Newport Beach Film Festival: Schedule of events

Compiled by Greg Stacy


Cinematographer's Forum. The guys who point the cameras roundtable to whine on about being the most fucking important people on the set, look at me, yadda-yadda-yadda. (10 a.m., Edwards Island 5) Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. It is the China of the 1970s, and with the Cultural Revolution in full swing two teenage best friends, Luo and Dai, are shipped off to a far-flung mountainous village for their Maoist re-education. But instead of getting with the Maoist program, the pair set about bringing Mozart and other forbidden, western wonders to their new neighbors. But their friendship is tested when they both fall in love with the daughter of a prosperous tailor, a girl who has her own secret stash of Western literature. (10:45 a.m., Edwards Island 3) Life In Shorts. Sounds chilly. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 4) Surf Shorts. Shorts about surfing for all you ho-dads and, uh, ho-moms. (11 a.m., Lido Theater) In The Realms of the Unreal. Henry Darger was a reclusive Chicago janitor who secretly filled his small, lonely boarding-house room with In The Realms of the Unreal, quite possibly the strangest, saddest work of art ever created. Realms consists of both a 15,000-page novel and a series of Darger's own enormous, crude yet powerful illustrations, and it chronicles the adventures of the Vivian Girls, pious Catholic children who wage perpetual war against the Glandelinians, a race of malevolent men in mortarboard hats. Sometimes the little girls in Darger's world have wings or horns or tails, and when they appear naked (as they often do while frolicking in paradisiacal gardens or being bloodily tortured by the Glandelinians), they have penises. His work was not discovered until shortly before his death in the early 1970s, and the more you learn about the man, the more questions you'll have. I've been enthralled by Darger's work since I discovered it 10 years ago, and since then, I've read whatever books, magazine articles or websites I could find about him. So I went into Jessica Yu's new documentary, In The Realms of the Unreal, assuming I already knew most of what it had to tell me. I was wrong. Yu has assembled the few people who crossed Darger's path in his later life, and the portrait they offer of the strange little old man who lived down the hall is full of contradictions but nonetheless absolutely mesmerizing; Darger was a terribly damaged man who could barely speak to his fellow humans, but it's plain that his presence left a deep mark on his neighbors, who speak of him today with respect and a certain baffled affection. The film brings sequences from Realms to life through some very effective animation, and Darger is allowed to speak for himself through excerpts from his autobiography, read by Larry Pine. It's terribly compelling stuff, easily one of the most fascinating documentaries you will ever see. (11:30 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Cold Harbor. Just days after their father has committed suicide, four brothers journey to the town of Cold Harbor to collect his personal effects. Once there, old wounds are reopened as the brothers examine their own lives and what remains of their family. (12:45 p.m., Edwards Island 3) OCC Shorts. Shorts from Orange Coast Community College. You were expecting Harvard, maybe? The show includes Kai Ota's Peekaboo, in which a thief gets an impromptu lesson in babysitting. (1 p.m., Lido Theater) Togbe. Togbe tells a story that sounds like a lowest common denominator Disney picture waiting to happen: an average white guy visits an African nation, is stunned when the locals proclaim him the reincarnation of their king, and suddenly finds himself ruling over 300,000 people. But Togbe is not some laughless, culturally insensitive comedy; it is, astonishingly enough, a documentary. This stuff really happened.But you can bet that at this moment some heinous Hollywood hack is banging out a script for a movie version that will make King Ralph look like a freakin' masterpiece. (1 p.m., Edwards Island 5) USC Shorts. Shorts from USC. Hey, what'd you expect with a title like that? (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Happy Hour. A once-promising writer who has become an embittered, bar-hopping copy editor falls in love and is inspired to get back to work on his novel. Will he get his life back into shape, or will he be sabotaged by his own cantankerous nature? Anthony LaPagila, Eric Stoltz, Caroleen Feeney and Robert Vaughn star in Mike Bencivenga's comedy. (1:45 p.m., Edwards Island 6) The Dance Dance Documentary. A documentary about a group of dancers competing at the X-Tream Tour Finals, a peculiar event where people hop around like crazy playing the video game Dance Dance Revolution. The competition takes place right here in OC, so who knows, maybe you're in this movie! (3 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Ghostbusters. This peculiar supernatural