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A Day Early 

Yes, the 26th Atlantic Film festival doesn’t officially begin until Thursday, but mine started a day early.

Before I get started, I should mention that this is my second year as The Mad Blogger What Blogs At Midnight for The Coast. Last year was a blast, even though I saw many a movie through an antihistamine haze: A cold kicked my legs out from underneath me mid-fest, but I still was able to see over 20 films, plus shorts programs. A personal record. This year I’m shooting for something closer to 25, plus, I’m part of AFCOOPs Attack of the 50ft. Reels program. I’m getting to make a three-minute movie. I’m excited about the prospect. They’re even using my name in the advertising, though they misspelled it. Makes for an interesting combination of pride and humble pie.

All in all, sleep will become a luxury. Fortunately, I’ll be sharing in the blog duties with Sue Carter Flinn, Special Issues Editor at the Coast. She can kill with a word, and will be seeing many movies I cannot get to.

Something else I should mention about the media experience of covering film festivals, or, at least, this particular one. The distributors demand a gag order on the press talking about certain films they plan on releasing later in the year, usually coinciding with expensive marketing campaigns. It means we lucky people who don’t have to pay to see the movies can’t write about all of them in any detail. This year the list is up to 21 movies. You can guess which ones---it’s the really, really popular pictures: The Fountain, Half Nelson, Candy, Away From Her, and so on. So, if I’m being coy, you’ll know the reason. It makes me crabby because two weeks ago I read a big spread on Half Nelson in Entertainment Weekly, and Strangers With Candy has been out long enough to rate 50 percent fresh from 86 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes! Sheesh!

Media screenings started this morning and I took in The Journals of Knud Rassmussen. It’s the new film from the Atanarjuat-The Fast Runner director and writer. Again, it’s set in the far north, among the Inuit, though this time it takes place a little closer to the present, and deals with the introduction of Christianity to the Inuit culture and the shaman’s loss of power. It will be the movie that launches the festival on Thursday night, and it’s a challenging opening film that will get people talking. And that’s really all I should say about it, lest the gag cops come for me.

The afternoon had me otherwise occupied, but the evening brought a bevy of cinema-going choices. Zach Braff’s new movie The Last Kiss was previewing out at the BLIP, and at the Khyber was The Salon De Refuse, a collection of films that didn’t make it into the AFF this year. Though both were tempting, I went with a third option: Focus on Female Directors, a showing of short films at the AGNS. It was hosted by Andrea Richards, author of Girl Directors, a book on the history of women behind the camera.

Richards gave a fascinating presentation. Names I’d never heard of from the beginning of film: Alice Guy, Lois Webber, Mabel Normand---a comedienne who decided she wouldn’t star in any film she didn’t direct, and wound up directing Charlie Chaplin in some of her own movies. Also, a few whose names I did know: Ida Lupino, Maya Deren, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, who in 1920 made a film with an almost entirely female crew called Remodeling Her Husband, written by the infamous Dorothy Parker. Apparently, Mary Pickford never put her name on any of the films she directed as it would have clashed with her image as an innocent, America’s first cinematic sweetheart.

Then Richards showed the shorts, most of them made more recently. Some hit and some missed. Sofia Coppola’s Lick The Star was probably the most commercial and linear, with shades of The Virgin Suicides, I thought. Mary Harron’s How To Make An Oliver Stone Movie was hilarious, and I also liked Naomi Uman’s manipulated soft porn Removed, and Mary In The Water by Tamra Davis, which outlines cult actress Mary Woronov’s swimming regime. Miranda July’s The Amateurist was bizarre and not a little frustrating, but I was still strangely compelled.

Overall, an auspicious beginning to this year’s fest.


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