With the end of the year comes inevitable reflection, and in the case of the film scene in Tucson, there has been reflection upon many great events, films, and gatherings that have encompassed 2010. For the next few weeks, there will be a series of these pieces looking at The Best of 2010, beginning with, and in no particular order, The 1st Annual Loft Film Fest. Back in November for eight days at The Loft Cinema, the Loft Film Fest brought a who’s who of film to Tucson for an engaging and entertaining experience for all that attended, from the filmmakers, to the volunteers and staff, to the film fans, and those like me who cross into a few of those realms. The Loft Cinema has long been Tucson’s premier independent cinema, showcasing the best films from around the world that the megaplex theaters don’t show you. This inaugural Loft Film Fest brought together one of the kindest, most generous, and most fun to be around groups of filmmakers that any fest was able to do this year, among those which I attended. The highlights of the fest were many and with every night I was able to attend the fest bringing entertaining films, brilliantly captivating filmmakers, and opportunities to engage in socializing with other serious film fans.
From the opening of the fest with the appearances of Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette for the screening of Martin Scorsese’s underappreciated musing on NYC, After Hours, it was clear The Loft was not fooling around in their planning and choices for the fest. This night was far and away the most crowded I have ever seen the Loft in my five years living here in Tucson. Preceding the film was a privileged treat those in attendance received as Dunne has recently directed a section of a comedic anthology film tentatively titled Movie 43, with his section being called Veronica. He showed this section starring Kieran Caulkin and Emma Stone, which the studio executives had not even seen, and maybe it was what I burned before going in, or the Nimbus Brewery standout Old Monkeyshine that I had been imbibing, but it was freaking brilliant. Raunchy, dirty, staggeringly funny, and truly a brilliant film that may bring the anthology to a prominence it has never before seen in major Hollywood productions, assuming the rest of the pieces match Veronica‘s unique voice and vision.
As if things could get better, this edgy, creative, and sublime work was followed by the dark, atmospheric comedy After Hours, starring Dunne and Arquette, who were both in attendance for a question and answer session with Festival Co-Director Jeff Yanc following the film. Dunne was simply a treat, boisterous, engaging, and generous with his recollections, while Arquette glowed, bringing a tender, reflective, and engaging presence to the Loft stage. By this point, I am pretty sure my BAC and Dunne’s were copacetic, drawing me deeply into the recollections he shared, unable to resist his effervescent, brimming with passion style that enveloped his delivery of every word. Simply, Dunne is a sheer entertainer who I have a newfound admiration for as I look forward to his future projects since he clearly still has a deep desire to produce quality films.
A number of other films as well as the Q & A’s that followed their screenings stood out at this year’s fest. The quirky, unassuming, and unabashedly funny Zellner Bros. who brought their film Goliath which follows a man in the wake of a divorce who desperately searching for the one relic remaining of his broken marriage- his pet cat Goliath, who has gone missing. The Zellner Bros. truly lit up the stage, displaying a charisma that few people can carry. On a related note, the Zellner Bros. latest short film, Sasquatch Birth Journal 2 is going to be at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and I am sure people are going to dig it the way they have other Zellner Bros. films that have graced the Park City screens. Another inspiring session was provided by the young filmmaker Benny Safdie, who along with brother Josh created the Sundance hit Daddy Longlegs, which follows a thirty something father, Lenny, played by 2010 Gotham Independent Award Nominee Ronnie Bronstein, who is about to spend his couple weeks a year with his sons Sage and Frey in upstate New York. Dealing with how to be around one’s children, being a friend, a father, perhaps both, and maybe on a deeper level, what it means to be an adult versus a child, Daddy Longlegs connected with everyone watching that night in a deep and meaningful way, I mean, I don’t have kids, but I identified with it for sure. And for a really young guy, Benny Safdie displayed a maturity, understanding, and poetic sensibility well beyond his years, leading my thoughts to his clearly bright future if he maintains his passion for creating.
It was Saturday morning, bright and early, after a Stoli and OJ, some of The Purps, and buttered toast that I was able to clear the head after the relentless banging on the keys and only two hours of sleep again the night before. But thanks to Five Hour Energy and a positive outlook, I rolled back into The Loft that morning in high anticipation of Mademoiselle Chambon above all else. A film that simply may have redefined how to tell a love story, Mademoiselle Chambon garnered a well deserved French César award for Director/Writer Stéphane Brizé and Writer Florence Vignon earlier this year in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. This exploration of passion and the desire for connection touched the same human nerve that brave and glorious pieces this year such as brilliantlove aka The Orgasm Diaries, Monogamy, 1001 Ways To Enjoy The Missionary Position, and Upstate, among others, were able to capture. The human condition mined in Mademoiselle Chambon is perhaps uncomfortable to face, unknown to those who lack passion, and unfortunate to realize in some cases. But still, the pursuit of happiness and comfort that unfolds in this piece is relatable, it’s something we can all find solace in, as we all should desire these simple things, not just more possessions, money, or status. Mind you, with no sleep, severe pain in my neck and back, as well as an insane amount of work to do, this film took me away on a journey that moved my emotions. There is nothing more I could ask for from a work of art.