comedy hasn't aged very well; there are stretches where the story doesn't hold together at all, the soundtrack is overflowing with '80s slop and the special effects that once seemed so impressive now wouldn't pass muster for an episode of Buffy. But the scary stuff is still fairly scary, the comedy is still mostly pretty funny, and the cast is perfection. (Whatever happened to Rick Moranis, anyway?) Your kids may well love the film as much as you did back in the day, but there are more dick jokes in this thing than you probably remember so plan accordingly. (3 p.m., Lido Theater) Made In Estonia. In Rando Pettai's Estonian comedy, a popular live radio show is entirely performed by one actor who lives in the station. He manages to keep his fantasy life and real life separate, until he finds real love and an actual home and things get confusing. (3:15 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Global Eco Shorts Today. If the Japanese were trying to market pants to hippies, I think they'd call them something like this. Global Eco Shorts Today are go! (4 p.m., Edwards Island 4) She Got Game. This Canadian documentary looks at the women's pro tennis tour. These women gave up their childhoods for the sake of their game and many of them were pushed into the sport by their obsessive parents, and the film explores the stress and sacrifice it took for them to get to the top of their game. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Giraffes (Girafot). Three young women who live in the same Israeli apartment building are brought together by the arrival of a most inconvenient corpse in Tzahi Grad's drama. (5 p.m., Edwards Island 5) The Party Heads. Reasonable people from all over the political spectrum agree: pot should just be legal already. The Party Heads profiles Tom Leighton and the Marijuana Reform Party on their crusade to legalize medical and recreational marijuana. (5 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Farther Than The Eye Can See. Documentary portrait of Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to scale Everest. (5:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Raising Flagg. Comedy about two childhood friends whose endless, petty competitions eventually land them on opposite sides in a court battle. (5:45 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Sumo East and West. Documentary about Sumo, the national sport of Japan as well as part of the Shinto religion. The film looks at recent changes in the sport, as larger, heavier Polynesian wrestlers enter the competition. (6:15 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Queer Shorts for the Straight Festival. You came into my life, and my world never looked so good . . .The show includes Chapman student Erin Benzenhoefer's Alone. (6:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) The Dance--The Billy Roth Story. John Darling Haynes documentary about Billy Roth, a one-time professional boxer who became a coach and referee in the Louisiana state prison system. The film celebrates Roth's courage and compassion as a white man who volunteers to go into deep south prisons and become a surrogate father to the mostly African-American inmates. (7:30 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Shut Up and Kiss Me. In Gary Brockette's comedy, two 27-year-old best friends in Miami meet the women of their dreams on the same day, but face obstacles on the path to true love. Ryan knocks heads in an elevator with his lady fair, but he passes out before he can get her number. Pete, meanwhile, must deal with Tiara's protective, mob boss uncle. (7:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) The Big Empty. A variety of stars (Jon Favreau, Rachel Leigh Cook, Kelsey Grammer, Daryl Hannah and Sean Bean) turn up in this small comedy about a debt-ridden actor who makes a shady deal to deliver a package to a small desert town, only to find once he arrives that he's entered a whole new world of dusty, sun-bleached strangeness. (8 p.m., Lido Theater) Endless Summer II. The 1994 sequel to Bruce Brown's 1966 surfing documentary. You kids run along and have your summertime fun, but personally I plan to spend the evening at home savoring my indolence, pasty skin and absolute lack of muscle tone. (8:15 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Short-Animation-O-Rama. You want short animation? You got it, and enough of it to qualify for an o-rama, even. The varied bill includes Chapman student Chris Weller's HEAD!, and Woman in the Attic, in which an aging woman encounters her younger self in the attic of her home. (8:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Shorts Bloody Shorts. Unless this is a collection of educational films about menstruation, there's no justification for this absolutely disgusting title. Even then, it'd still be bad idea. The fare on the bill includes various bloody happenings, including Jason Ipson's The First Vampire. (9 p.m., Edwards Island 4)
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