Lake Placid Welcomes Scorsese and Other Filmmakers to 'Relaxed' but Expanded Festival
by Brian Brooks
The Lake Placid Film Festival held its fifth annual event last weekend awarding director/screenwriter Brett C. Leonard's filmmaking debut "Jailbait" its award for best feature, capping an expanded event, which hosted sixty films and a visit by director Martin Scorsese. The celebrated director traveled to LPFF to take part in a one-and-a-half hour interview with "Dinner for Five" host Jon Favreau. Later Scorsese introduced a special screening of a new print of Luchino Visconti's "The Leopard."
Starring Michael Pitt ("The Dreamers") and Stephen Adly Guirgis, "Jailbait" portrays some of the worst imagined realities of life in prison. Pitt, who plays an incarcerated man convicted under a three-strikes law, is cellmates with a man (Guirgis) convicted of murdering his wife who creates his own morality fitting the confines of his environment.
LPFF's special jury prize went to Brant Sersen's mockumentary about paintball's first superstar, "Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story." The film traces the rise and fall and return of Bobby Dukes, a paintball celebrity who was humiliated in '93 when he wiped paint from his jersey during the Hudson Valley Paintball Classic, a huge sin in the paintball world. He later returned with a rag-tag team to regain his former glory.
Gretchen Berland and Mike Majoros won the festival's best documentary honor for "Rolling." Three people in wheelchairs were given cameras to capture their lives from their point-of-view giving insight to what LPFF calls, "human resilience and the strength and determination of three extraordinary people who just happen to need wheelchairs." The jury also awarded a special recognition to Dawn Young, director of "Water Polo: Beneath the Surface." Novelist William Kennedy and producers Ben Barenholz and Catherine Wyler served as narrative jurors, while Bruce Sinofsky and Mary Pat Kelly were doc jurors.
Sundance doc "Chisolm '72 - Unbought and Unbossed" by Shola Lynch took the audience award for documentary, while in the feature category the prize went to Tennyson Bardwell's "Dorian Blues" and "Jesus the Driver," by Bradley Battersby. Chase Palmer's "Shock and Awe" received the Robin Pell award for best short film.
Scorsese's visit to Lake Placid, not surprisingly, caused a stir in the idyllic resort community. Saturday afternoon, a few hundred queued to be in the audience for his interview with Jon Favreau, despite the warm weather. In fact, dozens who did not gain entrance to the auditorium remained in the foyer to watch the program from monitors. The "Goodfellas" director said he had been invited to the festival by its co-founder Russell Banks, and was intrigued to see the area and to be "a part of the discussion with young filmmakers." Topics during the 1 1/2 hour discussion with Favreau varied from filmmaking technique to present-day issues such as censorship. "No doubt the tone of the country is much more restrictive," Scorsese said to Favreau. "You have to be careful with what you say. The '60s and '70s were a time of an explosion of expression, and those times are gone."
During the press conference prior to the formal stage interview, one journalist noting the 75-degree weather outside light-heartedly asked Scorsese if it was a "sin" to go to a movie on a beautiful day. "It is a sin to go to a movie on a sunny day," he responded with a smile. "I felt guilty every time."
"It was quite exciting having Scorsese here," said Kathleen Carroll, co-founder and artistic director of LPFF, in a conversation with indieWIRE following the event. "He [even] had a suggestion of a film he might want to present next year. The interview with Jon Favreau went very well, and it was exciting to have something like that here." Carroll indicated the discussion will likely air on "Dinner for Five" in the fall on IFC.
"The festival seemed to really click, with Martin Scorsese on a grand scale, and then the intimacy of the event itself on the other hand," Alan Hofmanis, director of programming told indieWIRE yesterday about the event. Hofmanis said filmmakers had given him very positive feedback throughout the event.
"It was fairly easy for filmmakers to interact with Paul Schrader for instance because it's not a big event. It's almost a vacation from the festival circuit, [filmmakers] can just hang out without freaking out about distribution." Continuing, Hofmanis said other events provided a good atmosphere conducive to conducting business, which LPFF does not wish to compete against. "We can do better at focusing on writing and the craft of filmmaking," Hofmanis concluded. "We want to maintain that atmosphere where [attendees] are able to hang out with Russell Banks." The Lake Placid Film Festival took place June 2-6 at the Adirondack resort town in Upstate New York, opening with Ian Iqbal Rashid's "Touch of Pink."