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Classically Independent Fest Breezes Through SF, Sundance Kids In Tow; Film Tour Considered

Classically Independent Fest Breezes Through SF, Sundance Kids In Tow; Film Tour Considered

Classically Independent Fest Breezes Through SF,
Sundance Kids In Tow; Film Tour Considered

by Carl Russo

The First Annual Dockers Khakis Classically Independent Film Festival
may set a trend for indie exhibition in spite of its title. Five days
of sellout screenings — 16 new and “classic” independent features and 11
shorts — resulted in the promise of a traveling show, according to the
festival. The fest ran June 5 – 9 at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre to
benefit the local Film Arts Foundation. In a conversation with indieWIRE
yesterday, spokesperson Amy Rosenthal confirmed that the event exceeded
expectations, and that they indeed plan to “travel it in some form.”
added that the format may change slightly and offered that Dockers will
likely partner with a film organization for the tour.

Dockers played it safe on its first outing with recent buzz films and
popular stand-bys from maverick directors of yore. Hal Hartley’s “Henry
” and John Duigan’s “Lawn Dogs,” two films enjoying a theatrical
release, premiered locally along with animator Bill Plympton’s
face-twisting feature, “I Married a Strange Person.” Revived were a
roster of past glories, including “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,”
sex, lies, and videotape” and “She’s Gotta Have It.” Audiences were
also treated to a panel discussion featuring Kevin Smith (“Clerks“), Tim
Hunter (“River’s Edge“) and other filmmakers as well as a shorts program
which included three-45-second films by Bay area filmmakers that were
funded by the fest. Dockers also announced that two “Independent
Vision” grants would be awarded in conjunction with the Film Arts
Foundation. FAF’s Gail Silva told indieWIRE yesterday that $10,000 has
been allocated for a grants program over the next two years.

Among the many filmmakers who chose to make this stopover on the
festival circuit, there are three who have had varying degrees of
success after prior screenings at the Sundance Film Festival, “Smoke
Signals” which snagged the big Miramax fish, “Under Heaven” which will
be released by their funder and mini-distrib, Banner Films and lastly,
the wayward “Space Truckers” which screened at Sundance ’97, and is still
seeking a distribution planet. indieWIRE sat down with each of the
filmmakers for conversations about their films.

Native American director Chris Eyre picked up the Dramatic Audience
Award and the Filmmakers Trophy in Park City and his debut feature,
Smoke Signals,” is a composite tale based on Sherman Alexie’s celebrated
collection of short stories, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in
Shot on Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene reservation, the story follows a young man
wracked with confusing memories and emotions after his abusive father
walks out on the family. Comedic turns are given by actors Victor Joseph
and Thomas Builds-the-Fire in the roles of childhood friends grown

Eyre began a fruitful collaboration by making a blind phonecall to
writer Alexie’s house. “We’re similar in age, we just hit it off, and
from that point on we were a team,” said the filmmaker. The two men
became co-producers and successfully gathered funds. Eyre is confident
that a June 26 release by Miramax will meet with approval from audiences
looking for a fresh perspective. “It’s a film for Indians, but it has
themes that everybody can relate to. This is the first major theatrical
release of a movie written, directed, produced and acted by Indians.
It’s about self-representation. That in itself should make it a unique
movie.” Eyre is currently writing a project about Native Americans for
Showtime and added with a snicker that he wants to make a movie about
rednecks from middle America.

After Meg Richman adapted Henry James’ novel “The Wings of the Dove
which quickly turned into a hot property, the writer and now director says,
“A couple of the studios wanted to buy it, but I wouldn’t sell it. I wanted
direct,” said the Seattle-based filmmaker. “But they wouldn’t take that
risk with a first-time director.” Undaunted, Richman joined forces with
producer Robin Schorr and shopped the project. “Under Heaven,” a fragile
love triangle involving a young couple (Aden Young, Molly Parker) and a
wealthy, terminally ill woman (Joely Richardson) received an
enthusiastic response at Sundance, and not a few Hollywood screenwriting
jobs. Despite the fact that name actors were eager for parts, she said
that her funder/distributor Banner Films was “willing to make the movie
with a slightly less-famous cast. They forfeited possible profits because
they respected the integrity of the piece and my vision for it.”

With a budget of $25 million and Dennis Hopper, “Space Truckers” doesn’t
sound like a terribly independent film. But director Stuart Gordon
(“Re-Animator,” “Fortress“) assured that he made his sci-fi spoof the
hard way: bit by bit. “The money came from just about every country on
the face of the earth,” Gordon declared. His savvy brought him to
Ireland, where he took advantage of that country’s generous production
incentives. The result is a glimpse of the future with a familiar

Hopper plays a ruggedly independent truck driver hauling mile-long loads
through space, cutting his own deals in defiance of the corporations
that control an exiled-from-Earth populace. Veteran Special Effects
Supervisors Brian Johnson and Paul Gentry created Lucas-worthy
illusions, but a zero-gravity chamber was not in the budget. “We used
every trick in the book,” said Gordon. “Everything from blue-screen to
wires that were hidden by stripes on the wall.” Following its 1997
Sundance premiere, the film got tied up in court over disagreements
among the producers, according to Gordon. So the most expensive film at
the Classically Independent Film Festival is still without distributor
but, of course, anything can happen in the future.

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