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The 2001 Sedona International
Film Festival And Workshop -
A Preview . . .

by Elizabeth Warren

For the seventh year, Sedona Cultural Park and its dedicated Film Festival Steering Committee has waded through hundreds of films, some unspeakably bad, to uncover the 50-60 gems that will comprise the 2001 festival. After months of effort, the selection process has whittled the "ins" list down to the best of the bunch.

North Beach is a frenetic, romantic comedy for the co-dependent in all of us. It’s Trainspotting meets Dazed and Confused as we experience a day in the smoke-filled, beer-numbed life of Tyler Morgan (Casey Peterson), an urban hipster who makes the Marlboro Man look like a health nut, as he desperately tries to do girlfriend damage control after an unfortunate, drunken episode with a stripper.

The creative team behind North Beach first met while attending the University of Southern California. Director/producer Jed Mortenson and editor David Crowther both attended USC’s prestigious School of Cinema/Television while writer/producer/actor Casey Peterson and director/actor Richard Speight, Jr. attended USC’s School of Drama.

Mortenson, who grew up in the San Francisco bay area, began his career in film by stealing his parents Super 8 camera at age 10. After graduating cum laude from USC’s film school (despite a semester suspension for a pyrotechnic experiment gone awry), he survived an employment trial by fire, working for high powered industry professionals like James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd (Cameron and Hurd collaborated to create Terminator).

"We’re thrilled to be screening in Sedona," says Mortenson, "It’s an incredibly beautiful spot that also has a reputation for strongly supporting the artistic community."

Richard Speight, Jr., who joins Mortenson at the directing helm of North Beach, is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. He has been acting professionally for many years, most recently completing nine months of shooting on location in London on the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks produced HBO W.W.II mini-series Band of Brothers.

"This will be our first screening in the Southwest," says Speight. "It’s always fun to see the different audience reactions in different parts of the country."

"Yeah," agrees Peterson, a San Francisco native. "Even though the film is specific to San Francisco, people all over the country, and even in Europe, have seen it and told us ‘I have friends just like that!’"

Peterson has been working in the film industry since he was 10 years old, appearing on sitcoms such as Happy Days and Silver Spoons as well as various films. After attending USC’s School of Theater, where he met Speight, he won the role of Michael Landon’s son in the CBS series Us, Landon’s final television show. After a year and a half run as an auto mechanic on the Indy circuit, Peterson returned to San Francisco and wrote the script for North Beach.

North Beach has had a successful festival run, playing across the nation and around the world, at such festivals as the Brussels Independent Film Festival, the Newport International Film Festival, and the San Francisco Indiefest. Sedona will be the ninth film festival that has screened the film.

 

Tuvalu

While the festival was still finalizing films at press time, most selections have already been confirmed, including Tuvalu. Join Buster Keaton-like Anton on this poetic, nearly wordless fairy tale of dreamlike absurdity.

In a tumble-down bathhouse, the few loyal customers pay with buttons to frolic for a while in a once-glorious pool, while its blind old proprietor is fooled into thoughts of prosperity by gentle Anton’s daily broadcast of tape-recorded people having fun. The simple balance is thrown off kilter with the arrival of lovely Eva, who dreams of sailing away to the exotic island of Tuvalu.

Daughters of Sun

From Iran, the festival presents Daughters of Sun. Pieces of Amagol’s long, black hair tumble to the earth and drift away on the wind as her father shaves her head and dresses her as a boy in preparation for sending her to work in a distant carpet workshop.

Iranian director Maryam Shahriar’s directorial debut sees taboos and conventions flouted as a young girl, Boelgheis, falls in love with Amagol.

Urban Ghost Story

Urban Ghost Story, from Scotland, unfolds after a drug-fueled joyride leaves one teen dead and the other with an unwelcome presence from beyond.

This thriller, set in a downtrodden Glasgow tenement, follows Lizzie as she struggles to make her mother understand that her ghostly visitor is more than just a bid for attention. Starkly told without the overblown special effects of many modern scary movies, it instead recalls the kind of psychological terror of The Exorcist.

Lost in the

Pershing Point Hotel

Based on the hit off-Broadway play by the same name, Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel is a look at the seamy underbelly of the late-70s gay Atlanta subculture, as seen through the eyes of its nameless, Truman Capote-ish protagonist, who wanders through life dependent upon the kindness of strippers and street hustlers. Finding himself in gay man’s purgatory after a disastrous high, he’s obliged to plead his case to God.

