to recover. I don’t know whether we would have went otherwise.

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