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Park City, Utah -- Host to Skiing and Film Fests

Park City, Utah, is a ski resort, and for most of the year, it’s a sleepy imitation of Aspen, Colorado -- rich in wonderful scenery, decent slopes and trendy, almost kitschy knickknack shops. But if you’re not into skiing, it’s nothing special.

Yet, for more than one week of the year -- nearly 12 days -- it becomes the movie capital of North America. Basically half or so of Hollywood’s movers and shakers--not to mention zillions of indie filmmakers, distributors, journalists, poseurs, hangers-on and assorted fans and buffs -- descend upon this little town for the annual film festival called Sundance.

And at that time, Park City not only hosts this ultra-prestigious Film Festival but also the more recently respectable Slamdance counter-festival.

Back in the day, there were dozens of other film festivals that week, but they have been driven out over the years.

So aside from the snow and freezing temperatures, Park City becomes a cinephile’s wet dream during last week or so of January. But it wasn’t always so...

The Utah/United States Film Festival was a creation of the Utah Film Commission, and began its illustrious career in 1978. It was a complete flop. The repertoire was primarily, as former festival program director Lory Smith puts in his book Party in a Box, " show old movies and have famous people talk about them." To be frank, nobody outside of Utah really wanted to go all the way to Salt Lake City -- where a sort-of prohibition was still in effect -- just to see that. However, the six independent films shown got relatively large audiences.

The first Utah/US Film festival wound up $40,000 in the hole.

The next year was even worse, although Robert Redford, the famous movie star and Utah resident, was able to get some major Hollywood muscle to show up at the fest. While it did far better than the first one, it was still a financial disaster.

Something had to be done. Film vet Sydney Pollack -- who won an Oscar® for directing Tootsie -- whom Redford had recruited for the U/USFF board of directors, made an entirely unserious suggestion: "You ought to move the festival to Park City and set it in the wintertime." It would be, he said, "... the only film festival in the world held in a ski resort during ski season, and Hollywood would beat down the door to attend."

The board decided to give this silly idea a try. The 1980 festival was cancelled and in 1981 it was pushed up four months and moved to Park City.

The rest is history.

In 1979, Redford and many of the U/UFF staff got together to form what would become the Sundance Institute -- named after his most famous role. “imagine,” he’s reported to have said, “If I’d gotten the part of Butch Cassidy."

Redford’s institute was a major player in the programming for the U/UFF, and they and Utah began to squabble. So in 1985, the commission basically forced the ownership of the U/USFF on Redford and his institute. And it got bigger.

The focus on oldies was dropped, (although retrospectives continue to this day) video and shorts competitions added and some of the winners, like Steven Soderbergh’s 1989 Sex, Lies and Videotape became commercial hits as well.

The festival was making money, and the Institute had an event to plan around and give structure to many of the organization’s  other projects. The transition was complete in 1991, when the U/USFF changed its name to The Sundance Film Festival.

The number of independent films went from six in 1978 to almost a hundred in 1990, the last year under it’s original name. It’s grown exponentially pretty much ever since.

Getting stuff into Sundance got harder and harder as the festival got bigger. In 1994, after would-be auteurs Shane Kuhn, Dan Mirvish and Jon Fitzgerald all had their films rejected, they decided to have their own counter-festival, called Slamdance, at the same time in Salt Lake City in revenge. On the second day of the first festival, to get publicity and just tick Redford off, they moved to Park City.

They were wildly successful on both counts, and have remained there ever since. This of course inspired others.

The Slumdance Experience (Park City officials refused to let them call themselves a festival) was the biggest counter-counter festival, and was nearly as big as Slamdance in ‘97. It was canceled 2007. Not only did it suffer from a dearth of submissions but no one would let the guys who ran the darn thing have any space. Allegedly, they had trashed their last venue.

Among the many counter counter-festivals that have either bitten the dust or were exiled are:

was totally digital and was last here in 2007.

No Dance, sponsored by Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker, lasted at least six years before folding sometime in ‘03.

Undance was in a hotel room, and disappeared without a trace.

Tromadance was basically a publicity stunt for Troma films, but they gave up in December 2009.

X-Dance, which showed extreme sports films, was exiled to Salt Lake City in 2008.

the Park City Film Music Festival was postponed until April.

Schmoozedance, with its focus on Jewish films, was thrown out in 2008 when Sundance grabbed its venue for the following year despite having it run the week before Sundance even opened.

ROADance was a free outdoor film festival of silent films projected from a truck, and it vanished without notice.

