Newport Beach Film Festival: Schedule of events

Compiled by Greg Stacy

TUESDAY, APRIL 20

Nine-to-Five Shorts. See Saturday, April 17. (11 a.m., Edwards Island 4) Shorts Bloody Shorts. See Sunday, April 18. (11:30 a.m., Edwards Island 6) Lesson One: A Wail (Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam). In Malpupuram, India, a land where it is standard for girls to be married by 15, one girl tries to buck the system by pursuing her education instead of seeking a husband. (noon, Edwards Island 5) Mosku--The Last of His Kind (Mosku--Lajinsa viimeinen). See Friday, April 16. (12:15 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Giraffes (Girafot). See Sunday, April 18. (12:30 p.m., Lido Theater) Mock Dock Short Block. Wow . . . that's actually kind of witty. A selection of short, satirical documentaries. Mock Dock Short Block. Hats off, people who come up with the titles of these things! The bill includes Chapman graduate Michael Mohan's I Heart BillyandChapman student Anthony Piersant's Save Jesus. (1:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) In the Land of Milk and Money. Sci-fi satire in which tainted dairy products cause mothers to kill. The government begins to round up moms, hold them in special camps and subject them to congressional hearings. ("Are you now or have you ever been a mother?") (1:45 p.m., Edwards Island 6) In the Eyes of a Child. A documentary that profiles the work of two Brazilian organizations dedicated to keeping Brazil's poor children from falling into gangs or being exploited by the child-sex tourism market. (2 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) In My Life. A romantic dramedy in which a dying 23-year-old heads for San Francisco to tell his friend that he loves her. The trip is complicated by his poor health, and at the end of the road he has no idea how his friend will respond. (2:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Beyond Honor. An Egyptian immigrant and his Americanized daughter fight an increasingly bitter battle over their very different ideas of honor in Varun Khanna's dark drama. (3 p.m., Lido Theater) Gaz Bar Blues. In Louis Belanger's drama, FranÁois Brochu, aka "The Boss," manages his service station and tries to cope with the indifference of his sons to the family business. But a new, rival station, a few too many robberies and a case of Parkinson's Disease all take their toll on The Boss. (3 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Global Eco Shorts Today. See Sunday, April 18. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Homecoming: The Forgotten World of America's Orphanages. This documentary found its genesis in an article that UC Irvine professor Richard McKenzie wrote for The Wall Street Journal about the strong criticism Newt Gingrich faced after he suggested that instead of sending orphans to live with foster families, America should reopen its orphanages. McKenzie, who was raised in an orphanage himself, felt orphanages were being unfairly denigrated in the debate, and he eventually decided to make a film that would present an even-handed look at the orphanage experience. McKenzie (who co-executive produced the film), director George Cawood and their crew assembled an assortment of seniors who spent their youths in orphanages around the country, and they let them tell their stories without a lot of interference or editorial fuss. The tales they tell are surprisingly upbeat; although a few of the interviewees do have grim experiences to recount, in general, these are moving, nostalgic stories told by a sweet and lively bunch of seniors. Far from being damaged by their childhoods, these people seem unusually grounded and open-minded, defying stereotypes about bitter old folks at every turn. While I'm approaching orphanages as an outsider and the prospect of agreeing with Newt Gingrich on anything at all makes me swoon with horror, Homecoming is highly persuasive without being even slightly polemical. (4 p.m., Edwards Island 6) In Satmar Custody (Bechezkat Satmar). In Yemen, underprivileged Jewish families are convinced not to emigrate to Israel, but to America, where they're promised that they will be welcome. But this turned out to be sadly untrue for Yahia and Lauza Jaradi, a couple who were brought to America by the Satmar community in 1994. Things went horribly wrong when their daughter Hadiyah died, and Lauza was charged with murder. Nitzan Gilady investigates the Satman community, an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect little known here in America. (4 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Blackball. In the town of Torquay, lawn bowling is taken very serious indeed and the stuffy Ray Speight is the king of the sport. Or he is until young, sassy, lawn bowling whiz Cliff Starkey shows up. This is one of those little English comedies full of charmingly eccentric people doing charmingly eccentric things. You know the type. (Although how Vince Vaughn ended up in the mix is anybody's guess.) (5 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Proteus. If you have ever been lucky enough to visit LA's wonderfully strange Museum of Jurassic Technology (MJT), all I have to tell you is that this film would make a perfect exhibit there and you'll know this is something you