Like a Bat Out of Hell, the USA Film Festival Schedule is Released

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The AFI Dallas International Film Fest isn't even wrapped -- speaking of, just came back from a Robert De Niro luncheon and watched him jaw for a lil' bit with Mayor Tom, odd -- but the programming lineup and schedule for the USA Film Festival just dropped in our in-box. It's after the jump, but first a few highlights: tributes to Rip Torn (who's aces), the legendary filmmaker-actor-etc. Claude Lelouch and Meat Loaf (Thomas Jefferson High School, represent); a Mystery Science Theater 3000 panel featuring Joel Hodgson; and a screening of Choke, actor-turned-director Clark Gregg's adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. The fest runs April 21 through April 27.

And in other film-related news, Amores Perros and Babel screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga -- the Oscar-nominated Guillermo Arriaga -- just told me that, contrary to what you've read here and here, he ain't doing Dallas Buyer's Club. And neither is Brad Pitt. --Robert Wilonsky


DALLAS – The USA Film Festival announces the schedule of events for the 38th Annual USA Film Festival, April 21-27, 2008, at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.

This year, the Festival honors two stage, screen and television veterans; one of the most respected cinematographers of our time; a rock and roll living legend; stages an anniversary reunion of popular comedy cult phenomenons of all time; brings eminent French director Claude Lelouch to Dallas; presents its 30th annual installment of the Academy-qualified Short Film & Video Competition; and remembers an old friend.

Program highlights and Tributes include:

--Great Director Tribute to Claude Lelouch (With Roman de gare) --Tribute to cinematographer William A. Fraker (With film clip compilation tribute and 40th Anniversary screening of Rosemary’s Baby) --Salute to Dallas-born rock star–actor Meat Loaf (With Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise) --20th Anniversary Salute to the creators of the cult comedy legend Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Creators/performers will present panel discussion with clips highlights) and a live riffing show featuring Cinematic Titanic --Tribute to actor Austin Pendleton (With Lovely by Surprise) --Tribute to Texas-born actor Rip Torn (With film clip compilation tribute and screening of August) --Remembering Texas writer-director Eagle Pennell (With screening of a restored print of The Whole Shootin’ Match and the new documentary The King of Texas) --30th Annual National Short Film & Video Competition (Academy-qualified) --World premieres of documentaries including Ted Schillinger’s Robert Blecker Wants Me Dead, Rusty Fleming’s Drug Wars: The Colombianization of Mexico, Donny Moss’ Blinders, David Markey’s The Reinactors, and features Journal of a Contract Killer from UK filmmaker Tony Maylam, Angelica Torn and Tony Torn’s Lucky Days, along with new shorts from Bill Plympton (Hot Dog), Glen Luchford (Dark Yellow), and more.

Please see attached for full schedule listing.

Ticket Information -- A complete schedule of all Festival events may be obtained by calling the Festival office at 214-821-FILM. Advance tickets will be available through Ticketmaster beginning April 10. Tickets for all programs are $8, and $25 for the Cinematic Titanic Live Riffing program.


TRIBUTE TO RIP TORN With screening of AUGUST (The feature film will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute) Saturday, April 26, 7:00pm

From his unforgettable roles in iconic films like Payday, The Man Who Fell to Earth and Cross Creek (for which he received an Academy Award nomination) and in films as disparate as Heartland, Marie Antoinette, Dodgeball, Wonder Boys, and Defending Your Life, to his hilarious appearances on The Larry Sanders Show and 30 Rock, Texas-born actor Rip Torn has made an indelible mark as one of this generation’s leading artists of stage and screen. With a résumé that includes everything from Tropic of Cancer to Men in Black to an unforgettable turn as Big Daddy in the 1980s revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Torn brilliantly handles both comedy and drama (and can be seen doing both brilliantly in this year’s Festival). Join us as we spotlight the continuing genius of his career with a clip tribute and a screening of his new film August, plus a special screening of Songwriter. (Torn also appears in Lucky Days, co-directed by daughter and son Angelica and Tony Torn, screening April 25.)

