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Edison Carter reports on VALLEYFEST Film Festival! Great report Read!

Hey folks, Harry here with the annual Edison Carter report from VALLEYFEST FILM FESTIVAL in Knoxville... Edison does an excellent job each and every year of summing up how the fest went and what caught the eye... Tons of material this year and some that sounds interesting... though nothing that has me breathing hard... though I'd love to see the animation shorts... Alright... here's Edison...

This is Edison Carter, coming to you live and direct on Network 23, reporting from the Third Annual Valleyfest Film Festival in Knoxville, apparently just named as one of the Top 10 New Film Festivals in the country by one of the leading guides... and believe me, this year was another four days of fun, films, and new friends...

While, IMHO, there wasn't a great breakout crowdpleaser like Eric Young's BREATHING HARD or Bryan Cranston's LAST CHANCE from last year, almost everything shown was what I'd call really good... there was a rotten apple here and there, the kind of film you'd want to feed into a chip mill (especially a film ABOUT chip mills), but on the whole, good solid filmmaking, with several impressive debuts...

Unfortunately, unless you frequent the festival circuit you may never hear of or see any of these, and that's a shame, as there's good stuff to recommend here...

I'll start with a quick rundown of the festival winners, with my own comments (and or alternate picks):

BEST FEATURE - 75 DEGREES IN JULY - While there was some solid acting in this one (featuring Harris Yulin), it didn't work for me... but the award wasn't my decision.... :) it's about a very dysfuntional Texas family that barely communicates with each other, and what happens when they're all thrust togeher for a week at a remote ranch...

FEATURE RUNNERS-UP - THE GIRLS ROOM and ALL THE WRONG PLACES

ALL THE WRONG PLACES would have been my choice... it was full of weird, quirky characters, some great writing, and solid performances all around... the main character was a girl who was trying to get out from under the shadow of her mother, a quasi-famous artist... she's decided she wants to be a filmmaker (this week, anyway), but doesn't know what to do a film on... much less how to make one, get money for it, even research it... she meets a writer who's never written anything (but shares a thing for PopTarts!) and things quickly get crazier from there... a good funny and dramtic film I'd like to see again so I can show it to my friends who didn't make the festival...

THE GIRLS' ROOM starred Soleil Moon Fry and Wil Wheaton (as part of a large ensemble cast) and dealt realistically with young adults about to graduate from a Southern college, getting ready to face the world... The two lead girls are roommates; one the Southern diva whose life appears to be mapped out for her; marriage, house, kids, all starting right after college... the other is the classic Angst-Ridden Kid in Black who could give a flying fuqq about the Southerner's ways.... both interfere with the other's lives and discover a lit more about themselves than they're comfortable with...

BEST DOCUMENTARY - BLOOD BROTHERS - This was a rather disturbing look at the way the blood supply has been handled and/or mishandled in the world over the course of the 20th century, specifically dealing with the problems the hemophiliac population faced with the lack of screening for diseases in the making of the factor extract that helps them survive...

It's amazing to think that the major commercial blood operations were able to get away with some of the stuff they did that was documented in this piece... it's hard to believe...

DOCUMENTARY RUNNERS-UP - THE RETURN OF PAUL JARRETT and ARTISTS AND ORPHANS

The Paul Jarrett film really got to me... it would have been my choice for best ducmentary... it was the story of Paul Jarrett, and American soldier in World War I who returned to France in the mid-90s to find the unnamed small town that he defended from a German assault during the War... mixed in with archival footage of the War, the film showed his search for the town, the rediscovery of old German bunkers in the forests or France, and finally a wild meeting that lead to the uncovering of the town...

Jarrett was 93 at the time this happened, but I swear he looked barely in his late 60s/early 70s... very active old guy... the French town quickly accepted him as a home-town hero, named a street after him on his 101st birthday...

ARTISTS AND ORPHANS was filmed in Russian Georgia, and told the story of how a theatre and dance troupe on a cultural exchange to Russia from New York discovered the cruel conditions orphans lived in in Georgia, and the steps they took to refurbish, rebuild, and renovate a bombed out shelter being used for an orphanage into something much better... Billed as "a real life drama", it chronicles some amazing coincidences, governtment hassles, and sheer deternimation for just a handful of people to make a difference in some part of the world... and succeeding...

BEST SHORT FILM - IN THE REFRIGERATOR - Leslie Ann Coles haunting tale about four generations of women in one family with a common link through history... Coles played all four four of the adult women parts, as well as writing and directing the piece... she and I had an interesting talk about how the film could be interpreted, as there's a few scenes that play differently to different people, but it was a very well-done piece of work...

