Volume 12, Issue 45 ~ November 4 - November 10, 2004

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Some of the fare at Annapolis Film Festival: Robert Hall’s Lightning Bug,
Tired of the Same Old Film Fare?
Beat the Blockbuster Blues at Annapolis Film Festival
by Mark Burns

A potato kills his father and makes out with his mother.

Meanwhile, a Romanian taxidermist, a con-man and a lap-dancer wander streets stuffing a bear. A Buddhist television judge crumples under the stress of his personal crises and falling ratings. Three Mile Island is going critical, and elsewhere some brothers are having a meltdown of their own as sibling rivalry heats up in the wake of their estranged patriarch’s suicide. But hope emerges when an unlikely hero foils a comic book heist, and action reaches a fever pitch as Abe Lincoln lunges at John Wilkes Booth with nunchaku flailing. Then it’s back to normalcy as former Texas governor Ann Richards sinks her chops into some good old-fashioned barbecue.

Such are the scenes in Annapolis this autumn, as the Annapolis Film Festival unveils dozens of shorts and features from Maryland, the United States and abroad over the next four days.
Making the Cut

Annapolis is just one stop on a sprawling circuit of film festivals. For audiences, it’s opportunity to see innovative, grass-roots work. For filmmakers, it’s a way to gauge reactions and gain notice — maybe even get their work picked up for distribution.

So they scan the festival circuit for a venue that seems open to the theme of their work, then plunk down the submission fee in hopes of being among the chosen few.

Returning from last year’s inaugural Annapolis Film Festival is Baltimore native and now New York-based filmmaker Jason Pattan, working in animation. He’s here to debut Adolph’s Beautiful America, a short, live documentary on a singer/songwriter who never hit it big but still made his mark on the country scene. The 17-minute film was conceived in 1999 and eventually created in two years of on–and-off work; the rough cut was finished only two days before the festival’s deadline and the final cut was wrapped up just three or four weeks ago. The Annapolis Film Festival is Pattan’s cherished chance to see an audience react, and he’s excited.

Greg Samata’s documentary Hot 8,
“The only people who’ve seen it now have worked on it,” says Pattan. “I’m anxious to see what people get out of the 17 minutes. I want to see if those little moments of humor come across.”

Alas, he might miss out. Pattan and his brother served as mentors to high school students in last summer’s Budding Filmmakers program in Annapolis, guiding one of the three teams from conception to production of a short film. Two of the student films run in the same time slot as his own, and as mentor he’s anxious to see for the first time what the kids have created. So his own work will take a back seat.

But at least Pattan’s film is in the mix. Filmmakers from across the globe submitted more than 400 films in hopes of illuminating Annapolis’ screens this go round. Only 79 were chosen. A selection committee picked through gems and a little junk to create the lineup you’ll see.

“I love all the films,” says festival co-founder and spokeswoman Maria Triando, when pressed for favorites. “Late Watch is really funny. America, a short film, is absolutely wonderful. Foo-Foo Dust is jarring; it’s not for the weak of heart.”

Late Watch is a full-length comedy, a television pilot in which a retired New York cop endures his first night among the misfit crew of a campus police squad. America is an Israeli short film about a widower who dreams of the U.S. Foo-Foo Dust is a short documentary, the story of mother and son drug addicts on the verge of eviction from their hotel room after spending all their money on drugs. Also notable as a favorite of the selection committee, says Triandos, is Punching Hitler, a short in which three guys travel back in time to punch Hitler — repeatedly — and apparently to great comic effect.

You can find local flavor in 14 films either shot in Maryland, created by Marylanders or both. One such film is Cold Harbor, a feature drama filmed in and around Annapolis, about brothers’ tectonic sibling rivalry in the wake of their father’s suicide. Mark Redfield, its producer and an actor in the film, hails from Severna Park.

Carlo Sansonetti’s animated The Auction,
These films will vie for top honors in five categories: features, shorts, documentaries, short documentaries and animation. The best of each category takes home Annapolis Film Festival’s answer to the Palme d’Or: an étoile bleu, if you will, a handsome cobalt blue star made of recycled windshield glass. Winners also receive the Final Draft computerized script-writing program. Best animation wins Combustion, a powerful 3D graphics engine. But the Best Film honoree gets the current or future film authored to DVD and packaged, thanks to Digital Video Labs. That one’s a prize worth $12,000. Not a bad incentive for such a young festival.

Then and Then
Annapolis’ inaugural festival was rolled out last year, after 18 months of planning by sisters Triandos and Demetrea Triantafillides. The two have a local production company. Triandos has worked on location for major film studios, and Triantafillides has worked as director for NBC news and sports programming. Like others before them, the sisters believed a film festival would help complete the arts scene of their hometown, already effervescing with a symphony, opera, ballet, thriving music scene and playhouses. “We thought Annapolis was absolutely the perfect place for it,” says Triandos.

Unlike the dreamers, the sisters followed through, and the festival enjoyed strong support from local fans and rave reviews from hosted filmmakers. Now they hope to build on that success, adding 10 films to last year’s total and a new animation category. This weekend will show whether fans are lured from far as well as near. Auteurs from all over heeded the call. There’s representation from as nearby as Severna Park and as far as Macedonia, Italy, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Cuba, Israel and Romania.

the festival’s opening night feature; Joy Kecken’s short film, Woman Hollering Creek, which was filmed around Annapolis, right.
Annapolis Film Festival has enjoyed a strong start, and Triandos says the key to success is keeping community support. In the future, she’d like to see the festival expand to at least a full week.

Check it Out
Now, you’ll have to settle for four days. Scope out the full schedule and summaries beforehand in brochures available at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and additional festival sponsors. You only have one shot at seeing most of the films. Only the category winners earn additional screen time, on Sunday at Annapolis Cinema Grill. Best documentary, short and animation show at noon; best feature and short documentary at 3pm; $10 for both showings.

The festival kicks off Thursday, November 4, at 7:30pm, as NBC 4’s Wendy Rieger presides over the opening night party at Maryland Hall, featuring live music by the Jarflys and a 9:30pm screening of the feature film Lightning Bug, a drama about a young boy who aspires to be a Hollywood special effects artist as his way out of an abusive home (Party and movie $65 at the door; movie alone $15).

Films are screened in blocks of shorts or blends of shorts with a trailing feature on Friday and Saturday, with showtimes at Maryland Hall’s auditorium and gym, plus two screens at Annapolis Cinema Grill. There’s even a block of family-friendly films for the kids (2pm Saturday at Maryland Hall). Tickets are $10 per block or $20 for a day pass, though you can see two for one on Friday only at Annapolis Cinema Grill. The awards/wrap party is 9pm Saturday at Maryland Hall ($15).

Public workshops are concurrent at the Hall. Filmmakers seeking a break can get tips for the trade at the distributors panel (3-4:30 Friday; $10) and improve their craft through the lighting workshop with Kenny Reff (2-6 Saturday; $75). High school students are welcome to attend the budding filmmaker panel with Robert Hall (11-12:30 Saturday; free). Reservations are encouraged at [email protected] annapolisfilmfestival.com.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.