By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Amy Nicholson
By Chris Packham
By David Kipen
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Caira LaVelle
Sunday, Nov. 7
11 a.m.: NFF: Coffee with the Filmmakers. A discussion with Snake Tales writer/director Francesca Talenti and Road to Park City writer/director Bret Stern, moderated by He Said, She Said screenwriter Brian Hohlfeld.
1 p.m.: CC: Pleasantville. Gary Ross, U.S., 1998, 116 min. To escape his unpleasant home life, teenager David watches reruns of a 1950s sitcom, Pleasantville. One night, after a mysterious TV repairman (Don Knotts) visits, he and his sister, Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), are transported into the series, where they become the children of the principal family. Into this black- and-white world the two introduce sex and the concept of free will; slowly, the world, then characters, turn to color. Once the siblings are in the series, the film is a right-on parody. Later, however, Pleasantville becomes a political tract: As characters begin to change color, the black-and-white characters become prejudiced against "the coloreds." The message is obvious, but the film doesn't stop there; at one point, Bud makes an impassioned speech on The Value of Difference. Ross may have a point, but it seems he's lost faith in his audience to understand the film's meaning. This is too bad, because Pleasantville was on its way to being a great film. Presented by Harry Hamm. (JMS)
3:30 p.m.: Tumbleweeds. Gavin O'Connor, U.S., 1999, 100 min. Tumbleweeds is as surprisingly fresh as it is touching in its presentation of a symbiotic but never naively idealized relationship between single mother Mary Jo and her precocious 12-year-old daughter, Ava. A committed codependent, Mary Jo runs from one abusive male relationship into another -- driving from her home in the Deep South to Starlight Beach, San Diego, to make yet another optimistic start. Predictably, geographical change fails to repair her emotional problems, especially her knack for connecting with volatile men who initially seem irresistibly seductive but who eventually become aggressively controlling. Ava's determination to succeed at school provides a revealing contrast to Mary Jo's mercurial conduct at her job. Angela Shelton and director O'Connor adapted Shelton's childhood memoir, creating carefully observed, fully realized individuals and events. Though at times relentlessly chirpy, through entertaining performances (especially Janet McTeer as Mary Jo) and lively dialogue Tumbleweeds unsentimentally presents flawed personalities as entertaining as they are cautionary. (DC)
6 p.m.: DS: Genghis Blues. See Saturday, Nov. 6, Tivoli.
Sheraton Clayton Plaza Hotel
9:30 p.m.: Closing-Night Awards Party. Admission is free.
1 p.m.: Shorts Program 4. A couple of gems can be found in the relatively uneventful Program 4. One of them, "Cousin," filmmaker Adam Elliott's recollection of a childhood playmate afflicted with cerebral palsy, is surprisingly very funny and moving for just four minutes of clay animation. The other is Robert Peters' "Mutual Love Life," which spoofs the insurance industry with a clever idea for romance policies. Changhee Chun's "The Earth Is Not Round" takes a long time getting around to identifying mystical associations between two house burglars, but he does offer clever tips for thieves among us. Scott Campanella's "Fighter" is an exercise in endurance for both the subjects and the audience. Charlie Call dregs up every unfortunate female stereotype in an attempt to place humor in his "Peep Show." Ken Boynton uses the now-tiresome technique of Shakespearespeak in modern-day settings to have fun with a group- therapy session in "William Psychspeare's The Taming of the Shrink." And although there is much to appreciate in the gritty reality captured by Veena Sud's camera in "One Night," one is left with too many questions when that night is over. Introduced and discussed by Chan, Campanella, "Fighter" producer/actor James White and Sud. (RDZ)
3:45 p.m.: NFF: Snake Tales. Francesa Talenti, U.S., 1998, 91 min. In this loopy, entertaining, homegrown Texas variation of Arabian Nights, Lizzie (Arnalia Stifler) is arrested while passing through Pandale, Texas, for accidentally running over an endangered snake. On trial in a town where the courtroom doubles as the saloon, she begins to spin her defense, a tale within a tale within a tale. Just when we start to wonder where it's all going, the stories begin to overlap in a way that lets us know all these dots will eventually be connected. The fun is in watching it happen. Snake Tales is a sunny, sun-baked celebration of storytelling. Everybody has a story to tell, some more interesting than others, but all part of the curving highway of life. Talenti, a professor of film at the University of Texas at Austin, used a mostly student crew to make her film, and the cast runs the gamut from good to "what were they thinking?" But that can be overlooked when the sum of the parts is this much fun. Introduced and discussed by Talenti. (BH)
6:45 p.m.: NFF: Road to Park City. Bret Stern, U.S., 1999, 83 min. Undertaking the herculean labor of low-budget filmmaking, director/cinematographer Stern makes the pseudo-documentary Road to Park City an amusing, informative pleasure. Though would-be director John Viener has no idea what crossing the line, high boys, points and the DGA entail and though he's ignorant of insurance requirements, shooting permits and distribution deals, he remains undaunted by obstacles and irrepressibly cheerful. Intent on getting into the prestigious independent-film festival called Sundance (hosted by Park City), he doesn't recognize the Sundance director's name and can't even choose an entry category. No matter. John figures he'll slip the responsible folks a cheap bribe and mention Sundance scores of times in his work and, presto, he'll have a festival winner. John's lost in the filmmaking maze without a compass, but watching him blunder his way through agents, producers, DPs and naysayers makes R2PC more fun than most slick, mindless $50 million throwaways. Introduced and discussed by Stern. (DC)
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