Report: 2006 Newport International Film Festival
Written by Michele Meek | Posted by: Anonymous
On a mild week in June, filmmakers, press, industry professionals and Rhode Islanders gathered for the 9th Annual Newport International Film Festival. The Festival attracted over thousands to daily panel discussions, parties, special events, and over 100 screenings, the majority of which included Q&A sessions with the filmmakers.
The New England Sidebar of the Festival presented three films — Buddy, a documentary by Cherry Arnold about the controversial RI hero and former Mayor of Providence Vince A. "Buddy" Cinanci; The Hole Story, a mock documentary by Boston director, writer and actor Alex Karpovsky on his half-real and half-fabricated account of his winter spent in Brainerd, Minnesota waiting for a local phenomenon to re-appear; and Live Free or Die, Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin’s deadpan comedy that follows the exploits of would-be criminal John "Rugged" Rudgate as he blunders his way into becoming a local legend.
In addition to the sidebar, Rhode Island filmmaker Daniel Sousa’s animated short Fable screened with the Animated/Experimental Shorts program, and the Festival hosted an Open Call of works by Rhode Island artists.
As usual, local films were a big hit at the Festival with both of Cherry Arnold’s screenings of Buddy showing to sold-out crowds. In fact, the film, which took 3½ years to make, has sold-out every screening it has had since its rough cut premiere at the Boston Independent Film Festival last year. The Newport screening found the film back on its home turf.
"I’d say the only difference in RI is that people get very detailed during the Q&A — Why didn’t I include X, Y, and Z in the film?" Arnold said. "Rhode Islanders have a strong sense of ownership over Buddy Cianci’s story, while people outside of RI always say that they were surprised to learn so much about Rhode Island, that it really is this great historical snapshot of the state and its culture."
Unfortunately, the well-received film, along with numerous others, was excluded from awards at the Festival. NewEnglandFilm.com received no response from the Festival’s PR team about the award policy.
"[Buddy] has taken two ‘Best Documentary’ awards, which I was hoping for in Newport, but this year’s programmer, David Nugent, excluded my film and many others in the Festival from any award eligibility, without any notice, which I found out about when audience members were coming up to me after the first of two sold-out screenings saying they didn’t know how to vote," Arnold said. "It was the first I had heard of a festival excluding films from even audience award eligibility. It seemed especially odd for a regional festival to exclude a film about a local subject. So, while it was fun to screen Buddy to sold-out theatres, which helps keep the great buzz going about the film, as an independent filmmaker, the Festival was very disappointing."
Still, a festival is not judged on awards only, and many filmmakers noted they were pleased by the industry and audience exposure for their films.
"Newport did a great job with the Festival and was a big help to us," said Andy Robin. Robin and Gregg Kavet, former Seinfeld writers, brought their hilarious feature Live Free or Die to Newport for its New England premiere. "We filled our screenings and got lots of press and publicity and positive reviews. Most importantly, the audiences really got into the movie. Lots of laughs and, afterwards, compliments."
The film, whose title is taken from the New Hampshire state motto: Live Free or Die, was almost entirely shot in Claremont, NH where even the local police force got into acting during a hold-up scene.
"Gregg and I spent a lot of time in NH growing up… camps, skiing, hiking, family trips… and I actually lived in Sandwich, NH for a few years right after Seinfeld ended, a sort of antidote to LA," Robin said. "We chose to set our film in NH because it’s one of a kind –beautiful and (like our main character) rugged and (also like our main character) a bit in-your-face and insecure… evident in everything from the state’s motto… to its sometimes heavy-handed laws and policies… to its restaurateurs who need to decorate every meal with parsley and orange wedges and coat it all with melted cheese. It’s an over-the-top kind of state."
The Festival, like most, also hosted a series of parties to encourage mingling between filmmakers, industry experts.
"I attended all the parties and, in terms of networking, I’ve found nothing to be more effective than free booze," said Boston filmmaker Andy Karpovsky’s whose New England sidebar film The Hole Story was ironically filmed in Brainerd, Minnesota. "The parties, especially the ones housed in the mansions, were tremendous.
"I met a lot of very talented and friendly filmmakers and industry folks at the Festival and made many many contacts which, of course, can be very helpful," Karpovsky said. "I felt the screenings in Newport were truly wonderful. After an initial technical hiccup that was quickly resolved, the film looked and sounded great and the turn-out was impressive for a very small film that nobody really knew that much about. Moreover, I felt the Q&A sessions following the screenings were lively, fun and engaging."
As for next steps, all of the New England films will be screened at additional festivals and locations around New England in the coming months.
"We just won the Seattle Film Festival jury prize (Best New American Film) and the audiences there by all accounts went wild," Robin said. "So we’ve decided to stick with festivals for the next five or six months before trying to go wide. We think keep it to festivals for a while helps make the film more special and cool, and it’s a lot of fun for us to travel around with it and hang out with its fans."
Live Free or Die will screen at the Woods Hole Film Festival in August, as well as in New Hampshire in October. For more info, visit http://www.livefreemovie.com/.
The Hole Story has lined-up screenings across the country, including two upcoming in New England — one at the Plymouth Independent Film Festival and another at the Woods Hole Film Festival. For more info, visit http://www.theholestoryfilm.com/
Buddy will be screening at the Woods Hole Film Festival, and will be released in theatres in and around Rhode Island and Massachusetts this fall. In addition, the film will screen in New York City on October 19th, as a part of the 92nd Street Y's prestigious film series. The DVD will be available for the 2006 holiday season. For more information, visit http://buddycianci.com/. Live Free or Die will screen at the Woods Hole Film Festival in August, as well as in New Hampshire in October. For more info, visit http://www.livefreemovie.com/. The Hole Story has lined-up screenings across the country, including two upcoming in New England -- one at the Plymouth Independent Film Festival and another at the Woods Hole Film Festival. For more info, visit http://www.theholestoryfilm.com/