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DAILY NEWS: Toronto Fest Docs; Searchlab Site; and Lunch with Miguel Arteta

DAILY NEWS: Toronto Fest Docs; Searchlab Site; and Lunch with Miguel Arteta

DAILY NEWS: Toronto Fest Docs; Searchlab Site; and Lunch with Miguel Arteta

by Eugene Hernandez, Brian Brooks and Wendy Mitchell/indieWIRE

>> Toronto Spotlights Docs in Reel to Reel and Other Event Programs

(indieWIRE: 08.07.02) — Toronto has unveiled its doc plans for the 28th
festival, which begins September 4. The line-up includes 32 documentary
features and 13 shorts across several of its programs, with the bulk of
films screened in its Reel to Reel section. Motown is the subject of a
special presentation this year, with the international premiere of “Standing
in the Shadows of Motown
” by Paul Justman. In the film, the director
reunites the Funk Brothers, one of pop music’s most heralded session bands,
and recruits guest vocalists including Ben Harper, Bootsy Collins, and Chaka Khan.

Nineteen feature-length documentaries comprise this year’s Reel to Reel
section, which includes 12 world or North American premieres. Personal
struggles characterize seven of the films in the section including Steve
‘ (“Hoop Dreams“) “Stevie” making its world premiere about the
director’s return to Southern Illinois to reconnect with a troubled boy he
mentored 10 years earlier. Jacques Perrin‘s “Le Peuple Migrateru” (Winged
Migration) follows dozens of bird species through their migratory odyssey,
while “Family” directors Sami Martin Saif and Phie Ambo-Nielson capture Saif’s struggle to find his father who had abandoned his family when he was
young. “Spellbound” is the emotional look at eight American teenagers from
entirely disparate backgrounds as they vie for victory in the National
Spelling Bee. The film, an international premiere, is the feature debut by
Jeff Blitz. Andre Heller and Othmar Schmiderer‘s “Blind Spot — Hitler’s Secretary,” which screened to packed audiences last winter in Berlin anxious
to hear Hitler’s personal secretary break her 50-year-silence, will have its
North American premiere.

Politics features prominently in Reel to Reel in Eugene Jarecki‘s “The
Trials of Henry Kissinger
,” which screened at this year’s Human Rights Watch
fest. The film poses the question of whether the Nobel Peace Prize-winning
former U.S. Secretary of State should be put on trial for war crimes (as
journalist Christopher Hitchens suggests). Republicans are also on the hot
seat with Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky‘s “Horns and Halos,” which examines the anguish experienced by author James Hatfield and publisher
Sander Hicks who published the unauthorized biography “Fortunate Son,” a critical examination of George W. Bush.

Reel to Reel examines entertainment with the world premiere of Trudie Styler
and John-Paul Davidson‘s “The Sweatbox.” The film chronicles the arduous
experiences of Sting (Styler’s husband), as he scores an animated film for
the Walt Disney Company. “Lost in La Mancha” (North American premiere) by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe follows the travails of Terry Gilliam‘s ill-fated attempt to make a film based on Don Quixote.

Additionally, Reel to Reel will profile cultural issues and small distinct
communities in the North American premieres of “Alexei and the Spring
(Motohashi Seiichi) and “Elsewhere” (Nikolaus Geyrhalter). “Alexei” takes a look at the community of Budische, near Chernobyl, as it thrives amidst the radioactive contamination of the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster, while
“Elsewhere” visits 12 diverse remote locations worldwide investigating the
points of view of the people living in environments ranging from deserts,
mountains, oceans, jungles and tundras.

In addition to Reel to Reel, 11 docs will be featured in Perspective Canada,
12 films in Canadian Perspective, and one film in Planet Africa. The
Toronto International Film Festival ends September 13. [Brian Brooks]

>> Fox Searchlab Launches Website For Filmmakers

(indieWIRE: 08.07.02) — Fox Searchlight‘s Fox Searchlab program has launched its website at Searchlab, dedicated to nurturing emerging
filmmakers, will offer streams of discussions with filmmakers and actors. The
next lectures include directors Miguel Arteta (“The Good Girl“), Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry“), and Mark Romanek (“One Hour Photo“). The site also includes archives of past lectures from Bryan Singer (“X-Men,” “The Usual Suspects“) and Billy Bob Thornton {“Sling Blade,” “Daddy and Them“).

The other portion of the Searchlab site is dedicated to premiering a new
short film every two weeks. The current selection is Jan Kovac‘s “Son of
,” based on a story by Charles Bukowski, and the next offering will be
the provocatively titled “Farm Sluts.” The website also includes message
boards and information about applying for the Searchlab program. [Wendy

>> At Lunch with Miguel Arteta: Looking Back at Five Years

(indieWIRE: 08.07.02) — The first time that I met Miguel Arteta, he had
just endured an all-night dealmaking session at the Sundance Film Festival,
selling his first feature to Fox Searchlight. It was 1997 and the film was
Star Maps.” Five years later, Arteta is back at Fox Searchlight and about
to release third feature, “The Good Girl.” We met for lunch last week to
chat about his new film, Sundance, and the last five years in the indie

For Arteta, the Sundance Institute has played an important role in the
evolution of his career. He attended the Sundance lab and later took all
three of his feature films to the festival: “Star Maps” in 1997, his DV
feature “Chuck and Buck” in 2000, and “The Good Girl” this year. He agrees
that it certainly helps a lot to be on their radar.

“I have been very lucky,” offered the characteristically humble Arteta. From
1997 to 2002, he explained, “general American audiences have really embraced
Sundance movies.” No doubt, they have become more familiar with the Sundance
brand as a name that is associated with American independent filmmaking.

It was the summer of 1996 when Arteta went through the Sundance lab
experience, an opportunity that he now considers invaluable. Sundance had
learned about him through his AFI short films and 1990 Student Academy
-winning musical “Every Day is a Beautiful Day.” Eventually the
Sundance Institute invited him to participate with a script entitled “Ball
and Chain.” While at the lab he worked with advisors to instead break down
and rebuild “Star Maps.” The movie later underwent major re-shoots to
salvage it. Plunged into credit card debt, Arteta still recalls nearly
dozing off at the wheel after numerous nights without sleep from editing, en
route to the Sundance offices in Santa Monica to drop off a new version of
“Star Maps” (just moments before the October deadline).

Among the changes in the indie/specialty sector on Arteta’s mind these days
is the proliferation of opportunities on cable television. Singling out the
work of HBO on such projects as Patricia Cardoso‘s “Real Women Have Curves,” Arteta said that he gets more feedback about his films after they screen
on cable than he does following a theatrical release. Although he admitted
that it can be hard for filmmakers to overlook the inherent “prestige of a
an art-house release,” which makes HBO’s theatrical work with the film that
much more enticing.

Lately, Arteta has been looking to television as an outlet for his own work.
He has directed two episode of “Six Feet Under,” an experience he thoroughly
enjoyed, and he is in the process of pitching a television series about a
gay Latino lawyer.

Of course, Miguel Arteta has not abandoned the big screen. “The Good Girl,”
written by good friend and previous collaborator Mike White, opens in
theaters today (Wednesday) and Arteta has just sold a pitch for a new film
to Universal. Dubbed “Colombian Gold,” the story, according to Arteta, is
based on a New Yorker article about a money-laundering ring.

Arteta and Flan de Coco partner Matthew Greenfield are producing “Colombian Gold” and the pair are also producing a project at this year’s IFP Market, Michael Kang‘s “The Motel.” [Eugene Hernandez]

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