Now in its third year, the Waterfront Film Festival, taking place June 7-10 in Saugatuck, Michigan, unveils an impressive slate of 16 features including indie films, documentaries, action films and 13 shorts. Here’s a look at the line-up:
2001 Feature Films ^ ON EDGE – EASTERN US PREMIERE* ^ An irreverent and hilarious mockumentary, On Edge follows the trials and tribulations of three young female figure skaters as they fight their way toward a spot on the US Olympic Team. Unearthing the less than elegant side of the world’s most watched sport, On Edge reveals the true back-biting, a*s-kicking world that gave us Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Stars Jason Alexander.
THE BREAD, MY SWEET – EASTERN US PREMIERE ^ When Dom Pyzola (effectively portrayed by Scott Baio) discovers that his elderly neighbor Bella, the mother he never had, has six months to live he is heartbroken and wants to make her lifelong dream of her daughter’s American wedding come true. The Bread My Sweet is a well-directed and beautifully tragic story about love and sacrifice. Stars Scott Baio, Kristen Minter (“ER”).
VICE – EASTERN US PREMIERE ^ A film by Academy Award Winner John Woodward. Based on actual court transcripts, Vice is a hilarious look at our justice system. When topless dancer Savannah Logan is arrested by officers for lewd conduct in a sting operation at the neighborhood strip bar, all the local Texas color must be paraded thru court to determine the lasciviousness of her actions. Strong direction and intelligent performances by a veteran cast make this a scathingly funny and light-hearted film. Stars Maxine Bahns (Brothers McMullen, The Elite).
BUNNY – MICHIGAN PREMIERE ^ An absurdly humorous look at two recent immigrants, Nik and Luda, who find work scarce, and money even more so. To make ends meet, the two are hired by the city to dress as big pink bunnies and stand on street corners attempting to boost the morale of the city’s emotionally ravaged. Comedic but real, this story is sure to be a highlight for audiences with its unexpected emotional twists and turns. ^ For her feature debut, director Mia Trachinger creates a story that is both comical and sad, painting a particularly haunting portrait of fear and loneliness. Trachinger is certainly a talent to watch in the coming years, as her inventive and enchanting work stands apart from many of indie films being made today.- Excerpt – Mike Rabehl
A MILLION MILES – EASTERN US PREMIERE ^ Set in the winter of a summer amusement town, A Million Miles is a story about best friends who have outgrown the familiar streets of their Jersey Shore home. For this group of kids in their early twenties, life has become predictable; but walking away from everything you know is easier said than done. When the soft-spoken leader, Jimmy Gordon, is accepted to a college far from his hometown, he must decide between a life he’s always dreamed about and the safety of the world and friends he’s always known. ^ Shot on 16mm and a low budget, A Million Miles is a charming little gem. Director Bryan Sipe has assembled an interesting and talented cast to bring this portrayal of life in a small town to fruition. (contains some adult language)
CRUSHED – MICHIGAN PREMIERE ^ When business goes sour at an energetic young Chicago advertising agency, it sends the large group of colorful, dysfunctional and soon-to-be unemployed co-workers into a tizzy. In an attempt to keep up appearances, they decide to go ahead with the annual holiday party. During the liquor and gossip soaked festivities, new information comes to light, causing them to panic as they ponder the state of their futures. Probably not the best thing to do, when you’re on your fifth martini… ^ Shot on video and an extremely low budget, Crushed is a testament of what a resourceful filmmaker can create with a little money and a lot of ingenuity. Sometimes scripted, sometimes improvised (by some of Chicago’s top Second City talents), director Lauretta Tagli gives us an interesting and funny hybrid film captured in a run-and-gun documentary style. What Crushed lacks in production value is made up for in humor and heart — making this an entertaining and watchable “little film that could”. (contains some adult language)
ELVIS TOOK A BULLET – WORLD PREMIERE ^ Dr. Jeff Wilkes has a fear of dead people, orders five limes with his vodka and tonic and is a B-movie freak. New to L.A., he answers a ‘roommate wanted’ ad whereupon he meets Aron Presley, a self-styled ‘Elvis’ reincarnate. When confronted with that impossibility, Aron replies, “In L.A. you create your own reality.” ^ Jeff and Aron become roommates and Jeff quickly becomes entangled in an elaborate scheme of drugs, sex and blue-suede shoes. Director Jerry Eeten takes us on wild cinematic ride with some classic B-movie characters: the Henchman, the Femme Fatale and a Bogart-wannabe. ^ Eeten has created a satiric homage to B-films, mixing their familiar elements with a comic twist. Whether you dig them or not, you’ll have a blast trying to figure out if Jeff can save himself from the Bad Guy or sink further into a world of fear, deceit and sideburns. (contains some adult language and content)- Sandy Wolf
FALLING LIKE THIS – MICHIGAN PREMIERE ^ The story of a young woman who falls in love with an irresistible outlaw, and the indelible impressions that these two young people make on each other’s lives, Falling Like This marks an impressive feature film directorial debut by Dani Minnick. Masterfully shot and deceptively powerful, the film vividly and effortlessly captures the rhythms of the characters’ lives, with winning and understated performances by the two young leads.
