Newport Beach Film Festival: Schedule of events

Compiled by Greg Stacy


Her Majesty. In this children's period piece, a New Zealand town is in a frenzy preparing for a visit from Queen Elizabeth when a 13-year-old girl forges an unlikely friendship with an old Maori woman. (9 a.m., Edwards Island 3) A Dog's Life: A Dogamentary. When Emmy-winning television producer Gayle Kirschenbaum set out to make this documentary, it was supposed to be a cute chronicle of her adventures on the streets of New York looking for a husband while she also tried to build an "acting" career for Shih Tzu, Chelsea. But then 9/11 happened and the project went in another direction entirely as Kirschenbaum set about doing what she could to help those who had suffered tremendous losses . . . with Chelsea at her side, of course. (9:30 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Stellaluna. William R. Kowalchuk's animated feature follows a baby fruit bat who is separated from her mother and raised by a family of well-meaning but confused birds. The poster art looks way cutesy, but there's something to be said for a cartoon that sets out to rehabilitate the public image of unfairly maligned fruit bat community. (9:30 a.m., Edwards Island 5) Choice Shorts. Eh. Not a particularly catchy title for this program of shorts. The show includes Chapman student Zack Fox's Gorman and Joe Denk's I Was a Mathlete Until I Met Margo Marris, about a boy's romantic awakening. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 4) The Empty Building. A real head scratcher, this one. There's this rundown building, see, and people who enter it are compelled by some mysterious, Twilight Zone-ish force to confront the great traumas of their pasts. It seems like the set-up for an anthology picture, but instead we only get a quick glimpse of one poor lady's private grief and then we spend the rest of the picture with one guy's abstract tale of childhood abuse. Giovanni Sanseviero directs as well as stars and his talent in both arenas is undeniable; his performance is memorably intense and the film looks absolutely fantastic, with sweeping camerawork, artful compositions and the kind of production values most directors couldn't manage on nine times the budget. But for all Sanseviero's obvious talents, there is still something rather "student film" about the whole affair. Sanseviero has a ways to go as a storyteller and some aspects of the story are needlessly confusing. The film is also too arty by half, and there are a few modern dance interludes that rather unfortunately resemble bits from Mike Meyer's old Sprockets sketches on SNL. I don't mean to slight Sanseviero; it's obvious a lot of work went into this picture and he has every right to be proud of what he's accomplished. But it feels like he's trying for his masterpiece his first time out, and the strain shows. Ten years from now Sanseviero will almost certainly have a few interesting studio pictures behind him, and a handful of his most devoted fans will dig up this curio and see the first inklings of what he would later become. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 5) Letters In the Wind. Italian drama about a former Albanian Party secretary who has now become an unemployed professor. When he learns that his son has become a feared killer, he journeys to Italy to confront his son and find out what went wrong. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Shorts For Shorties. A selection of films for the wee folk. The show includes Caldeira Mendes' animated adventure The Pigeon and the Mouse. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 3) A Tradition Of Honor.A documentary about Japanese Americans who fought for the U.S. during WWII, at a time when the government was sending their friends and relatives to internment camps. (11 a.m., Orange County Museum of Art) California Sea Lions. Local boy Alan De Herrera's documentary about everybody's favorite aquatic mammals. Well, most people's favorite aquatic mammals, next to dolphins. And whales. And otters. And seals. And maybe manatees. Well, the issue of which aquatic mammal is everybody's favorite is bound to be a matter of bitter debate, so let's just say that sea lions have their admirers. (12:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Hawaiian Double Docs. Two Hawaiian documentaries, including Nihi, Brooks P. Guyer's portrait of Hawaiian surfing legend Titus "Nihi" Kinimaka, and American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai'i, a celebration of the ancient and lovely art of the hula. The film follows three kumu hula, or master hula teachers, and looks at the hula's roots as well as its current revival on the America mainland. (12:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Song For A Raggy Boy. Aidan Quinn stars as William, a haunted man who