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Tag Archives: #SAVFF

Leni Riefenstahl Filming Archie Williams For Deborah Riley Draper, the Savannah Film Festival was more than a screening—it was also a homecoming.

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Steve Taylor and Penny Allsop, our special correspondents from across the pond, end their tour of the Deep South with an enchanting stop to see Rise of the Guardians.

 

Photo courtesy of SCAD

As guests of one of Savannah magazine's Jane Townsend, we enjoyed a week of touring the South before returning to the Hostess City to enjoy the hugely successful 15th Savannah Film Festival. The final night of the festival saw a host of awards to the week's filmmakers, many of them deserving SCAD alumni and current students. Highlights included two awards for 12:15 Sunday, a beautifully-realized World War II docudrama, and Missed Connections, the rom-com that delighted the audience so much on Thursday night, it was no surprise it won the audience award. The former student/winner of the evening's final award ended the ceremony with this apposite advice: "Follow the ways of your heart, not the ways of the world." Then the audience settled in for Rise of the Guardians, Dreamworks' latest animated film, shown in RealD 3D—a first for the film festival. Although alive with equally vivid color and action, this tale of the Immortal Guardians (a super force made up of otherwise benign childhood figures, such as the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost),  it was better suited to a younger, matinee audience than to the mature movie aficionados attending the festival.  Having said that, the audience laughed in all the right places.  The humor was laid on thick and fast, even though the plotting and characters were, at times, clumsily contrived. The same could not be said of the splendid after party, which saw Savannah's finest dressed to the nines in Poetter Hall.  An eclectic mix of young and old were served delectable amuse bouches by SCAD students.  The succulent pork on cornbread was especially noteworthy.  Many in the lively crowd danced to the vintage sound of The Vistas.  It captured the spirit of the week and made us long for the 16th annual festival to get here sooner rather than later.

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As the 15th annual Savannah Film Festival draws nearer to its close, audiences show no sign of slowing down. Jonathan Able keeps up with the pack.

It’s the second to last night before the Savannah Film Festival draws its curtains once more, yet the energy buzzing around the Trustees Theater tonight was simply electrifying. Audience members eager to see the darling movie musical, The Sapphires, flooded the front doors of the theatre, and hurriedly took their seats. The master of ceremonies, executive director Danny Filson, took the stage and joked, “Anyone see any good movies lately?” After a few brief words, thanking sponsors and various festival participants, Filson once again introduced SCAD’s Co-Founder and President Paula Wallace.  Wallace welcomed guests, and offer heartfelt thanks to the unsung heroes of the festival: staffers including Filson, Len Cripe and Christina Routhier, among others. President Wallace then introduced Outstanding Achievement in Cinema honoree, Matt Dillon. More than one audience member swooned as Dillon walked across the stage. Humbled with gratitude, Dillon began by saying, “Thank you very, very much.” He continued to speak highly of the film festival, its beneficial offerings for students, and how it stands apart from other festivals he’s attended. “[It’s] better than your typical film festival,” he said. Next, audiences overwhelmingly delighted in the Australian treat, The Sapphires. Even Twitter users took to texting their sentiments, using festival hashtag #savff. User @ReelGA tweeted, “THE SAPPHIRES was a tremendous crowd pleaser...” “Great night at #savff! Loved loved loved #TheSapphires!” raved @halle_michelle. After the show, film fest carried the good vibes across the street to SCAD’s Gutstein Gallery for Friday evening’s reception. Lined with large-scale canvases of student artwork, the gallery provided a modern and ambient space for the event. SCAD students and festival volunteers passed trays of international hors d'oeuvres, including Asian-inspired chicken rolls with spicy mayonnaise and bite-sized Greek spanakopita. Guests were lightly dressed for the fair fall weather, with bits of scarves and shawls speckling shoulders throughout the room. With its final day of films on the horizon, the festival appears to be gaining speed rather than quieting down.

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Director Wayne Blair’s movie musical plays all the hits. Audiences (and Jonathan Able) sing along.

