Newport's Inaugural Slate a "Mighty" One; Festival Lineup
Strong on Docs
by Mark Rabinowitz
“We came up with the idea last March,” said Christine Schomer, Executive
Director and co-founder of the Newport Film Festival, speaking to
indieWIRE via telephone from Newport, Rhode Island. “It was an idea and I
brought it back to my friends in New York and it started there,” she
continued. The inaugural Newport International Film Festival (NIFF) has
announced the lineup for the upcoming event, set to roll from June 2-7.
The lineup has a mix of premieres (world, U.S. and regional) and festival
faves, along with a several retrospective screenings. The fest’s opening night
selection is the U.S. premiere of Miramax’s upcoming release, “The
Mighty,” starring Sharon Stone, Gillian Anderson and Gena Rowlands and
directed by Peter Chesolm (“Hear My Song,” “Funny Bones“) while closing
night will feature the East Coast premiere of Paddy Breathnach’s “I Went
Down,” which stars Peter Caffrey, Peter McDonald and Tony Doyle (“Circle
The competition lineup is loaded with past festival winners and other
notable films, and at first glance, the documentary lineup has the
stronger presence. “Isn’t that an amazing section? I’m impressed with
that, myself,” said Schomer. Several of the docs have won major festival
prizes, with Jeff Dupre’s “Out of the Past” winning the Sundance Film
Festival audience award in 1998, Bob Pulcini and Shari Berman’s “Off the
Menu” winning the 1997 LAIFF audience award and the Hamptons festivals juried
documentary award. In addition, S.R. Bindler’s “Hands on a Hardbody” has
picked up audience awards at the 1998 Gen Art, 1997 Austin and 1997 AFI
Film Festivals, and a special award for editing at the 1997 Florida Film
Festival. Other docs include the upcoming NYC “docfest” premiere
“The Brandon Teena Story“, directed by Susan Muska and Greta
Olafsdottir, as well as the ’98 LAIFF fave “The Cruise“, directed by
Bennet Miller, another docfest entry.
Schomer and her team (including Festival Director and co-founder Nancy
Donohoe) managed to put a film festival together in a remarkably brief
period of time, and although the festival has yet to roll its first
print, they would appear to be on track. About the short planning and
development time, Schomer said, “We brought (the idea) to different film
companies and asked them what they thought of it, and started
approaching the Rhode Island community and set up a corporation and went
from there.” And go they did, incorporating a scant nine months ago and
only beginning the serious business of fundraising this past January.
The festival has also been quite lucky to be based in such an affluent
setting. “The man who owns Fruit of the Loom just bought the Hammersmith
Farm which is where the closing night party is,” related Schomer,
adding, “they’re a sponsor, so we’re getting (the farm) as part of a
sponsorship package.” In addition, the Catholic college Salve Regina
owns Ochre Court, site of the opening night festivities, which according
to a festival release is “a palatial oceanside mansion on Newport’s
The competition films include 10 features and 10 documentaries from 10
countries, including two world and three U.S. premieres. World premieres
in the feature and documentary competition are “Dead Broke,” by Edward
Vilga and starring Paul Sorvino, Jill Hennessy (TV’s “Law & Order“),
Tony Roberts (“Annie Hall“) and John Glover (“Love, Valor, Compassion“)
and “That Was You,” by Ron Lazeretti and Reno Liberatore. Besides the
opening night film, U.S. premieres in the fest include Yan Hyan Jang’s
“The Contact” from South Korea and the docs “Oberwasser by U-Boat to
America” by German director Wolfram Bauer and “The Hunt” by Niek Koppen
from The Netherlands. While the competition was intended to be juried,
Schomer admitted “we’re having a hard time finding people who can
give us the full time commitment.” She added that if they don’t have full
juries by the end of this week, they’ll have to shift to audience
awards. Winners will receive a goods and services package.
In addition to regular selections, the festival is planning several
special screenings, including an outdoor presentation of Charles
Walters’ classic musical, “High Society.” The film, which stars Bing
Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm and Louis Armstrong, is
an adaptation of George Cukor’s “The Philadelphia Story,” complete with
some nifty Cole Porter tunes. The festival is also programming a series
of jazz films to pay tribute to the Newport Jazz Festival, with Bruce
Webber’s Chet Baker doc “Let’s Get Lost,” and Bert Stern’s “Jazz on a
Summer’s Day,” about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.
[The following is a complete list of competition films]
World Premiere – “Dead Broke” (USA), directed by Edward Vilga, Starring
Paul Sorvino, Jill Hennessy, Tony Roberts, and John Glover.
World Premiere – “That Was You” (USA), directed by Ron Lazeretti and Reno
US Premiere – “The Contact” (S.Korea), directed by Yun Hyan Jang
“Anima” (USA), directed by Craig Richardson.
“OK Garage” (USA), directed by Brandon Cole, Starring Lili Taylor, John
Turturro, and Will Patton.
“Children of Heaven” (Iran), directed by Majid Majidi.
“Forgotten Light” (Czech Republic), directed by Vladimir Michalek.
“Gadjo Dilo” (France/Romania), directed by Tony Gatlif.
“Mojo” (UK), directed by Jez Butterworth.
“Who the Hell Is Juliette?” (Mexico), directed by Carlos Marcovich.
U.S. Premiere – “Oberwasser by U-Boat to America” (Germany), directed by
U.S. Premiere – “The Hunt” (Netherlands), directed by Niek Koppen.
“Angel on My Shoulder” (USA), directed by Donna Deitch.
“Baby It’s You” (USA), directed by Anne Makepeace.
“The Brandon Teena Story” (USA), directed by Susan Muska and Greta
“The Cruise” (USA), directed by Bennet Miller.
“Hands On a Hardbody” (USA) directed by Rob Bindler.
“Off the Menu” (USA), directed by Bob Pulcini and Shari Berman.
“Out of the Past” (USA), directed by Jeff Dupre.
“Slam Nation” (USA), directed by Paul Devlin.