TORONTO '99 ON THE SCENE: A Saturday Night At The Movies Yields Two Stand-outs --- Gilroy's "Spring Forward" and Kerrigan's "Human Traffic"
by Eugene Hernandez
Saturday night in Toronto delivered the anticipated premieres of two solid festival entries, Tom Gilroy's "Spring Forward" and Justin Kerrigan's "Human Traffic." In back to back screenings at the Uptown 2, appreciative audiences had the opportunity to see a worthy pair of films that will certainly find theatrical distribution.
Shot in the Northeast during each of the four seasons over the course of a year, Tom Gilroy's feature directing debut was brought to the screen by a diverse group of producers -- Jim McKay and Michael Stipe's c-hundred film corp, Gill Holland's cineBLAST!, IFC Productions, and producer Paul Mezey. At the earnest center of the movie are winning performances by Ned Beatty ("Network," "Hear My Song") and Liev Schreiber ("Scream II," "The Daytrippers"), a couple of small town Connecticut parks and recreation workers who strike a close friendship over the course of one year. Deliberately paced and richly shot, the movie slowly reveals its two leads through their lengthy on the job conversations. So strong is Beatty's performance as the retiring surrogate father to an apologetic ex-con, that acting awards will undoubtedly follow him once the film is released theatrically. Distributor interest was high for the movie's first screening, with top-level Miramax, Lions Gate, Strand, and Paramount Classics executives spotted in attendance, among others.
Toronto Festival head Piers Handling introduced the showing, praising "Spring Forward" as being "among the most exciting films we are showing." Citing the film's intelligence, script and performances, Handling hailed the movie's European sensibilities. On hand to introduce the screening, Gilroy was joined after the showing by actors Beatty, Schreiber, Campbell Scott and Catherine Kellner. Gilroy kept cast and crew from seeing the final cut of the movie until last night and the performers appeared genuinely moved by the final product as they embraced each other and the writer/director during the post-showing Q & A. "Forward" faced a long road to the screen, growing out of Gilroy's friendship with Jim McKay at Boston College and beginning as a c-hundred project. After a period of development with Good Machine, cineBLAST! later came on board and production began. The "first season" of the movie yielded footage that could be used to secure additional financing, at which time Mezey, and ultimately the Independent Film Channel, came on board. Sloss Special Projects is handling the sale.
Repping North American sales for Justin Kerrigan's bright, unflinching and fun look at a weekend in the life of a group of UK twenty-somethings, is Redeemable Features' Ira Deutchman. While a sale seems certain in part because of the movie's resounding European theatrical success since its debut overseas in May, IndieWood distributors stateside with close corporate ties may have trouble overcoming the movie's sometimes comical portrayal of drug-use within these kids' lifestyles. The movie scores with a powerful electronic soundtrack supervised by British radio DJ Pete Tong, and solid performances by a cast of extremely attractive young British actors. Equally exciting is Kerrigan's unconventional style and pointed criticism of contemporary British society, along with the more universal love, sex, and life issues facing youth culture in the 90's. Sure to be compared to "Trainspotting" because of its particular style and energy, the film is ultimately a livelier and brighter look at British youth, captured from within.
A twenty-five year old from Cardiff, Wales -- where the movie is set -- Kerrigan calls it a movie about the "sexual insecurities and social paranoia" of him and his friends -- part of the mainstream "chemical generation" youth culture in Britain that relies on weekend escapes through ecstasy and intense electronic music. Kerrigan has been making movies professionally for nearly six years, including work on a handful of shorts and documentaries, along the way receiving glowing reviews for his style and subject matter. While The Observer called Kerrigan's film "this year's hottest movie," The Guardian weighed in praising it as "the last great film of the nineties." Hyping the interest in the movie by domestic distributors, a source close to the film told indieWIRE that Harvey Weinstein has requested a private screening of the movie today. The bigger question of course is whether the same kinder, gentler Miramax that shied away from Kevin Smith's "Dogma" would revert to the boldness it exhibited when marketing and releasing "Trainspotting."
Kevin Smith was one of a slew of notables in attendance at Friday night's swarming bash at CityTV in downtown Toronto. At a massive party that served as the launching pad for the network's new entertainment channel, the CityTV studios, as well as a large tent outside was packed with festival attendees. Notable attendees included "Ride With the Devil"'s Jewel; Daniel Baldwin, "Saturday Night Live"'s Will Ferrell; Sloss special Projects' John Sloss, Joy Newhouse and Micah Green; film rep Jeff Dowd; actor and "Barenaked in America" director Jason Priestley; actor Rufus Sewell ("Dark City," "21"); director Kevin Smith ("Dogma"); Toronto local, actor Yaphet Kotto ("TV's "Homicide"); "Mumford"'s Hope Davis, and others.
On tap today is the world premiere of Jamie Babbit's first-feature, "But I'm a Cheerleader," which is the subject of a live indieWIRE chat, to be held online tomorrow night as part of the new indieWIRE Hotline community.