The faces of Gotham’s indie film elite went from delight to shock to embarrassment Wednesday night during the live broadcast of the IFP Gotham Awards. When Dan Talbot won an IFP honor for his longstanding career in fostering indie and foreign film in the U.S., the venerable distributor (New Yorker Films) and exhibitor (Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) launched into a 22-minute history lesson on some of the unknown and essential moments of alternative film exhibition. And this is live TV!
“Please wrap it up,” the teleprompter repeatedly announced; IFP exec director Michelle Byrd’s face looked stone-cold horrified; and whispers and giggles caught like wildfire through Pier 60. But Talbot persisted, bent over the podium reading off pages and pages of notes about the time literary giant James Joyce, before composing some of the great books of our time, actually opened a movie theater at the turn of the century in Dublin. Who in the audience of indie film notables had any idea about such a fascinating fact? And how many have even tried to read “Ulysses”? Certainly not “Sideways” star Thomas Hayden Church who took a potshot at Talbot after winning the Best Film Award.
Talbot’s seemingly endless speech was probably the most defiant, risky, and independent action taken all night, notwithstanding Mark Whalberg’s irreverent take on the proceedings. But Talbot, who will now certainly be the butt of many jokes, showed in that speech what independent film is really about: it’s not about awards ceremonies, celebrities, or miniature portions of haute-cuisine — it’s about a crotchety, old, white die-hard liberal championing the works of African filmmaking luminary Ousmeme Sembene and stumping for a system in the U.S. akin to France’s tax on film tickets that goes to fund indie filmmakers. Too bad so few people were listening.