Long time friends Jon Voight and Burt Young share a moment during the often moving tribute to the late, great director Hal Ashby (Coming Home, Harold and Maude) at the 2009 Sarasota Film Festival. Voight and Young co-starred in Ashby’s 1982 film Lookin’ to Get Out, the director’s cut of which was recently discovered in the UCLA Film Archives and world premiered in Sarasota the night before the tribute. Ashby’s daughter Leigh MacManus was on hand to accept the SFF’s Master of Cinema award on her father’s behalf and gave a stirring thank you speech wherein she spoke of never knowing her father and how much the closing moments of Lookin’ to Get Out meant to her. I won’t spoil the film for you (director’s cut out soon on Warner Home Video!), but suffice to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and both MacManus and Voight were brought to tears during the evening.
Coming up in a few weeks is one of my favorite times of the year…the ten days I spend in Denver, attending the Starz Denver Film Festival. The films, hospitality, staff and city are all top notch and hope I can make it there every year from here on out. It’s almost directly opposite, calendar-wise) my other favorite “regional” US fest, Sarasota. If you’re a filmmaker or industry person or just a travelin’ (wo)man who likes to see new places and go to new film festivals, these two events would be worth your time to investigate. However, that’s not my point. What is my point, you might ask? My point is that Brit Withey, program director of the Denver fest has put his blog La Pistola to novel and original use. For almost a month he’s been teasing films prior to the official lineup announcement.
Since September 27th, a full month before the “official” lineup, Brit has been posting about a film here, a panel there and as far as I can tell (and I did next to no research on this, BTW) he’s one of the only programmers doing this and I think it’s a fantastic idea. Many festivals feel like they need to guard their lineup like state secrets and maybe they wouldn’t get front page coverage in Daily Variety and THR if they announced some of their slate on their own sites earlier, and maybe this matters but to the vast majority of festivals, it doesn’t. Granted, if your festival programs 20-30 films, you migh wanna hold off on the sneak previews, but if you’ve got over one or two hundred films screening, why not tease ’em a bit?
I know I’m even more excited about Denver knowing that Jiri Menzel’s I Served the King of England is screening. I missed this film in Berlin and have regretted it ever since. It’s supposed to be fantastic and I can’t wait. Then there’s Ronald Bronstein’s Frownland. Tully loves it, so that’s enough for me. Then there’s Persepolis, a NYFF selection I missed and a Czech animation film called One Night in the City which sounds amazing.
I don’t know about you, but I am gonna check Brit’s blog daily between now and the 22nd to see what other tidbits he might be revealing! Of course, I will be on the ground in Denver, keeping y’all as up to date as possible on the salacious goings on at the various fest venues. Remember the late night lounge?
Another day, another festival. Or is it another beer? Well, same difference, sometimes. At any rate, it is another film festival, my umpteenth + 4, I think. This time it’s the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF, often pronounced, awkwardly: “K’viff”) in the Czech spa town of the same name. I am currently in the lobby of my hotel, the Thermal, drinking a wonderful Pilsner Urquell at the extortionate hotel price of $1.50. Yup, you heard right. The thing is, they’re 85 cents on the street, so $1.50 is rather a steep markup!
This being my first trip to the Czech Republic (or to any former Eastern Bloc country for that matter) since 1974, there is a certain amount of adjustment to be made.
First of all, unlike the rest of Europe, smoking cigarettes in public places is still a national sport, here and that, combined with the lack of anything resembling dry cleaning in my hotel may prove to be a problem. I also forgot my razor, but the Czechs do shave, so I assume at least that won’t be a problem. Then there’s the language. While I consider myself lingustically adept, I am finding this one rather difficult to learn, but then again, I’ve only been in country a little over 30 hours, much of that spent either asleep or in a jet-lag/beer induced stupor.
Now about the alcohol. Cheap beer abounds and does a peculiar spirit called Becherovka. It’s akin to Jägermeister, in that it’s made with oodles of herbs and packs a wallop, but is significantly less viscous and purports to aid in digestion. Considering the preponderance of meat on Czech menus, I might be making copious use of it. It is usually served cold as a shot or on the rocks, but you can also have it with tonic, in which case it’s called a “beton,” which oddly means “concrete” in Czech. It’s actually pretty tasty. To the left is a pic of a wedge of lime seemingly hovering above the surface of BAM curator Florence Almozini’s beton.
Wow. Talk about memories….
On our way to Cuba as part of the first group of Americans to fly direct to Cuba from New York City since the early 1960s, my friend Shelley Parker and I were apparently photographed by Agence France Presse. I confess, I don’t remember that, but ok! I am planning on a return visit, this December.
That was indeed a fantastic trip. I think I need to digitize some pix. Also on the flight with us was filmmaker Laurie Collyer (SherryBaby, Nuyorican Dream) and in Cuba we hung out with the Sundance group, including Todd Haynes, Todd Solondz, Darren Aronofsky and Eric Watson. Good times, good times!
Oh, and I have video. I guess I need to digitize that, too!
Besides The Rabbi Report, I was also down in Sarasota for Filmmaker Magazine and today they published my report from the fest. Check it out, y’all!
After the jump, a few pix from the festival!