fought on the side of the Communists but now teaches at St. Jude's Reformatory School. He finds a new life for himself here; he has a beneficial effect on the boys and they in turn have a beneficial effect on him. But the Catholic Brothers at the school prefer to employ the old-fashioned means of discipline–verbal and physical abuse–and William's more gentle methods make him a controversial figure at the school. (12:30 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Justice. Evan Oppenheimer's drama follows various New Yorkers as the struggle through the days following 9/11. Screens with the short Hammer & Cycle. (1 p.m., Edwards Island 6) The Fight. Barak Goodman's documentary looks at the historic, 1938 boxing match between African-American Joe Louis and his opponent Max Schmeling from Nazi Germany. (1:15 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Down Under Your Shorts. Oh, Christ. I take it back, the title for Choice Shorts is genius. They have the excuse of being films from Australia, but still, jeez. Anny Slater's The Ball, a spoof of Jane Campion's The Piano, is one of the films on the bill. (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Dreaming of Tibet. A look at Tibetan exiles, including a hospital administrator who is the Dalai Lama's LA press liaison, a nurse working with refugees in Nepal and a monk in the foothills of Mt. Everest. The film includes appearances by the Dalai Lama, Jon Krakauer, Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn. (2 p.m., Lido Theater) Beat The Drum. A mysterious plague strikes a village in KwaZulu Natal, and young Musa is orphaned and ostracized by his fellow villagers. He sets off for Johannesburg in order to find his uncle and help support his grandmother. Once there, he learns of a deadly disease called AIDS, the true source of his village's misfortune. (3 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Never Been Done. Documentary look at Jon Comer, who didn't let losing his right foot at the age of seven stop him from becoming a skateboarding pro. (3 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Jim in Bold. Documentary examining the life of Jim Wheeler, a young man who took his own life following years of being persecuted for his homosexuality. The film also journeys to America's heartland to talk with young gays who are coping with homophobia in different ways. (3:30 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Nightingale in a Music Box. Sci-fi thriller in which a legendary, female operative is dispatched to prevent the release of a genetically engineered life-form designed to colonize the human brain. Screens with the short Snackers. (3:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) The Ride. An arrogant, young world champion surfer nearly drowns but is rescued by a Hawaiian beachboy. When the surfer revives, he finds that he is in Waikiki in the year 1911. Here he learns the sport from its creators and gets in touch with its roots. (3:45 p.m., Lido Theater) Nine-to-Five Shorts. Shorts about the workin' life, including Chapman student Zack Fox's Snap, and Xochitl Gonzalez's Stuck, about an ER doc who struggles to finish his shift after a life-changing event. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Cinerama Adventure. More than 40 original crew members, celebrities and film historians contribute their stories and a wide selection of never before seen film clips, photos, and home movies for this look at the film process that brought America so many of those big, big, big-ass epics of the '50s and early '60s. (5 p.m., Edwards Island 5) The Delicate Art of Parking. A comedy about a parking enforcement officer. That's right, those awful, sour little nazis who compensate for their own deep personal inadequacies by cruising around all day giving tickets to hard-working, tax-paying citizens who parked, like, half a goddamned inch into the red while they were running into the pharmacy for five minutes to get a prescription. What the hell kind of a job is that, anyway? Well, somebody made a comedy about one of these people. Hooray. (5:30 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Nothing Without You. Ted Mattison spent a week at Burning Man buck naked and without any food save for what was donated to him by the festival's attendees. Did he perish of sunstroke? Did he starve to death? You'll have to watch this documentary to find out! (5:45 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) American Storytellers. Harold Ramis, John Sayles, John McNaughton and Forest Whitaker, busy writers/directors/actors all, discuss life, art and filmmaking in this Kevin Mukherji documentary. (6 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Breakfast with Hunter. If the world of hipster celebrities is a box of chocolates, Hunter S. Thompson is one of those orange