Newport Beach Film Festival 2003
Newport Beach, CA
To go to the movies in Newport Beach means forgoing surf, sand and blue skies. This year's festival was more promising than a mere day at the beach, offering a variety of films, documentaries and shorts from countries as diverse as Vietnam, France, Yugoslavia and Mexico. Plume Noire was present throughout the festival to bring you reviews of feature films and documentaries
Duration: April 03 - 11
Venue: Movie Theaters
Web: Official Site
The big winner of the night was undoubtedly How Harry Became A Tree by Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic. Best actor winner Colm Meaney accepted on his behalf, referring to Paskaljevic as "one of nature's gentlemen but he's also a guy who loves to get awards to he'll be thrilled". He also added that he was happy that the film "found an audience here despite the fact that the center of cynical commercial filmmaking is down the road". Indeed.
Miranda Otto's performance in Julie Walking Home earned her the Best Actress nod and Edoardo Ponti was recognized for his drama Between Strangers, starring his mother Sophia Loren. He applauded the Newport Beach Film Festival for being just that, a film festival and not a "film market". Polish film Eddie won for best cinematography and the Romanians ran away with the best screenplay for the film Filatropica. In the Feature Documentary category Lolita: Slave to Entertainment by Timothy Gorski took home the gold. The Audience Award for Best Foreign Film went to In the Name of Buddha, a film that has been banned in Sri Lanka.
Best Film: How Harry Became A Tree
Best Director: Edoardo Ponti (Between Strangers)
Best Actor: Colm Meaney (How Harry Became A Tree)
Best Actress: Miranda Otto (Julie Walking Home)
Best Screenplay: Filatropica
Best Cinematography: Eddie
Best Foreign Film: How Harry Became A Tree
Best Documentary: In the Name of Buddha
Best Short: The Long and Short of it
||Don't Tempt Me
Paradise and, especially, hell have never appeared so welcoming, battling for our poor souls through their respective envoys, a couple of angels whose terrestrial wrapping resembles Victoria Abril and Penélope Cruz.
||Every Stewardess Goes To Heaven
Stewardesses have always exerted a certain fascination, close to fantasy, a premise on which Argentine director Daniel Burman has built his second film, trying to demystify a myth through a metaphorical romantic comedy.
||The Girl from Paris
The original title, Une Hirondelle a fait le Printemps (One Swallow Brought Spring) perfectly describes The Girl From Paris, a work of subtlety and self-restraint about a young woman bringing some happiness and youth to a grumpy old man at the end of his life.
||How Harry Became a Tree
After a few years in the city (an immigrants' New York in Someone Else's America and a Belgrade on the verge of exploding in Cabaret Balkan), Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic journeys to the Irish countryside to explore themes prevalent everywhere: hatred and revenge.
Bathed by a scorching sun, Sweat, a truck road movie, plunges us into the dryness of the Moroccan desert following the transport of a stolen load of gold.
||Through the Night
If pushed by curiosity you decided to venture into these Japanese slums hoping to document the life of Korean immigrants as victims of their political and social environment, you might not make it through the night as it is hardly impossible to survive Kim Su Jin's excruciating directing effort.
Waterboys is a feel-good film from Japan that made me feel foolish for watching. Yet, as awkwardly trite and light as it was, it still possessed such a spirit of well-meaning that I gave the film its due and did not walk out.
Here are a few other highlights.
The Latino Spotlight this year is from Mexico. Directed by Leopoldo Laborde, A Beautiful Secret (Un Secreto de Esperanzafull review coming soon) features the last performance by great Mexican actress Katy Jurado (High Noon) in this story about Jorge (Imanol), a defiant 12 year old boy who discovers his country's rich cultural legacy through conversations with the mysterious old lady living in a boarded up mansion (Jurado). read more
Building a typical heist picture around an unfamiliar Jewish rite is a daring move and in Nicholas Racz's The Burial Society, it almost works. read more
Directed by Pat Thompson, The Cheese Nun: Sister Noella's Voyage of Discovery (full review coming soon) chronicles the life and education of Sister Noella Marcelino, who as the cheese maker of her abbey left the cloister to study cheese making in France and went on to receive a doctorate in microbiology. read more
Eddie (Edifull review coming soon): The Polish entry for Best Foreign Film directed by Piotr Trazaskalski is the tale of a man who lives with dignity despite the hardship and injustices that engulf him. The films strength lies in the little moments conveyed with palpable dignity. In one scene his roommate leaves an unopened bottle of liquor out on a bridge for another bum to find; he dreamily explains he has always "wanted to find a bottle like you". Eddie is about stumbling onto those moments of beauty when everything else seems so hideous. read more
Released in several countries during 2000 and 2001 but given another chance here at the festival, Germany's In July is a surprisingly charming road trip romance: Surprising because it's completely formulaic (think The Sure Thing) and charming because of the road trip's locales, sunny writing and winning characters. read more
Julie Walking Home (full review coming soon), directed by Agnieszka Holland, stars Miranda Otto as Julie, a woman whose life takes some unexpected turns when unfaithfulness and illness come into her home. read more
Directed by Renie Oxley, The Kress Lounge (full review coming soon) is a highly entertaining documentary about Irene Kress, the first liquor license-wielding woman in Detroit and the 65 year story of her eponymous bar. The owners and patrons are interviewed on subjects are diverse as nudie paintings on the walls rumored to be Irene, famous visitors from the Kress Lounge's heyday like Veronica Lake and Trigger the horse, to battling gangsters and racists. With a cigarette and drink in hand. read more
Labyrinth (Lavirintfull review coming soon) was Yugoslavia's entry for Best Foreign Film. In this intriguing tale of revenge and redemption, a sort of Eastern European version of The 9th Gate, we are introduced us to Pop ( Svetozar Cvetkovic), the gambler son of a preacher, who's returned to Belgrade after 20 years in part to settle a score with his conscience. Particularly refreshing in this religious thriller is to see the beauty of Belgrade onscreen. Though there are a few shots of NATO's 1999 bombing of the city, war is not a main theme here. Instead it's about normal non-war things like Christian cults and incest. read more
The Last Zapatistas, Forgotten Heroes (Los Ultimos Zapatistas, Heroes Olvidados) Directed by Francesco Taboada Tabone. What could have been a fascinating opportunity to look at the original Zapatistas who are still living and connecting them to the modern Zapatistas was lost in this documentary in great need of editing. read more
After a week of late nights at Newport Beach we're bug-eyed and buzzed, and it's time to go home. No more cool ocean breeze stepping out of the Art Deco Lido theater, no more passionate discussions with the Festival's army of militant cinephiles, no more midnight snacks. But in the meantime, maybe local theaters could run a few more indies, a few more foreign films? Regardless of whether they're French, Argentine or Nebraskan, we'll go.
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