Ave Maria

A rich costume piece set in seventeenth century Mexico, Ave Maria tells the story of a woman well ahead of her time.

An astronomer and cartographer, Maria lives her life in fair comfort teaching priests in a rural monastery until pressures from new arrivals from Toledo force her into the Church’s mold of a well-behaved woman. Inspired by a spiritual experience of her own, Maria sets off on a journey that will lead her to unexpected heights.

Mr. Rice’s Secret

In Mr. Rice’s Secret, 12-year-old Owen has Hodgkin’s Disease, and as hard as he tries to forget it, he finds himself surrounded by reminders of his own mortality — from his sickly and clingy support group acquaintance, Simon, to the creepy, omnipresent undertaker. He’s able to keep his chin up, though, until his best friend, mentor and neighbor Mr. Rice (played by David Bowie) dies suddenly.

Just when things can’t get any worse, he discovers a letter from Mr. Rice written in code that will lead him on the ultimate treasure hunt.

Live Nude Girls Unite!

Live Nude Girls Unite! is a documentary that follows Julia Query, lesbian/stand-up comedian/peepshow-stripper, and daughter of a feminist activist, on her raucous journey to help organize the only union of strippers in the United States.

Shot on a variety of formats, Live Nude Girls Unite! weaves backstage and dancing footage with labor organizing, street protests, stand-up comedy and comic-book style "animation" making a sassy, intelligent and dramatic cutting-edge film.

Me & Isaac Newton

Me & Isaac Newton is a documentary that takes a look at the creative side of the scientific endeavor through the hearts and minds of seven of the most distinguished scientists of our time.

Directed by Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter and the Seven Up series), it features Gertrude Elion, Ashok Gadgil, Michio Kaku, Maja Mataric, Steven Pinker, Karol Sikora and Patricia Wright, whose specialties run the gamut from theoretical physics to pharmaceutical chemistry.

Coming to Light

Edward S. Curtis was a driven, charismatic, obsessive artist: a pioneer photographer who set out at the turn of the century to document Native American life before it disappeared. Coming to Light, a documentary by Anne Makepeace (Baby, It’s You), tells the story of Curtis’ rise from obscurity to national prominence, as he created a body of work spanning 10,000 recordings, 40,000 photographs and a full-length ethnographic motion picture.

Good Kurds, Bad Kurds

Filmmaker and photojournalist Kevin McKiernan’s career has taken him to some of the world’s most troubled regions, from Nicaragua to West Africa. His work, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, has been published by Time, Newsweek and The New York Times.

But McKiernan discovered a story that the national press wouldn’t touch: a campaign of ethnic cleansing perpetrated against the Kurdish minorities by the Turkish military using US-manufactured weapons. With Good Kurds, Bad Kurds, McKiernan’s independently produced film — nine years in the making — he delves deeply into the US complicity in this human rights disaster.

My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York

In addition to the complete program of features and documentaries, the film festival also offers several programs of short films that will screen over the course of the weekend.

Included in the programs is My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York, which won the Academy Award in the short film category last year. Its writer/director Barbara Schock, is the first person in North Dakota to have ever won an Oscar, and she based this script on a visit her mother made to her while she was living in New York.

Revenge of

the Red Balloon

Another short, Revenge of the Red Balloon, is an homage to the classic French film, The Red Balloon. Popped so many years ago by a gang of rowdy little boys, the Balloon is back, and this time he’s armed with a vicious, prehensile string.

The Shangri-La Café

The Shangri-La Café is written and directed by Lily Mariye, who plays nurse Lily Jarvik on the NBC television series ER. The film is set in 1959 Las Vegas … a tumultuous time for everyone, especially the Takashi family, who are forced to conceal their Japanese heritage by pretending to be Chinese in the wake of World War II.

Boundaries

Angelica is pursued across the international border by a mute trombonist in Greg Durbin’s Boundaries. The strange musician takes up with the distraught young woman, but has an unusual way of showing his affection.

It’s the beginning of a love-hate saga that goes beyond her wildest nightmares in this loose adaptation of the Fernando Sorrentino short story El Hombre del Paraguas.

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