The start-up Little Rock Film Festival
(May 17-19) released an impressive line-up today. It appears festival organizers (which includes filmmaking brothers Craig and Brent Renaud) went to pretty great lengths to put together a diverse festival--not just in subject matter, but also in terms of mixing narrative and documentary and shorts together and pairing big budget releases with smaller indies.
Here's a few highlights I picked out:
- "The Situation" is probably the festival's biggest pull. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Philip Haas, the drama is, at least according to the festival folks, the first U.S. narrative film set in modern day Iraq
- "Offside," an award-winning (if head-scratching) comedy set in Iran about the fight for women's rights.
- "Killer of Sheep," a visionary emotional drama made 30 years ago, that's just now seeing theatrical release (The excellent new Oxford American movie issue devotes an article to the film's director, Charles Burnett).
- "War Tapes," an award-winning documentary on the Iraq War
- "Towncraft," the fantastic new documentary on the LR punk and indie scene in the 90s (look for much, much more coverage in this spot)
- "Knocked Up," the new movie from Jud Aptow ("40 Year-Old Virgin) about a one-night stand that ends in pregnancy and stars the big curly-headed dude from "40-Year Old Virgin" and the blonde girl from "Grey's Anatomy." I've watched the trailer for "Knocked Up" at least five times it's so funny.
Check out the complete festival line-up below.
Narrative Feature FilmsThe Situation
The First Annual Little Rock Film Festival officially kicks off Thursday, May 17th at 7 pm at the Riverdale 10 Cinemas with the Arkansas premiere of The Situation. Philip Haas, the Director of the Academy Award nominated film Angels and Insects, will be at the screening for a special question and answer. Combining elements of thriller, romance, and war movie, The Situation, is set in modern day Iraq, and is the first U.S. feature Narrative film to dramatize the events of the occupation. The Situation stars Damian Lewis, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks production of BAND OF BROTHERS. Following the screening and discussion with Mr. Haas, there will be an after Party at the Peabody Hotel’s Pinnacle Room from 9:30pm – midnight.
Beginning Friday, May 18th, the Market Street Cinema in Little Rock will begin a special theatrical run of The Situation. Director Philip Haas will be present for the May 18th opening at Market Street.Offside
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, Offside is a smart comedy illustrating the fight for women's rights in Iran. Many Iranian girls love soccer as much as their countrymen and sport fans all over the world, but they are prevented by law from attending live soccer matches in their country. Inspired by the day when his own daughter was refused entry to a soccer stadium in Iran, Jafar Panahi’s OFFSIDE follows a day in the life of a group of Iranian girls attempting to watch their team’s World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain at the stadium in Tehran. Time Magazine said that Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s “unblinking, gritty style is quickly turning him into the country's most courageous social filmmaker.”
**Note: Iranian Film Professor Jamsheed Akrami will hold a discussion about Iran, Politics and Film as a part of the LRFF Talks series of the Little Rock Film Festival.Killer of Sheep
"Way ahead of its time 30 years ago, and just as stunning today, Killer of Sheep is one of those marvels of original moviemaking that keeps hope of artistic independence alive... " ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
Writer/Director Charles Burnett submitted his first feature, Killer of Sheep, as his thesis for his MFA in film at UCLA. The film was shot on location near his family's home in Watts in a series of weekends on a shoestring budget of less than $10,000. In 1981, Killer of Sheep received the Critic's Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 1990, the Library of Congress declared it a national treasure. Despite these accolades, the film never received public distribution due to the expense and complication of the music rights (including songs by Etta James, Gershwin, Paul Robeson and Earth, Wind & Fire). Now, thirty years later, the new 35mm print, restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive, is ready for its long-awaited theatrical release. Killer of Sheep broke the box office records at the IFC in New York when it premiered on March 30, 2007 for the first time in 30 years. Knocked Up
The Little Rock Film Festival has been given a special sneak preview of Universal Studios’ unreleased summer comedy Knocked Up, from the director of the 40 Year Old Virgin, Judd Aptow. Allison Scott is an up–and–coming entertainment journalist whose 24–year–old life is on the fast track. But it gets seriously derailed when a drunken one–nighter with slacker Ben Stone results in an unwanted pregnancy. But when they discover more about one another, it becomes painfully obvious that they‘re not the soul mates they‘d hoped they might be. Should they raise the baby together? What makes a happy lifetime partnership after all? A couple of drinks and one wild night later, they‘ve got nine confusing months to figure it out.Old Joy
Winner of a Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and nominated for a 2007, Independent Spirit Award, Old Joy is the story of two old friends, Kurt (Will Oldham) and Mark (Daniel London), who reunite for a weekend camping trip in the Cascade mountain range east of Portland, Oregon. For Mark, the weekend outing offers a respite from the pressure of his imminent fatherhood; for Kurt, it is part of a long series of carefree adventures. The New York Times called Old Joy “A Must See…”10 Items or Less
10 Items or Less is a comedy that stars Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega (Spanglish) and is written and directed by Brad Silberling (City of Angels).
