"Wonderland", "Art" and "Gods" win at Deauville 98
by Rolf Gibbs
With constant wind, rain and hailstones, Deauville is France's other
major festival. Situated at the opposite ends of both the country and
the summer, Deauville has, in recent years, been readjusting its image
to maintain balance with it's bigger and sunnier sister. Although
Deauville is still an important second starting block in the year for
Hollywood studio product in France, the festival's competition is now
devoted solely to the celebration of American independent films.
This year's feature competition included "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss"
by Tommy O'Haver, "Buffalo 66" by Vincent Gallo, "Gods and Monsters" by
Bill Condon, "High Art" by Lisa Cholodenko, "Next Stop, Wonderland" by
Brad Anderson, "The Opposite of Sex" by Don Roos, "Pi" by Darren
Aronofsky, "A Price Above Rubies" by Boaz Yakin, "Sue" by Amos Kollek,
and "Very Bad Things" by Peter Berg.
The jury, headed by veteran French director Jean-Paul Rappeneau ("Cyrano
de Bergerac"), included actors Ewan McGregor ("Trainspotting") Liam
Neeson ("Schindler's List," "Les Miserables") and Alessandro Gassman
("Hamam"), novelist Russell Banks, actresses Virginie Ledoyen ("A Single
Girl") and Sandrine Kiberlain, composer Eric Serra ("The Fifth Element",
"Goldeneye"), producers Michele Halberstadt and Maurice Bernart, and
director Christian Vincent.
At the awards ceremony, Brad Anderson picked up both the Audience Award
and the Grand Prize for Best Independent Feature for "Next Stop,
Wonderland" and Lisa Cholodenko took the Jury Prize for her feature
"High Art." An International Critics Grand Prix went to Bill Condon's
"Gods and Monsters" while a youth jury awarded the Fun Radio Trophy to
"Very Bad Things."
Another highlight of the festival was both Spielberg and Hanks attending
for the opening screening of "Saving Private Ryan." Incidentally,
Deauville is not far from Omaha Beach in Normandy, where the D-Day
battle took place. Tributes were given to indie-kings Bob and Harvey
Weinstein of Miramax, Michael Douglas for his life work, and to George
Gershwin for what would have been his 100th Birthday.
In keeping with the desire to promote new filmmakers, this year also
brought Deauville's first competition for American short films.
Surprisingly, all the shorts directors were flown in from the States and
put up in the wonderful four-star hotel Golf, which reminded many of the
hotel in Kubrick's "The Shining." Shorts directors were ferried to
screenings and parties in a procession of American limos and treated
with great respect by the organizers. As if this kind of exposure wasn't
rare enough for makers of short films, the program consisted of just
seven pictures, including "Four Second Delay" by Rod Lurie, which
received a special Jury prize, "Spider's Thread" by Patrick Yu & Yurik
Senoo, "10 Seconds" by Christophe Joly, "Me and Max" by Carter Smith,
"The Robber" by Michael Mayer, "The Art of Appreciation" by David
Kennedy and "Whacked!" by yours truely, which won the Grand Prize for
Best Short.. All the shorts were also broadcast during the festival to
a million homes on Universal's new French cable network.
Personal favorite quote of the festival: I was lucky to be in a bar with
the jury members after the awards ceremony, when Liam Neeson entered
looking quizzical. He said that he had just called his agent in LA -
just to keep in touch. The disappointing response was "Great to hear
from you, Liam! How's Venice?"
Official Festival Website:<www.festival-deauville.com>
[Rolf Gibbs is a filmmaker, whose short "Whacked" has been invited to 35
international festivals, including Sundance and Berlin (Special Jury
Award). He is now preparing a feature in New York.]