Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival - Day 2

En route to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for the Athens, GA made Darius Goes West, we saw this sign and sighed. We went back to the hotel, checked out and got about as far as Anniston, AL when we realized the sign just said 'sidewalk' and not Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. We turned around and made it back in time for the movie.

The venue underestimated the attendance of the film and since it wasn't a traditional movie theater but an exhibition room of sorts, seating was limited. Alex O., Katie R. and I sat on some steps which was a surprisingly not unbearable situation, partly because the film was so heartwarming. It's about Darius, a 15 year-old with muscular dystrophy, DMD to be specific, whose friends take him on a trip across the US, his first ever, in hopes of convincing MTV to pimp his wheelchair. I cried for most of it. You probably will too if you see it. Darius and most of the cast and some crew members were in attendance, all dressed in t-shirts with Darius-isms in stark black and white. A few include "Glosabi," and "That ain't no Cuba." When I saw Darius answering questions from the audience, I forgot that DMD has a %100 fatality rate. I didn't really even think about it until late that night at the after party when I was introduced to him. Then I said to the myself, "Well, humans have a %100 fatality rate." Of course that isn't during the years of your late teens and early twenties, when DMD typically reaches the point of no return. My guess is I didn't think about it because Darius doesn't think about it. He just lives his life day-to-day like everyone else.

We walked by the Carver Theater, our venue for that night, prior to and after DGW and it is also the home of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, whose most notable inductees include Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, who played the vibraphone. Think xylophone or marimba. Later that night we would walk the same stage as Duke and sing our own brand of music, that of the Q&A. Wiki states the Carver showed pornographic films in its later, moribund years. We hoped to bring back some of that business. It also used to be the African-American theater in town whereas the Alabama was the white theater.

A Darfur documentary and Murder Party made up the second half of my movie schedule Saturday before Blood Car, but even before that Alex O. and Jeremy S. participated in a panel called The Blood and Guts of Comedy about horror-comedies on the festival circuit. Katie R. and I sat in for the first thirty minutes and by the look of it I thought they were going to do a staged reading of some Tennessee Williams. In retrospect I wish they had. Next time I festival, I'll bring a few copies of Streetcar just in case.

We did very little promotion for Blood Car at this festival because we didn't feel like working putting up posters and harassing people to see our film. Our efforts would have been limited anyway having only brought buttons, a few t-shirts, some posters and one signed poster! Our turnout was around 220 I believe. Heartburn, an 8 min. short from a FSU film student screened before our film and the director, Jesse Barksdale, was in attendance and participated in a Q&A. Alongside him were his DP and someone he kept wryly referring to as his 'business manager', who was dressed in all black. Their short was funny, but Jesse B. was even funnier during the talkback. It was their first film festival and their wide-eyed rookie swagger charmed the pants off just about everyone. It was a great precursor for BC. Many of the other filmmakers we had met the day before extended us the kind gesture of conducting themselves to our screening as well.

If I was forced to guess which talkback was better, Alex O.'s or Jesse B.'s, I'd have to think aboutit . I refuse to pick one over the other, and this reluctance you should interpret as an indication of how close the race was, if it was a race. Since most questions reappear at every Q&A, it's a bit like a broken record or a song I play so many times I wear it out. However, Alex O. managed to work in a couple new bits that rolled some heads. Since we had t-shirts and posters to give away, we asked a trivia question to the audience about where the 'oven mitts in bed joke' came from. An audience member actually asked directly about this so we turned it into a trivia opportunity. Sadly, no one could correctly reference the film, Love and Death. We were swarmed for the swag and then left.

I wish we could have stayed for the last day of the festival, but Katie R. had to return to Atlanta for a rehearsal. It was a wonderful festival and I regret I cannot attend more. I know Alex is traveling to Austin for the film festival there and he is blogging now, so we'll be able to walk in his e-shoes while Texas brands him forever. There was moderate concern about our blogs overlapping since this is the first festival we've attended together as bloggers. My knee jerk reaction was that no one would want to read about the same thing twice. Rationality won out because multiple perspectives is the best way to gather an objective impression of the events of any historical occurrence. Alex had been wanting to start a blog for a while, but he wasn't sure he was qualified to to do. I told him it's hard work, but rewarding. He asked me to give him some lessons a few times a week and we've been training pretty hard since Atlanta's last snow melted. He launched a little earlier than I would have in his shoes. I look forward to reading his version of the events of Sidewalk.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival - Day 1

I don't know what we would have done if we had left Atlanta any later and missed the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival's interactive iron pour at Sloss Furnaces. It was a casual itinerary we set for ourselves, but this kind of antique entertainment is rare for a film festival. Imagine if Cinequest had had us build a computer or Sarasota a beach umbrella.

