Blacked Out in NYC, A Report from the Scene; Toronto Additions; Docs On Tour and More
by Eugene Hernandez and Wendy Mitchell
BLACKED OUT: Computer screens in the indieWIRE office in New York City went dark shortly after 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. It took only a few minutes for us to realize that the outage reached beyond our own office -- from our 11th floor windows we could see traffic quickly getting tied up on the streets outside. We then heard reports that the blackout was affecting Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit as well as our entire metropolitan area and we were forced to evacuate the building. Concerned, we made our way to a park on 10th Avenue in Chelsea, found some batteries at a nearby auto repair shop, and sat on park benches as we listened to reassuring radio reports.
Hanging in the park with the distribution team from Palm Pictures, including Ryan Werner, Neal Block and Nicolette Aizenberg, as well as other Palm neighbors including Tom Hyland, we were later joined by John Sloss, Matt Littin, and Dana O'Keefe from nearby Cinetic and Sloss Law. While some cell phones were powered on, no business was taking place.
Realizing that the outage was not temporary, we decided to head to Hell's Kitchen for food and drinks. Heading up a jammed 10th Ave. we ran across producer George VanBuskirk of Holedigger Films at 34th St. He had been screening his new production "Marie and Bruce" when power went out during the third reel. After a bit of chit chat, we continued uptown on the crowded sidewalks.
Thursday night was festive on the safe streets of Midtown Manhattan. Times Square was festive as tourists and locals milled around in the streets. Along Ninth and Tenth Avenues in Hell's Kitchen, some restaurants and bars remained open and the sidewalks were crowded as people hung out on stoops listening to radios and chatting.
As of this morning, power has been restored to about half of New York City. We have not heard reports from other cities on our local radio coverage. The indieWIRE office in West Chelsea will remain closed today as local officials are advising limited usage while they power up the rest of the city. We are reachable by email with a couple of us based at editor Eugene Hernandez' Hell's Kitchen apartment where electricity has thankfully returned.
TORONTO UPDATE: As this year's Toronto International Film Festival inches closer, there are more screenings being announced. Carl Franklin's "Out of Time" has been announced as a gala presentation. The film, making its world premiere in Toronto, is a thriller starring Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, and Dean Cain. TIFF also unveiled its Planet Africa Lineup. The section will launch September 7 with the world premiere of Mario Van Peebles' "How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass," a tribute to his father Melvin Van Peebles. Other features will be Branwen Okpako's "Valley of the Innocent," D.A. Bullock's "Dark," Norman Maake's "Soldiers of the Rock," James Spooner's "Afro-Punk: 'The Rock N Roll Nigger' Experience," Faouzi Bensaidi's "Mille Mois," Didier Ouenangare and Bassek ba Kobhio's "Le Silence de la Foret," Narjiss Nejjar's "Les Yeux Secs," S. Pierre Yameogo's "Moi et Mon Blanc," and Rick Elgood and Don Letts' "One Love." Six short films will also show as part of the Planet Africa offerings: Nzinga Kemp's "His/Her Story," Jacqueline Kalimunda's "Histoire De Tresses," Joseph Anaya's "Short on Sugar," Shari Frilot's "Strange and Charmed," Destau Damtou's "Outcry," and Ouida Smit and Madoda Ncayiyana's "The Sky in Her Eyes."
A "BLING" THING: Miramax's book and film divisions have acquired the rights to Erica Kennedy's "Bling," a novel about a hip-hop mogul. Kennedy is a hip-hop writer and reporter for Vibe, US Weekly, and InStyle. Miramax execs are likening the story to "an African-American 'Valley of the Dolls.'" Other books being developed for films at Miramax include Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus' "The Nanny Diaries," Eoin Colfer's "Artemis Fowl," Allison Pearson's "I Don't Know How She Does It" and "I Think I Love You," Jonathan Stroud's "The Bartimaeus Trilogy," and Scott Mebus' "Booty Nomad." One can only hope that Sisqo will be featured on the soundtrack for the latter.
