CMJ FilmFest: Thin On Docs, Big On Names
by Amanda N. Nanawa
In its 18th year of providing the music and film industry with fresh
talent and sounds, the College Music Journal MusicFest and FilmFest
(CMJ) will populate the streets of Times Square (they were formerly held
at Lincoln Center) with a truckload of hopefuls from November 4 - 7. In
past years, the FilmFest has always been the minority of the convention,
but this year, with the FilmFest's new location (Sony Theaters Times
Square), films are getting a better push with a little sponsorship help
from the Independent Film Channel. Unlike South by Southwest's Film and
Music Festival, films are not in competition and the panels are geared
more towards the film's music aesthetic.
This year's slate shows fewer music documentaries and more indie films
with name stars attached. The only two documentaries showing are Marco
and Mauro LaVilla's "Hang The DJ" and Sarah Pirozek's "Free Tibet."
"Hang The DJ" takes audiences into the world of the contemporary disc
jockey with stars Junior Vasquez and Q Bert among others. "Free Tibet,"
which was previously reported on indieWIRE (06/09/98), is the feature
music documentary on the Tibetan Freedom Concert. The film was Executive
Produced by Jay Faires (President of Mammoth Records) and Beastie Boys'
Adam Yauch. The Shooting Gallery is distributing the film.
In the feature films lineup, the theaters are densely booked with the
presence of name brand indie-friendly studios (Miramax, New Line Cinema,
SPC). Out of the 13 films, only a smatter are purely independently
distributed. "Hard Core Logo," directed by Bruce McDonald and being
presented by Rolling Thunder Pictures and Cowboy Booking International
is described as a grungy romantic road movie about a fictional band's
escapades, while Stratosphere Entertainment will present Katja von
Garnier's "Bandits," the story of four women who form a rock band in
prison as a method of rehabilitation. When they do escape, the women
find themselves chased by fame and the police. Another film making the
rounds is the 1998 Sundance premiere, "How To Make The Cruelest Month."
Directed by Kip Koenig and including performances by Mary Kay Place,
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, "Month" stars Clea DuVall as a young woman who
goes on a journey to fulfill a New Year's resolution from the previous
year -- to quit smoking and fall in love.
The John Cusack, Julianne Moore, and Laurie Metcalf starrer "Chicago
Cab" and Polygram Films' "Very Bad Things" are slated to play, as are
Miramax's "Celebrity," "Velvet Goldmine," and "Down In The Delta."
Only two short films will reach the screen, Steve Hanft's "Strange
Parallel" and Sofia Coppola's "Lick The Star." Written by Steve Hanft,
Jason Mason and Elliot Smith, "Strange Parallel" is a guide through the
musical life of Academy Award nominated singer/songwriter Elliot Smith.
In "Lick The Star," Sofia Coppola (daughter of Francis) tests her
prowess in the directing, co-writing and co-producing reins. The short
film tells the tale of a group of thirteen-year-old girls whose
ringleader meets her demise as a result of a plot to poison the boys in
her junior high school.
Three informative and very interesting panels will be on hand to stir
some insight into music for films. The panel, "Reel Quick Money: Movie
Soundtracks" will debunk those age old theories about making an A-list
artist soundtrack to produce a cash cow. And a panel devoted to film
scoring titled, "They Shoot! They Score!: The Art of Film Scoring" [that
title sounds very familiar...] will close off the panels and the fest.
Discussions with many of the filmmakers will follow the screenings. On
Thursday, November 5th, filmmakers with be in attendance for "Chicago
Cab," "Unmade Beds," "Velvet Goldmine," and Q & A's with the directors
will follow screenings of "Strange Parallel" and "Hurlyburly." On
Friday, November 6th, there will be a discussion with the filmmakers of
"How To Make The Cruelest Month" and a Q & A with the director of "Six
Ways To Sunday."
[For info. on CMJ MusicMarathon/FilmFest badges, tickets, and schedules
on the web: <www.cmj.com>]