DALLAS IFF hitting the right TARGET.

25 03 2011

In this edition of our DIFF previews we’ll look at the TARGET Documentary and Narrative Feature Competitions.  A little fellow named Elmo is part of the group!!

Target Filmmaker Award

Awarded to one film each in the Narrative Feature and Documentary Feature Competition, as selected by the respective juries.

Each winning film will receive a $25,000 unrestricted cash prize from Target.

That’s right the DALLAS IFF 2011 opening night film, BEING ELMO: A Puppeteer’s Journey, is part of the Target Documentary Feature Competition.

Directed By: Constance Marks

Elmo is an international icon, but few people know his creator, Kevin Clash, who dreamed of working with his idol, master puppeteer Jim Henson. This documentary includes rare archival footage, interviews with Frank Oz, Cheryl Henson and Joan Ganz Cooney, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop.
— Adam Montgomery, Sundance FF.

Target Documentary Feature Competition

(USA, 2010, 83 mins, HDCAM)

In French, English, Wolof with English subtitles
Directed By: Anne Buford

Producers: Chiemi Karasawa, Anne Buford, Victoria Yoffe
Cinematographers: Peter Szollosi, Shane Sigler
Editors: Chris White, Richard Hankin, Marc Becker
Music: Shawn Lee III
Featuring: Amadou Gallo Fall, Assane Sene, Byago Diouf, Dethie Fall, Aziz N’Daye

In ELEVATE, we follow four Senegalese boys who attend the SEEDS Academy, a one-of-a-kind boarding school for basketball players. Their goal is to earn a scholarship to a U.S. prep school, which hopefully will begin their journey to play in the NBA.Amadou Gallo Fall, a former Dallas Mavericks Scout, founded the SEEDS Academy, as a way to provide opportunities and mentors for young men in his home country. After training in Senegal, these young men are recruited to high schools in the US. Although they tower over their classmates with their 7-foot height, they face the challenges of understanding a foreign language, a strange American culture, and even Catholic prayers instead of Ramadan.

EVEVATE shows how the SEEDS program bonds the group. With each other’s support, they pursue their goals, and inspire anyone who has hoped to achieve their dreams.

— Sarah Harris
The Greater Good

Target Documentary Feature Competition

(USA, 2010, 82 mins, HDCAM)
World Premiere

Directed By: Chris Pilaro,
Kendall Nelson

Kendall took part in a Survey for The Dallas IFF and here are some of the fun facts about the film.

No issue today is more controversial, more hotly debated or more divisive than vaccines and the issue refuses to go away. Perhaps that is because American children are so sick: The CDC reports that 1 in 6 kids has a learning disability, 1 in 9 has asthma, 1 in 100 has a peanut allergy, 1 in 110 has autism, and 1 in 400 has diabetes; and more research needs to be done before vaccines can be taken off the table as a potential factor in this explosion on chronic illness. As new parents, we wanted to dig deeper into this complex issue, that is so polarizing, so that we could open the hearts and minds of viewers to the fact that vaccine injuries do occur; with the goal of creating a rational discussion on the subject of vaccine safety to insure the safest and most effective vaccine program in America today.

In Dallas, we would like to offer to bring together several of our characters and experts to conduct panel discussions on this hotly debated topic and to be available for Q & A after screenings. We will also utilize our contacts with national and Texas physicians, lawmakers, and activists. Already lined up, are local and national grassroots organizations such as the National Vaccine Information Center, the Holistic Moms Network, and Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education (PROVE), the organization that secured a philosophical exemption in the state of Texas and that overturned Governor Rick Perry’s executive order mandating the Gardasil vaccine for all sixth grade girls. Lastly, one of the families featured in our film has strong family ties to Dallas and we have access to some national and local news organizations.  We believe this networking serve to will fill theaters and create buzz.

Producers: Chris Pilaro, Kendall Nelson, Leslie Bradshaw
Cinematographer: Daniel Gold
Editor: Penelope Falk
Music: Stephen Thomas Cavit

Gabi Swank is a 15-year-old cheerleader who, after seeing a commercial for Gardasil, told her mom she wanted to get the vaccination to prevent HPV and cervical cancer. Three shots later, she’s too sick to attend her prom or cheer at the high school basketball games, and has suffered strokes and partial blindness.Gabi is just one person whose life was changed by a vaccine that shares her story in THE GREATER GOOD. Vaccines have been seen as successful for many years, but today’s children are given triple the doses of vaccines that children in the 1980s received. Tie that in with politicized vaccine mandates, health regulators, and pharmaceutical advertising, and our society has come to a crossroads where it must make a decision about the safety of children’s vaccinations.