SALUTE TO MEAT LOAF With screening of MEAT LOAF: IN SEARCH OF PARADISE Saturday, April 26, 7:00pm

A brilliant showman, singer-actor Meat Loaf is world renowned for his record-breaking, chart-topping albums and his career as a cult-film mainstay. Born in Dallas, Marvin Lee “Meat Loaf” Aday moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to seek a career in music, at first playing in local bands and then making his acting debut in stage productions of Hair and As You Like It, soon followed by a memorable film debut in the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). In 1977, he and lyricist Jim Steinman released the operatic rock LP Bat Out of Hell, a megahit that sold 35,000,000 copies worldwide. During the ’80s he pursued acting more regularly, appearing in such movies as Out of Bounds (1986), The Squeeze (1987) and Wayne’s World (1992). He has since dominated the album charts in 1993 with the sequel LP Bat Out Of Hell II, which went to #1 in the US and UK and sold in excess of 20,000,000 copies, while furthering his acting credits with roles in Tales from the Crypt (1992), Fight Club and Spice World (both 1999), The Salton Sea (2002), and Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, among others. Is it any wonder this renaissance man is the subject of a fascinating new documentary?

TRIBUTE TO AUSTIN PENDLETON With screening of LOVELY BY SURPRISE Friday, April 25, 7:00pm

Film, television, and stage actor, playwright, and theatre director Austin Pendleton’s accomplishments are as varied as they are lengthy: He has appeared in The Last Sweet Days of Isaac (for which he won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance), The Diary of Anne Frank, Grand Hotel, Goodtime Charley, The Little Foxes, Fiddler on the Roof, and Up from Paradise; penned the off-Broadway plays Uncle Bob, Booth, and Orson’s Shadow; he directed Elizabeth Taylor and Maureen Stapleton in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes and earned a Tony Award nomination in the process; is an ensemble member of the legendary Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago; and has appeared in such varied TV shows and feature films as Catch-22, The Muppet Movie, Miami Vice, My Cousin Vinny, Amistad, Oz, What’s Up, Doc?, Skidoo, Homicide: Life on the Streets, and The Notorious Bettie Page. A brilliant everyman before the cameras and onstage, the multitalented Pendleton is just as comfortable in any creative role.

GREAT DIRECTOR TRIBUTE TO CLAUDE LELOUCH With a screening of ROMAN DE GARE Monday, April 21, 7:00pm

Born in Paris in 1937, writer-director-cinematographer-actor-producer Claude Lelouch honed his skills first with short documentary films in the mid-1950s, then by producing more than two hundred “scopiotones”—short musical films designed for jukebox use, which later paved the way for music videos—and several feature films in the early ‘60s. He achieved international acclaim in 1966 with the movie Un homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman). In the process he won a Gran Prix and the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award for Best Screenplay (as well as a Best Director nomination), making him one of the era’s most popular and influential European filmmakers. A true master of his craft, Lelouch's films are characterized by a blend of large cinematic spectacle and intimate portrait, as well as a passionate connection and dedication to his characters. The USA Film Festival is honored to present Metroplex audiences with this rare opportunity to meet one of contemporary world cinema’s most respected artists.

TRIBUTE TO BILL FRAKER With a 40th anniversary screening of ROSEMARY'S BABY (The feature film will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute) Thursday, April 24, 7:00pm

The USA Film Festival is proud to honor cinematographer William A. Fraker, ASC for his significant and enduring contributions to the film arts. A six-time Academy Award nominee, Fraker was inspired by and admired the directors, actors and studio cinematographers who defined the “golden age” of movies during the 1930s and ‘40s. But Fraker was never part of that mainstream. Fraker’s truthful, portrait-like images and unique methods of shooting character-driven films rocketed him to the front ranks of a new wave of cinematographers. His eclectic body of work includes such classics as Bullitt (1968), Heaven Can Wait (1979, Academy Award nomination), and Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and a wide range of different genre films, including 1941 (1980, Academy Award nomination), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Gator (1976), Irreconcilable Differences (1984), The Island of Dr. Moreau, Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977, Academy Award nomination), Murphy’s Romance (1986, Academy Award nomination), Sharky’s Machine (1981), Tombstone (1993), and WarGames (1983, Academy Award nomination). The Festival is honored to be able to give Dallas audiences this unique opportunity to meet one of the great masters of the craft.

MST3K AT 20 20th Anniversary Salute to Mystery Science Theater 3000 An MST3K Reunion, of sorts Saturday, April 26, 5:00pm & 7:00pm

People have been talking back to the screen since the dawn of cinema, but no one’s ever done it with the hilarious panache and scathing wit of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Join us as we celebrate two decades of this brilliant cult favorite with creator Joel Hodgson and MST3K vets Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Kevin Murphy, Mary Jo Pehl and J. Elvis Weinstein reuniting for a special clip presentation (created exclusively for the USA Film Festival) and panel discussion. In a separate program, watch some of our panelists in action as Cinematic Titanic in an exclusive live event, where they will be riffing on one of the most wretched movies ever to be committed to celluloid (film TBA)!