A Hollywood icon finds himself riding around Los Angeles in a beat up Gremlin with a young female check out clerk from Carson. He’s a long way from Brentwood but what looks like just another celebrity scandal reveals an unexpected friendship that will leave a lifelong impression. This trek through Los Angeles features richly unexpected situations, chance encounters, and personal revelation that neither character could ever have anticipated.Exist
“Director, Esther Bell, offers an antidote to the whimsy and solipsism endemic to much of what passes for independent filmmaking." Nathan Lee, NEW YORK TIMES
EXIST is the story of two young men who take the ultimate stand for what they believe.
Set in the trenches of America's resurgent protest movement, Exist captures the essence of personal relationships in the midst of turmoil, and explores how far people will go to be heard.Shut Up and Shoot Me
Winner of the Best Narrative Feature Award at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival, Shut Up and Shoot Me is a dark comedy from writer/director Steen Agro.
When Colin Frampton’s wife is accidentally squashed by a statue during a romantic weekend in Prague, he decides that life isn’t worth living without her. Using only the remaining balance on his credit card, Colin hires a long-suffering Czech odd-job man, Pavel, to kill him. An unlikely friendship develops as Pavel’s plans to kill Colin spin out of control. This misfit pair soon discover that death does not come as easily as they thought.Documentary FeaturesRomantico
Nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary, the New York Times said, “Romantico is visual poetry on the run.” After years of trying to get ahead, strumming for tips on the streets of San Francisco, Mexican musician Carmelo Muñiz returns home to eke out a living. This touching portrait captures the dilemma of a father trying to better the life of his family at the cost of leaving them behind.Hip Hop Project
“…Irresistibly uplifting…unquestionably honest…an emotional tidal flow…”
Winner of an Audience Award at the Zurich Film Festival and winner for Best Documentary at the Harlem International Film Festival, Savannah Film Festival and Heartland Film Festival, the Hip Hop Project will premiere in Arkansas for the first time at the Little Rock Film Festival. From Executive Producer Bruce Willis and Queen Latifah, The Hip Hop Project is the compelling story of Kazi, a formerly homeless teenager who inspired a group of New York City teens to transform their life stories into powerful works of art, using hip hop as a vehicle for self-development and personal discovery. Kazi challenges these young people to write music about real issues affecting their lives as they strive to overcome daunting obstacles to produce a collaborative album. In contrast to all of the negative attention focused on hip hop and rap music, this is a story of hope, healing and the realization of dreams. War Tapes
Winner of the Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, John Burns of the New York Times called War Tapes "the single best document (book, film or article) you could see" on the war in Iraq. In March 2004, just as the insurgent movement strengthened, several members of one National Guard unit arrived in Iraq, with cameras. THE WAR TAPES is the result – a uniquely collaborative film from a team that includes Director Deborah Scranton, Producer Robert May (THE FOG OF WAR) and Producer/Editor Steve James (HOOP DREAMS). Straight from the front lines in Iraq, THE WAR TAPES is the first war movie filmed by soldiers themselves.
*Note: One of the soldiers who filmed War Tapes, Spc. Mike Moriarty, will be present at the Little Rock Film Festival for question and answer after the screenings, and will participate in the Little Rock Talks panel: Filming Iraq.Little Birds
Filmed by award-winning Japanese independent journalist, Takeharu Watai, Little Birds depicts the daily lives of Iraqi people following the launch of the U.S.-led war on the country in March 2003. In Baghdad, Samawa, Falluja, and at Abu Ghraib, Watai listened to the voices of the Iraqi people and succeeded in catching glimpses of the truth about the Iraq war that mainstream media have failed to capture. To capture the true essence of the situation in Iraq, the filmmaker purposely left out narration and background music. He simply allowed the daily sounds of air bombardments, helicopters, and approaching armored vehicles to tell the story. Filmmaker Takeharu Watai will be present at the Little Rock Film Festival for question and answer after the screenings of Little Birds, and he will participate in the Filming Iraq Panel at the Clinton School of Public Service. Little Rock Talks Panel Series
The Little Rock Film Festival and the Clinton School of Public Service are teaming up during the film festival to present the Little Rock Talks panel series. The panel series will include The Filming Iraq Panel at the Clinton School of Public Service on Friday, May 18, 2007. Moderated by Iraq War veteran and best selling author of Chasing Ghosts Paul Rieckhoff. The Filming Iraq Panel will feature some of the most talked about and renowned Iraq war films and filmmakers, and will discuss their experiences in covering the Iraq War. Guests include Dan Lohaus (When I Came Home), Sgt. Mike Moriarty (War Tapes), Philip Haas (The Situation), Watai Takeharu (Little Birds) and Brent and Craig Renaud (Off to War). On Saturday, May 19th, 2007 at the Clinton School of Public Service, the Little Rock Talks panel series will present the Film, Politics and Iran panel. Though Iranian film is considered one of the great cinemas of the world, the majority of the films that receive success abroad are banned at home. One such film is the award winning Iranian film Offside, being shown at this years LRFF. The foremost expert on Iranian film in the United States Jamsheed Akrami, will discuss these issues of Iranian film during the Film, Politics and Iran panel. Panels are also planned on the Economics of Filmmaking in Arkansas, and a panel about Civil Rights and Film inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Crisis at Central High. Short Films
The 2007 LRFF will feature the best in Short Films from Arkansas and around the world. Three programs will be dedicated to Narrative Shorts, one to Documentary Shorts, and two exclusively to shorts made in Arkansas and by Arkansas filmmakers. A few highlights include:The Accountant
Little Rock is lucky to have two new residents, Academy Award winner Ray McKinnon and his wife Lisa Blount. Although most people will know Ray McKinnon from his role in the hit HBO series Deadwood, Ray and his wife Lisa won the 2001 Oscar for Best Action Live Short Film with The Accountant. Two brothers whose farm is on the brink of bankruptcy consult an accountant who has some highly unconventional money-making suggestions. Can one man, one hard drinking, chain smoking, backwoods accountant, stop a national conspiracy, change the course of history, and save a way of life? "It's do-able... but it ain't gonna be purdy." Ray McKinnon will be present at the screening for a question and answer.