Through interviews with families, doctors, and health experts, THE GREATER GOOD shows all sides of the issue and challenges us to begin this important conversation. The health of America’s children is depended on it.

— Sarah Harris
Norman Mailer: The American

Target Documentary Feature Competition

(USA, 2010, 96 mins)

Directed By: Joseph Mantegna

Producers: joseph mantegna, Steph Ching, Tim McCarthy
Editor: Justin Chan
Music: Francisco Lobos, Patrick Cannell
Featuring: Norman Mailer, Adele Mailer, Beverly Bentley, Carol Stevens, Danielle Mailer, Ed Fancher, Harriet Sohmers Zwerling, J Michael Lennon, Lenny Green, Mary Dearborn, Richard Stratton, Rip Torn, Dwayne Raymond, Lady Jeanne Campbell, Gore Vidal, Janet Flanner, Dick Cavett, Jose Torres, Gary Gilmore, Jack Abbott, Allen Ginsberg

You know the name. Perhaps you’ve read his novels. You may have even voted for him in a mayoral election, but what you know only scratches the surface. Filmmaker Joseph Mantegna delves deeper to enlighten you with his fascinating glimpse into the life of this controversial but brilliant writer who lived life (according to his assistant) as a “literary rock star.”His 60 books, nine children, six wives and two Pulitzer Prizes add up to a mesmerizing but gritty portrait of a man reviled by some, for his bad-boy behavior, but clearly adored by hoards of literary fans and vulnerable women. This award-winning documentary is illuminated by never-before-seen interviews with Mailer’s former wives, portentous clips from the Dick Cavett Show and heartfelt disclosures by his devoted children.

What phrase describes Norman Mailer best? Literary master or political activist? Counterculture rebel or boxing aficionado? Love him or not, he’s undeniably a true American.

— Susan Kandell

Target Documentary Feature Competition

(Canada, 2010, 90 mins, HDCAM)
US Premiere

Directed By: Barry Stevens

Director Barry Stevens answered some questions about the film.

I have not previously been in Dallas. But it might be of interest that former President Bush, a Texan, made it a central crusade to destroy the International Criminal Court, the institution which this film is about.

Barry talked about the inspiration behind the film.

We all know the world is becoming more globalized. But global politics is not democratic, and great powers only respect the law when they choose to. I was fascinated by something very new that challenges the world order: the emergence of a permanent, global criminal court, that was independent of armies and national governments, a court that intended to put dictators and warlords behind bars when they have committed massive crimes – or even Presidents of leading countries. In theory. But, in the real world, and in the absence of a world police force, this Court relies on the power of legitimacy — and has to ask for cooperation. The man at the centre of this contradiction is Luis Moreno-Ocampo, a charismatic, visionary but flawed Prosecutor. Moreno-Ocampo envisions a world where the rule of law is paramount – where genocide and war crimes are punished, and maybe even deterred. A world which is less a violent free-for-all and more like – well, like life inside a normal, democratic country that has Courts and a police force. But how does he bring that about? How can this prosecutor achieve justice in a world where the gun rules? And pretty much everyone is a critic. The International Criminal Court is to right-wingers a nightmarish threat to sovereignty. To liberals, it might do more harm than good, by indicting men like Ghadafi, maybe making peace even harder to achieve. But to Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC is the future of the planet. Is he right or is he nuts? We watch as he pursues the worst criminals in the worst places in the world, as he tries to prosecute a sitting head of state, and persuades Presidents and diplomats and ordinary people to obey the law.

Featuring: Luis Moreno-Ocampo

The world’s first permanent International Criminal Court made headlines when it issued an arrest warrant alleging war crimes against a sitting head of state, Sudanese President Al-Bashir. Behind the contentious charges is the court’s Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.The film tracks the history of the divisive Criminal Court, shedding light on the international criticism the it faces, and the problems that a prosecutor without any police power has to face.

In New York, Moreno-Ocampo defends the arrest warrant at the UN Security Council. In The Hague, he opens the Court’s first trial of alleged Congolese war criminal Thomas Lubanga. And in the Congo, he meets citizens affected by the trial.

The prosecutor’s critics say his brand of justice threatens peace. Proponents of justice deride his weaknesses. Can he prove them wrong?