PROGRAMS (by alpha)

AMERICA UNCHAINED Wednesday, April 23 7:00pm

3,000 miles, 44 nights, 17 states. Comedian, writer, and “Daily Show” analyst Dave Gorman embarks on a unique quest to find a lost aspect of America in this humorous, endearing, and often unusual documentary. Raised on a steady diet of ’70s-era American television, the British-born Gorman decides to search for the America of his youth—a place populated by independent gas stations and family-owned, Mom & Pop stores and restaurants. Embarking on a cross-country road trip in a battered ’70 Ford Torino station wagon, he challenges himself to make the journey without giving any money to The Man, buying gas, food, and lodging only from independent businesses. And if that sounds easy, think again. No Starbucks, no Exxon or Mobil, no La Quinta or Holiday Inn, no Denny’s, McDonalds or IHOPs. But the real struggle is among the hard-working people striving to be independent business operators, and Gorman’s fascinating road trip is a powerful reminder of their importance in our chain-choked world, where one town looks the same as the next. 75mins.

AS IT IS IN HEAVEN Sunday, April 27 5:00pm

This beautiful, uplifting film was Sweden’s 2005 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film (and one of that nation’s biggest box office hits), but for some reason, it was never distributed in this country. The USA Film Festival is pleased to remedy that situation and assist the film with a Dallas playdate. Swedish writer-director Kay Pollock returns to filmmaking after a 20-year absence with, appropriately, this story of an artist rediscovering his desire to create. Successful world-renowned conductor Daniel Dareus (Michael Nyqvist), after a physical and emotional breakdown, suddenly abandons his career to return to his village in remote northern Sweden—a place where he spent a miserable, soul-crushing childhood. Although his fame makes him the subject of curiosity and suspicion, it isn’t long before he is asked to offer some advice to the local church choir. Reluctant at first, he begins to work with the choir, and in the process rediscovers his long-lost love for music, finding himself surrounded by both friends and enemies in a conclusion that has brought international audiences to tears. This magical film is about the healing power of song to lift the human spirit. 132mins.

AUGUST TRIBUTE TO RIP TORN The program will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute Saturday, April 26 7:00pm

Josh Hartnett brilliantly plays Tom Sterling, a young, aggressive dot-com entrepreneur fighting to keep his start-up company, LandShark.com, afloat. After his initial outrageous success fueled by slobbering media hype, high-flying A-lister Tom finds himself on a personal and professional downward spiral as he struggles to reunite with former girlfriend Sarrah (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later), regain control of his company from his investor Ogilvie (a coolly vicious David Bowie), and deal with age-old family wounds with his father David (Rip Torn)—representing a whole generation who doesn’t get the all-paper assets company culture—and his brother Joshua (Adam Scott, The Aviator). Director Austin Chick brings intense visual edge to Howard A. Rodman’s pitch-perfect, unsparing script. More than another Enron or dotcom bust story, August slyly captures a decadent time in our once seemingly bullet-proof business culture. 88mins. Rip Torn and Austin Chick in attendance.

BLINDERS Sunday, April 27 5:00pm

The great cities of the world belong to everyone, and that is certainly true of New York. Every year thousands of visitors from around the world travel to New York City, and many of them take a ride through Central Park in the charming horse-drawn carriages. It’s a tradition that’s been around since the 1800s, and one with a seamy underside and uncertain future. Carriage operators and some city officials consider the business a cherished part of New York history; animal rights activists decry the cruel treatment of the horses, which this compelling documentary reveals in never-before-seen detail. Now, after three fatal accidents in less than two years, the plight of carriage horses is at the forefront of public opinion. Director Donny Moss takes viewers behind the scenes to the Ninth Street stables and the truly unbelievable conditions (blizzards, extreme heat, traffic hazards) under which these horses are routinely consigned to perform. Hopefully, for the sake of the Central Park horses, this powerful film will prove unforgettable. 53mins. Donny Moss in attendance.

BOMB IT Friday, April 25 9:00pm

We thought this terrific doc, completed last year, would have had a theatrical distribution date for Dallas by now—but no such luck, so we’re including it in this year’s schedule. Is it the biggest art movement ever seen or merely a multi-million dollar vandalism problem? These days, we are as likely to encounter graffiti-influenced art in the Smithsonian as we are on an urban bus ride or in mainstream advertising. The most subversive and controversial art form currently shaping international youth culture, graffiti raises important questions that delve deep into our contemporary social structure. Using a myriad of original interviews with artists from around the world as well as guerilla footage of graffiti writers in action, award-winning director Jon Reiss follows the advent of contemporary graffiti from its modern birthplace in the slums of Philadelphia to its notorious emergence as a visual adjunct to the rise of the hip-hop culture in 1970’s New York City, culminating in its current, varied and highly complex and controversial form. Whether you agree with the street artists or not, audiences will be undeniably engrossed by this captivating film. 93mins.