SHORT FILM RUNNERS-UP - BIG LOVE and THE SLEEP SEEKER

BIG LOVE was one of my personal favorites... it starred Sam Rockwell (of Galaxy Quest and Green Mile fame) in a film with some beautiful effects shots of a family with apparent super powers... the only 35mm scope picture of the weekend, unfortunately, but it had a beautifully done opening credits and an ending pullback that has to be seen to be believed (as well as answer a major question about the film)...

THE SLEEP SEEKER was made in Knoxville, and told the story of a woman who's not been able to sleep for some time due to a baby who constantly cries day in and day out in the adjoining apartment... the woman finally snaps and calls the police and Child & Family services, as she's certain the child is being abused... however, the adjoing apartment is empty and there are no infants in the complex... the film is almost entirely carried by local actress Jayne Morgan, who directed the short as well, and it's a very emotional piece with a dark secret...

BEST ANIMATION - LEFT - The family robot has been left behind to do the chores, and it's waiting for their return... It's been waiting a long time... This piece had me watching closely, as robot appeared to be an all-at-once combination of a CGI head with a practical, possibly shadow-puppet body... however the heck it was made, it was an impressive design... the film started out rather like the opening of Back to the Future, with the machinery left on constantly doing what they'd been programmed to do... same with the robot who'd been Left... he's stuck in an infinite loop... do the chores, kill the mice, wait, start over... until one day... a great short with a poignant ending (which I ain't spoiling)...

ANIMATION RUNNERS-UP - THE LITTLE LEMMING THAT COULD and ANGRY CHAIR

THE LITTLE LEMMING THAT COULD was a great crowd pleaser, with all the happy little lemmings diving, jumping and cavorting off a cliff... except the fat one, who can't quite make it up the incline to jump off... not quite a series of blackout gags (as they never went to black), but still very amusing... Quickband/SHORT DVD people, please grab this one and put it on your next volume, please?

ANGRY CHAIR was okay, but I wasn't bowled over by it... the animation looked to have been done in MSpaint or another low-res paint program and then ported to video... which it was, but it was also done as a school project, so I guess that's allowable... it could have been cleaned up and anti-aliased a lot, but I'm nitpicking now... there were some good gags about a chair getting revenge that shone past the image quality...

BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM - OF GOD AND MAN

EXPERIMENTAL RUNNERS-UP - IT DID IT and MOVES

I have to admit it, most of this block of shorts turned me off completely... Of God and Man was a black and white study of a man's journey through life that could have been edited down to half its length and been more effective... it went on way too long, in this reporter's humble opinion... (as did a LOT of stuff in this block of shorts)

MOVES was pretty well done, tho... the filmaker took hundreds of still images, scanned them, and provided movement to them through editing sequences or images to a techno dance track... essentially a conecpt music video...

FILM IS A FOUR LETTER WORD CATEGORY WINNER - THE PIG FARM - This one was an impressive debut by newcomer Michael Barlin... it tells the story of (as the poster puts it) a hick, a hitman, and the other, OTHER white meat... essentially the story of a Mafia hitman cooking up a deal with a backwoods pig farmer to dispose of some of their "garbage", should the need arise... pigs, as they say, will eat anything... ANYTHING... things quickly get out of hand, as both the hitman and the farmer are in waaay over their heads... while I'm not personally fond of the ending, the film is laced with snappy dialogue and some good characters... THE PIG FARM is really starting to hit the festival circuit, so catch it of you can...

FIIFLW RUNNERS-UP - ONE HIT WONDER and LOOKING THROUGH LILLIAN

ONE HIT WONDER's director Lawrence Schechter must not like agents or boy bands, that's all I can say... the short deals with a down on his luck actor who needs representation... no one wants him, until he meets one agent who has handled some of the biggest names in history... Bundy, Manson, Kasinski, Dahmer... they all got great publicity and EVERYONE knows who they are.... This agent only represents mass murderers, and he sends the kid out to whack an N'Sync soundalike to begin his quest for glory... because you know, they say you only need one good hit... some real good laughs in this one, and keep an eye out for the guy eating the flowers...

LOOKING THROUGH LILLIAN was director Jake Torem's tale of an LA callgirl and her rather unique arrangrments with a prominent businessman... the film is a study on habits, but good and bad... I liked the fact that the film did not take the easy way out in the ending, opting for something more realistic...

AUDIENCE FAVORITE AWARD - THE SLEEP SEEKER

RUNNERS UP - PIN MONKEYS, BOTTLE ROCKET WARS, THE DARKER THE BERRY, and LOOKING THROUGH LILLIAN

The Award winner and two of the runners up I've already covered, so on to the next three...