LADY IN THE BOX – EASTERN US PREMIERE ^ A tightly twisted Hitchcockian tale of murder and mystery revolving around an unsuspecting bartender who believes he’s been set up to take the fall for an eerie murder. Stars Darren Burrows (Northern Exposure). ^ A great example of modern film noir, Lady in the Box is a first-rate thriller from writer/director Christian Otjen – a tense and creepy descent into a horror story that could happen to anyone. (Contains some adult language and content)
LOVE AND SUPPORT – WORLD PREMIERE ^ Martin Lewis’ life starts to hilariously unravel when he gets dumped by his girlfriend of two years. Life seems to have lost all appeal, until he finds seeming kindred spirit Russell at a support group for the unlucky in love. Soon realizing that the increasingly bizarre and menacing Russell is somewhat less than mentally stable, the hapless Martin finds himself roped into a crazy plan to help Russell win back his own lost love. This leads to a cross-country road trip the likes of which you will not soon forget and certainly don’t want to miss.
MISSION – MIDWEST PREMIERE ^ The story of Marvin, a young aspiring writer from New York who moves to California to write a great novel and ends up rooming with Jay, a chaotic and spontaneous musician looking for a way to freeload off society. Despite Marvin’s efforts to maintain his ascetic existence dedicated to hard work, he finds himself inexorably drawn into the vibrant youth culture of San Francisco’s Mission District. Building an unlikely friendship through the experiences they share, Jay and Marvin both watch their worlds disintegrate – and discover that each has a lot to learn from the other. Stars Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project), Adam Arkin (Chicago Hope, Hanging Up), Chris Coburn, Sandrine Holt, and Bellamy Young (Black and White, The Drew Carey Show). ^ Filled with smart dialogue, multi-faceted characters and true-to-life situations, Loren Marsh gives us a film that not only captures the language, customs and values of an influential California subculture, but also explores a period of life when youthful hopes can crumble and compromises have to be made.
PASSING STONES – MIDWEST PREMIERE ^ Rowdy humor, a cast of oddball characters and a manic pace combine to create what “Guerrilla Filmmaker” magazine aptly referred to as “a thunderous storm of grave digging, pipe smoking, cross-dressing and even a bit of romancing… but not without a serious discussion with a statue of Jesus first.” ^ Beautifully shot in black and white by multi-hyphenate — writer-director-producer-actor-editor — Roger Majkowski, the ultra-low budget passing Stones is a fierce and outrageous comedy caper that always keeps you guessing. (contains adult language and content)
SANDSTORM – (Bawandar) EASTERN US PREMIERE ^ This award-winning film from director Jagmohan, is a gripping, tension-laiden drama based on the true story of a rural, low-caste woman whose rape turns a chauvinistic political system topsy-turvy. ^ Sanwari is a loving wife whose husband respects and admires her. When gang-raped by the upper-caste men in her village, Sanwari is expected to hang her head in shame. Instead, Sanwari “knocks on the doors of justice” with the support of her husband and a woman lawyer. Caught in the middle of a storm created by the international media, Sanwari is soon made a pawn in the political chess game – as she is put on a pedestal by one side and thrown stones at by the other. ^ Combining evocative imagery, realism and a fresh look at the face of Indian culture, director Jagmohan crafts a story of immeasurable courage and will. Inspired by a much-publicized case, it is a tale that gives meaning to the old adage, “The truth is stranger than fiction.”
