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Back In Focus: The 2006 Alive Deep Focus Film Festival

by David Cornelius

There are countless reasons to attend the second annual Alive Deep Focus Film Festival - most obvious being the chance for Midwesterners to see a wide variety of movies that would otherwise go unseen - but my top reason is simple: I’m in love with the Arena Grand.

The theater, located in the “Arena District” of downtown Columbus, Ohio, is a multiplex for people who hate multiplexes. Part of the Columbus-based Drexel cinema chain, the Arena Grand features a mix of mainstream and art house fare; serves up some delicious grub at their bar and bistro; and houses in their main theater a ginormous screen viewable from a lush balcony.

I was introduced to the Arena grand last year, during the inaugural run of Deep Focus (the “Alive” in their name comes from their sponsor, a local free alternative newsweekly). The festival showings were held in the multiplex’s smaller-capacity theaters, but the smartly-planned schedule allowed for early visits to see other shows. I’m anxious to go back and catch a Saturday matinee from the balcony.

Of course, I’m also looking forward to the festival itself. Like last year, the 2006 Deep Focus has been programmed by Melissa Starker, assistant editor for “Alive;” Drexel Theaters president Jeff Frank; and Columbus-based film critic Mark Pfeiffer - and if there’s anybody I’d trust with putting together a film fest, it’s Pfeiffer, a heck of a nice guy whose movie blog Reel Times is essential web reading.

While Deep Focus is much smaller than many other film festivals, it succeeds in providing a crash course of sorts in fest-worthy cinema, keeping its schedule tight and accessible. The entire fest is held under one roof, with showtimes designed to allow guests to take in as much as possible in just one weekend.

And to cap things off, Deep Focus becomes your first place to catch rising local filmmakers, as several locally-produced short films are set to play before most features. You’re bound to see something you’ve never seen before… and may never see again.

Here’s this year’s lineup. Descriptions come directly from the Deep Focus people themselves, so visitors of the Deep Focus website might catch a little déjà vu here.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, Emilie de Ravin, Richard Roundtree.

Winner of a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for “originality of vision,” Rian Johnson’s feature film debut moves the lingo and plot twists of classic detective films to a modern California high school. Opening Night Gala. Preceded by For a Blonde... For a Brunette... For Someone... For Her... For You..., in which filmmaker Mike Olenick at long last unites the pleasures of classic cinema and karaoke. Thursday, May 4 at 7:00 PM; followed by an after-party at Red Star Tavern.

20 Centimeters
Written and directed by Ramón Salazar. Starring Monica Cervera, Pablo Puyol, Miguel O’Dogherty, Rossy de Palma.

A colorful blend of the glamour of classic Hollywood and the gritty, gender-bending humor of early John Waters, this Spanish fantasy musical centers on a narcoleptic transsexual prostitute torn between a dreamy man and her dreams of becoming a woman. For adults only. Saturday, May 6 at 7:45 PM; Sunday, May 7 at 2:15 PM.

The District!
Directed by Áron Gauder. Written by Márisuz Bari, Viktor Nagy, Erik Novák, László Jakab Orsós. Starring L.L. Junior, László Szacsvay, Gyözö Szabó.

An eye-popping animated entry from Hungary, this hilarious, raunchy satire about time travel, big oil and the real whereabouts of Osama bin Laden is most easily described as Eastern Europe’s answer to South Park - but with a hip hop soundtrack. Midwest premiere. Saturday, May 6 at 9:45 PM.

District B13
Directed by Pierre Morel. Written by Luc Besson, Bibi Naceri. Starring Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D’Amario, Dany Verissimo.

In the near future of this action-packed French drama, a crime-ridden section of Paris has become a walled prison. A cop and a vigilante team up to take down the local crime lord and stop a ticking neutron bomb from exploding. Ohio premiere. Friday, May 5 at 10 PM; Saturday, May 6 at 5:00 PM.

The King
Directed by James Marsh. Written by Milo Addica, James Marsh. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, William Hurt, Pell James, Laura Harring.

Gael Garcia Bernal and William Hurt star in this intense Southern gothic thriller about a preacher whose past comes back to bite him in the form of a son he never knew he had. Saturday, May 6 at 10:00 PM; Sunday, May 7 at 4:30 PM.

LoudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies
Directed by Steven Cantor, Matthew Galkin.

Two filmmakers capture the extraordinary music and uncomfortable dynamic between members of The Pixies during the band’s sold out 2004 reunion tour. Midwest premiere. Saturday, May 6 at 7:30 PM; Sunday, May 7 at 2:00 PM.

The Puffy Chair
Directed by Jay Duplass. Written by Mark Duplass.

A favorite on the festival circuit, this funny, endearing slice of life tracks one man’s quest to get his father a vintage La-Z-Boy for his birthday. It’s part romantic comedy and part road movie, but casually defies the clichés of both genres. Ohio premiere. Preceded by Junior! The Wendy’s Guy. Like Puffy Chair this is an Austin, Texas import, but with a hometown connection through the Dublin-based fast food giant. Stephen Stephanian’s fun, fast-paced mini-documentary chronicles a pivotal day in the career of the world’s fastest Wendy’s cashier. Friday, May 5 at 9:30 PM.

Twelve and Holding
Directed by Michael Cuesta. Written by Anthony S. Cipriano. Starring Conor Donovan, Jesse Camacho, Zoe Weizenbaum, Annabella Sciorra.

In this touching comedy-drama by director Michael Cuesta (L.I.E., Six Feet Under), three kids deal with newfound adult feelings and parental conflict after the accidental death of a friend. Midwest premiere. Preceded by Your Kid Gloves Are Too Tight, a comedic short about nurturing and letting go by Columbus College of Art and Design student Jonathan Achor. Friday, May 5 at 7:15 PM; Sunday, May 7 at 5:00 PM.

Written and directed by Richard E. Grant. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Julie Walters.

Richard E. Grant’s smart, semi-autobiographical tale of growing up among adulterous colonials in pre-independent Swaziland features an extraordinary cast, including Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson and Miranda Richardson. Ohio premiere. Saturday, May 6 at 5:30 PM.

Written and directed by Deepa Mehta. Starring Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas, Sarala, Manorama.

The third film in Deepa Mehta’s Elemental Trilogy, this ultimately uplifting drama details the lives of a group of widows in India in the 1930s. Cast out of society and locked away for life in an ashram, the most beautiful among them, Ray’s Kalyani, and the youngest, a spirited eight-year-old girl, dream of the world beyond their confinement. Ohio premiere. Screening Friday, May 5 at 7:30 PM.

American Blackout
Directed by Ian Inaba.

Inaba’s fascinating documentary, an award winner at the Sundance and Cleveland Film Festivals, returns to the sites of recent instances of voter disenfranchisement in American politics, including Franklin County during the 2004 election. Closing Night selection. Preceded by True Lies, in which Inaba, wordsmith Taalam Acey, animator Haik Hoisington and soundtrack artists The Soulsavers collaborate for an arresting explosion of frustration and rage at our current political leaders, based on a book of the same name. Sunday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m., introduced by director Ian Inaba.

For more information and tickets, check out the official Deep Focus website and the Arena Grand website.

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1807
originally posted: 04/27/06 14:32:54
last updated: 05/17/06 09:50:19
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