Where's My Close-up, Mr. Thornton?
When Arkansan Tim Holder was cast alongside John Ritter in Billy Bob Thornton’s Oscar Winning film Sling Blade, he thought his acting career was finally taking off. That is until the movie came out and all his scenes were cut from the film. In this comedy short film, Tim Holder holds Billy Bob Thornton accountable for the career he never had. With actual outtakes from his never seen part in Sling Blade, Tim Holder has made a comedy that every Arkansan has to see. Tim Holder and producers Tim Jackson and Josh Miller, will be at the screenings of Where's My Close-up, Mr. Thornton for question and answer. Calicot
A 35mm award winning short from France by director V. Sarah Gurevick, described as A mysterious voyage of cotton, from the fields of Burkina Faso to its ultimate destination...lot 63, grave c
Lot 63, grave c is a short documentary film about Meredith Hunter, the teenager who was killed by Hell’s Angels at the Rolling Stones’ notorious Altamont concert in 1969. By Academy Award nominated Director Sam GreenIn Order of Appearance
After forty years, a mother meets a daughter for the first time, a daughter finds a sibling rival, and a husband wonders what he missed. Over the course of a long afternoon, this reunited family gets a glimpse of what might have been. Directed by Michael Ruscio and starring Gary Newton of Little Rock. Special Events, Parties and VenuesFilming Arkansas Theater at the LR Chamber of Commerce:
The Little Rock Chamber of Commerce will be the central venue and headquarters for all Arkansas filmmakers, films, workshops and panel discussions during the festival. The Little Rock Film Festival received hundreds of film submissions from Arkansas filmmakers across the state, and will showcase many of these films and filmmakers at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce’s screening room, which has been dubbed the Filming Arkansas Theater during the festival. There will be screenings of Arkansas produced films and documentaries, film production workshops given by Arkansas production companies, and Filming Arkansas panel discussions that will discuss the current state of filmmaking in Arkansas. The Chamber of Commerce glass atrium overlooking the Arkansas River will also serve as the official Filmmakers lounge and center for registration and public information. Towncraft and After Party at Rumba Revolution
Towncraft is a documentary about the roots of the underground music scene in Little Rock. In the late 80s and early 90s a vibrant DIY (do-it-yourself) underground music scene emerged in Little Rock. Unlike other towns, Little Rock's scene was composed almost entirely of kids. 14-18 year-olds were booking their own shows, starting record labels, opening record stores and playing with large national acts. In the process they would build a tight-knit, flourishing underground community that existed completely outside of the High School norm and was all their own. The film focuses on the roots of the Little Rock scene, how it changed the lives of those involved, the enormous DIY ethos that has shaped the scene for the past 20 years and how the scene continues to thrive as its pioneers hit their mid-30s. Towncraft will premiere at the Little Rock Film Festival on Friday, May 18th, 7:00pm at the Riverdale 10 cinema in a special VIP and press screening, and will show again on Saturday, May 19th at 6:30pm. Following the Saturday screening, a Towncraft After Party will take place at Rumba Revolution in the Rivermarket, with many of the bands featured in the documentary. Awards Ceremony sponsored by the Crush Wine Bar
The First Annual Little Rock Film Festival Awards Ceremony will take place at the Crush Wine Bar, located at 115 E Markham St (President Clinton Ave) in Downtown Little Rock, on Sunday, May 20th from 5-7pm. Awards will be given out for Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary Feature, Best Short, Best Arkansas Film and an Audience Award.Movies in the Park
The popular summer movie series in Little Rock, Movies in the Park, will help wind down the First Annual Little Rock Film Festival by screening a Hollywood blockbuster at the Riverfest Amphitheater on Sunday, May 20th at sundown.