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October 29, 2009

Mid-week Report from the VT International Film Fest

Precious The VIFF has one more weekend to go, and it should be a good one. When I attended the screening of The Men Who Stare at Goats last Friday, it was jam-packed. Fest board head Deb Ellis says that tickets for this Friday's screening of Precious, Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (pictured) are going fast.

Maybe you don't remember the novel Push, a sort of urban The Color Purple for the 1990s. Maybe you do, in which case it won't surprise you that the movie is a huge chunk of desperation and gloom. Word from the fests is that the actresses' performances are worth the price of admission, though.

Ellis also recommends the Saturday 2:30 screening of RFK in the Land of Apartheid: A Ripple of Hope, a documentary about a neglected chapter in the life of the man who might have been president — his inspirational 1966 trip to South Africa. Directors Tami Gold and Larry Shore will be there.

And let's not forget Saturday night's Halloween program, which I previewed in State of the Arts this week.

All the filmmakers in the Vermont Filmmakers Showcase are eligible to win cash prizes, which will be handed out at a ceremony at 6:15 on Friday. All the local ones, that is.

During the Q & A after the showcase of short films last Friday, some of us were surprised to learn that one of the shorts selected, Aaron Bacon, had no Vermont connection — or at least none its makers, a nice young couple from NYC, were aware of. VIFF used to solicit submissions from all over, but for the past two years, the board has kept the competition local.

Ellis assures me that Aaron Bacon isn't in the running for the cash. She says the board did know about its lack of local connections, but "we liked it, and at some level we felt it was worth screening." She also says no Vermont submissions were bumped specifically to make room for the comparatively slick production — which, unlike your average Vermont film, shot out West and used actors with SAG cards.

But there was no shortage of local talent in the selection of shorts. Burlington resident Alison Selle directed the quirky "Confessions from the Sock Drawer," in which off-screen real people confess their darkest secrets through the mouths of ... sock puppets. Also on the zany and weird side was "Anti de Presence," by Tim Joy of Middlebury, which stars state rep Jason Lorber as a guy having some very odd hallucinations.

Burlington High School junior Graham Raubvogel was there to present his "Art Lovers" — a funny and promising tale of a gallery goer too shy to approach the girl of his choice. That role was played by Michael Fisher, who also starred in Justin Bunnell's "Tin Man" and presented his own moody short, "Reap." (Fisher's latest dialogue-free but atmosphere-steeped film, "Backwater," is up at Vimeo.)

You can see the whole showcase on Friday at 1:20 p.m. and Sunday at 12:45. And don't forget VIFF's closing film, The Young Victoria, on Sunday night. I don't know how much drama the teenage years of England's famously stodgy queen really have to offer, but those Brits know how to do costume pieces up right.

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