THE NEXT BIG THING – WORLD PREMIERE ^ Art speaks for itself. That’s the mantra of starving artist Gus Bishop, who can’t give away a painting much less sell one. But when a hard-up swindler conjures up an imaginary artist with a story the artworld can’t resist, and enlists the hapless Gus as his reluctant accomplice, a great painter – and brilliant scam – is born. How long can a lovesick regular guy remain in the shadows while his legendary alter ego basks in the spotlight as The Next Big Thing? ^ Co-written by brothers Joel Posner and PJ Posner, and masterfully directed by PJ Posner, this love story and lighthearted satire of the artworld features strong performances an ensemble cast that includes Chris Eigeman (best known for his roles in the Whit Stillman films “Metropolitan”, “Barcelona”, and “The Last Days of Disco”) and Connie Britton (“The Brothers McMullen”, “Spin City”, “The Fighting Fitzgeralds”).
THE CLAIM – MICHIGAN PREMIERE ^ Set in California in 1867 in the coldness and desperation after the Gold Rush, amid the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this is the tale (inspired by Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge”) of Mr. Dillon, a man who built and ruled his own town, but paid a terrible price for that power. One day, two women ride into the town, and we sense at once they have a connection to Dillon. It soon becomes clear to us, but not to her, that the young girl is Dillon’s daughter. ^ Director Michael Winterbottom manages to create a cold, stark, and forbidding world of newly arrived settlers trying to hang on in the middle of winter. Due to a robust production design and commanding performances from a quintet of actors, this decidedly low-key film manages to unfold in it’s own due time, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer. Stars: Wes Bentley, Nastassja Kinski, Peter Mullan, Milla Jovovich and Sarah Polley.
2001 Documentaries ^ LIFE AND DEBT – EASTERN US PREMIERE ^ This powerful and moving documentary takes a departure from the glamorous Westernized resorts of Jamaica to investigate the catch-22 type of poverty being caused by the conflicting politics of the International Monetary Fund and other money lending institutions. ^ Shot with beautiful style, award-winning documentary filmmaker Stephanie Black takes us on a journey through her homeland to open our eyes to a world we often do not see.
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE CHICKEN ^ A funny and enticing documentary about people’s bizarre obsession with this common barnyard animal. Broken into sections highlighting individuals’ experiences with their feathered friends, the film is interspersed with striking footage of what goes on inside a poultry-harvesting factory. We are introduced to an array of odd characters, ranging from a woman in Maine who gave her ailing chicken CPR to one in Florida whose chicken lives in her home and wears panties.
Midwestern Indie Action Series ^ A BETTER WAY TO DIE ^ Boomer, a jaded ex-cop quits the force and makes his way to a small town to marry and lead the simple life. But along the way, a frightening chain of events leaves him mistaken for a mysterious government operative and fatefully targeted by Cleveland, Chicago’s bloodthirsty Mafia boss. Suddenly in a race against time, a tough FBI agent must reel in the young ex-cop before the Mob does. Featuring: Andre Braugher, Joe Pantoliano, Natasha Henstridge and Lou Diamond Phillips. (Contains violence) ^ Writer/Director/Star Scott Wiper beat the odds by making what appears to be a high budget Hollywood action movie for an impressively low 2 million dollars. Shot in his hometown in Ohio, A Better Way to Die is sure to be a festival favorite among action film aficionados.
THE ELITE – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE* ^ fast-paced and fun action film. When flight 770 crashes due to a terrorist attack, the American first families of International Business are killed. Five children miraculously survive, and are left behind to be secretly raised and protected from further terrorist assault by the US Defense Department. By the time the kids have grown into good-looking young adults, they’re highly trained Counter-espionage agents for the US Government, hired to fight and end terrorism. Unfortunately, their youthful nature often gets them in way over their heads. Stars Jurgen Prochnow, Robin Givens, Maxine Bahns (Brother’s McMullen, Vice), Michael Hagerty (Dawson’s Creek, Jack and Jill), Steven Williams (X-Files) and Internationally recognized actor/models Jason Lewis, Joel West, and the Brewer twins.
For more information, call 616-857-8351 drop by the official Waterfront Film Festival web site.
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