Birthdays and Rebirth in Alaska

Posted in Diary of a Directrix, On the Fest Circuit
December 8th, 2009 by Devi Snively (The Directrix)

tony nat j paul smsunset over dennys smOne of my favorite things about festivals is you never know what to expect.  Sure, there will be movies to see, parties to attend and so forth.  But every experience is so distinct, each fest has its own unique personality.  Don, one of the fest coordinators, and I are convinced it’s like summer sleepaway camp for adults.  One forms these immediate bonds with her new fest buddies and takes away life-long memories.  She also grows as a person.  How could she not?  Surrounded by kindred spirits from all over the world, sharing meals, housing and new experiences with them (the sunsets here are AMAZING!), it’s impossible not to go on some sort of journey.

disco082409nat mac n cheese smI can’t begin to describe the last few days.    The Anchorage International Film Festival has proven  to be such a distinct experience as well – like nothing I ever could have imagined.  In mere words it would probably sound boring – the same group of us, spending much of our time gathered around tables and in the parlour, talking about every topic under the sun (or moon in this case) whilst sipping beer, wine and/or martinis.  It’s practically a Whit Stillman film. But I swear it’s pure magic.  It feels like this is the beginning of something truly significant. Even a simple trip to Costco and Nat’s first taste of mac ‘n cheese became an adventure of sorts.

bomber3-6Our first screening of Death in Charge was very well-received and I was so impressed and truly moved by all of my housemates’ films.  We saw Paul Cotter’s BOMBER on Saturday evening and it was so wonderfully simple, yet profoundly touching.  There is a mere 3-word line of dialogue that alone reminded me what good writing truly is:  simple, impactful, surprising, yet true.  What a delight to get to know director Paul a bit first, because it was all the more fun to see how his film so beautifully reflected the person behind it – witty, intelligent, occasionally very profound, a bit mischievous and sometimes just downright silly.

emo-kidWe were so sad to see him depart yesterday (fortunately he lives in walking distance from me in L.A.), but a multi-hour discussion around the dinner table (over a scrumptious meal prepared by Bill) his final night  felt like a fitting way to send him off (topped off by a group viewing of the literal video of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart which never ceases to entertain all.)

sexandthecitymovie1Monday was a very special day indeed.  It was J Harness‘ actual birthday (in Australia anyway) and it was also the world premiere screening of his and Natalie Eleftheriadis‘ beautiful film BIRTHDAY.  After having endless discussions with them both about films, philosophy, life and SEX IN THE CITY (not sure how that happened, but a lively debate ensued until nearly 3am one eve) I knew I was going to enjoy this film.  We talked about how some films are “movies” that entertain in the moment and how others are “experiences” that stick with you.  BIRTHDAY is definitely an experience.

titleThe opening shots of the film reminded me of Paul’s 3-word line of dialogue that enlightened with their simple effectiveness – the spectator immediately knows she’s in the hands of a masterful storyteller.

HENRY-11-1A wonderfully anachronistic prostitute (think Anais Nin meets Winona Ryder with a touch of Guilieta Masina’s Cabiria)  holds a cupcake with a single birthday candle – the beginning of just another day in the brothel.  J and Natalie do an amazing job of bringing the world, the characters and story to life.   It’s a small story about big moments and by movie’s end even a couple of the gruffer, macho local dudes were clearly choked up by the very satisfying and touching denoument.

champagne toast smcandles smAfter the screening and very enthusiastic q and a, lively fest founder Tony Sheppard threw a fabulous birthday party with cake and champagne to celebrate the birth of the film, 2 of its characters and J himself.  It was such a thrill to see J and Natalie surrounded by their new fans dying to ask more questions about their thought-provoking film.  If only distribution companies could see how audiences clamor for intelligent well-done entertainment.  People were so eager to find out when they could purchase copies of their own.

tony nat j smI’ve talked a lot lately about feeling like I’m sitting at the “grown up table” at last.  This experience has only solidified it.  Filmmakers like Paul and J and Natalie have really helped me see where I want to head next with our filmmaking endeavors.  It’s so empowering to be surrounded by people who share similar dreams and are succeeding on their own terms, making the films they want to make and staying true to themselves.  I love their fearless, yet generous approach to art and can only hope I’ll be able to follow their good example on my own path. This weekend feels like a birth of something new – or perhaps a rebirth.  How fitting. (And “Hi!” from Anchorage, Nathalie Eleftheriadis’, Dad! That was really funny!)

One Response to “Birthdays and Rebirth in Alaska”

  1. [...] on fire, and now I’ve just learned that my dear friends from Australia J and Nat, whom I met in Anchorage will be screening their amazing film Birthday in Cannes at the same time!  We will live together [...]

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