Photo courtesy of SCAD

Stop reading this review right now. Seriously, stop. Open a new browser window, and Google when, where and how you can see a screening of Australian-based musical comedy, The Sapphires. Once you’ve figured that out, resume reading this review. This charming songbird of cinematic experience is the product of down under director Wayne Blair, and screenwriters Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson. Based on Briggs’s 2005 play of the same name, The Sapphires tells the story of four Australian Aboriginal Supremes-like songstresses trying to make a name for themselves in the politically turbulent late 1960s as they tour Vietnam singing to troops. Set against the backdrop of war, Briggs’s story is so much more than sequined dresses, R&B chart toppers and beehive hairstyles. Civil rights agendas around the world were gaining visibility, and the film largely sings the song of the Australian Aborigines in a time when they were relegated to missions, openly segregated and denigrated in public, and when the fairer-skinned children were stolen from their homes and assimilated into white families.  Those children became known as the “Stolen Generation.” Against, the weighty backdrop, the cast soars...exquisitely. There’s not a moment in the film where The Sapphires aren’t captivating audiences. The group is made up of three sisters: the strong-willed Gail (Deborah Mailman), vivacious Cynthia (Miranda Tapsail), and dramatic diva Julie (Jessica Mauboy), and their cousin, the fairer Kay (Shari Sebbens). Irish actor Chris O’Dowd, most noted for TV’s The IT Crowd and 2011’s hit Bridesmaids, joins the cast as singers' hysterically dry, yet incredibly endearing, manager. Capable of evoking both laughter and tears, The Sapphires is a real Valentine of a film. It’s a message movie about love and acceptance, sweetly wrapped in a bevy of sugary songs, like Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine” and The Staple Singers’s “I’ll Take You There”. Even if you’re the type that rolls her eyes at the phrase “movie musical”, give this one an audition. The Sapphires is a film that will have everyone tapping his or her feet along to its soul-driven story.
The Sapphires
Starring: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy Director: Wayne Blair

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Before she even graced the big screen in A Little Romance and scored the cover of Time magazine in 1979, Diane Lane was playing with Meryl Streep's makeup as a "snot-nosed kid" in the cast of Joseph Papp's plays.  Since then, Diane has starred in more than 50 films—including classics such as The Outsiders and Unfaithful—garnering accolades and awards for her textured and emotional performances along the way.  Amy Paige Condon caught up with the A-lister, who remains refreshingly down-to-earth after nearly three decades in the spotlight, on the eve of her honor for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema by the Savannah Film Festival.
Savannah magazine: How does it feel to be back in Savannah?
Diane Lane: I feel very enlivened, actually.  I’m delighted that this is as fabulous as it is. I’ve been warned; I’ve been a friend of Bobby Zarem’s for, oh, probably longer than I should admit, but the point is, he’s been trying to get me since the festival started.  He was right.  He did not hyperbolize anything—‘cause he can do that.   He’s introduced me as “she was born and raised in Tybee” and I was like, I’m a New Yorker, what are you talking about?  I did live there for a year.  I’ve been adopted.
SM: Do you still speak y’all?
Diane: I do when I’m here.
SM: Any Southern phrases you carry with you?
Diane: (Thinking) Oh, I had a bunch.  I had so many.  I morphed the minute I moved here.  I loved it.  I was a taxpayer in Georgia for 20 years, I just wasn’t always in this county.
SM: Your mother’s from Georgia?
Diane: Yeah, my grandmother, my mother.  They were up in Wrightsville.
SM: Now that you’re back in Savannah, sweet or unsweet tea?
Diane: Unsweet always, for me.
SM: Fried chicken or shrimp ‘n’ grits?
Diane: I’m a fried chicken girl.  Meat with a handle.
SM: This is kind of a reunion week for you.  You’re back in Savannah and Matt Dillon is here, whom you’ve made three films together.  Are y’all going to get a chance to catch up?
Diane: I think we’re going to pass like ships in the night.  We’ll probably just miss each other.  I’ll leave him a note.
SM: So, we’re screening A Little Romance, the first movie you made, and you just finished doing Sweet Bird of Youth (in Chicago) …
Diane: I like to drive myself insane.  It’s just a hobby.
SM: The New York Times called your performance “scarily intelligent.”
Diane: Y’know, I just read it yesterday, and I’ve already blocked it out.  I wouldn’t allow myself to read it while I was doing the play, because it can mess with your mind.  It’s a live thing every night—sometimes twice a day—and I didn’t want to have anything in my head to make the performance feel like it was no longer pure and my own, 100 percent.   You don’t want to feel like you’re placating. That being said, it was a great review and I was tickled.  It could have gone the other way, and part of the reason why I came to this festival, I thought, well, if I lose my mind playing this character or I get terrible reviews and impale myself on some furniture, or if I can’t handle it, run away and break down in tears.  I don’t know, anything is possible, right?   It’s a big load, Tennessee Williams after a quarter century of being away from the theater.  I’ve had a real case of who do I think I am?  And, I thought, well I can go to the film festival and feel like, you see, I did at one time have a career.  (Laughs.) Like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, I’ll be in a room looking at my old films where I’m really young in them. (Laughs)  Which is very much the character of the play.  I just thought this is right up my alley.  This will heal me from my psychic star of the play.
SM: When you are doing a play and it’s a very intense story and a rather dark character, are you living it because you’re playing it for so long?
Diane: I haven’t detoxed from her yet.  My voice is blown out; my eyes are permanently swollen.  And, I‘ll get there. I will get there from here. I just have to (makes whooshing sound) decompress.
SM: This is the first time you’ve done theater in a really long time.  How did it feel to be back on stage?
Diane: Fabulous. (We’re told to wrap up with one more question.)
SM: What is your fondest memory of Savannah?  Something you want to see?
Diane: Y’know, the way a young teenage girl has songs, and she gets all in her head about what’s romantic?  I never recovered from the beauty of the squares at night in Savannah. I would just go into these raptures of Romeo and Juliet fantasies, looking at the way street lights were with the moss and the benches—and, of course, it wasn’t safe to walk in them; it was 1980.  Now, I think things are improved.  I just never got over that visual. It looked like something out of … a Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire.  I didn’t even have anything to compare it to in literature.   So whenever I read those images in literature, I was like, oh, I’ve been there.  I’ve been to Savannah.
SM: They’re safe to walk through now.  So, I hope you get a chance.
             

