Mar 28, 2017
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Mise En Scene Jul/Aug 10
Benjamin Bratt, as the sensative macho Che, takes a moment for reflection in his and his brother Peter's new movie "La Mission." photo: courtesy La Mission
La Mission Lowrides The Country
"It has been a big summer," director/writer Peter Bratt told CineSource in mid-June. "Every city we opened, Benjamin [brother and star] and I have gone and done Q&A for the opening weekend. This is first week we are staying home with la familia." (See "La Mission" Facebook for info.)
"La Mission" comes out on DVD and Blu-ray in August, five months after opening nationally, although it just opened in the Latino mega-markets of Chicago and Miami. By mid-June, it had hit one million, almost half their nut.
"Texas was great," Bratt continued. "The low-rider culture [featured in 'La Mission'] has its origin in south Texas. We saw a resurgence of brown pride. On our opening weekend, we had Dolores Huerta, who helped start the farm-workers union. We're still in 65 theaters, and, at one time we were in 100. In San Francisco, we opened in April and we are still doing pretty good numbers," although it closed in early July.
"I think ['La Mission'] is major story of men of color these days. We are doing a thing with Cornell West in Baltimore," Bratt noted. Princeton Professor West, arguably the most elevated philosopher of brown, will probably have a lot to say about the film's poignant investigation of the macho soul when it is moved by love. - D. Blair
Silicon Valley Shellacs Hollywood South in Court
Viacom, of Los Angeles, was seeking over one billion in damages from Google, of Mountainview, for showing some 160,000 unauthorized clips on its video-sharing site YouTube. This action was intended to prove that "copyright protection is essential to the survival of creative industries," according to Viacom's general counsel Michael Fricklas. Alas, US District Judge Louis Stanton, of New York for some reason, ruled that YouTube was protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, just like the hosters of the Islamic jihad sites where radicals can hone their bomb-making skills. "Parent" hosters can't be held responsible for "children's" content.
Internet services are protected from copyright suits if offending material is removed as soon as notified. It was precisely the Millennium Act that convinced Google to buy YouTube for $1.76 billion in 2006, despite its losses - $486 million in 2009, which, even under the best of circumstances, would take decades to recoup.
Viacom, owner of the popular channels MTV and Comedy Central, vowed to appeal, ensuring the three year-old struggle will continue. Google has already spent $100 million on defense and Viacom similar on prosecution. Of course, Google, worth between $50 and $100 billion, earned 1.84 bill net last quarter, up from $1.48 billion in the same quarter of 2009, but lower than expected, regardless of the recession.
Judge Stanton "blessed the current state of play," said tech law professor Eric Goldman, a sanctification supported by Internet service providers and free-speechers who say it enables free expression (while denying artists freedom to earn from expression, of course). About 34,000 hours of video is posted to YouTube every day, much of it stolen from professionally produced shows such as Viacom's extremely popular "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show."
Citing email exchanges among YouTube's founders, Viacom painted them as pirates more interested in wealth acquisition than speech freedoms. But Stanton concluded YouTube's actions outweighed their words, noting that when Viacom accumulated 100,000 copyright violations and sent a mass takedown notice in 2007, YouTube had removed almost all by the next day.
Stanton's decision will hold, Google's general counsel Kent Walker said. "It is thoughtful, thorough and well-considered," and "a victory for a new generation of creators and artists eager to showcase their work online," for no pay, of course. Viacom had hoped to buy YouTube before being beaten out by Google, suggesting copyright claims were more about billions envy. Facebook, eBay, and Yahoo, all Northern Californian, backed Google in its battle. (Full disclosure: this article was largely pirated.) - S. Middlestein
Moving Movie Seats Début
Finally, to accompany 3D and "Smell-o-Rama," a Camera 7 theater in Campbell, near San Jose, is offering moving seats. Called "D-Box Motion," the seat can tilt and vibrates in accord with what's going on on screen. The seat-ee can adjust the "volume" and the motion, which ranges from subtle to dramatic. The D-Box debuted around July 15 with "Inception," starring Leonardo DiCaprio. There are three other theaters in the Bay Area with this technology. - D. Blair
Lucas to Build Massive Studio
Five years after Lucas relocated much of his team to the Letterman Center in SF's Presidio, he is seeking permits to build "Grady Ranch," near Skywalker, a 262,728-square-foot complete digital film studio, with two eight-story towers, replete with restaurant, wine-tasting room, screening rooms, etc. Spokeswoman Emilie Nicks noted it will fill an important need for production facilities in the Bay Area.