I went to the opera on Saturday night with my wife as we had purchased season tickets long ago, and it was great, but I was ready to get back to the fest on Sunday, giving up football watching in a rare move in anticipation of the days’ selection of films. I had already watched two films earlier in the day and was feeling like I was running on empty after the repeated days of no sleep, but Sunday night finally arrives, and one of the best times I have had this year ensues. As time would tell that night, I was not alone in my fatigue, but carrying on would lead to ultimately a great time upon which future relationships would be forged and with filmmaking knowledge shared like it was a piece pipe.
The Shooting Range Short Film Showcase began the path to plentitude that Sunday night, bringing emerging voices and their visions to the screen in a nearly overwhelming expression of artistic passion. The films among this program were carefully chosen and they brought unique stories to the screen, while moving the audience through a roller coaster of emotions that was rarely equaled anywhere this year. From the simply astounding black and white cinematography matched with a deeply personal narrative in Shimasani by Blackhorse Lowe, to Tom Barndt and Samara St. Croix’s inventive short Offshore Bank, to Tucson filmmaker Lisanne Skyler’s poetic period piece Capture The Flag that looks into the complications of family and those coming of age within that context, to Bobcat Goldthwait’s inventive use of family home movie footage in Goldthwait Home Movies, coupled with his own undeniable presence shooting a “missile” off in the theater to the chagrin of many Loft employees (He bought a tiny, flew four feet off the ground souvenir from The Titan Missile Museum he visited earlier in the day), to Nicholas McCarthy‘s contemplative, poignant, and character driven Chinese Box, to finally Michael Swingler‘s triumphant short Midlife that captivated everyone in the room. It was a night to remember that I had no idea was just beginning.
I needed a smoke desperately so I stepped outside quickly after the Q & A figuring I wasn’t alone. Standing on my own, a couple of the great Loft staff came over to say hi and thank me for the interview pieces I had done thus far on some of the filmmakers from the fest. Mike Plante, the Artistic Director for the fest, an indie film supporter and provider through his Lunchfilm project, and a man with connections through work as a Sundance and CineVegas programmer, approaches as we are talking and next thing I know, I am on my way to the Arizona Inn for a get together with all the filmmakers mentioned above and more to celebrate the fest. I jump in my car as quick as I can and roll down the dark roads to the secluded Arizona Inn and the house that is hosting the event. I park on the street and take another puff before entering the seriously brilliant gathering of cinematic minds.
I walk in under a cloud of fear but am quickly accepted with reassuring looks and welcoming gestures to the fridge where a bevy of quality beverages resided, most appealing to me being the Fat Tire stockhold. I made my best efforts to talk with as many people as possible, taking advantage of the valuable time and situation I found myself in. And it wasn’t just the filmmakers who made this night so great. The Loft Cinema staff and many of the fest’s key organizers were there in force, and it was really great to get to chat with so many people that I have seen hundreds of times, but rarely get the chance to chat with. I mean, The Loft is usually a pretty busy place, these guys and girls have to work really hard to make that place go and that night, everyone got down, had a great time, and with a responsibility I was very pleased to be around. Talking with Kyle, Steven, Christian, Jeff, Peggy, and so many others gave me a real sense of the love for film they have as well as the great hands the future of The Loft Cinema currently sits in.
Hanging with the filmmakers is always clutch too. Sure, I’ve done some things, but I am always, and will always be learning. People helping me to understand further the dynamics of pulling together a project, where to go for help, how to refocus your attention when you feel creatively burnt out, and I could go on in perpetuity about how much people like Nick McCarthy, Mike Swingler, Judith Levine, Mike Plante, and so many others offered only because they are good people who genuinely seemed to want success and happiness for those around them. Couple with that with cool, formerly unknown connections like Tom Barndt, Writer/Director of Offshore Bank, who grew up near Cleveland, Ohio and was an athlete (me too) and moment after moment like these reaffirmed my commitment to this path.
This is the best way I can relate to you how it is to cover a fest like the Loft Film Fest. Great things happen, they keep coming, then something like that night at The Arizona Inn comes along and all the hard work, all the late nights and lost sleep, all the stress, it seems to not matter anymore because you know that what you just experienced is something you will carry forever, those moments, and no one can take that away. Here’s to hoping you got to enjoy the fest this year, and as always, take advantage of the fest like atmosphere at The Loft Cinema all year long with great independent films, events, and a community scene that makes anyone feel welcome.
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