Going Down Market

Searching for Standouts at the IFFM

Currently shooting in L.A., Munch's Backward Looks, Far Cornersstars Martha Plimpton and Jacqueline Bisset. In the half-dozen scenes I saw on video at the IFFM, the acting is first rate, Munch's direction has a sure sense of pace, and his basic preoccupation--the relationship between hidden and official history--is much in evidence. Oppenheimer and Cynn's Sweetmeatsis an attempt to map the political unconscious of Britain onto film. The filmmakers were students of Makavejev at Harvard, and their collaborators on this film, producer James Mackay and cinematographer Christopher Hughes, worked extensively with Derek Jarman.Sweetmeats is a bit of a wild card at this point, but was the only serious experimental work to show up at the IFFM.Bianco's Split is a cyberpunk psychodrama that might turn out like a cross between ¼ and Blood, Guts. Bianco has a fabulous ear for pulpy dialogue and he knows how to use low-end digital technology to create a schizoid universe.

What's still invaluable about the IFFM is that it's the only democratic institution operating in the indie film world. It's the only place that a completely unknown filmmaker like Bianco can show a work-in-progress--without going through a bunch of gatekeepers--and perhaps catch the eye of someone who'll give him the money he needs to finish his film. It's a gamble--IFFM entrance fees run between $275 and $450 for filmmakers--but it's still worth it.

With finished films, it's a different story. The three best new American no-budget features I've seen in recent months (Love Machine,Gordon Eriksen's dark comedy about the Internet; Radiation, Suki Hawley and Mike Galinsky's saga about a punk rock promoter trying to survive in the Madrid club scene; and For Love of Julian, Meira Blaustein's clear-sighted documentary about her brain-damaged son) bypassed the IFFM. The filmmakers are trying to get distribution and festival dates on their own. Unless the IFFM finds a way to attract films of this caliber, it's all downhill from here.


up market

IFFM panels and parties are most useful for regional filmmakers trying to make direct contact with Gotham powerbrokers, but they're also great places to pick up news about Downtown indie filmmakers. And so: Larry Fessenden, director and star of the East Village vampire movie Habit, has a small part in Martin Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead,currently shooting in Manhattan. Susan Stover, the associate producer of Habit, is trying to raise money for Fessenden's new apocalypse movie; she's also producing Kelly Reichardt's Super-8 version of The Ballad of Billy Joe,which starts shooting in North Carolina in about two weeks. Reichardt, who directed River of Grass, got tired of waiting for someone to give her money to make a 35mm feature and decided to do something funky and affordable--even if she never gets to show it anywhere except festivals (she hasn't cleared the rights). Maria Maggenti, who followed The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love by writing the script for Dreamworks' The Love Letter, expects to start shooting her second film in November. She says the money is "either coming from October Films or the Shooting Gallery." And Alison Maclean, who hasn't been able to put a feature together since her remarkable Crush,says that her adaptation of Denis Johnson's Jesus' Sonwill shoot in January.

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