Hello cinephiles.

You know how you guys are always complaining about what junk Hollywood puts out, and proclaiming your love for independent films?

I have one question in response: Where are you? With three screens of constantly running films that are as independent as it gets, the AMC at Downtown Disney ought to be your destination of choice this week. Instead, I frequently find myself alone in a large auditorium, watching something that even the director couldn’t show up for. Granted, sometimes the movies aren’t great, but sometimes they are. How will you know if you don’t show up?

Indiefest could certainly use a fulltime publicist. As I meet filmmakers here, the most common thing they tell me is that they had no idea they could have sent me a copy of their film to get some advance coverage. A publicist would be on the ball about that, but you can’t count on such things, would-be Spielbergs. So here are some serious pointers for those of you who might get a film entered in a festival one day:

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1. Find out where the festival will be. 2. Do some basic research online, and find out what the major media outlets in that area are. 3. Contact said outlets, and find out who covers film for each one. Barrage that person with emails. Seriously, the only reason I even heard of Indiefest in the first place was because the director of NEVER SAY MACBETH was on the ball enough to do this two months in advance. You cannot count on anyone else to do this stuff for you, unless you’ve specifically paid them to do so. And even then...

Indiefest should’ve taken out some ads, too. But maybe they can’t afford them. So I’m telling you, now, get your ass down to the fest. It’s still going for a few more days.

You truly never know what you’re going to find here. I certainly would never have guessed that movie entitled RACE would be a science fiction CG-animated feature that’s sort of a cross between the podraces in PHANTOM MENACE and a typical episode of BABYLON 5. But such is the mystery of life and festivals. Directed by Robert Brousseau, whose only imdb credit is for the Fox Kids show “Mutant league,” the film has deep space vistas and vehicles to rival those on BBAYLON 5 (which may not be saying much considering those have dated, but for an independent cartoon, ‘tis impressive). It would have been nice if the character design were a little better – the characters are cartoonish, and have that weightless/slo-mo thing going that early CG stuff has – think REBOOT.

The story’s pretty decent, however. Dreadlocked white guy Trance is a racer for Earth, in a race called the Star Car 5000, that’s designed to be a substitute for war. (All the racers look kinda like the V-wing fighters from the very end of REVENGE OF THE SITH.) Tension exists in the universe over control over the jump-gates – dimensional portals a la B5 – which were once owned by humans, who were total dicks about the whole thing and started wars. Now the gates are the collective property of everyone, but control of them is coveted by the evil Tagmations – aqua-skinned jerks who talk in really annoying fake English accents. Bad fake accents, you may have noticed, are a pet peeve of mine, and extremely fucking abundant in zero-budget film-making.

Anyway, the Tagmations plan on starting a war and seizing the gates during the races, but they have also involved the services of a dark being named Draka the Drakanian, who wants to unleash her race from the far side of the universe, unless her polar opposite – Solar the Solation – can stop her. I could tell you more, but really, it would only complicate things. Good story, cool environments, subpar characters, heinous accents. On balance, just okay.

I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the theater for RACE, and I know I was for THE OTHER SIDE (DE L’AUTRE COTE), a film by Sean Marckos from Montreal. Shot on a format that is done no favors when blown up to the big screen – blurry and full of lots of white objects – it’s the story of a film student named Hugo (Vincent Marino) who leaves France for French Canada after his family are killed in a car crash on his birthday. He lives, but loses the use of his left hand (a plot device with no payoff whatsoever) and gains severe head trauma. So later, when he takes a job as a night janitor and starts seeing ghosts, he assumes it’s residual damage.

As I wrote in my preview piece about NEVER SAY MACBETH, ghosts are a tricky business to pull off with low-budget special effects. Marckos does it primarily by having Sean’s vision lapse into gray-scale and ripples, not unlike the monsters’ vision in PITCH BLACK. The movie’s rather blurry anyway when shown on this big a screen, so the effect isn’t scary so much as annoying, although I started to roll with it after a bit.

What works about the movie is the interplay between Hugo and his janitorial mentor George (Julien Adams). They have a gruff banter that isn’t too obviously clichéd in its development, and their scenes together have a real spark to them. As much as I like horror, I’d almost rather have seen a buddy-drama about these two, as the ghost really ain’t that exciting.

What doesn’t work – the non-stop jangling music on the soundtrack, and the awkwardly staged, predictable climax. But Marino does a full-frontal nude shower scene, if that’s your thing (ladies, don’t say I never looked out for ya).

So by now, you may be thinking I haven’t given you a good enough reason to attend. Settle down, Beavis. I’m getting to the good part.

It’s called 11 MINUTES AGO, and is one of the most creative and smart movies I’ve seen all year. A young man named Pack (Ian Michaels) arrives at a wedding party in 2004, having apparently come back in time from 48 years in the future to get a sample of the atmosphere. His time-jumps can only last 11 minutes – if he doesn’t return to the correct spot (the bathroom, as it turns out, is where his lab will stand in the future) and turn out the lights in time, he’ll be stuck in the past. But even though he figures he’ll only need to make one trip, he finds that when he arrives in the past, everyone already knows him. And when a beautiful woman (Christina Mauro, who also produced) kisses him, well...he just has to make the jump again, to find out how that happened.

So initially, we’re thinking MEMENTO – the first couple scenes are in reverse chronological order like that as far as the wedding goes, though they’re in linear order from Pack’s perspective. However, things don’t stay that linear, as the time jumps become irregular; some in order, some not. Two years or so supposedly pass for Pack between each jump, but it’s best not to dwell on that too much.

Oh yeah, and the whole movie was shot in one 17-hour day, with approximately three takes of each shot. Writer-director Bob Gebert cleverly incorporates a film crew into the action to allow for camera mobility, and rehearsed the thing for a long time. It really pays off, with every background character having his or her own character arc and issues, and every moment spot-on...the cinematography could be better, and I’m sure Gebert would admit that...but on a one-day shoot, you can’t exactly use 35mm. I’m also not a big fan of the music, which once again falls into the “friends of somebody doing music for free” school much of the time, or so it sounds – Gebert told us he had to license a lot of it, and I’m thinking friends of friends might not have been much worse, but cheaper...Not to knock him, though, because overall this is an awesome achievement and I look forward to seeing what he can pull off next.

The idea, it turns out, came from Gebert reading somewhere that if you have eight 11-minute takes, you have a feature.

I was going to see BLOOD TIES to cap off the evening, a low budget martial arts movie that starts off with some surprisingly good editing and choreography. However, 20 minutes into the movie, the director and his friends show up, and demand the movie be restarted. Considering they far outnumbered the three of us already in the theater, I can understand why, but it’s kind of a douche move – they had apparently waited in the wrong auditorium, which isn’t our fault. I’ve been to press screenings where the movie had to be restarted for the sake of a certain “important” critic prone to throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way, but those were gigs where I was paid to stay. After a day at the fest, I really didn’t feel like sitting through the same 20 minutes again, and left.

They were an okay 20 minutes, but the situation just rubbed me wrong. I’d rather not review the movie than possibly review it badly just because I resented the restart.

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