CHOKE Sunday, April 27 7:00pm

Based on the book by popular cult author Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), actor-turned-director Clark Gregg (The New Adventures of Old Christine, the upcoming Iron Man) brings to the screen a wickedly colorful dark comedy about mothers and sons, sexual compulsion, and the sordid underbelly of Colonial theme parks. Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is a sex-addicted med-school dropout who keeps his increasingly deranged mother Ida (Angelica Huston) in an expensive private hospital by working days as a historical re-enactor at a Colonial Williamsburg theme park. At night, Victor runs a scam deliberately fake-choking in upscale restaurants to form profitable parasitic relationships with the wealthy patrons who “save” him. In flashback, we meet the younger Ida, who raised Victor alone and in absurdly unconventional circumstances. When, in a rare lucid moment, Ida reveals that she has withheld the shocking truth of his father’s identity, Victor enlists the aid of his best friend (Brian William Henke) and his mother’s beautiful physician, Dr. Paige Marshall (Kelly Macdonald, No Country for Old Men), to solve the mystery in this laugh-out-loud farcical turn. 95mins. Clark Gregg in attendance.


“Lead or silver?” Take the cash or a bullet. Choose life or death. Narco-terrorists and paramilitary groups are operating unabated, kidnappings are taking place at an unprecedented level, and last year alone they killed over 2,000 men, women and children. They post videos on the internet of torture and executions to generate fear for anyone who opposes them. They have assassinated journalists, lawyers, policemen and judges, and recently have taken up the practice of beheading many of their victims. This isn’t Iraq or the Middle East, nor South America. These under-reported events are taking place in cities all across the U.S./Mexico border where cartels have dramatically affected the social order inside the country. In Nuevo Laredo, for example, “they own that city” but their cell-based operations can reach anywhere in the U.S., where massive amounts of illegal drugs are consumed. Filmmaker Rusty Fleming spent three years going behind the headlines, using the voices of the victims, politicians, frustrated border sheriffs, experts and some of the most powerful terrorists on earth to make a documentary more frightening than any fiction. 82mins. Filmmakers in attendance.


Dallas-based actor and filmmaker Matthew Stephen Tompkins (Killing Down) returns to the USA Film Festival with this tightly-plotted suspense thriller. Nicholas McGregor (Tompkins) is a former hard-charging FBI crime scene investigator now living as a reclusive burnout. Architect Martin Dominguez (Julio Cesar Cedillo) has escaped his hometown of Ojinaga for a career in the States and has returned to collect his sister and nephew. Career criminal Ray Stewart (Chuck Huber) has cut a deal with the local crime lord that he hopes will land him the score of a lifetime. A single, lethal event brings these three men together under deadly circumstances. Shot on location in Texas and Chihuahua, Mexico, The Fragility of Seconds is an extraordinarily realized drama by some of our most prodigious local talents. 108mins. Matthew Tompkins, Julio Cedillo and Chuck Huber in attendance.


This is not the abbreviated version that ran on some PBS stations recently, but rather the full feature in all its glory, presented on the BIG screen—the only way to see these great films. Mark McLaughlin’s all-singing, all-dancing documentary is a celebration of song and dance that traces the American musical movie from its illustrious beginnings, with the lavish Busby Berkeley films that lifted spirits during the Great Depression, through the patriotic musicals of the 1940s, the collapse of the studio system in the 1950s, and their decline and rebirth during the years that followed. Hosted by Shirley Jones, this “docutainment” film is a spectacular, historical look at the magic of musical Hollywood that features interviews, rare footage, and deliciously long clips from such favorites as The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The King and I, Singin’ in the Rain, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Grease, Hair, Chicago, and too many more to name! 118mins. Mark McLaughlin in attendance.

JOURNAL OF A CONTRACT KILLER Thursday, April 24 7:00pm

From the UK comes this taut action thriller about one woman’s quest for freedom and vengeance. Stephanie Komack (Justine Powell) was once a high-class hooker and an assassin for the Italian mob. Now a single mother and waitress living a fairly mundane existence in London, her former employers track her down and persuade her to do one last job. The hit goes wrong, and Stephanie soon realizes the stark reality of her failure when her seven-year-old daughter is taken from her as punishment. Between her abducted child and the explosive journal of her former “other” life she has been recording, Stephanie is now a very dangerous woman with nothing to lose. Inspired by true events, the latest from director Tony Maylam (Split Second, The Burning) is a twisty, edge-of-your-seat mix of action, drama, and intrigue. 90mins. Justine Powell, Tony Maylam and producer Michele Damiano in attendance.


