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February 16, 2000 2:00 AM
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DAILY NEWS: NY Underground; Oscar Thoughts; Zeitgeist Acquisition

DAILY NEWS: Underground; Oscar Thoughts; Zeitgeist Acquisition

by Eugene Hernandez and Mark Rabinowitz


>>New York Underground Expands to Seven Days in Year Seven; Lineup Chosen from Nearly 1,200 Entries


(indieWIRE/2.16.2000) -- As IndieWood consumes the indie world, the
underground and alternative scene flourishes. Witness the growth over
the past seven years of festivals like the New York Underground (NYUFF),
Slamdance, the Chicago Underground. The NYUFF expands to a full week in its
seventh year, set to deliveri 21 narrative and doc features alongside more
than 120 short films. Organizers indicated that the fest received nearly
1,200 submissions for their 2000 installment.


After a pre-fest screening of Paul Morrissey's "Trash," the event will kick
off on March 8th with Lech Kowalski's "Born to Lose: The Last Rock and Roll
Movie
" and close on March 14th with Esther Bell's "Godass."


"We exist to present a viable and vibrant alternative to what mainstream
festivals offer, and a showcase for the burgeoning world of underground
culture," explained Festival Director Ed Halter in a prepared statement,
"Other fests have increasingly catered to entertainment industry concerns
by pandering to big distributors and credibility-hungry celebrities. The
NY Underground dosen't care about mass market appeal. We create a festival
that's not for everyone, and we like it that way."


In addition the week long festival in downtown Manhattan, the NYUFF is
joining forces with the online site, Insound, to stream festival films
and sell self-distributed tapes. Musicians will also be represented --
alongside the festival, the event will include a five-day music showcase
at CBGB's and CB's 313 Gallery featuring the bands "The Lapse," "New Wet
Kojak
," "Hall of Fame," and "Aspera Ad Astra" among others. Shooting
Gallery
exec Eamonn Bowles' band "The Martinets" will perform on opening
night. [Eugene Hernandez]


New York Underground Narrative Feature Lineup (descriptions provided by the
festival):


-- The world premiere of "Once and Future Queen" and the U.S. premiere of "A
Sudden Loss of Gravity
," two new features from digital video posterboy Todd
Verow
.


-- The world premiere of "Migrating Forms", by 23-year-old Chicago native
James Fotopoulus. A lurid, lush and minimal narrative with a beat soul and a
experimental eye, the film focusses on a man and a woman as they engage in a
tense, tawdry affair beneath the all-seeing eyes of the man's cat.


-- The U.S. premiere of Sundance screener "Sonic Fragments: The Poetics of
Digital Fragmentation
," an experimental digital feature by Dutch artists Ian
Kerkhof, Frank Scheffer, Micha Klein, Alexander Oey, Miriam Kruishoop, Rob
Schroeder
, and Joost Rekveld, which premiered at the 2000 Rotterdam Film
Festival
. Kerkhof previously screened the U.S. premiere his film
"Wasted!"-the world's first digital-to-35mm feature-at the 1998 NYUFF.


-- The world premiere of Shane Hawks' atmospheric low-budget horror film
"Eyes to Heaven," shot by Dave Klein ("Clerks," "Mallrats") and based on the Dark Horse comic.


-- The East Coast premiere of Gordon Erickson's "The Love Machine," a
mockumentary about sex on the internet.


-- The East Coast premiere of the outlandish and bizarre "Frozen Hot," a
complex tale of Hindu-Gay-Nazi conspiracy based on a true story starring
Ella Joyce (from TV's Roc) in an unforgettable double role as attorney Miss
Ross and adult film star Coco Mumbutu Fox.


-- The New York premiere of Bob Ray's Texas weed-dealing, punk-ass crime
story "Rock Opera."


-- A special revival screening of trippy East Village classic "Liquid Sky,"
with director Slava Tsuckerman in attendance.


-- A special screening of Craig Baldwin's paranoid sci-fi feature "Spectres
of the Spectrum
," finished with the NY Underground's 1999 FilmCore Post
Production Fund and screening later in March as part of the 2000 Whitney
Biennal
.



Documentary Lineup


-- The world premiere of Heather Rose Dominic's "The Shield Round the K"
about legendary Olympia, WA punk/indie lable K Records and subcultural
stalwart Calvin Johnson.


-- The world premiere of Jason Rossette's "Bookwars,", a look inside the
world of New York City booksellers by one of their own, which takes aim at
Mayor Guiliani's "quality of life" campaign against street bookselling.


-- The world premiere of Justin Mitchell's "Songs for Cassavetes," a
documentary following ten underground bands around the U.S. and featuring
performances and interviews from Sleater-Kinney, the Make-Up, Dub Narcotic Sound System, and more.


-- The East Coast premiere of Deborah Stratman's "The Blvd," an avant-look
at drag racing and car culture in Chicago's African-American communties.


-- The New York premiere of "Black & Gold," an exclusive peek inside the
workings of New York's notorious Latin King and Queen Nation, who claim to
have made the transition from street gang to political organization.


-- The New York premiere of Reed Paget's globe-trotting, award-winning look
at worldwide social revolutions in the 90s, "Amerikan Passport."


-- Indie rocker Christopher Wilcha's controversial "The Target Shoots
First
," a document of life inside the glass-curtained world of the Columbia
Music Club
.