cream things that you inevitably find mixed in with the stuff that you actually want. If you follow the careers of interesting people like, say, Terry Gilliam, Alex Cox, Gary Trudeau or Johnny Depp, you just have to accept that Thompson will turn up in their adventures again and again. The problem isn't that Thompson is untalented. On the contrary, when the man isn't too screwed up on drugs he can be a funny, absorbing and occasionally brilliant writer. But alongside his increasingly incoherent writing, Thompson has made a whole other career out of being publicly obnoxious--waving guns around, vomiting on people's carpets, etc. His wildman persona got old long before he did and just gets more pitiful as the decades go by. The documentary Breakfast with Hunter chronicles the lengthy process involved in adapting Thompson's classic memoir Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into a film, and along the way we see him making life hell for just about everybody he comes into contact with (a list that includes such notables as Depp, Gilliam, Benicio Del Toro, John Cusack, songwriter Warren Zevon, artist Ralph Steadman and journalists George Plimpton and P.J. O'Rourke). As a traveling spectacle Thompson makes for fascinating viewing, but lord knows he would better serve his talent and the rest of us by checking himself into a good detox program. (6 p.m., Lido Theater) Shortus Dramaticus. Ouch. That title makes my soul ache. Anyway, this is a program of dramatic shorts, including Maximilian Jezo-Parovsky's Shui Hen, about a Chinese girl reuniting with her family after 15 years apart. (6:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Hollywood's Magical Island Catalina. Greg Reitman's documentary looks at that buffalo-infested clump of dirt just off the coast. How did Catalina get there? Was it built by the druids? How did those buffalo end up on the island? Did they swim there? Can buffaloes swim? This film will answer all these questions, and more. (7:30 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Torremolinos 73. Pablo Berger's comic romance is set in the Spain of 1973, where a financially blighted husband and wife begin making their own Super 8mm "erotic" movies as part of a phony Scandinavian World Encyclopedia of Reproduction. But the movies stir up unexpected complications when the lady of the house becomes an international sex symbol and begins to feel an undeniable urge to have a baby. (7:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Finding Home. Lawrence David Foldes' drama concerns a woman who was traumatized by being separated from her grandmother as a child. As an adult she returns to her grandmother's New England bed and breakfast inn, and memories come back to her that explain much about her childhood and the adult she has become. (8 p.m., Edwards Island 3) The Feast of the Praying Mantis (Le Festin De La Mante). Whoa, here she comes . . . watch out boy, she'll chew you up. Whoa, here she comes . . . she's a man-eater. No, really! She eats men! Run for your lives, guys! This Belgian fantasy follows a beautiful girl who is compelled to eat her lovers. (8:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Saved. Mary (Jena Malone) is a devout student at a Southern Baptist high school, but when she becomes pregnant her fellow students shun her. After all, didn't Jesus teach us that when people do something we think is sinful, we're suppose to cast stones at them? Whether this satire is any good or not--it got a bounce from some positive Sundance buzz--it's probably worth seeing just for the sheer oddness of the thing. Macaulay Culkin appears as a wheelchair-bound, teenage smartass, Mary's stridently religiously pal is played by Mandy Moore, Valerie Bertinelli is in the mix, and the soundtrack features both Moore and Michael Stipe of R.E.M., who also serves as exec producer. "It's like those monster vampire high school kind of movies," Stipe has said of the film. "Only here, the monsters are Jesus-freak teenagers." (8:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Sex, Drugs, and Rockin' Shorts. Includes Brad Ableson's Save Virgil, a romantic comedy featuring motorcycles, monkeys… and Gary Coleman?! (9 p.m., Edwards Island 4) The Locals. When Grant is dumped by his girlfriend, he sets off across the countryside for a surfing trip with his pal, Paul. Heading through some eerie farmland as the sun sets, they encounter two party girls on their way to an '80s party . . . and here's where Grant and Paul's troubles begin in this New Zealand thriller. (10 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Pleasure and Pain. Documentary look at contemporary roots rocker Ben Harper, examining his travels, performances, songwriting, religion and daily life. (10:45 p.m., Lido Theater)
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