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Nantucket Film Festival: 15th Chapter of Literary Love Story

As the days lengthen, so the Nantucket Film Festival fires up for its 15th annual storytelling blowout, June 17 to 20, 2010. The Festival, which celebrates screenwriters, screenwriting and the art of the raconteur in today's cinema, boasts "The Writers are Coming" as its motto.

Wordsmiths aren't the only ones to wash ashore. Once again, 4,000 screenwriters, producers, agents, development executives and lay cinephiles are due on the Massachusetts island -- along with some 6,000 local denizens -- that Herman Melville associated with all things "fine" and "boisterous."  

A century-and-a-half have passed since Nantucket's biggest booster scrawled those descriptions (in Moby-Dick), but the writerly tradition whales on in such NFF standards as the Screenwriters Tribute and Late Night Storytelling.

This year, the Tribute broadens to salute three scribes instead of one. Barry Levinson (Diner, Tootsie), Davis Guggenheim (Waiting for "Superman," An Inconvenient Truth) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine) form the Academy Award-winning trinity of Tributees.

The fruits of Arndt's latest scriptwriting effort, Toy Story 3, will screen on Opening Night, one day prior to the Disney•Pixar film's national release. NFF's nod to screenplays conceived for animation is a new development. As Artistic Director Mystelle Brabbée explained, the landmark anniversary packs a special chance to "acknowledge contributions in additional fields of screenwriting and storytelling."

Late Night Storytelling, hosted by veteran thesp Anne Meara and writer Jonathan Ames (HBO's Bored to Death) returns with five surprise guests plus brazen recruits from the audience. The bawdy, irreverent platform for ghost stories is known to draw maximum frissons from its performers' script-free delivery.  

Another prime example of Nantucket's programming is All-Star Comedy Roundtable, moderated by Festival board member Ben Stiller. This year, Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program) and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) bring their minds and mouths to the famed laugh-in.

In Their Shoes... is yet another Festival staple. Levinson will join this year's talkfest hosted by MSNBC political pundit and film geek Chris Matthews. Expect Baltimore's most prolific portraitist to reflect on three decades of directing, producing and writing what Brabbée tagged "smart and literate films."

For further proof of NFF's thing for writers, the Festival will host Showtime’s annual Tony Cox Award for Screenwriting. The jury choosing this year's winner includes producers Stephanie Davis (HBO’s Bored to Death), Joana Vicente (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), and Steven Haft (Dead Poet’s Society).

To name but two other awards, the Adrienne Shelly Excellence in Filmmaking Award – a $5,000 jackpot -- and Best Storytelling in a Documentary Film and will also honor best efforts at the Festival.

Other Festival staples include Morning Coffee With… , a daily carb and coffee klatch with marquee guests revealing what really happened on a given film set, and gets fest-goers up earlier than otherwise conceivable.

A total of 25 feature films will unspool at NFF 2010, spanning studio and independent productions made in the U.S., foreign imports and documentaries from all over. Some 20 to 25 short films will also be shown.

Sharing the Opening Night screen with Toy Story 3 will be Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s comedy of manners,The Extra Man. The much-anticipated John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, from Sam Taylor Wood, will do Closing Night honors.

Also spurring pre-fest buzz is The Romantics, co-starring Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin and Josh Duhamel. The first directing effort of Galt Niederhoffer crashes a wedding where a group of ex-Yalies -- and the long-standing joust between the bride and the maid of honor -- rejoin.

From Stanley Nelson comes Freedom Riders, the Festival Centerpiece. The award-winning filmmaker's (The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords) journalistic rewind of 1961, when 400 black and white civil-rights activists defied Jim Crow laws on the roads of the Deep South, is the first feature-length film about this pivotal chapter in U.S. history.

Longtime civil rights activist and one of the featured freedom riders Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. is slated to join Nelson in a post-screening discussion. The event will be jointly presented with the non-profit educational group Facing History and Ourselves, reflecting a larger Festival initiative to forge strategic partnerships that can expand its participant base.

Nantucket's loyal following is both a "blessing" and a challenge, noted NFF Executive Director Colin Stanfield. "The intimacy of these events, the separation from the mainland -- it's like going on a fantasy adventure," he said. "Once people have experienced that, it's hard not to come back year after year to this magical place 30 miles out to sea."