By age 25, Texas-native Glenn Irwin Pinnell had assumed the pseudonym “Eagle Pennell” that would be his identifying moniker for the rest of his controversial life and had shot two successful feature-length indie films: The Whole Shootin’ Match (1979) and Last Night at the Alamo (1983). Rave reviews and offers from Hollywood followed. Unprepared for success, Eagle’s alcoholism and legendary ego alienated friends and family alike, and his career foundered. Less than 25 years later, he died destitute, having fallen into obscurity. Filmmakers Rene Pinnell (Eagle’s nephew) and Claire Huie chronicle the rise and fall of one of Texas’ greatest storytellers through interviews with family, friends, and fellow filmmakers. 74mins.


Filmmaker Kirt Gunn’s whimsical, multi-layered work weaves an intriguing narrative from three seemingly unrelated plot threads. First, there’s Marian (Carrie Preston), an emotionally vulnerable novelist saddled with writer’s block and seeking advice from her mentor and former lover (the extraordinary Austin Pendleton). Then there are her characters, Humkin (Michael Chernus) and Mopekey (Dallas Roberts, The L Word), two grown-up brothers with the minds of children who live on a boat in the middle of a desert, subsisting on cereal and having limited contact with the outside world. Lastly, there’s bereaved and unstable car salesman Bob (Reg Rogers), who is struggling to connect to his daughter after the death of his wife. These three worlds collide in this witty, deftly written, completely original comedy-drama. 98mins. Kirt Gunn and Austin Pendleton in attendance.

LUCKY DAYS Friday, April 25 7:00pm

Co-directors and siblings Tony Torn and Angelica Torn’s feature debut is the story of Virginia (Angelica Torn) and her quest for freedom during the last summer of Coney Island’s historic amusement park. Duty-bound good girl Virginia works as a caregiver by day, and by night looks after her freak-show family, who take full advantage of her steadiness. There is no pleasing her intended future in-laws, and her boyfriend Vincent (Frederico Castelluccio) is an unchecked bully of the first order. Her quiet despair is so familiar that Virginia hardly notices it until a chance encounter with her childhood sweetheart Zeth (Luke Zarzecki) stimulates her to discover hidden truths about her boyfriend and her neighborhood that she had previously chosen to ignore. Angelica Torn’s luminescent performance beautifully carries the film, which casts a beguiling spell in the manner of director Alan Rudolph’s early work. Also starring Will Patton, Anne Jackson, Tina Benko, Marilyn Sokol, Gary Wolf and Rip Torn. 103mins. Angelica Torn, Luke Zarzecki, Tony Torn and Rip Torn in attendance.


In its festival premiere, both rockumentary and intimate portrait, Bruce David Klein’s In Search of Paradise reveals a side of multi-platinum rock god (and actor) Meat Loaf seldom seen by fans. Filmed in early 2007 during the first leg of Meat’s 18-month Bat Out of Hell III tour, the film captures the exciting, poignant, and grueling journey as he battles health issues and the unexpected media controversy over the staging of one of his songs that threatens to derail the tour, leaving him frustrated and depressed. But great artists obsessively confront challenge, and Meat comes up with a deft solution (including a fabulous wig) that also gives him the last laugh in the process. Jammed with footage from behind the scenes as well as on-stage performances of such hits as “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That),” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” we see a hypercritical artist constantly striving for “that perfect show.” Even though it seems perfectly clear that his audiences feel they get exactly that every time. 90mins. Meat Loaf and Bruce Klein in attendance.


In the not-too-distant past, comedian Joel Hodgson created a TV show that forever changed the way we watched movies, as he and two robot pals started talking through the worst films ever made as part of a bizarre scientific experiment. Two decades after the premiere of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” on a local Minnesota TV station, the cult hit has spawned a feature film, incarnations on two cable networks, a series of popular DVDs, and a rabid fanbase (“MSTies”) that remains devoted to this day. Join Hodgson and fellow writer-performers Trace Beaulieu (Dr. Clayton Forrester/Crow), Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank), Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo II/Dr. Bobo), Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester) and J. Elvis Weinstein (Dr. Larry Erhardt/Tom Servo I) as they present favorite clips and discuss the secrets, the stories and the “poopie” behind this legendary and long-running comedy smash. 75mins. Artists in attendance.