-- Katya Bankowsky's "Shadow Boxers," an intimate look at the rising sport
of female boxing.


-- Jasmine Dellal's "American Gypsies," a rare and fascinating peek inside
the secret world of the Romany in the U.S.


[For more information on the Festival and the complete lineup, visit the
official website at: http://www.nyuff.com, or call the Festival Hotline at (212) 252-3845.]





>>ANALYSIS: "American Beauty" Leads Crop of Indie-Minded Oscar Nominees


(indieWIRE/2.16.2000) -- Over the past few years when films from the
"specialty divisions" of Hollywood studios received numerous Academy
Award nominations, the mainstream media dubbed it "the year of the indie."
Two years ago, as films like "Shine," "Secret's and Lies,"
"Fargo," and "Breaking the Waves" dominated the list of nominees, the
move by the Academy to recognize the work of off-Hollywood filmmakers
was palpable.


This year, the race for Best Picture of the Year -- the Academy's
top prize -- while dominated by Hollywood, offers a hint of how things
have changed for the contemporary moviegoers. Labels are harder to
trust. Disney dominates with three best picture nods: one for "The
Insider
," another for "The Sixth Sense," and a third for Miramax's
"The Cider House Rules" and Warner Bros. grabbed a nomination "The Green
Mile
." Yet the most indie-minded movie of the group not only nabbed a
Best Picture nomination and led in overall nods with eight -- it came
from the upstart Hollywood studio, Dreamworks.


Sam Mendes' insightful exploration of the 90's American suburban psyche,
which premiered at the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival,
was also recognized in most major categories: Best Actor, Kevin Spacey;
Best Actress, Annette Bening; Cinematography, Conrad L. Hall; Directing,
Sam Mendes; Film Editing, Tariq Anwar; Original Score, Thomas Newman;
and Original Screenplay, Alan Ball.


USA Films -- the hybrid of deceased distributors Gramercy and October
was recognized for two former October films, the equally indie-minded
"Being John Malcovich" was rewarded with three nominations (Best Actress,
Catherine Keener; Directing, Spike Jonze; and Original Screenplay,
Charlie Kaufman). The company also grabbed four nominations for Mike
Leigh
's latest, "Topsy-Turvy" (Art Direction, Eve Stewart and John Bush;
Costume design, Lindy Hemming; Makeup, Christine Blundell and Trefor Proud;
and Original Screenplay, Mike Leigh.


Meanwhile Fox Searchlight's "Boy's Don't Cry," from indie
producers Killer Films and Hart-Sharp Entertainment, received two
nominations -- for lead actress Hilary Swank and supporting actress
Chloe Sevigny. Sony Classics grabbed two acting nods for Woody Allen's
"Sweet and Lowdown" (Best Actor, Sean Penn; and Best Supporting Actress,
Samantha Morton). And Fine Line sealed its expected nomination for
Sundance 1999 acquisition, "Tumbleweeds" (Best Actress, Janet McTeer).
Miramax nabbed 7 nominations for "The Cider House Rules," 5 for
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" and 2 for "Music of the Heart."


Not as well-received with the Academy as might have been expected was
Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" from New Line. The writer/director's
third feature nabbed three nods, but may have lost some nominations
to safer studio choices like "The Green Mile" and "The Sixth Sense."


Specialty division and independent distributors again led the way
in the foreign language and documentary categories. Sony Pictures
Classics dominated the foreign language category with three nominations:
"All About My Mother," "East-West," and the recently acquired, "Solomon
and Gaenor
." While in the doc category, a few festival favorites were
acknowledged: Roko & Adrian Belic's "Genghis Blues" (Roxie Releasing)
Nanette Burstein & Brett Morgen's "On the Ropes" (WinStar) and Paola
di Florio
's "Speaking in Strings" from Seventh Art. Finally, Artisan's
popular doc, "Buena Vista Social Club" from Wim Wenders also shared
the spotlight.


Finally, in the short-subject categories, Seventh Art also received
a nomination for Simeon Soffer & Jonathan Stack's short-doc, "The Wildest
Show in the South: The Angola Prison Rodeo
." AtomFilms received two
nominations -- one for the animated Aardman short, "Humdrum" by
Peter Peake and another for Mehdi Norowzian and Steve Wax's
"Killing Joe." The company announced yesterday that it will launch
a special Oscar Showcase Channel on its site beginning March 3rd.


Quoted in today's Variety, USA Films chairman Scott Greenstein called
USA "a spirited independent." The Hollywood trade continued,
"He said the nominations prove that 'the lines are blurring' between
indies and majors." Duh! [Eugene Hernandez]





>>Zeitgeist Makes Berlin Buy


(indieWIRE/2.16.2000) --indieWIRE has learned that Zeitgeist Films has
acquired the U.S. rights to Hrfan Gunnlaugsson's "Witchcraft," a
co-production
of Iceland, Sweden and Norway. The film involves Jon Magnusson, a young man
who after showing extraordinary faith and knowledge, is ordained to be a
priest in remote Iceland without the customary period of training. Once
there,
after marrying his predecessor's much older widow according to the
regulations
of the church, he sets about attempting to "cleanse" the town of its devil
worshippers by burning them at the stake. However, Magnusson himself is
soon tempted, in the form of a young woman in the village, and must
confront the possibility that she is herself a witch. [Mark Rabinowitz]




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