Christian Ospelt, an accomplished Academy of Art film student, is ready for his own closeup. photo: courtesy of C. Ospelt
Academy Student Screens Big at Palm Springs Festival
Christian Ospelt, an Academy of Art film student from Switzerland, just garnered a showing at the prestigious Palm Springs Festival for his five-minute "Death by Scrabble." He also just turned 30 on June 30th - Happy Birthday! Ospelt doesn't believe in astrology, nor changing his life due to the decimal system. Anyway, he already changed when he was 28 (Saturn return).
"In 2008, I entered a 24-hour short film contest and had a lot of fun," Ospelt said. "I was in Zurich working in advertising, where your creativity is limited. When I did the contest, I knew: 'This is what I want to do!' I always loved movies, telling stories and thinking about what makes people act the way they do. I began checking schools in the Bay Area. When I came to the Academy, I was really impressed with the classes and the teachers. So I quit my job and started studying here. So far, it's going very well, first at the Epidemic [the Academy's] Film Festival [where "Scrabble" won a prize]. Then Diane [Baker, the film dean, see p16] submitted my movie to Palm Springs. I was still in Europe when they announced it was going to screen. So I raced back and we went last Thursday."
Palm Springs holds its regular festival in January, but its ShortFest/Short Film Market in June. They received 3000 submissions and issued $90,000 in cash and production prizes. Although Ospelt didn't take home a trophy, he got screened, feted and lauded.
"I didn't really know how much a big deal it was. A lot of shorts go on to the Oscars; some have budgets as high as $50,000. Some are really high quality, but a lot of them lacked story. My movie had a budget of only $300, but people liked it because of the story. A lot of young filmmakers make movie that have big budgets and are shot beautifully, but the story gets lost."
What does Ospelt recommend? "It is never wrong to take what is already there. A lot of filmmakers come with their own stories, which is great, but if you have a good short story - some are amazing and have never been filmed - why not use that? It helps you as filmmaker to build on a good story." For "Death by Scrabble," which builds beautifully from its Scrabble-piece titles through a middle-aged couple taking a passive-aggressive game to it foregone conclusion, Ospelt drew on a short story by Charlie Fish.
When asked if he was going to make films for the Swiss market or was already a Californian, Ospelt replied: "Switzerland is very hard. California is the mecca of movie making; there is nothing like Hollywood in Europe. I am planning to move to LA at some point." Meanwhile, he intends to enjoy his remaining year-and-a-half in SF and at The Academy, where he likes borrowing the equipment as well as attending classes. "Having the equipment is essential, I really value that. The school, in general, supports us a lot and I really appreciate that."
Fave filmmakers? "Marc Forster ['Monster's Ball' (2001)]. He's from my part of Switzerland - a big inspiration for me. He came all the way and made his name here. Tarantino has a good style. I like a director who can show versatility. Mark is good at that - he has done comedy, action, drama. I think Almodovar is absolutely great. Jim Jarmusch is definitely great, how he plays with silences and long takes. I like Scorcese, his recent 'Shutter Island;' his style is very fresh and contemporary, always surprising."
Currently? "I have an idea for a feature, but I am planning to shoot a short now and get my script done this year, or at least a draft."- D. Blair
Sausalito, another great festival in the offing, holds court at the majestic Cavallo Point beneath the Golden Gate Bridge
Great Films Sausalito Aug 13
Want to meet some true "rebel-lions:" talented filmmakers, notable actors, and thought-provoking writers? How about the 2nd Annual Sausalito Film Festival, held in one of the most scenic spots on the planet - take that Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride - Fort Baker, at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, Aug 13, 15 and 15. The parties should be something to speak of as well,
, with wine poured by DFV Wines and cocktails by title sponsor Blue Angel Vodka.