Five stars of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” — Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl and J. Elvis Weinstein — are back in the theater as Cinematic Titanic, dedicated to riffing on some of the most wretched movies ever to be committed to celluloid. Dallas audiences will have a rare opportunity to see Cinematic Titanic live as part of this year’s USA Film Festival. They haven’t announced which movie they’ll be lambasting, but the program promises to be hilarious and outrageous. Tickets are limited for this special live event, and no MSTie will want to miss it! 90mins. Artists in attendance.


Join our National Jurors actress-producer Denise Crosby, filmmaker and Yale professor Sandra Luckow and writer/director John Putch (Mojave Phone Booth) for announcements and screening presentations of this year’s winning short films in the categories of Animation, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Experimental and more. Meet the Grand Prize winner (who is notified the day prior and flown to Dallas for the show) as he or she presents the winning entry and receives the cash award. USAFF prize winners who have gone on to big careers after winning this competition include Billy Bob Thornton, Alexander Payne, Todd Haynes, Jessica Yu, 2007’s Academy Award winner Ari Sandel, and many others. Program time: 90 minutes. Artists in attendance.

THE REINACTORS Wednesday, April 23 7:00pm

Filmmaker David Markey presents a hilarious and oddly moving look at some of the celebrity look-a-likes and film character impersonators who inhabit the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, including how they got there and why they do it. We meet such Tinsel Town ambassadors as Christopher Dennis, a Christopher Reeve/Superman look-alike who functions as the self-appointed authority of the block; J. Maxwell Allen, a Batman with an anger management problem; Michael Luce, a squatter and one of several Captain Jack Sparrows on the block; and his girlfriend Tienna, a Goth kid with a Johnny Depp obsession. The result is an endearing and humorous look at a ragtag mix of people as they eke out a living one dollar at a time and often find themselves at odds with each other, the police, and the tourists they endeavor to entertain, as well as a fascinating exploration of our celebrity-obsessed culture. 96mins. Dave Markey in attendance.

ROBERT BLECKER WANTS ME DEAD Friday, April 25 7:00pm

How on earth can a pro-capital punishment crusader and a death row inmate be friends? That question is at the center of Ted Schillinger’s disturbing, fascinating, and occasionally funny documentary about passion, murder and the American death penalty. Robert Blecker is one of the country’s most impassioned advocates for capital punishment. Blecker teaches at New York Law School and believes that death is the only penalty for “the worst of the worst” – that small fraction of the nation’s convicted murderers who have surrendered their right to live by the irredeemable viciousness of their crimes. Daryl Holton is one of those people, and he wants to die. Or does he? In 1997, Holton shot his four children to death in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and received four separate death sentences for the crimes. During Blecker’s research trip to Riverbend maximum security prison outside Nashville, the two men meet and form a puzzling and engrossing relationship that spans a year and a half—until Holton’s execution—covering all the twists and turns in his story in the process. If you followed the coverage of Holton’s execution last fall in The New York Times, you probably wondered how the seemingly rational, mild-mannered, Holton could have committed such atrocities. Blecker tried to get Holton to resolve that paradox before his time ran out, while this gripping film compels us to examine the meaning of justice, mercy and morality in our society. 103mins. Ted Schillinger and Robert Blecker in attendance.


Written, produced, and directed by legendary Academy Award–winning French filmmaker Claude Lelouch (A Man and a Woman), Roman de gare (literally “railway station novel”) weaves together the stories of an abandoned woman (the luminous Audrey Dana), a best-selling author (Fanny Ardant, 8 Women) with a secret, and a stranger (Dominique Pinon, Delicatessen) who isn’t all that he seems, into a layered, eccentric tale of love, justice, and deception. Throw in a serial killer at large, interconnected subplots, some cinematic slight of hand, and a disarming mix of comedy, drama, and suspense, and the result is one of Lelouch’s best. 103mins. Claude Lelouch and Audrey Dana in attendance.

ROSEMARY'S BABY 40th Anniversary TRIBUTE TO WILLIAM A. FRAKER The program will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute featuring the films of William Fraker Thursday, April 24 7:00pm

Forty years ago, writer-director Roman Polanski made his American debut by adapting Ira Levin’s tale of a young married couple that moves to Manhattan and decides to have a child—and the movie has haunted audiences ever since, thanks in no small measure to William Fraker’s brilliant cinematography. Mia Farrow stars as Rosemary Woodhouse, who moves with her unemployed-actor husband Guy (John Cassavetes) into a gothic Central Park apartment that has some very nice (and very intrusive) tenants. As Rosemary’s pregnancy develops, a strange sense of anxiety begins to creep in, as well as the fear that her neighbors—and possibly even her unborn child—are not what they seem. One of the finest examples of modern horror, the film still reigns as a milestone of the genre, its chills made all the more effective by its believability. 136mins. William Fraker in attendance, moderated by writer Bob Fisher.