Just a quick drive from downtown, we arrived just after the shuttle buses crammed with filmmakers, festival staffers, jurors, and media personnel. Perfect timing. Our guide was Kyle McKinnon, one of two programmers of Sidewalk. Now a historical landmark, Sloss was once a towering inferno of pig iron, or raw iron production, which is used to make steel. In addition to giving us visitors a glimpse into this once thriving industry, it also gave us a window into the once thriving fears of humanity; by that I mean vampires, spiderwebs, graveyards and the grim reaper. Someone saw this landmark and said, "This would make a great haunted furnace," and so each Halloween it mutates into the Sloss Fright rates available. A few minutes of marveling led Alex to compare this facility to Axis Chemicals, where Jack Napier undergoes his infamous transformation.

Soon we were redirected to the actual location of the pour, just a short walk from this casket and graveyard. About a dozen iron workers wandered around as we were gathered around a small table like a class on a field trip to hear instructions. Each one of us was given a 4"x 4" block of sand and resin in which to carve a mold for the iron. Our paintbrush was a rusty nail. You'll notice that the designs come out backwards post-pour. They told us that going in so that's why Alex wrote blood car in reverse.

Below is a before/after series of our iron creations.

A bunny dreaming of having wings.

The blood car strikes again.

Pacman in trouble.

The pouring...

and then...

One of my favorite things about attending films festivals is how everything from the mundane to the grandiose wears some cinematic significance. First and foremost was Sloss, which resembled the ironworks from Days of Heaven, Cobra and T2 and countless others. Just an hour earlier after dropping our bags at the Redmont hotel, we stopped at Chick-fil-a and I heard a little girl say the word 'mayonnaise' like Louis Gossett, Jr. in An Officer and a Gentlemen. There must be a switch in my brain that turns on this total recall of cinematic information and applies it to each minuscule phrase or act. I don't know if this happens to everyone. I forgot to ask Alex and Katie. As if I weren't submerged enough already in the cinema at a film festival, I have to ascribe cinematic meaning to non-cinematic events. You could compare it to getting into the spirit of Christmas, I suppose.

A couple dear festival friends and phenoms were present at this ironclad Sidewalk tradition, including Gabe and Dan from the Atlanta Film Festival, Joe Swanberg of Hannah Takes the Stairs and Jeremy Saulnier (Son yea; pictured in Black Cat t-shirt) of Murder Party. The latter film could be deemed Blood Car's sister film on the festival circuit, playing similar festivals and taking BC's spot at a few festivals or the other way around. Alex and Jeremy joke about it. I'm not quite sure if it is a myth or not, but I've heard multiple ruminations about it. Certain festivals not dedicated to a specific genre of film might only program, say for example, two horror of sci-fi films when in fact more would certainly be worthy. Balancing a program and creating an identity for a festival obviously factor in to these decisions so I see why such a theory is given merit.

Leaving Sloss, I warmed up to the Axis Chemical's comparison Alex made. I've been holding back a little here out of journalistic objectivity, but this iron pour was rather awesome! I felt like I left with a permanently deformed smile on my face.

That night we dined with filmmakers from Kamp Katrina, The Paper, Jeremy and a few jurors and festival staffers, all delightful people who we corrupted with a game where we re-imagine songs in a scatological manner. I'll get into more detail on this later...or maybe not.

That night, I watched The Ten, directed by David Wain. From the creators/actors/comedians behind The State, it was on the whole a very funny series of sketches united by the theme of the Ten Commandments. The animated story in the film was the biggest miss in my eye and there was an audibly louder applause and hooting for Michael Ian Black's brief appearance as a prison guard. As it was the opening night film, it was held at Birmingham's majestic theater palace, The Alabama. Unfortunately for movie lovers, this theater's bread and butter is everything but movies, suffering the same fate our beloved Fox. You take it where you can get it, they say. That notwithstanding, I was so giddy to be back in the festival milieu taking in films and being around filmmakers and film lovers. So many were in attendance because Sidewalk is nearly top-dog in the hospitality department, flying down filmmakers and lodging them on the festival dime. It's fantastic. We live a quick two hours away and they offered to fly us over.

We ended the evening with a nice little loft party at Rachel Morgan's, the other lead programmer. She had a tiny little projector showing Short Circuit and The Class of 1984, which was released in 1982 for some reason. I guess they were aiming for dystopia. Michael J. Fox looks very young in the film...and tubby. Blood Car screens tomorrow at 945pm.