And there was Sleazedance, which showed porn out of a minivan and was chased out of town ages ago.
As to the fate of all this year’s counter-counter festivals, there’s really no information at this moment. Over the past 10 years, Park City has been successful in getting all of them to flee, mostly due to usurious rents.

All we know for certain is that with the exception of Slamdance, Sundance has finally killed of the competition.

Slamdance will remain. It will once again take up residence in Treasure Mountain Lodge (on Main Street) in the center of town for a 10-day party. This year, it has 20 feature films in competition this year and 100 over all. It’s very informal and if one can’t get into a Sundance screening this is a great place to hang out.

The Stars Align at the 14th Capri Hollywood Film Fest

Since the dawn of civilization, midwinter festivals have harvested culture, community and light to compensate for the distant sun. The 14th annual Capri Hollywood Film Festival, which comes just after the December solstice, is South Italy’s cool-weather ritual of storytelling, parties and stars.
In the warmer months, tourists flock to the Isle of Capri. That’s not the case in winter, which is one reason why Capri in the World Institute and TV journalist Pascal Vicedomini created the Festival, in 1995. For one week a year, Capri becomes Hollywood in the Tyrrhenian, with entertainment headliners turning its central Piazzetta into Cannes’s Croisette.
This year’s session, spanning December 26, 2009 – January 2, 2010, will bask in the glow of singer/actor Mariah Carey, actors Samuel L. Jackson and Elsa Pataky, directors Jim Sheridan, Terry Gilliam, Antoine Fuqua and Harold Becker, composers Elliot Goldenthal and Michael Nyman and costume designer Colleen Atwood, among other celestial bodies receiving awards or sharing their wisdoms or both.
Don’t tell Palm Springs, but Capri prides itself on jumpstarting awards season. The Capri Award gala, which will take place on December 28 (a week before PSIFF), honors the year’s critical favorites and sparks insider speculation about Golden Globe and Oscar verdicts to come. For Italy, the Capri awards polish a proud tradition of trans-Atlantic collaboration; more pragmatically, they shine the limelight on the national industry at an opportune moment in the annual film calendar.
This year, Guiseppe Tornatore will accept a prize for his epic Sicilian tale, Baaria, which represents Italy in the Best Foreign Language Oscar category. Other compatriots to be garlanded in the 14th-century Charterhouse of St. James (Certosa di San Giacomo), where the gala ceremony will unfold, include Vincere director Marco Bellocchio, Christmas in Beverly Hills star Massimo Ghini, Letters to Juliet supporting actor Franco Nero and actor/writer/director Asia Argento, to name but a few.
Festival-goers can catch Italian and European premieres at the Charterhouse and mingle with the stars at the Venice Casino Lounge. Rob Marshall’s Nine, Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Lee Daniels’ Precious, Harold Becker’s Vengeance: A Love Story and Bigas Luna’s Di, Di Hollywood are some of the titles unspooling at the Festival, whose other venues include the Congress Center Auditorium and the Church of St. Michele, perched 900 feet above sea level in the village of Anacapri.   
Exchanges with industry brass include roundtables, post-screening discussions and the globally-themed Fiuggi Symposium. For young Italian auteurs, there’s also Capri Movie Class, a masterclass series taught by a power roster that boasts Jim Sheridan, Terry Gilliam and Harold Becker. Another initiative to coddle Italy’s budding talent is a shorts competition called To Be Italian–Proud of My Country, the winner of which will participate in the 5th Los Angeles-Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest (February 28-March 6, 2010) leading up to the Academy Awards.
Honorees at the 14th Capri Hollywood Film Festival:
Mariah Carey, Capri Award
Elliot Goldenthal, Music Capri Legend Award
Marco Bellocchio, Master of Cinema - Legend Award
Harold Becker, Capri-Cis Career Award
Massimo Ghini, Capri Patroni Griffi Award
Terry Gilliam, Excellence Award

for more info go to:

Capri in the World Institute

Via Rodolfo Lanciani, 74-00162
Rome, Italy
Charterhouse of St. James
Via Certosa,
Congress Center Auditorium
Vico Sella Orta, 3
Church of St. Michele
Piazza St. Nicola,

Related FFtrav story:

Washington Jewish Film Festival Enters 19th Year

Since 1990, the Washington Jewish Film Festival has exhibited international cinema in celebrating the diversity of Jewish history, culture and experience. They aim to create dialogue with festival go-ers as unexpected stories are unearthed and Jewish stereotypes are debunked, which has earned them recognition as being one of the most respected Jewish Film festivals in North America.