SAVAGE GRACE Thursday, April 24 7:00pm

Screenwriter Howard A. Rodman adapts the popular book of the same name, featuring the unbelievable true story of Barbara Daly, who married above her class to Brooks Baekeland, the dashing heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. The beautiful, redheaded and charismatic Barbara (Julianne Moore) is still no match for her well-bred husband (Stephen Dillane). The birth of the couple’s only child Tony rocks the uneasy balance in their marriage of extremes. Tony (Eddie Redmayne) is a failure in his father’s eyes. As he matures and becomes increasingly close to his lonely, ever-needier mother, the seeds for a tragedy of spectacular decadence are sown. Spanning 1946 to 1972, the film unfolds in six acts, alternately fascinating and disturbing. The Baekelands’ pursuit of social distinction and the glittering dolce vita propels them across the globe as we follow their heady rise and tragic fall against the backdrop of New York, Paris, Cadaques, Mallorca and London. Directed by Tom Kalin (Swoon). 97mins. Howard A. Rodman in attendance.


Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat) plays the title character in this faith-based family film for all ages. It is 1970 and best buddies Dustin (Jasen Panettiere), Albert (Frankie Ryan Manriquez) and Mark (Allen Isaacson) are three 12-year-olds looking forward to a summer of fun. Dustin has a crush on Tanya (Bailey Garno) and wants to ask her out on a first date, but his friends aren’t much help, offering some terrible (and hilarious) advice. Complicating matters is Nick (Taylor Boggan), the town bully, who also likes Tanya. Dustin’s single working mother (Mary Jean Bentley) allows Dustin to mow lawns to earn spending money, where he meets 74-year-old Jonathan Sperry, and his reclusive neighbor Mr. Barnes (Robert Guillaume, Benson). What happens that summer will change each of them forever in writer/director Rich Christiano’s touching multigenerational tale of first love and life lessons. 96mins. Gavin MacLeod, Rich Christiano, Mary Jean Bentley and producer Chad Gundersen in attendance.


A short filmmaker often has even greater storytelling challenges than a feature filmmaker, and those that succeed are a wonder to behold. This year we proudly give some of our favorites (and finalists) their due in our spotlight program. The screening line-up includes films with a twist, and films that will make you laugh and cry. Guaranteed. Join us for the world premieres of USAFF fave Bill Plympton’s hilarious Hot Dog and Glen Luchford’s unforgettable modern noir piece Dark Yellow, featuring John Hawkes; Casey Stangl’s quirky comedy CU@ED’S; Matthew Perkins’s endearing Magic Juan; AJ Ingoglia and Bob O’Reilly’s wrenchingly terrific Paper Angels; Justin Lerner’s powerful drama The Replacement Child and Taron Lexton’s charming comedy Struck. Program time: 90 minutes.


This Texas-made film never got the distribution it deserved at the time of its release in 1984, and the Festival is happy to revisit the film on the big screen. It wasn’t the first time that distributors didn’t know what to do with southern-fried satire, and it is unlikely to be the last. The film is one of honoree Rip Torn’s favorites, and it is easy to see why: Everyone clearly had a great time making it, and audiences will have a equally great time watching. Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson play a pair of hard-living country singers in this funny, original and very real look at the music business, penned by Bud Shrake. When producer-songwriter Doc Jenkins (Nelson) finds himself trapped in an exclusive contract with shifty exec Rodeo Rocky (Richard C. Sarafian), he comes up with a plan to break free, recruiting old pal Blackie Buck (Kristofferson) and an insecure, alcoholic torch singer named Gilda (Leslie Ann Warren) to help him get even. Featuring a hilarious performance from Rip Torn as Dino McLeish, Gilda’s unscrupulous manager, the kind of slippery promoter who gets pelted from the stage, and with all sincerity utters lines like “Hold it! I wish the vision of how beautiful y’all are could be painted on the Great Wall of China!” With Melinda Dillon and musician Stephen Bruton (in one of the film’s funniest turns). Nelson and Kristofferson wrote most of the film’s songs. Directed by Alan Rudolph. 94mins. Rip Torn in attendance. FREE screening.