Wild Horse, Wild Ride

Target Documentary Feature Competition

(USA, 2010, 106 mins, HDCAM)

Directed By: Alex Dawson,
Greg Gricus

Producer: Alex Dawson
Cinematographer: Greg Gricus
Editor: Jude Leak

Co-directors Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus make their documentary feature debut with the world premiere of a moving and powerful film about wild mustangs and the men and women who train them. At the heart of the film is the annual Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge in Fort Worth, TX in which 100 trainers (both professionals and amateurs) each set out to train a totally wild mustang in just 100 days. The trainers then show their horses in competition before putting the animals up for public auction.Deftly balancing the story of a half dozen trainers and their mustangs in locations ranging from the Navajo nation to the Texas range to the rolling hills of New Hampshire, the filmmakers take us from the first uneasy meeting between the trainers and their horses up through the Ft. Worth competition. What starts as a cautious and suspicious relationship evolves into a powerful bond as tight as any love affair. Crafting a portrait of a seemingly bygone America, Alex and Greg highlight a country where the pastoral beauty of the landscape is nearly matched by the compassion of the people who inhabit it. Enjoy the ride.

— Palm Springs International FF
Zero Percent

Target Documentary Feature Competition

(USA, 2011, 107 mins, HDCAM)
World Premiere

Directed By: Tim Skousen

Tim sent over a survey about his film and here are some of the great responses.  He was asked to give an anecdote about this film.

I think the main anecdote would be the success of the program.  America has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world with 715 of every 100 thousand citizens incarcerated (Russia comes in second with 584)  Right now, 60% of all men and women who get released from prison end up returning to prison within the first 3 years.  Participants in the Hudson Link program since its inception back in 2000 have a 0% recidivism rate.  Over 200 men have graduated, just under 50 have been released, and none have returned.  Besides giving 100’s of men a new chance at life through education, the program saves NY tax payers the 1.7 million dollars a year that it would take to house those inmates, if they had returned to prison at the normal rate.  And every year they have more graduates.

Tim also talked about his background as  a filmmaker.
I’m actually known as a comedy director.  I shoot commercials around the world for Moxie Pictures as a commercial director.  My first feature (“The Sasquatch Gang”) was an award winning comedy. However in 2009 I directed a documentary series about high school football in rural Mississippi and found the documentary experience to be very rewarding.  The series (entitled, Head to Head) ended up winning a Bronze Lion at the Cannes Advertising Awards, and started turning my attention to more serious projects like Zero Percent.  I still pay the bills by doing comedy commercials, but feel very strongly now about the power of documentary to highlight problems and solutions in our society.
ZERO PERCENT gives us a rare glimpse inside the walls of the notorious Sing Sing Correctional facility. We are introduced to men who have been forgotten behind the bars but are finding hope and transformation through education. Hudson Link is one of the only college degree granting programs in New York’s entire department of corrections. The program, which is sponsored through individual donations, is very rigorous. This documentary follows the men involved in the Hudson Link program and their touching stories of life in and out of prison. While most convicts fall into the trap of recidivism once released (the national rate is 60%), none of the graduates from the Hudson Link program have returned to prison. We see remarkable stories of how they have given back to society after what they learned through he program. ZERO PERCENT proves the transformative power of education.
— Sarah Harris
Now lets look at the films in the TARGET NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION.
Surrogate Valentine
plays with The Punchline

Target Narrative Feature Competition

(USA, 2011, 74 mins, HDCAM)

Directed By: Dave Boyle

Cast: Goh Nakamura, Lynn Chen, Chadd Stoops, Parry Shen, Mary Cavett, Eric Levy, Joe Polhemus, Calpernia Addams

SURROGATE VALENTINE introduces us to Goh Nakamura (playing himself), a songwriter and musician living in San Francisco who is just trying to get by in life by playing small live gigs and teaching guitar lessons. Everything seems to be going as it does until his friend asks him to teach guitar lessons to Danny (Chadd Stoops), a famous TV actor that she has cast in a film (which Goh doesn’t yet know is based on his past relationship with his high school love, Rachel). Goh agrees, and Danny begins to follow Goh for a week as he plays shows along the west coast.Goh and Danny embark on their comical road-trip to Seattle and back, which ultimately leads to a friendship neither expected. Goh also runs into Rachel along the way, reigniting sparks as they reminisce of charming memories, but will Goh find the courage to go after the love he wants?

SURROGATE VALENTINE showcases sweet, original music written and performed by Goh Nakamura as well as charming acting from both Nakamura and Chadd Stoops. Both are a true highlight for this refreshing, modern romantic comedy that you won’t want to miss.