The WJFF is expected to bring more than 7,000 people to Washington, D.C.'s Jewish Community Center for this year's installment of the festival, running from Dec. 3 through Dec. 13, 2009.

At the festival, new and award-winning films that chronicle Jewish life stories, issues and ideas that open minds will screen at the Washington DCJCC and venues all throughout the metropolitan area. Several films will also have premieres, including:

Mid-Atlantic Premiere at 7 p.m. on Dec. 5
Camera Obscura
directed by Maria Victoria Menis
At the end of the 19th century, an ugly duckling enters the world — and the New World — as a ship of immigrants docks in Buenos Aires. Shy and self-conscious, Gertrudis grows up in a colony of Argentinean Jews, keeping herself almost invisible, even hiding her face in photographs. After she is married off to an older, wealthy Jewish rancher, Gertrudis quietly raises a family until the arrival of a visionary French photographer jolts her into really seeing herself for the first time.

Washington, D.C. Premiere at 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 5
directed by Cyril Gelblat
As the French title, literally "load-bearing walls," implies, the weight of life can threaten even the strongest foundations. Frida (Shulamit Adar) is an aging Holocaust survivor who increasingly confuses the past with the present. Facing middle age, her daughter (Miou-Miou) and son (Charles Berling) are losing their mother, while their own children slip away into adulthood.

Washington, D.C. Premiere at 12:15 p.m. on Dec. 6
Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist
directed by Andrew D. Cooke
Will Eisner began drawing comics in the 1930s, just as the art form was exploding in popularity and cultural relevance. Eisner's creations, combining art, literature and film, were some of the most original of all, and led to a successful career in what he called "sequential art," the forerunner of today's graphic novels. His gritty crime fighter series, The Spirit, incorporated film noir aspects with elements of the Jewish experience and the fight against anti-Semitism.

East Coast Premiere at 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 6
Broken Promise
directed by Jiri Chumsky
Based on the remarkable true story of Martin Friedmann, born in 1926 in Western Slovakia. On the eve of WWII, as his bar mitzvah approaches, young Martin's carefree life of soccer playing and boyish idleness in his small town is abruptly changed. He narrowly escapes deportation to a concentration camp partly thanks to his soccer skills and primarily thanks to luck and a string of unlikely coincidences.

Washington, D.C. Premiere at 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 6
directed by Scandar Copti
Set on the mean streets of Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood, this compelling crime drama reveals the complexities of life and relationships in a melting pot of cultures. Stories are intertwined: a sensitive young boy and his brother live in fear of clan retaliation; a naive young Palestinian refugee works to save his mother's life; an affluent Palestinian dreams of a future with his Jewish girlfriend; a Jewish policeman searches for his missing brother. Human values, not politics, dominate the lives of people who want the same things, but rarely are able to overcome conflicting views among Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Washington, D.C. Premiere at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7

The Girl on the Train
directed by Andre Techine
Jeanne (Emilie Dequenne) lives in the suburbs of Paris with her mother Louise (Catherine Deneuve), and spends her days halfheartedly looking for work. When Louise finds a help wanted ad on the internet, she believes that fate has intervened, and moves to get her daughter a job with a famous attorney she knew in her youth. Jeanne's world and that of the Jewish attorney are light-years apart, but on a collision course due to an incredible lie she is about to tell--a lie that was at the heart of one of the most highly publicized and politicized news items in France in recent years.

Washington, D.C. Premiere at 9 p.m. on Dec. 7

Mary and Max
directed by Adam Elliot
Meet Mary Daisy Dinkle and Max Horowitz, two lonely souls reaching out for a friend in this quirky claymation tale. One day, Mary,a chubby young Australian girl with a crazy family, flips through a phone book and finds Max, an obese middle-aged New York Jew with Asperger's syndrome. The two become unlikely pen pals, sharing years of life's ups and downs.

North American Premiere at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9
Marcel Reich-Ranicki — Author of Himself
directed by Dror Zahavi
Marcel Reich-Ranicki is arguably the most well-known, influential and controversial critic of German literature today. Yet far more riveting than much of the fiction he reviews is his own life story, rooted in the darkest hours of the 20th century. Based on Reich-Ranicki's autobiography, this film retraces his remarkable life from his childhood in Poland to captivity in the Warsaw Ghetto, his escape and hiding with his wife until the end of the war, joining and then cutting ties with the Polish Communist Party, and, finally, his departure for West Germany in the late 1950s. Through it all, he never loses his love for German literature, leading to his career as a literary critic that he has now passionately pursued for over 50 years.