THE DARKER THE BERRY looked at race relations from a slightly different angle... the lead character is a while male who grew up in a predominantly black area of Buffalo, NY... he likes to dress and talk like his black friends, who accept him as one of their own... once he transfers to a new school, the white population gives him hell, and he soon finds himself stuck between two cultures he wants, but neither will accept him as both...

The film didn't pull many punches, and did have quite a few lighter moments in the earlier scenes... I personally could have done without some of the profanity (enough is enough after a while), but there was some snappy dialogue mixed in there...

BOTTLE ROCKET WARS was a parody of the war genre, with armies of kids fighting it out in the treehouses forests, shooting bottlerockets and fireworks as ammo.... The "sending in the probe" sequence was priceless... plus one of the greatest defensive battlements I've ever seen on a treehouse...

PIN MONKEYS was fun, and a landmark as well... it's the first completed film to be made with the new 24fps progressive scan HDTV cameras and then put out to film... it was made with one of the same cameras that Lucasfilm is using on Episode II... I'd been leery of this technology until I saw this projected this weekend... I wouldn't have known it wasn't film if I hadn't known before hand...

The film itself is set in a bowling alley, and touches on what we do or don't do to be happy, along with the consequences of the repression of the inner child in all of us... it's a nice story, and I'd recommend it even if it wasn't a HDTV-to-film guinea pig...

There were quite a lot of other films that deserve mention, IMHO, such as:

ODESSA OR BUST - starred Red Buttons, Jason Alexander, and Jason Schwartzman, about an actor in the future reminiscing about the new filmmaking capitol of the world, Odessa, Texas...

THE GREAT AMERICAN OFFICE WORKER - a parody of nature documentaries, this one set in the urban cubicle jungle...

STUCK IN MY HEAD - about a guy who just can't get that damn song out of his head (you know, the one that goes......)

A DOG'S JOB - I'm *REALLY* surprised this one didn't win anything, as it was a really funny animated short about a mailman's worst nightmare... and a sick (i.e. funny) gag involving a balloon animal...

GINA, AN ACTRESS AGE 29 - I'm also a little surprised at the lack of recognition this one received here, especially as it recently won the Jury Prize at Sundance for outstanding short film... it's Paul Harrill's story of an actress who's hired by a union buster to *act* as a worker who wants to discourage the other workers from joining up... great sneaky little twist ending on this one...

There were many other good entries, and they're too numerous to mention here... Sony was also on hand the entire weekend demonstrating the 24fps digital camera they kept in the lobby...

Not much more to say, other than hopefully some of these movies will work there way out through the festival circuit and you, faithful readers, will eventually get the chance to see them... they're a good bunch, well worth your time... and make sure you show up for Valleyfest 4/2002... look for me; I'll be there...

This is Edison Carter, live and direct on Network 23, signing off...

Readers Talkback
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  • March 22, 2001, 9:29 a.m. CST

    Bottle Rocket Wars

    by RADSMACKA

    I was at Valleyfest, and you guys should should seriously see that Bottle Rocket Wars Movie. The director (Opie Jones, or something like that) said that only he had about ten thousand to work with, and i'm sure all you guys know that in film, ten thousand doesn't get you squat. It really showed some promise, though. It was really a breath of fresh air to see something interesting about all these crazy kids playing war out in the forest. An action movie at a film festival! imagine that. I'd like to see what that guy could do with more of a budget. Pinmonkeys was pretty nice, too, and that newfangled digital camera certainly did produce some images that looked nice on screen. all in all, i encourage everybody to try and come next year. radsmacka out.

  • March 22, 2001, 2:53 p.m. CST

    Wil Weaton!

    by Jaka

    Wesley LIVES! I am so happy Wil Weaton is still acting. Stand By Me scared the SHIT out of me in my youth and his character on ST:TNG was left vey mysterious. Can anyone recomend any ST books that tie up/further the Wesly Crusher story line.

  • March 23, 2001, 1:38 a.m. CST

    Missing Sundance Winner

    by gentoo

    While there's no guarantee that "Gina, An Actress, Age 29" would have won a prize at Valleyfest, I found out that director Paul Harrill requested that the festival programmers not place it in competition because he felt the short had already earned more than enough attention locally. The local media covered Harrill's Sundance win extensively, and he wanted Valleyfest to focus on some of the other talent from the area. "Gina" is an excellent short, if you get the chance to see it.

  • March 26, 2001, 4:52 p.m. CST

    If you'd like to see "MOVES".....

    by DeadManPrd

    Edison Carter, thanx for the nod to my film "Moves" (the experimental techno video), it was nice to meet you at the festival. If anyone would like to see "Moves" you can find it on www.GotFilmFest.com under the Awards section. Valleyfest was a lot of fun and make sure to check out the cool films from this festival as they travel the country. DeadManProductions.homestead.com