SOUTH OF PICO Wednesday, April 23 7:00pm

Lonely waitress Carla (Gina Torres, Firefly), cancer specialist Walter Chambers (Henry Simmons, NYPD Blue, Shark), philandering limo driver Robert (Kip Pardue, Loggerheads), and gawky teen Patrick (Soren Fulton) are four strangers brought together by a twist of fate in a residential neighborhood south of Pico Boulevard, a sprawling Los Angeles thoroughfare separating the rich from the poor. They witness a horrific car accident where they discover an unusual and violent moment of human bonding. Inspired by actual events, director Ernst Gossner's thoughtful, character-driven drama brilliantly explores the stereotypes harbored in our contemporary society. 86mins. Ernst Gossner in attendance.

THE STONE ANGEL Saturday, April 26 5:00pm

Based on the best-selling landmark Canadian novel by Margaret Laurence, director Kari Skogland (The Size of Watermelons) brings the story of feisty Hagar Shipley (Ellen Burstyn present day and Christine Horne as the younger Hagar) to the screen. Hagar’s passionate heart has always ruled her head and her choices have frequently placed her at odds with her family—first with her stern father and later with her embittered husband. With her life nearly behind her, Hagar’s son (Dylan Baker, Happiness) and daughter-in-law decide to place her in a nursing home. The fiercely proud Hagar will have none of that, so she bolts and hits the road for a return visit to the seaside home of her youth. Burstyn gives a tour-de-force performance, and the scenes between her and Baker are a marvel. By the end of this emotional journey, Hagar and her family find the chance to reconcile their choices and relationships in this powerfully elegant film. Also starring Ellen Page (Juno), Cole Hauser, Kevin Zegers and Luke Kirby. 115 mins.

THEY WAIT Friday, April 25 9:00pm

After living in Shanghai for three years, Sarah (Jaime King, Sin City), her husband Jason (Terry Chen) and young son Sam (Regan Oey) return to Vancouver for a family funeral. They have arrived during Ghost Month, an ancient Chinese belief where souls of the dead roam the earth for their chance to be heard once more by the living. While the family stays with Jason’s Aunt Mei (Cheng Pei Pei), Sam begins to see ghosts and falls gravely ill. When the western doctors can offer no hope, Sarah turns to a mysterious pharmacist (Henry O) who believes that Sam is caught between the real world and spirits who are not at rest, and that if she cannot save her son by the end of Ghost Month, he will be lost forever. Director Ernie Barbarash’s gripping horror film is unique for its female protagonist and distinct lack of gratuitous gore. Featuring great cinematography and a terrific score, audiences who love a good ghost story with thrills and chills will love this creepy, well-crafted nail-biter. In English. 89mins.


Writer-director-B movie revivalist Larry Blamire (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra) returns with this over-the-top homage to ‘50s sci-fi thrillers, featuring some of the greatest camp dialog ever uttered. Scientist Sheila Bexter (Fay Masterson) has come to believe that the forehead, not the brain, is the seat of all intelligence, and she has convinced her married colleague Dr. Phillip Latham (Andrew Parks) to take injections of the experimental cranium-enlarging Foreheadazine to prove her theory. Meanwhile, a spaceship full of super-intelligent extraterrestrial foreheads arrives for a covert invasion. Cadavra stars Jennifer Blaire, Susan McConnell, and Dan Conroy appear alongside early sci-fi veterans Dick Miller, James Karen, Betty Garrett, and Kevin McCarthy. All this and a title song performed by Manhattan Transfer make for a hilarious and camptastic throwback to a more naïve era of filmmaking—presented in glorious Cranioscope! 88mins.


Written, directed, shot, and edited by legendary Texan filmmaker Eagle Pennell on a shoestring budget in and around Austin 30 years ago, The Whole Shootin’ Match became a Little Indie That Could, praised by Roger Ebert and Vincent Canby, inspiring a generation of Texas filmmakers, and motivating Robert Redford to create the Sundance Institute. Shot in black-and-white 16mm in an almost cinema-vérité style, it follows the tragicomic misadventures of Lloyd (Lou Perryman) and Frank (Sonny Davis), a pair of dreamers and schemers who are constantly broke and always on the lookout for that fabled brass ring. The entire supporting cast is terrific (particularly Doris Hargrave and Eric Henshaw) in this charming and nuanced film, made all the more so by its rough edges. Our friend Roger Ebert gave the film three stars upon its initial release; today, he says he’d give it four. See it again, or for the first time, and see why he’s right. 109mins.

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