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Best in show

Making the picks at the Newport Film Festival
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  May 27, 2009

racing main

NEED FOR SPEED A young competitor in Racing Dreams.

Tom Hall, the new artistic director of the Newport International Film Festival (June 3-7), had the usual hard time culling more than 600 submissions — some invited but most over the transom — down to 90 films — 17 narrative features (plus five Hollywood classics), 17 feature-length documentaries, and 56 shorts.

He's gone shopping at the Sundance and the Toronto festivals and, as program director of the Sarasota Film Festival, he has seen more films than most people see in decades.

"I think people realize that there are just not a million great films out there waiting to be discovered," he points out. "It's a small number of great films."

Hall says that he and program directors Holly Herrick and Andrea van Beuren are concerned about choosing too many films that cover the same territory.

"We have a film, for example, called Children of Invention," he says (to be screened June 4 and 5 at 4:30 pm at Salve Regina University's Antone Academic Center.) "There are a lot of children-in-peril films out there that are excellent, absolutely excellent. We chose this one instead of others." More than a dozen films were submitted that had to do with either a dead child or one in danger.

There's a recurring theme trend that has faded away this year.

"One thing that we're seeing less of that I thought we'd see more of is political documentaries," Hall says. "They've gone away. Under the Bush administration, everybody was making a movie to make a point. I don't know if it's because Obama has won or there is a complacency now because of the economy — I don't know what it is."

Even a film about Afghanistan, an international political hotspot, is avoiding politics, he says. Afghan Star (June 3 at 5 pm at the Jane Pickens Theater) is about the country's emerging pop culture, epitomized by a TV show modeled on American Idol.

The opening night film, In the Loop (June 3 at 7:30 pm at the Jane Pickens), avoids its potentially serious political content through humor. With James Gandolfini and Mimi Kennedy, the British and American film shows the two countries coming to the brink of international disaster through a series of escalating misunderstandings.

So, which films among this year's offerings does the artistic director see going farther?

"I think [In the Loop] is going to get a lot of attention," Hall says. "It has a stylistic relationship with the television show The Office —— handheld, faux documentary — and it is funny. That always helps. There's not a lot of market for heavy, serious movies out there right now, unfortunately."

Half of the feature-length films are documentaries. What about them?

"Last year they had Man On Wire," he says. "This year I think Racing Dreams is that in the festival. You hear a lot about that movie. It won the jury prize at Tribeca. It's a dynamite documentary in the same way of In the Shadow of the Moon or Man On Wire in the past. That one I think will be a real breakout story." It's about three 12-year-old kids and the go-kart circuit that trains NASCAR drivers, and will screen on June 4 at 5:15 pm at the Jane Pickens.

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Best in show
there’s something to say for a late entry to an extended and bizarre political season. campaign fatigue may well set in with the electorate by the second round of primaries. citizen romney as well as ‘don’ guliani are bound to self destruction with or without the thompson factor. the candidacy of fred dalton thompson brings to mind the letter of cicero to his brother quintus on electioneering in which he adds, “for your status as a “new man” you will compensate by your fame as a speaker”. (nominus novitatem dicendi gloria maxime sublevabis, o.k.?). and besides that it gets him away from that whinny assistant district attorney frank mccoy.
By jeffery mcnary on 06/05/2007 at 12:50:04

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