East Coast Premiere at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 12
directed by Joshua Sinclair
Legendary photographer Philippe Halsman, who shot more covers of LIFE magazine than any other photographer, often captured the essence of celebrity personalities on film. His own personality, however, was defined by the tragic experiences. As re-told in the film, the young Halsman (Ben Silverstone) was on a hike with his father, Jewish dentist Morduch Halsman (Heinz Hoenig) in Austria in 1928. After a fall, his father dies. Halsman is put on trial for murder, defended by the Jewish lawyer Richard Pressburger (Patrick Swayze in one of his last roles). The trial causes an uproar all over Austria, and an increasingly anti-Semitic crowd judges the defendant.

Tickets are $10 general admission, and $9 for students and seniors. Advanced tickets for all screenings can be purchased only online at or

More information is available at:

Washington Jewish Film Festival
Dec. 3 to Dec. 13, 2009
Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center

1529 16th Street Northwest
Washington, D.C. 20036

African Diaspora Film Festival 2009

The African Diaspora Film Festival (ADFF) is the first film festival focusing on the human experience of people of color. The Festival begins every year on the last Friday of November during the Thanksgiving weekend and runs for 18 days. ADFF's 17th anniversary will be celebrated from Friday, November 27 through Sunday, December 15, 2009.

The venues are at various locations in Manhattan, NYC including: Anthology Film Archives, The Thalia Cinema, the Riverside Theater, the Schomburg Center and Teachers College, Columbia University.

The festival highlights include a world premiere and 39 U.S. premieres, and more than 35 films by and about women, including the ArtMattan Productions Competition for the Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color.

Opening Night screenings are Wole Soyinka: Child of the Forest, directed by Akin Omotoso - A profile of the life of Wole Soyinka, Nigerian writer, poet and playwright, the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature; and Nothing but the Truth, directed by John Kani, who also plays the lead, in this adaptation of his award-winning play. The story explores the struggle between those Black South Africans who remained in South Africa and risked their lives to lead the struggle against apartheid and those who returned victoriously after living in exile.

The Centerpiece Screening is the New York Premiere of Inside Buffalo, directed by Fred Kudjo Kuwornu. Inside Buffalo is a full length documentary about the 92nd Infantry Division, an African American segregated unit of 15,000 soldiers known as “Buffalo Soldiers,” who served in Italy during WWII.

The ADFF 2009 Filmmaker In Residence is Egyptian-born Khaled El Hagar. Three of El Hagar’s films are having New York premieres: Stolen Kisses / Kobolat Masroka, about nine 20-something Egyptians coping with life in modern Cairo; None but That! / Mafeesh Gher Keda!, Egypt’s first musical, which follows the life of a struggling single mother and her family as they cope with sudden fame and wealth; and A Gulf Between Us, about a relationship between an Arab student and a Jewish woman during the Gulf War. This 1995 film stirred up such outrage that El Hagar was compelled to leave Egypt and could not return until 2003.

The other films are Women's Love / Hob El Banat is El Hagar’s award-winning romantic comedy about three half-sisters brought together by the death of their father, and A Room to Rent, which depicts a young Egyptian screenwriter seeking his artistic freedom in London. Elements of Mine is a short drama dance film El Hagar made with Norbert Servos. The filmmaker will be present for Q&A sessions after all of his films.

This year’s ADFF Theme Programs include six tracks that examine the lives of women: Afro-Colombian Women, African Women Stories, Girl Stories, Palestinian Women, Portraits of Haitian Women, and Women Indies Night

The other themes include African Men in Shorts, African Syncretism in Tunisia and India, Exile & Cinema in Sudan, Hip Hop Stories, Cultures of Resistance and South African Cinema.

Another special feature of the ADFF is the Two by One Program, which screens two films each by selected directors. This year, the selections are by King Ampaw (Ghana), Sylvia D. Hamilton (Canada), Tunde Kelani (Nigeria), Angel Muñiz (Dominican Republic), Edmundo H. Rodriguez (Puerto Rico), Khady Silla (Senegal), Silvio Tendler (Brazil) and Issa Traore De Brahima (Burkina Faso).

Several eye-opening documentaries are also screened:

Directed by Ana Lucia Ramos Lisboa, Amilcar Cabral recounts the story of Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the Liberation Movement of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau and the founder of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC). This documentary provides considerable background about this revolutionary giant. The documentary is skillfully produced with a wealth of rare archive footage and several interviews with important African personalities.