— Sarah Harris
Small Town Murder Songs

Target Narrative Feature Competition

(Canada, 2010, 75 mins, HDCAM)

Directed By: Ed Gass-Donnelly

Cast: Martha Plimpton, Peter Stormare, Jill Hennessy, Sebastian Pigott, Jackie Burroughs

When a worn-down police officer in a Mennonite town discovers a raped and murdered girl, he’s forced to confront the debilitating rage he thought he’d buried deep within.As the state police take control of the investigation, Walter (played by an almost unrecognizable Peter Stormare) at first resigns himself to playing second-fiddle. He spends most of his time ignoring his simple and chatty wife, who’s expertly played by Martha Plimpton. But his desire to pin the killing on his former mistress’s new lover gets the better of him, and soon he’s obsessively undermining anybody’s effort at real justice. It becomes evident that Walter is barely holding onto his own murderous impulses. Can he keep himself in check?

Jill Hennessy also turns in an excellent performance as Walter’s mistress, and the soundtrack is a stand-out collection of murder songs. Above all, though, director Ed Gass-Donnelly and crew tell a story so artfully pared to the essentials that when it’s over you’ll be begging for more.

— Marc Lee
The Presence

Target Narrative Feature Competition

(USA, 2010, 88 mins, HDCAM)

Directed By: Tom Provost

The Texan was awesome enough to fill out a survey about his film and here are some of Tom’s responses.  One particular responses immediately stood out to me.  He was asked if their was any religious connection to the film and he brings up the great C.S. Lewis.

One element of the movie is derived from ideas that stem from C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. While the movie is not a ‘religious movie’, people of faith have found the movie very compelling. The director purposefully left quite a few things ambiguous, in part so that the audience can debate and discuss the meaning of aspects of the movie after viewing. At the same time, however, people of faith have responded to the movie in an extremely positive way.

With The Presence, I wanted to try one myself and in doing so give a classic ghost story some sort of twist. Additionally, I knew I wanted to make the movie on my own, which meant raising the money myself … which meant I needed to write something that would not be expensive to shoot! So I set the movie in one location with only a few actors. Finally, creating a sense of wonder/sense of discovery is my favorite aspect of storytelling. From the start, I wanted to create something a little different, unlike anything others might have seen.

When sitting down to write the movie, I kept thinking about how to attract the best actors. Writing solid parts, of course, is a great way to attract actors. But even more, I wanted to add things to the movie that would make the parts more of a challenge, which would be appealing to great actors. As the movie began to unfold in script form, I began to realize just how much of the movie I could do with no dialogue. This is a wonderful challenge to actors and I myself began to get very excited about exploring what Hitchcock called ‘pure cinema’, telling a story through picture and sound with no dialogue. Consequently much of the movie has no dialogue. The first 25 minutes has less than 90 seconds. This was indeed a big appeal to the actors, who jumped at the chance to play and explore in a different way from the norm.

“I’ve enjoyed the process of showing the movie so far. Every time we’ve screened it. The audience has responded very enthusiastically, which has been extremely satisfying. It means so much, though, to be able to screen it in Texas. Though I live in California, I still consider myself a Texan. It is wonderful for me personally to be able to show the movie in Dallas.”

Producers: Tom Rice, Brandon Blake
Cinematographer: Collin Brink
Editor: Cecily Rhett
Music: Conrad Pope
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Justin Kirk, Shane West, Tony Curran
Beautiful, creepy, quiet, and somewhat romantic … and that’s just the first 15 minutes of Tom Provost’s modern-day gothic romance story THE PRESENCE. In this darkly emotional ghost story, a woman travels to an isolated cabin where she finds herself stalked by an apparition who has inhabited her space as his own. With the unexpected arrival of the woman’s boyfriend, the dark spirit’s haunting grows more obsessive. Soon the woman begins to exhibit irrational behavior as the thin line between sanity and possession begins to unravel. A stunning directorial debut from Tom Provost, THE PRESENCE is grounded in terrific performances, beautiful cinematography, a lush musical score, and a Hitchcockian style that explores the idea of pure cinematic storytelling.
— James Faust

Target Narrative Feature Competition

(Finland , Ireland, 2010, 90 mins)

Directed By: Darragh Byrne

Producers: Dominic Wright, Jacqueline Kerrin
Cinematographer: John Conroy
Editors: Gareth Young, Guy Montgomery
Music: Niall Byrne
Cast: Colm Meaney, Colin Morgan, Milka Ahlroth, Stuart Graham, David Wilmot

Ireland is a beautiful country. Great people. Lush rolling hills. And apparently, great car parks.Fred Daly lives a quiet, lonely life in his car. But that changes when Cathal, a dope-smoking 21-year-old with a positive attitude arrives in a little yellow car and becomes his neighbor. Cathal seems determined to make Fred sort his life out. And it works. As Cathal’s infectious energy rubs off on him, Fred modifies his car into a home, beats the welfare system and makes a friend in Jules, an attractive music teacher who lives alone nearby. But Fred struggles with his pride to tell Jules about his ‘home’ as Cathal’s life is threatened by his escalating drug habit. As they grow closer, the influence of these three outsiders on each other will change their lives.