"It's a real respite from the fast pace of the business that happens at the usual festival," he continued. Stanfield credits the island's "small, intimate environment" with more than just niceties. "Endless careers have been launched because so and so recognized someone's writing, and there was the space to sit down and talk over lobster rolls and ice cream." 

For the comprehensive film and events lineup, head over to

Nantucket Film Festival
June 17 to 20, 2010

American Legion Hall
21 Washington Street

Nantucket High School
10 Surfside Road

Starlight Theater
1 North Union Street

The 1st Hudson Institute Film Festival

Hudson Institute will hold its first annual Film Festival, an all-day event, on Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill (237 West 42nd Street, New York City).

Documentary feature films have emerged as a powerful medium for communicating ideas and highlighting problems to the public. The right-wing Hudson Institute is featuring films which inform the public on subjects of concern to the Institute's mission.

After a review of dozens of films that came out in the past year, a selection committee chose three films to showcase at the first
annual Hudson Institute Film Festival. These films highlight the Iranian nuclear threat, the battle of Fallujah, and anti-Semitism at American universities.  

A conservative think tank founded in 1961, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, by military strategist, and systems theorist Herman Kahn and his colleagues at the RAND Corporation, The Hudson Institute moved to Washington, D.C., in 2004. The Institute promotes public policy change in accordance with its stated values of a "commitment to free markets and individual responsibility, confidence in the power of technology to assist progress, respect for the importance of culture and religion in human affairs, and determination to preserve America's national security."

The directors will attend the screenings and engage in a Q & A session after each film.


The Last 600 Meters: The Battles of Najaf and Fallujah
11 am
This 90-minute documentary by Michael Pack looks at the two biggest battles of the Iraq war — Najaf and Fallujah — through the first hand testimony of those who fought them. It offers perspectives on these battles, and lessons for warfare in the future.

Atomic Jihad: Ahmadinejad's Coming War and Obama's Politics of Defeat
1 pm
Joel Gilbert's 95-minute documentary, accordng to the Hudson Institute's info, "leaves little doubt that Iran is in the final stages of preparing a coming war for Islamic Revival. By seeking to appease Ahmadinejad with 'change' in U.S. Middle East policy, President Obama is ushering in the Politics of Defeat for America."

Crossing the Line: The Intifada Comes to Campus
3 pm
Produced by filmmaker Raphael Shore and directed by Wayne Kopping, Crossing the Line explores the proliferation of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents on North American college campuses following the launch of Operation Cast Lead by Israel's military into Gaza in late December 2008 and January 2009. This 32-minute doc looks shows how the war evokes anti-Jewish sentiments amongst college students and professors.

Admission is $15 for the entire day at the premier Manhattan blues club and grill, B.B. King's, which will serve food and drinks for purchase throughout the day.

For more info:

Hudson Institute Film Festival
May 31, 2010
B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
237 West 42nd St.
New York City

Hudson Institute
1015 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington D.C.

"Youth Producing Change" Opens Denver's Human Rights Watch

The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival swings into Denver, Colorado, this May 20 to 26, 2010 in its Traveling Film Festival incarnation. Co-presented with the Denver Film Society, the itinerant Festival culls the highlights of HRWIFF's London and New York programs. It features documentaries and shorts from Armenia, Tibet and Burkino Faso, among other countries whose issues are too often honored in compassion fatigue and less in inquisitive viewing.

To help audiences overcome human rights' subtlest foe, the Denver Film Society and have tapped into the creativity of young people through a program of short films called Youth Producing Change. Seven works generated under its aegis will open this year's HRWFF in the Mile High City.

The driving philosophy of Youth Producing Change is that young people are drawn into human rights battles around the globe, yet their voices are seldom communicated.

Youth Producing Change narratives are drawn from the young lives of their teenaged filmmakers. These searching, original POV's will set the tone for the rest of the HRIWFF, to be held at the Denver Film Society's Starz FilmCenter on the Auraria Campus (900 Auraria Parkway). (The Film Society has an educational partnership with the University of Colorado at Denver’s College of Arts and Media.)

