The indieWIRE Undiscovered Gems Film Festival will kick-off Monday, November 7, 2005, taking seven films to nine cities through December 4, 2005, via digital technology. The New York Times and Emerging Pictures (along with sponsorship from Tower Records) are presenting the syndicated series, with popular films from last year’s festival circuit that didn’t secure significant theatrical distribution. Screenings of Bryan Poyser’s “Dear Pillow,” David Flamholc’s “House of the Tiger King,” Jessica Hausner’s “Hotel,” Alain Guiraudie’s “No Rest for the Brave” (Pas de repos pour les braves), Celesta Davis’ “Awful Normal,” Jonathan Stack’s “Liberia: An Uncivil War,” and Jesse Moss’ “Speedo” in New York, NY, San Francisco, CA, Red Bank, NJ, Champaign, IL, Lincoln, NE, Wilmington, DE, Lake Worth, FL, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Scranton, PA.
The roster is culled from indieWIRE’s annual list of the top undistributed films of the year. The New York edition of Undiscovered Gems will be presented at the IFC Center in Manhattan.
“Each year we compile a list of the best undistributed films as a way of giving extra exposure to distinctive films that, for one reason or another, haven’t received enough attention. With the support of The New York Times and the Emerging Pictures’ digital cinema network, we will give the films a boost and audiences an opportunity to see movies that they cannot see anywhere else,” said Eugene Hernandez, Editor-in-Chief of indieWIRE, in a statement. “The selections hail from sources as diverse as Atlanta, Georgia to Edinburgh, Scotland. Offering both documentary and narrative formats, with topics ranging from hotel workers in the Austrian Alps to the Liberian Civil War, many of these films have garnered awards yet been unable to find distributors.”
Ira Deutchman, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Emerging Pictures, added in a statement, “Prospecting with indieWIRE for these great undiscovered films is just one facet of Emerging Pictures’ larger strategy to bring independent films to movie fans in smaller cities across the country.”
Other recent syndicated film events and series from Emerging Pictures, presented through the company’s growing digital cinema network, have included: Ken Burns’ latest film, “Unforgivable Blackness — The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” which screened in ten cities in January; eleven films from the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which screened in ten cities in April; the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Latinbeat 2005 festival, which screened in over 20 cities in September; and also in April, PBS’s American Masters series and WNET/Thirteen New York presented “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” to nearly 30 cities in a series of free promotional screenings in cultural venues.
More details on the seven films included in the Undiscovered Gems series follow:
Directed by Bryan Poyser; USA, narrative, 84 min
History: Grand jury prize at Atlanta Film Festival, IFP Independent Spirit Awards Someone to Watch nominee, best feature at Boston Underground Film Festival, best of the fest selection in Edinburgh, played at Slamdance, Florida Film Festival, SXSW, GenArt, Mannheim.
Synopsis: Bryan Poyser’s striking debut is a brave story of contemporary loneliness and obsession that has been compared by Variety to the works of Todd Solondz and Larry Clark. Wes, an awkward and frustrated teenager, forms an unlikely friendship with an older man, Dusty, who lives in the same apartment complex and who writes for a porn magazine called Dear Pillow. Grappling with themes of sexual alienation and isolation, Poyser’s film is at once unsettling and believable, earning him a well-deserved IFP Independent Spirit nomination.
“House of the Tiger King”
Directed by David Flamholc; Sweden/UK, documentary, 104 min
History: Edinburgh Film Festival, opening night Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival, IDFA, Gothenburg Film Festival; selected for a British Film Institute tour in early 2005 as well as 2005 fests including the True/False Film Festival, and HBO Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo.
Synopsis: Join a spicy mix of characters: an intrepid explorer, a Vietnam vet, an esoteric mystic, a couple of Machiguenga warriors and fifteen hired American porters. You will have to leave the comfort of the Western world behind, and join writer and explorer, Tahir Shah, while he searches for the most famous lost city of the Incas. The journey takes them through torrential rainforest downpours, sheet lightening, fever, mutiny and extortion. Cultural clashes produce frequent hilarious moments. David Flamholc captures the essence of discovery, and shows a journey of the soul, sprinkled with a pinch of salt.
Directed by Jessica Hausner
Austria/Germany, narrative, 85 min
History: Premiered at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, also presented at the Karlovy Vary, London, Toronto, Melbourne, Copenhagen, and Pusan film festivals.
Synopsis: Stylish and ethereal, and set in the Austrian Alps, “Hotel” is the sinister second feature of Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner. Irene is the new receptionist who discovers that she replaced a girl who vanished mysteriously. When she questions the other employees they react with indifference and hostility, and she soon becomes convinced that she must escape her impending doom.indieWIRE describes this eerie and menacing film as a must-see “minimalist tale from the Brothers Grimm.”
“No Rest for the Brave” (Pas de repos pour les braves)
Directed by Alain Guiraudie
France/Austria, narrative, 104 min
History: The film started its festival run at Cannes, appeared at many large international fests and continued on the U.S. fest circuit, including Philadelphia.
Synopsis: French director Alain Guiradie’s surreal feature is the metaphysical tale of a teenager who believes that the next time he falls asleep he will die. Determined to survive, the boy refuses to sleep, and as exhaustion sets in, the film embarks on a wild, hallucinatory ride in which reality and fantasy become obfuscated and intertwined.
Directed by Celesta Davis
USA, Documentary, 76 min
History: Best Documentary at Cinequest San Jose Film Festival; Special Jury Award at Florida Film Festival; Best Documentary at The Santa Cruz Film Festival; Best International Documentary at Calgary International Film Festival
Synopsis: When Karen and Celesta Davis were molested in 1978, little was being done about sexual abuse. Their parent’s inaction was not questioned as they continued to keep up a relationship with this ‘friend’ of the family. Twenty-five years later, the now-grown women continue to be haunted by the abuse and denial, and so embark on a journey to find their perpetrator. In this real-life documentation of confrontation and recovery, we follow Celesta and Karen as they face head-on their demons and their courage.
“Liberia: An Uncivil War”
Directed by Jonathan Stack
USA, documentary, 99 min
History: Special jury prize, IDFA, special jury mention, SilverDocs, International Documentary Association’s courage under fire award, showed at Human Rights Watch Film Festival.
Synopsis: This award-winning documentary from Jonathan Stack (co-director of The Farm: Angola, USA) takes viewers to the front lines of battle for Liberia, between oppressive leader Charles Taylor and a rebel group known as Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. With interviews and verite footage of the fighting, Stack and co-director James Brabazon offer a harrowing, inside report on an embattled country whose struggles have been ignored by the US government and overshadowed by the media’s spotlight on other parts of the world.
Directed by Jesse Moss
USA, 78 min
History: Jury prize, Newport Film Festival; Grand jury prize at Boston Independent Film Festival; audience award, Full Frame; audience award for best Long Island Film at Hamptons International Film Festival; screened at SXSW, Atlantic Film Festival, SilverDocs, Gen Art, Florida Film Festival.
Synopsis: Ed “Speedo” Jager is a king of the demolition derby circuit, a formidable figure in a rough-and-tumble sport, and through several seasons the film follows his collisions and confrontations on the track and off. While he is a success in his sport, his marriage is a different story. Jesse Moss’ skillful verite portrait immerses us in Speedo’s world, showing how the races have become his release valve, and dispelling the stereotypes and cliches his eccentric lifestyle might bring to mind. He emerges with dignity, as a rather endearing character, in a movie that has proved a winner on the film festival circuit. A New York-based filmmaker who was raised and educated in the Bay Area, Jesse Moss was recently named #2 in Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Indie Film.”