Colm Meaney turns in a stellar performance as the stand-up Fred Daly and Colin Morgan sheds any likeness to his television role as Merlin and creates a memorable drug addict that will break your heart. Darragh Byrne’s debut feature is a triumphant tale of hope and perseverance.

— James Faust
Jess + Moss

Target Narrative Feature Competition

(USA, 2011, 82 mins, HDCAM)

Directed By: Clay Jeter

Cast: Sarah Hagan, Austin Vickers

In this beautiful creation that evokes the haunting qualities of memory and mystery, two iconic figures—Jess, an adolescent girl, and Moss, a younger boy—seem to occupy the center of a slowly unfolding narrative. They languish in a rural home and the farmlands nearby, play-act scenes of domesticity, and chat about whatever comes into their heads (age, death, sex.) However, emotionally charged moments replace sustained dramatic action as our understanding (and fascination) develops by accretion, observing interactions both tender and violent.Director Clay Jeter delicately imposes a complex assemblage of ways of looking and listening; planes of focus, select pieces of music, and expert sound engineering call attention to cryptic, but suggestive, details as interludes displaying natural phenomena (leaves, rainfall, even microorganisms) underline the children’s role as agents of nature’s power.

The film creates a world whose mundane elements swell to bursting and demonstrates the power of cinema to turn the inside out.

Goodbye Cruel World
Adios Mundo Cruel

Target Narrative Feature Competition

(Mexico, 2010, 88 mins, 35mm)

In Spanish with English subtitles
Directed By: Jack Zagha

After being fired from his job as an insurance accountant, good-natured Angel has to face the hardships of unemployment until he bumps into some unexpected saviors: a gang of not-so-competent scoundrels who indoctrinate Angel into their criminal ways. Together with the gang, Angel will lead a heist that promises to make them all rich, and perhaps even famous. GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD, the first feature of UT Austin alum Jack Zagha Kababie, has the heart, hilarity, and critical bite that only dark humor can deliver. Those qualities are reinforced not only by the solid directing and austere cinematography reflecting Angel’s grim situation, but also by the performances of the talented cast, who make the audience empathize with the characters regardless of their foolish criminal intentions and walk out of the theater with a smile.
— Alex Garcia Topete
Boy Wonder

Target Narrative Feature Competition

(USA, 2010, 94 mins, HDCAM)

Directed By: Michael Morrissey

Producer: John Scaccia
Cinematographer: Christopher LaVasseur
Editors: Doug Fitch, Ray Hubley
Cast: Caleb Steinmeyer, Zulay Henao, Bill Sage, James Russo, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Tracy Middendorf, Chuck Cooper
Terry Donovan is an avenger. Driven by his mother’s violent death, he lives his life like a comic book anti-hero, helping out at his local Brooklyn police precinct by day, and eliminating criminals who commit crimes against women by night. As pimps and abusers fall under his fists, we learn that Terry’s memory of his mother’s death isn’t as clear as it could be, and his grip on reality is somewhat tenuous. His once-abusive father tries desperately to reconnect with him, while a misunderstood but kind detective develops suspicions about the station’s volunteer. Bill Sage bangs out a convincing performance as the disturbed vigilante, subtly bringing out his character’s anguish, self-doubt, and hatred. Deft editing by Doug Fitch and Ray Hubley and direction by Michael Morrissey navigate this dark story to its suspense-filled conclusion.
A little shout out to the DALLAS IFF 2010 winners.


Target Filmmaker Awards
Documentary : WASTE LAND
Director: Lucy Walker
Special mention, editing: THUNDER SOUL
Director: Mark Landsman
Special Jury Prize: THE LAST SURVIVOR
Diector: Michael Pertnoy, Michael Kleinman

Narrative Feature: THE DRY LAND
Director: Ryan Piers Williams




One response

27 03 2011

Great review of Boy Wonder, however the lead characters names is Sean not Terry and he is played by Caleb Steinmeyer, The dad’s name is Terry and he is played by Bill Sage

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