absolutely must see. Of course, if you've never been to the MJT, Proteus becomes a much trickier sell. By all rights, David Lebrun's documentary about 19th century artist/biologist Ernst Haeckel should be astonishingly dull stuff, and in the hands of most filmmakers, it easily could be, but Lebrun takes a lyrical approach that's completely hypnotic. Through the use of limited but supremely effective animation and some tersely poetic narration read by Marian Seldes, we are introduced to the life and work of Haeckel, the man who coined the word "ecology" and whose name was once a household word, but who is now known only to a handful of geeks. The pacing is handled wonderfully, and every time your attention threatens to wander, the microscopic undersea creatures that Haeckel studied and drew will begin to flash by at a near-subliminal rate, so unutterably alien and beautiful that you can instantly understand why Haeckel was more than willing to spend his life behind a microscope. But even if your tiny mind can't take it all in, this is the kind of picture you can feel free to just sit back and bask in, letting all those fascinating images and pretty words wash over you. The film takes us back to an era when the depths of the sea where as mysterious and exciting as outer space is today . . . and makes it mysterious and exciting all over again. (5:30 p.m., Edwards Island 3) Super Size Me. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's food for a month, and it does not go well. No, it really does not go well. He gets fat. He can't think straight. He almost dies. Turns out McDonald's is even worse for the human body than those annoying vegan types always said it was. (8 p.m., Lido Theater) The Great Year. Walter Cruttenden's The Great Yearfeatures the combination of two documentary genres I'd typically cross county lines to avoid–it's equal parts somber, Discovery Channel-style science doc and one of those mystical, astrological hippie dealies of the Chariots of the Gods school. Yet somehow these two genres do manage to be interesting when you mix them together; the film's seriousness and scientific rigor help to mitigate a lot of the new age woo-hoo, while the more wacky stuff spices up the dry science. James Earl Jones narrates with the full, Darth Vader rumble. (6 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Latvi-animation. Crack the code of this program title, and you'll get to see some animated films from Latvia. (6:15 p.m., Edwards Island 6) The Other Side of Shorts. My snark muscles are getting sore. Make up your own joke for this program title. The show includes Crust, James Muir's Canadian drama about a man who is irrationally consumed by his hatred of bread crusts. Maybe someday he'll meet a nice girl who is good with a butter knife and she'll change his life forever. (6:30 p.m., Edwards Island 4) Memory Lane (Le intermittenze del cuore). The tale of an aging Italian film director who is commissioned by a French producer to direct a film about the novelist Marcel Proust. The job takes the director back and forth between Italy and France, but during the prep stage he begins to experience a Proust-like flood of memories and he begins reliving key moments of his life. (7:30 p.m., Edwards Island 5) Cuba Libre. In the last days of the Batista regime in Cuba, a young boy encounters a mysterious American blonde who lives in a fairytale mansion on a hill overlooking the town. But this enchanted scenario is disrupted when a local revolutionary squares off against the authorities. (8 p.m., Edwards Island 3) My Family's Pizza (Pizza Mishpatit). Ronen Amar's 2003 Israeli picture is making its Southern California premiere. When Maksim convinces his parents to help him buy a pizza place, they soon find themselves pressed into service making deliveries and cleaning ovens. Will the aimless Maksim ever find his purpose in life and stop demanding so much from his folks? (8 p.m., Orange County Museum of Art) Trekkies 2. When Roger Nygard shot his documentary about Star Trek fans in 1996-1997, the franchise was near the peak of its popularity. Seven years later he sets out again with camera in hand to explore the lives of those diehard fans who've held on even as Trek itself seems to be teetering on the edge of extinction. These fans are misfits who have formed a thriving community based on their shared love of Gene Roddenberry's brainchild, and the film treats them with respect and affection without denying the fact that some of them are absolutely friggin' bizarre. Various Trek also actors appear to offer their generally good-natured commentary on the whole phenomenon. (8 p.m., Lido Theater) A Slipping Down Life. World premiere of a quirky drama starring Guy Pearce and Lili Taylor (AKA: the girl who shows up in almost every indie movie Christina Ricci doesn't snap up first). Taylor is Evie, a shy girl who falls hard for a pop star called Drumstrings Casey and decides that she will make him her own. (8:30 p.m., Edwards Island 6) Don't Forget Your Shorts. Generally sound advice, but a lousy title for a shorts program. The films generally offer a fractured take on romance, and include Dale Heslip's The Truth About Head, which isn't about what it sounds like. (9 p.m., Edwards Island 4)
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