SPLENDOR IN THE BAR: The words "chili bar" don't usually signal a high-class bash, but HBO and Fine Line's lovely "American Splendor" party on Tuesday night at Eyebeam Atelier certainly meshed with the film's aesthetic. Dumpy couches were set up to evoke the "splendor" of cranky Cleveland-ite Harvey Pekar's living room, and guests were welcomed with a cold bottle of Orange Crush (or PBR) and the sounds of old jazz. American classics from chili to mac and cheese to chicken fingers to Rice Krispie treats were served. Revelers in attendance included Pekar and his wife Joyce Brabner, film stars Paul Giamatti, James Urbaniak, Judah Friedlander, directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, and notables including Sean Astin, adorable "it couple" Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard, and Rosie Perez, who was overheard talking about her invention of "joint filters."
KILLER FLICK: Shadowmachine Films is currently shooting its zodiac killer feature, "In Control of All Things," in Vallejo, Calif. Alex Bulkley is directing from a script he co-wrote with his brother Kelley Bulkeley. The film, about the '60s serial killer in Northern California, stars Justin Chambers, Rory Culkin, Philip Baker Hall, Robin Tunney, and William Mapother. Corey Camodonico is producing.
ON THE PIPE: Filmmakers Aaron Raskin and Drew Ili have passed the halfway point of their two-month film project "American Pipedream." The pair is calling their work "an interactive video experiment," a hybrid of narrative, documentary, and mockumentary genres. The pair left New York on July 11 and have since hit the road in a school bus to spontaneously shoot locations and find actors for scenes (some of which are scripted). For more about the project, visit www.americanpipedream.com.
DOCS HIT THE ROAD: The International Documentary Association announced that the seventh-annual InFACT doc showcase will be touring in addition to its stint at the ArcLight in Hollywood from August 22-28. The series will move to Del Mar, Calif. (September 8-11); Little Rock, Ark. (September 20-21); Austin, Texas (October 9-16); and Seattle (November 7-13). The tour is in response to new Academy rules that films have to be shown in New York or L.A. for a week and also must now show theatrically in at least four other cities. For details on the films -- eight shorts and 11 features -- visit www.documentary.org.
MGM's CABLE DEAL: Rainbow Media has licensed more than 450 films from the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer library for airing on AME, IFC, and WE: Women's Entertainment. Some of the titles in the pact, which will run from 2004-2020, include "Annie Hall," "Midnight Cowboy," "Fargo," and "The Usual Suspects."
FIVE MINUTES IN HEAVEN: The first East Village Film Festival, which runs August 20-26 as part of the arts fest HOWL!, will showcase some local talents. The fest will show "EV/DV," a compilation of five-minute portraits of the East Village by filmmakers including Steve Buscemi, Michael Almereyda, Bill Morrisson, Larry Fessenden, and others.
AN ARTSY VENUE: The Hamptons International Film Festival announced a new partnership with Southampton's Parrish Art Museum. In addition to its other venues, the fest will screen films at the museum and also present seminars and programs there. The Hamptons event will run October 22-26.
DANCES WINNERS: The recently wrapped DancesWithFilms announced the winners from this year's festival. The jury award for best feature went to Nevil Dwek's "Undermind," a psychological thriller about a New York lawyer whose world collides with a criminal. Honorable mention went to Damion Dietz's "Neverland," jury award for short subject went to Bobby Garabedian's "Most," and the two shorts honorable mentions were Tamika Lamison's "Hope" and Theo Delaney's "The Call." The audience awards went to John Putch's "Bachelor Man" (feature), Doug Cox's "Shrink Rap" (feature runner up), Matt Shumway's "Over the Moon" (short), Amaya Cervino's "Shine on Me" (short runner up), Richard Warren Stern's "The Bar" (short runner up), Laura J. Lipson's "Standing on My Sister's Shoulders" (docmentary), Tim Devitt's "Damaged" (fusion audience award), Brian Jude Leahy's "Wish" (fusion runner up), Amir Motiagh's "Still Lover" (fusion short), and Bill Domonkos' "The Fine Art of Poisoning" (fusion short runner up).