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Where are all the locals in next year's Sundance lineup?

Wednesday, Dec 10 2003
In one of the more shocking developments of the year, local filmmakers were nearly shut out of competition slots at next month's Sundance Film Festival. And those few who were selected should have an asterisk next to "local." Jacob Kornbluth (brother of Josh and co-director of Haiku Tunnel), with his autobiographical coming-of-age tale The Best Thief in the World, tops the features in the Dramatic competition. Although Jake lived here when he wrote the screenplay, it's a New York story that he shot in the N.Y. neighborhood of Washington Heights. (Thief features Mary-Louise Parker, who we'd like to believe is better cast -- and just plain better -- than she is in HBO's Angels in America.)

Another familiar face in that competition is writer/director Greg Harrison, who made Groove in San Francisco. He's now based in L.A., where he shot November with Courteney Cox and James LeGros (Reel World, Oct. 15). Needless to say, if November or Thief wins a prize at Sundance, we'll be happy to claim their auteurs as our own.

Local directors can always be counted on to score a couple of slots in the Documentary competition -- Brother Outsider, My Flesh and Blood, and The Weather Underground premiered at Park City last year -- but not this go-round. The only Bay Area rep is UC Berkeley- educated (and L.A.-based) Jessica Yu (Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien), who continues her cataloging of outsider artists with In the Realms of the Unreal, a portrait of janitor, painter, and writer Henry Darger. Although we won't have the pleasure of rooting for new Bay Area docs at Sundance, we can still circle Jan. 27 on our calendars: That's when the Academy Award nominations for this year are announced.

The Last Hurrah Maybe you voted, maybe you didn't, but either way we have a new mayor. "My frustration of being in a place and not being able to vote is what drove me to get my citizenship," says French-born, S.F.-based filmmaker Charlotte Lagarde (Heart of the Sea: Kapolioka'ehukai). "To me, it is a basic right." Imbued with a strong sense of civic responsibility and catalyzed by the upcoming 2004 presidential election, Lagarde and co-producer Laura Harrison have commissioned 11 moviemakers -- mostly from the Bay Area -- to make four- to seven-minute shorts on the theme "Voting in America," with the aim of broadcasting the omnibus picture on PBS next fall.

"Both of us, for our own political reasons, might have wanted to have a film that was more issue-oriented and platform-oriented," Lagarde says. "At the same time there's a feeling that there's plenty of films and organizations moving toward that -- bashing Bush and making sure that he's not going to be re-elected. We were more interested in the basic democratic process, why people don't vote, and finding people in communities who are encouraging people to vote and be active." Although they've only raised about a third of their budget, Harrison and Lagarde have commenced production, with locals Johnny Symons, Tom Shepard, Lucy Massie Phenix, Maya Draisin, Josh Kurz, and Chris Metzler among those who've signed on. For more info, check out

It Should Happen to You As we speak, Lagarde is at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana, along with the makers of Lost Boys of Sudan and The Weather Underground. Fest director Ivan Giroud, who sits on the advisory board of the S.F. International Film Festival, invited SFIFF honchos Roxanne Messina Captor and Linda Blackaby to select some of this year's Golden Gate and audience award winners to show in Havana. ... S.F. State success stories David Siegel and Scott McGehee will film The Bee Season (Reel World, Nov. 19) not in Pittsburgh (where the novel is set) but in Oakland and Berkeley. The eight-week shoot begins in late January; the movie stars Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche. Siegel and McGehee are establishing their production office at the Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley. ... Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa was on 2,005 screens last time I looked, which isn't half bad for a flick attacking American materialism.

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Michael Fox


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