Slamdance Warms Up on the Riviera
by Anthony Kaufman
While the red carpets of the Grand Palais draw hundreds daily, cheering and screaming at the gods and goddesses of cinema, similar cries -- chanting a different mantra -- could be heard a bit farther down the Croisette as a large group of jazz musicians lead by Dan Mirvish in his ubiquitous hat played, tooted, and banged, reciting the word "Slamdance" over and over again.
For two days, May 17-18, Slamdance On the Road arrived at the Carlton Hotel's Salon Méditerranée, an ex-garage now transformed into a beautiful ballroom, screening 6 features (among them winners Reed Paget's "Amerikan Passport" and Heidi Van Lier's "Chi Girl," both in attendance) and a number of shorts.
At the closing night party where hordes of French partycrashers waited at the gates of the Cineguinguette Beach, indieWIRE spoke to a few filmmakers about their experiences at the alternative fest's landing in one of the richest places in the world. "Soundman" director Steven Widi Ho, whose film was added when Edward Berger's "Gomez" was stranded in Brazilian customs, was satisfied with his experience. If not for his publicist helping him weave the traffic of Cannes, the director said, "We would have gotten lost among the glitz and the glamour."
It seems hard to believe that with all the market screenings, anyone would have time to take the ten-minute stroll down to the former garage, but Widi Ho says that after distributing hundreds of flyers, "Soundman" received about 200 people for its second screening. While speaking to Widi Ho, a number of drunk French teenagers were asking for his autograph; neither understood a word the other spoke, but the director still seemed flattered.
Reed Paget, whose "Amerikan Passport" has been a favorite documentary of the festival circuit was a bit more realistic. With no advanced publicity and no P.R. and no subtitles for the French audiences, Paget found the chances of drawing in audiences limited. (He only got about 40 people into his screening.) But Paget feels fortunate of the opportunity; he finagled a market badge and managed to get his card and a tape of his film out to the buyers. "It's an advantage to say you have a film playing here," Paget said. "What's also really important is the learning curve."
Says co-festival director and self-titled "bottle washer" Peter Baxter, "We didn't know what to expect. It was like the first few years of Slamdance." One definite publicity coup Slamdance did have this year was porn actress, Stacy Valentine, who appears in the documentary "The Girl Next Door" and couldn't be missed at the party; an E ! camera crew shined a very bright light on the curvy star as she shimmied through the crowds. Porn star or not, Slamdance made itself a fixture at Park City, so why not the French Riviera?