Some news to start:
1. Remake rights to documentaries are selling today. The rights to make a fiction feature based on Bengali Detective (which I saw yesterday and liked) sold to Fox Searchlight and HBO bought the rights to Knuckle and plan to turn it into a TV show. In both cases I think they are prudent purchases. Bengali Detective aspired to play like a fiction detective film right from the start, and the universe of Knuckle could definitely be developed into a gritty family drama. There are some other docs that i have seen that could work well as remakes, too, particularly Resurrect Dead (more on that below). Remake rights often net doc filmmakers more money than they would make from selling their actual film, so congrats to those filmmakers and hopefully that money can help them to keep making quality docs.
2. There were protests out in front of the Eccles theater before the premiere of Kevin Smith’s Red State, but it wasn’t really quite as big a deal as people thought it might be, and reaction to the film was pretty muted. But it is interesting that Smith is planning on self-releasing. If he is able to do well with that strategy you could see a lot more established filmmakers go that route in the coming years.
3. More acquisitions were announced today, making this one of the most successful festivals in years, at least in business terms. National Geographic picked up Life in a Day, Paramount signed Like Crazy, Fox Searchlight picked up Homework and Participant signed Circumstance.
I am not always a huge fan of docs about films, so I am not the ideal audience for Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton’s documentary about the National Film registry, but I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would. The single most surprising thing that I learned from watching These Amazing Shadows is that there are a lot of really odd films in the registry. Like THIS awesome film that was produced by the housepaint industry and makes the argument that people with freshly painted homes are more likely to survive the explosion of a nuclear bomb!
Early on I thought that Shadows was a bit of a mess, as there wasn’t any sort of organizing principle to the editing; one interview subject after another appears and talks about their favorite (or least favorite) films in the registry. But as the film continued I started to really appreciate the structure of the film, as it freed up the filmmakers to include only the most lively and interesting moments from the interviews. It never gets that deep, but it was a brisk, educational 90 minutes, and it definitely made me want to take a closer look at the films in the library of congress.
Later on I checked out Jon Foy’s Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. If you live in Philadelphia or New York (or a great many other cities) you have probably stepped on a Toynbee Tile at some point and not even realized it. The tiles consist of 4 bizarre lines of text and are generally embedded in the asphalt in the middle of streets. Sometime in the early 80’s the tiles started appearing all over the world, and there are now thousands of them, including some in South America. In the mid 90’s, a punk rock squatter artist named Justin Duerr started noticing them around Philadelphia and became obsessed with figuring out their meaning and tracking down their creator. But even after more than a decade of searching for clues and following leads, he still hadn’t cracked the case. Over time, he realized that dozens of other amateur sleuths had attempted to figure it out as well, but to no avail. But he teamed up with some other Toynbee enthusiasts, and eventually they started getting somewhere, and luckily the cameras were generally running when things get interesting. I won’t ruin the ending, but I will say that it turns into a fun and fascinating mystery movie, and I was pretty riveted.
I closed out the evening with a midnight premiere screening of Madeleine Olnek’s Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. Olnek’s very funny short therapy comedy Countertransference screened at Sundance in 2009, and her first foray into feature filmmaking really turned out well. The raucous crowd at The Library was clearly ready to enjoy the film–they were cheering and laughing from the opening credits–and it was nice to be reminded of how much fun public premiere screenings can be. And the audience had a lot to laugh about. Olnek has a genuine gift for comic dialogue, and the cast (which includes Rooftop alums Alex Karpovsky and Laura Terruso) obviously had a lot of fun with their roles. Codependent isn’t trying to break new ground cinematically–like most comedies it doesn’t try to do too much or get too cute with the form. But it’s FUNNY, and that is what counts. I am sure that it will find a cult following in the gay community, but I think the humor will play well with more mainstream audiences as well. I am really curious to see how people react to it as it plays over the next few days.
OK, off to bed.