There will be 13 Bay Area premieres and screenings paired with relevant events, from "live" music performances to stimulating panels on human rights, conservation, autism, and that perennial Marin favorite, the power of the human spirit. "Sausalito provides an ideal backdrop for a premiere festival, given its picturesque beauty and nonconformist past, which continues to attract artists, writers, rock legends, and film stars," says Antonio Capretta, who curates the festival, along with Allison Faust.
This year's slate features the award-winning doc "Climate Refugees," by Michael Nash, a "must see" according to NPR's Sherri Quinn, and two Sundance favorites, "Waste Land" and "The Dry Land." Bay Area cineastes, Andrew Thomas and Toby Gleason will show "The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi," about the beloved local musician; "What If Cannabis Cured Cancer?" by Len Richmond, Peter Coyote narrating, will premiere; and "Mademoiselle Chambon," SF Chronicle's Mick Lasalle's pick will show.
Festival highlights include the crowd-pleasing Secret Screening by an acclaimed director - will not disappoint! - and filmmakers Bay Cruise. Tix: $10/advance, $12/door, see sausalitofilmfestival.com or call (415) 887-9506 - J. R. Gordon
The Harimaya Bridge Returns
Aaron Woolfolk, originally of Oakland, was interviewed in the May10 CineSource, about his first feature "The Harimaya Bridge," which had a Bay Area run in May. Produced by Danny Glover and distro-ed by Eleven Arts, it is a Japan-U.S.A.-Korea co-production, the first of its kind for an African America director. It will soon open across the country (see
The drama follows an African American, who lost his father in a Japanese POW camp, but who must go to Japan to claim the belongings of his late son, from whom he was estranged. While there, he learns several secrets his son left behind and opens up to Japanese culture. "The Harimaya Bridge" stars a renowned cast including Ben Guillory and Danny Glover but also Saki Takaoka and Misa Shimizu, who are well known in Japan, where the film played last year. It also saw some festival action: Official Selection, Hawaii International and the African Diaspora Festival among others.
"The Harimaya Bridge" is striking notably because it portrays the black protagonist as racist against the Japanese (until he gets to know them) and because it is intensely artistic and romantic. The son, a sensitive painter, journeys to Japan, falls in love, and woos the young woman on the ancient eponymous bridge, famous in Japanese folklore for romance. Starts August 13th, Berkeley's Oaks and SF's 4 Star. - S. Middlestein
Filmmaker Steals for Film
AP reported late June that a Buffalo, New York, man was sentenced to six months prison and five years probation for embezzling $265,697.90 from a company in Tonawanda, NY, where he worked as an e-commerce manager. The sentence was so light, evidently, because David Williams, 52, quickly confessed but pleaded artistic obsession. Red Scream Films, an indie film company he owns, was going under. Red Scream specializes in "horror, urban action, dark erotica and neo-grindhouse," to which Williams can now add prison dramas. Unfortunately, he'll have to refund the cash. - S. Middlestein
Julie Rubio starts shooting a coming of age story starring her son, Elijah, center, in August. photo: J. Rubio
Rubio is Back with Kid's Story
Julie Rubio, the Suburban Indie Diva, whom we covered in our debut issue (April 2008) for her accomplished first feature, "Six Sex Scenes and a Murder," a feminist noir, has started a new project. "This one's a kids film!" the cute but commanding Rubio cooed over the phone. "Called 'too perfect' (spelled all lower case), it's about five 14-year-old boys and the last day of fun before coming home to life-changing news." Starring her son, Elijah, Rubio is full production mode and starts shooting in Orinda in August.
Rubio is also continuing to raise funds for "Masked Truth," the feature she started in Hawaii late last year. "I got half, but it's a lot to ask these days when most people have had something happen to them or a family member."
She recently sold "SSSAAM" to NetFlix, Blockbuster, et al. Unfortunately: "Show me the money! I'm finding it's a war to get paid. In the end, I'm making 'too perfect' and not waiting for anyone to make my dreams come true! Screw them! We're right to use our credit cards; we are not dreamers, we make it happen! I'm proud of your project [the magazine] - you kick ass! If I can do something let me know." - D. Blair
Indian Hitler Film Protested
AP also reported in June that New Delhi screenwriter Nalin Singh was shocked to hear how upset people were over his freshman film, "Dear Friend Hitler," which portrayed the mass murderer as a management guru. He outraged the media, freaked out India's tiny Jewish community and compelled his lead to quit. "Western audiences have seen a lot of films on Hitler," Singh explained, exasperated, "But there was no Hindi film on him." Hence the inspiration.