Using digital cameras, the young filmmakers spotlight human rights challenges facing them and their communities, and entertain scenarios of change. For example, festival-goers will meet the animated character of Leila, an African girl whose farmer parents sell her into servitude to feed rest of her family. (Fret not; the film, called Leila, has a happy ending.) Another film, Mozambique, centers on a Mozambican boy who is orphaned by HIV/AIDs, and who copes through unusual resourcefulness.

Immigration themes rear up in several entries, including Thoughts In A Hijab and Noè’s Story. The former is about a young Iranian emigree to the U.S. who wears an Islamic head covering despite its association with oppression back home; and the latter tracks a 15-year-old as he grapples with identity and notions of success in his adaptive country of America.

Other selections are What Courage Means to Me, drawn from the story of a Tibetan nun and former political prisoner who escaped Tibet, and Aquafinito, a look at corporations, profit motives and the diminishing supply of community water. A seventh short, It’s Not About Sex, looks into the causes and preventions of rape.

Following the program, a panel of local educators and Denver teens will comment on the films and talk about human rights issues close to their own lives. The teen discussants are involved in Colorado Youth at Risk's mentoring programs at Manual High School. A party and reception will also accompany the Youth Producing Change screening.

To coincide with HRWIFF, Starz FilmCenter will host a trade show of Denver organizations that work with youth.  These are but a few of the year-round events presented in collaboration with the Denver Film Society, whose flagship event is the Starz Denver Film Festival, now marking its 33rd year. 

Festival tickets and information are available at

Human Rights Watch Film Festival Denver
May 20 to 26, 2010
Denver Film Society
Starz FilmCenter
900 Auraria Parkway
Tivoli Student Union

Denver, CO 80204
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
(303) 595 - 3456 x250

NYC International Film Festival to Debut in Times Square

Times Square may have dodged a car bomb, but now another explosive event is being planned for New York's theater district that's sure to go off. Expect sizzle and smoke August 12 to 19, 2010, when the New York City International Film Festival gets its launch in tourism ground zero.

I just came back from two hours with the man who's behind the plot. Manhattan already has the New York Film Festival and the Tribeca and Gen Art -- whoops, not Gen Art -- and 50 or so other movie pageants, but NYCIFF president and founder Roberto Rizzo says he's now bringing a fresh "opportunity to filmmakers from the USA and around the world to showcase their films in New York City."  

As part of my research, I zig and zag through the Crossroads of the World to meet up with this expectedly peppy soul. And while only an Energizer bunny (with a touch of masochism) could dream of entertaining two million guests in this sweaty swath of humanity -- in August -- his amiable vibe suggests a bon vivant, with a surprisingly even keel.

Rizzo has salt-and-pepper hair and the gravitational pull of an artist, writer and director who also appears in film and television; you'd pick him out of a lineup of character actors playing politicians, prosecutors or gamblers, which are precisely roles he's performed. That it's as easy to picture him in a tux as in denim sums up the public/exclusive, free/premium, filmmaker/pedestrian axis of the fest. This gets me wondering…

"What will your New York festival have that the others don't?" I ask.

"Glamor," he nutshells.

"But Tribeca and Lincoln Center are plenty elegant," I challenge.

"Really?" his eyes bulge.

Now if you've attended Downtown's celebrity-pedigreed affair, you know it hardly lacks for glitz, and few would say the Film Society's Upper West bash is half shabby. But this native of Northern Italy who calls New York home and Argentina second home (among other jet-spanned reaches of the globe), has a vision for his fest. And it's largely la dolce vita.  

Two years ago, Rizzo went to the Cannes Film Festival with his short film Couples, which he wrote and directed. Cannes' unabashed fabulousness left quite an impression, and that's when it came to him: replicate the panache of the Croisette on and around Broadway.

"You dress, you respect the filmmaker, you respect the actors," urges Rizzo. "It's going to be a hot summer, and I want to see people from everywhere enjoying a classy time in New York City."

Even in the silly weather, you'll now have a chance to wear that gown or tuxedo.