Katanga Business, directed by Thierry Michel, is a documentary exploring the efforts of the charismatic Congolese governor as he deals with entreupreuneurs from Europe and China and with his own national government while fighting for a better life for Congolese workers. This thriller-like documentary offers a revealing look at the impact of globalization on Africa in the diamond rich Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Forgotten Injustice, directed by Vicente Serrano, is the first documentary that uncovers the story of almost two million Mexican Americans and U.S. citizens who were forced out of the United States during the Great Depression in the 1930s. These people were forced to leave because of one reason: They were of Mexican descent. In order to avoid making the same mistakes in our efforts to find a solution to today's immigration problem, we have to look back and learn from "A Forgotten Injustice."

Occupation of Hawai'i / Noho Hewa: The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai'i, directed by Anne Keala Kelly. “This is an emotionally raw portrayal of issues that shape the political, economic and cultural world of Hawaiians. The film provides a contemporary look at the impact of militarism, tourism and real estate, making critical links between these seemingly unrelated industries via their collective power to force Hawaiians out of their homeland economically, politically and culturally. It frames desecration of Hawaiian burials and sacred sites as an intentional tool deployed by the American system and questions the role settlers play in the dispossession of the Hawaiian people and disruption of their inherent sovereignty.” In the current spirit of change and cultural awareness, this film is a must-see for all Americans whose impressions of Hawai’i have too long been limited to idealized tradition.

The ADFF was created in November 1993 by the husband and wife team of Reinaldo Barroso-Spech & Diarah N'Daw-Spech on the belief that education is power. He is an educator in foreign languages and Black Literature and she a financial consultant and university budget manager. They are of the reality that film is the truest medium for creating a fertile ground for education. The future of communities of color is directly tied to the expansion of the experiences, depth and breadth of their reach and interaction with other communities and the framework from which talent can stand front and center. The fest and their goal is an informed and talented community coming together to exchange ideas and strategies for improving our respective world.

Since its launch, the Festival has claimed a history of firsts in presenting, interpreting and educating about films from throughout the world that depict the lives of people from Africa and the African Diaspora. The festival features world and US premieres, recent popular titles, classic movies, foreign and independent releases. Post-screening question-and-answer sessions and panel discussions are part of the program.

The ADFF also holds a series of traveling festivals/events at the Jersey City Museum in January, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in February, at Facets Cinematheque in Chicago in June, at National Geographic in Washington DC in July and at the Riverside Theatre in Manhattan in August.

The African Diaspora Film Festival has its ADFF Cine-Club which holds monthly community screenings at Teachers College, Columbia University that are free and open to the public.

Today more than at any other time, there are more films by black directors, more films on the black experience, and more films with featured black actors enjoyed by all audiences. Notwithstanding, the international Black communities, whether in Europe, Latin America or Africa, continue to play a disproportionately marginal role in the art of cinema. Further, many creative and visionary films lay collecting dust without the light of a screening owing to the lack of distribution outlets that showcase the films of this experience.

The images of stereotypes, myths, and deprived cultural experiences continue, while talented people of color proceed to run up against the infamous "numbers" game with respect to how many directors or films of color can an "already permeated" market absorb.

ADFF’s mission is to present these films to diverse audiences, redesign the Black cinema experience, and strengthen the role of African and African descent directors in contemporary world cinema. In response to this mission, ADFF features the work of emerging and established filmmakers of color. Most important, ADFF distinguishes itself through its presentation of outstanding works that shine a different or comprehensive light on African Diaspora life and culture --no matter what the filmmaker’s race or nationality.

By placing the spotlight on innovative films that would otherwise be ignored by traditional venues, the Festival offers a unique platform for conveying African Diaspora artistic styles and craft in film. The ADFF is a bridge between diverse communities looking for works that cannot be found in other festivals and talented and visionary filmmakers and works that are part of Africa and the African Diaspora.
The ADFF is where people from diverse races, nationalities and backgrounds come together to enjoy important cinematic works of creativity, intellectual expansion, identity, and equality. In this world there are no boundaries around people because they are embraced in a universal understanding of humanity. This is the element of commonality that weaves through this annual event of images from Africa and the African Diaspora.

For further information: 212-864-1760 or

The African Diaspora Film Festival (ADFF)
27 - Sunday, Dec. 15, 2009
Anthology Film Archives
The Thalia Cinema
The Riverside Theater

The Schomburg Center
Teachers College. Columbia University
Manhattan, NYC



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