In India's Hindu tradition, Brahma and Shiva, or life and death, go hand-in-hand, making Hitler more akin to Machiavelli than a vicious war monger. Indeed, in Bollywood films, characters often insult each other as "Hitler." A restaurant named Hitler's Cross opened a few years ago in Mumbai, decorated with swastikas, albeit flipped from the Hindu symbol, and posters of Hitler, until Jewish protests forced a name change. "Mein Kampf" sells thousands of copies a year, copyright free. "It's basically the young crowd. The rebellious," said Anuj Bahri, a bookman in New Delhi's classy Khan Market.
Sociologist Ashish Nandy offered various reasons why Indians are drawn to Hitler: India is chaotic and there is "certain admiration" for his famous train scheduling; Indians are bitter about Hitler's enemy England; he reminds them that nothing is unachievable," even starting a world war, if you are crazy and stubborn enough.
Actually, Singh's provocative title refers to a letter sent Hitler by none other then the prince of peaceful protest, Mohandas Gandhi, asking the Nazi to stop a "war which may reduce humanity to a savage state." Like any cineaste worth his salt, Singh is determined to see his script through to production, hopefully by 2011.
"It's misleading to say our film is glorifying Hitler," Singh said, "I just want to make an authentic film for Hindi audiences." It should make an great double feature with the comedy currently rocking the subcontinent: "Tere Bin Laden," or "Without You, Bin Laden." A Bollywood production, replete with Home Land Security dancers, it follows a Pakistani journalist hoping to win his way to America by dressing up a look-a-like farmer and faking an exclusive interview with Osama bin Laden. - S. Middlestein
Lucasfilms Sued by Wanna-Be
Julie Veronese says "Star Wars" creator George Lucas had no grounds to rescind his job offer to her simply because she was pregnant. In the discrimination lawsuit unfolding in Marin Superior Court, Lucas's estate manager Sarita Patel said she had "nagging doubts" about Veronese, 37, from the get-go. Veronese, the daughter-in-law of high-powered SF lawyer and politician Angela Alioto, is perhaps "too high society" to be a personal assistant: making sandwiches or cleaning up after Lucas's two Malamutes.
Veronese is, in fact, represented by not only her mother-in-law, who was a SF city supervisor, but her husband, the former police commissioner Joseph Alioto Veronese - making it a heads vs. feds battle supreme. The family-legal team says Lucas violated state statutes protecting pregnant women from such harsh discrimination. Scheduled to testify, Lucas objected, claiming he knew nothing about the hiring or rescinding of offers to kitchen help, assistants, or whomever.
Lucas's lawyers allege that Veronese is a delusional, self-entitled narcissistic brat, and claim they can prove as much with an expert psychologist witness. They also say Veronese was hired for a 30-day project, "to see if it was a good fit," a claim which records corroborate. The evidence also seems to indicates that she wasn't "a good fit."
Film teams, super-pro or DIY, are like families, with a certain code of ethics. Sure, there are scammers and narcissists in our number, but when I was growing up in a film family (my father was shooter, see Gary Meyer, p14), I was taught to honor being on the set. I assistant camera-ed for my dad from the Smithsonian, where he lit the big hall and chatted with aerospace expert, ex-Nazi Wernher Von Braun, to Alaska, where we crossed the tundra filming wolverines and radio dishes. It was great fun; you were part of a family as well as a team; you did your job at the highest level; you hung with your crew at night; and you got taken care of - handsomely.
Veronese, on her first day on the job, admitted she was pregnant (with twins, sadly, one died) and feeling ill. Jane Bey, who helps manage the Skywalker Ranch office, wondered, logically enough, if Veronese "would be able to do this job just being pregnant and then going out on a three-month maternity leave." The Alioto team is asking for $677,000 in economic damages plus more for emotional distress. The personal assistant position paid $75,000 per year. - D. Blair
Posted on Aug 13, 2010 - 02:00 PM