Shoving past the pedestrians and the pedicabs, we wend our way to the Hudson Theatre (145 W 44TH Street), where NYCIFF will hold its Opening Night Gala. Champagne, hors d'ouevres and wine will be served to guests who pony up $250 for the pre-screening black-tie reception on the main floor. Upstairs, ticket holders at $100 a pop will enjoy modest hydration and, of course, nourishment for the eyes.  

The Opening Night film will be Lovely, Still. Directed by Nik Fackler, it follows the lighter side of two lonely hearts played by Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn. Both Oscar winners are invited to attend this sequined New York premiere, as is Elizabeth Banks, who also appears in the movie and whom Rizzo met on the set of 30 Rock.

Isabella Rosselini, Eric Thal, Rick Borgia and Steve Dash are among other glittering entities expected to descend on the Red Carpet not unlike the New Year's Eve ball. Live musical performances will precede the Gala screening, with a Mexican recording artist yet to be announced opening for Spanish electro-pop band Horthy. Details of the post-screening party are similarly in the offing.

On the following evening, Oscar laureate Norma Aleandro (The Official Story) will present the North American premiere of her latest film, Paco. Diego Rafecas directed this Argentine drama about a physics teacher (Tomás Fonzi) suspected of narcotrafficking and the efforts of his politician mother (Aleandro) to salvage his fate.

Also during the Festival, Aleandro will unveil Andres Doesn't Want to Take a Nap/Andrés no quiere dormir la siesta, by Daniel Bustamante. In it she portrays a woman whose daughter-in-law is posthumously revealed to have helped the underground resistance during Argentina's military dictatorship and whose grandson is driven to embrace that regime. Aleandro will be on hand to discuss both films, which will betoken Argentina on the occasion of its Bicentennial.

Rizzo already has 20 feature-length works lined up, and there are 60 more to go. With thousands of submissions pouring in from five continents and creators set to attend, he's aiming for the skyscrapers with the Festival, which he hopes will be the highlight of New York's August calendar.

Including short films and music videos, he has lassoed a total of 300 entries to date. One short is Flat Love, narrated by Rossellini and directed by Andrés Sanz, about a man who believes the world is flat, and who falls for a two-dimensional woman at the Museum of Modern Art.

Shorts form the touchstone of NYCIFF, at least in its debut year. This is perhaps as much for expediency sake as it is a programming choice.

As currently envisioned, screenings will run from 7 p.m. to midnight each day of the Festival except Opening Night. A number of these will be full-length movies, mostly presented in Times Square-area theaters, while more fleeting works – matched to the attention spans of pedestrians and tourists – will be displayed al fresco on a huge digital screen by Duffy Square (226 W 47 Street).

"When you go to Cannes, you see the big outdoor screen on the beach," says Rizzo. "But it's only for VIPs." Explaining the glam-for-all ideology behind the Festival, he stresses, "Here anybody can see it."

Though NYCIFF is allegedly the first film festival to showcase free movies in Times Square, it won't be New York's sole source of outdoor, gratis viewing during sultry August. HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival (June through August); Central Park (August 18 to 22); RiverFlicks: Summer on the Hudson (Wednesday and Friday evenings in July and August at Riverside Park South's Pier 1); and Movies with a View: Brooklyn Bridge Park Summer Film Series (Thursday evenings from July 8 to August 27) are some of the competition. (And for nine bucks, movies and music can be had at Rooftop Films May through September).

Yet a cinematic display of NYCIFF's volume is unprecedented for a month when anyone who can board a Jitney does.

The eight-day event will culminate in an Awards Night; like Opening Night, it will take place from 6 p.m. to midnight. The top prize has been christened "Laurel d'Or," for best narrative feature. Juried competitions will additionally honor best works in horror, documentary and shorts categories.  

Panels, parties and industry networking events are in pre-production for the Festival, which may just be the sexiest spectacle to hit Times Square since X-rated movie houses and peep shows lined the Deuce.


For more information:

New York City International Film Festival
August 12 to 19, 2010
Hudson Theatre at Millennium Broadway Hotel 
145 West 44th Street

New York, NY 10036

Duffy Square
226 W 47th Street

New York, NY 10036 





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