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A new documentary follows an Internet singer from poverty to fame—as the new lead singer of an iconic multi-platinum band.  Allison Brooks grabs a front-row seat.

“I’m living in a fairy tale right now,” Arnel Pineda announces as his rendition of “Separate Ways” blares at the beginning of director Ramona Diaz’s (Imelda, Spirits Rising) inspiring film, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey. Pineda isn’t exaggerating.  His literal rags-to-riches story transforms him right before our eyes—from a homeless boy singing for food to Journey’s new lead vocalist. Before he was famous, the Filipino singer-songwriter imitated the voices of Robert Plant, Jon Bon Jovi and—of course—original Journey front man Steve Perry in more than 60 YouTube videos posted by his admirers. That’s how Neal Schon, Journey’s lead guitarist, stumbled across Pineda.  After watching a cover video of the singer performing the band’s hit “Faithfully,” he recruited the Internet sensation—and set events in motion for Diaz’s compelling documentary. In Don’t Stop Believin’, the Filipina-American director is careful to look at her story from multiple angles.  Although she focuses mainly on Pineda’s adjustment to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, she also explores the difficulties of family life.  At times, the movement from angle to angle is disjointed, creating narrative gaps.  For example, we know Pineda has a wife, but we don’t find out that he has a small son until the last third of the documentary.  Also, Diaz fails to address important background information about Journey, including Perry’s differences with his former band-mates.  She fails to give the main conflict—Perry loyalty versus Pineda fandom—as much attention as it deserves. What Diaz lacks in depth, she counterbalances with a clear appreciation of her subject.  She lovingly records and preserves Pineda’s humor and sense of wonder.  For example, when asked how he likes being in Journey, Pineda replies, “I’m so Asian!  It’s like I was Photoshopped in!”  That exuberant, irreverent approach to success is effortlessly endearing. The proof is in the audience’s spontaneous response.  When the credits began to roll on day four of the film festival and Pineda belted out the title song, "Don’t Stop Believin’," the Trustees Theater audience cheered as loudly as the on-screen crowd in his hometown of Manila. Everyman loves an underdog.
Don't Stop Believin'

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