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Newport International Film Festival all set for next week

The 2005 Newport International Film Festival, the 8th Annual event, will get underway Tuesday, June 7th – 12th, 2005, and run for six glorious days and nights of entertaining films, informative symposiums, and, of course, those glamorous Newport parties. The Festival atmosphere is relaxed, yet filled with all the enchantment, energy, and excitement of Hollywood. The Newport International Film Festival draws filmmakers and celebrities from around the world.

This year the festival will honor writer/director/actor/musician Michael McKean with the annual Claiborne Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement. His longtime friends and colleagues, writer/director/actor/musician, Christopher Guest and actor/writer/producer/musician Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman, A Mighty Wind) will be on hand to honor him along with Senator & Mrs. Claiborne Pell at the awards brunch on Saturday, June 11th. Later that afternoon the public can sit in on a ‘Conversation’ with our honored guest, culminating in a rare special acoustic performance of MSG (McKean, Shearer & Guest). Retrospective screenings of The Big Picture, Best In Show, and This Is Spinal Tap will play throughout the week.

This year’s Festival will continue to present the programs and events which have become so much a part of the Newport Film Festival experience: Opening & Closing Night Film & Galas; the juried film competitions for Narrative, Documentary and Short films with cash and in-kind prizes; the Annual Claiborne Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement; afternoon panel discussions with the filmmakers; seminars and workshops, including a Master Class with acclaimed cinematographer Ellen Kuras; “Docuclub” (a unique on-site documentary project); Nortek-NIFF Golf Classic; and premieres of over 100 U.S. and International films. To enable the festival to handle this plethora of riches we have added the Newport Art Museum to our list of superb venues.

Incorporating Newport’s long tradition of music with its jazz and folk fests, we will again present the Music on Film program, screening the most interesting material from the marriage of the two genres, and enhanced by live musical performances from some of music’s hottest stars.

Film programs include the Open & Closing, Narrative, Documentary & Shorts in Competitions (with cash prizes of $2,500 in both the narrative and doc programs, and $1,000 in the shorts program), Contemporary World Cinema, Retrospective Screenings, Films For Families and Open Call – Short Films from Rhode Island.

“The Newport International Film Festival has grown and elevated its position as a premiere festival showcasing the best independent film by emerging filmmakers and seasoned professionals,” states Executive Director Laurie Kirby. “The program is designed to stimulate and challenge our audiences through interactive dialogue with filmmakers. Last year, we were honored that five of our film selections went onto become Academy Award nominees. This is an unparalleled opportunity to see the films first that you will be reading about the rest of the year.”

The Festival’s Opening Day traditionally kicks off with the Nortek NIFF Golf Classic, and this year’s no different. Sponsored by Nortek, the 2005 NIFF Classic will be played at one of the most exclusive clubs in the U.S., the Carnegie Abbey Golf Club. That evening the Opening Night Film will be Seamless (USA), Dir. Douglas Keeve. Whoever said beauty is only skin deep never spent anytime behind the scenes discovering what a grueling and painstaking business beauty can be, particularly for young designers hoping to dress the most famous faces and bodies in the world. To finance the next generation of designers, Vogue magazine and the Council of Fashion Designers of America established the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. In following four up-and-coming designers during the contest's first year, Seamless offers an extraordinary look at what it takes to make it in the fashion world and create a seemingly effortless image. Opening Night Gala will be at the Newport Colony House in Washington Square with director Douglas Keeve and designer Doo Ri attending. The Closing Night Film is The Beautiful Country (USA), Dir. Hans Petter Moland. The life of children of GIs by Vietnamese women is a difficult one, rife with taunting, abuse and rejection. Binh, one such child, is forced from his village at 17 and sets out to find his mother in Saigon and then to America, in search of a better life and his estranged American father. Featured actors Damien Nguyen and Nick Nolte will be attending. Closing Gala will be held at the very elegant Ochre Court.

The juried Narrative Competition films include Cronicas (Mexico/Ecuador), Dir. Sebastián Cordero, starring John Leguizamo. This moving feature articulates a profound commentary on American foreign policy and the malignant excesses of the media's rapacious hunger for "the story." From its spectacular opening sequence of mob violence to its dramatic, painful conclusion, Crónicas plays out with all the tension of a thriller; The Forest for the Trees (Germany), Dir. Maren Ade Melanie leaves her life in the country and becomes a science teacher in a big-city high school. Her overwhelming need to fit in and be loved leads to one faux pas after another; each effort to connect only further isolates her. This bold and occasionally hilarious character study delves into the unsettling yet sometimes too familiar terrain of loneliness, shame, and dysfunction; Four-Eyed Monsters (USA), Dir. Susan Buice & Arin Crumley (who are both attending). You see them everywhere: those four glittering eyes of smug satisfaction, two pink mouths pressed together in suffocation, eight limbs that squeeze itself in adoration, taking two seats on the subway. This film offers an original take on the story of two lonely people who threaten to become such a monster when they meet online and begin dating in the big dirty city; Innocence (France), Dir. Lucile Hadzihalilovic. Young girls of different ages are mysteriously taken to a kind of boarding school in the middle of a forest. The only adults are old servants and two authoritarian teachers. Lucile Hadzihalilovic reinvents the “coming of age” theme in daring ways as her dazzling images invoke the most frightening of children’s stories; Le Grand Voyage (France/Morocco), Dir. Ismael Ferroukhi In this road film for the new millennium, Mustapha, a Moroccan-Frenchman, wishes to visit Mecca before he dies. Choosing to drive rather than fly, he enlists his son Réda to serve as the driver on the arduous trek through seven countries. Father and son quickly realize that if the trek doesn’t test them, their many differences will; Me and You and Everyone We Know (USA), Dir. Miranda July (who just won the Camera d’Or at the 2005 Cannes Festival for Best First Feature). Acclaimed multimedia artist Miranda July presents a poetic and penetrating observation of how people struggle to connect with one another in an isolating and contemporary world. Everyday characters act upon secret desires and speak their innermost thoughts, leading to sometimes transcendent, sometimes hilarious, and often profoundly human moments; Mutual Appreciation (USA), Dir. Andrew Bujalski (who will be in Newport). Bujalski (recipient of the IFP “Someone to Watch” award) tells the freewheeling story of Alan, a musician who leaves his old band for a new musical voyage and New York City. He tries to stay focused and fends off all manner of distractions, including the attraction to his best friend’s girl friend; On the Outs (USA), Dir. Michael Skolnick & Lori Silverbush (who will both be attending along with star Paola Mendoza). The lives of three street-smart New Jersey girls from the same Latino neighborhood intersect briefly in prison, giving us a powerful cross-section of their unique slice of America. Each one makes choices that lead into dark places. Finding out who manages to emerge from the shadows makes for the film’s greatest suspense.

Narrative Jury members include: Producer (“Seamless,” “A History of Violence”), Josh Braun; Filmmaker/Producer/Writer (“Paris, Texas”; “Bottle Rocket”) L.M. Kit Carson;

NIFF Documentary Competition films include Abel Raises Cain (USA), Dir. Jenny Abel & Jeff Hockett (who are attending along with Alan Abel). Some people are intrigued by Alan Abel, some don’t get him, and others just hate his guts. Filmmaker Jenny Abel offers an extremely entertaining portrait of the life and career of her father, known to many as "the world's greatest hoaxer"; After Innocence (USA), Dir. Jessica Sanders (who will be attending, along with RI Police Officer Scott Hornoff who was imprisioned for a crime he did not commit). Improved forensic science and DNA evidence have reversed numerous convictions in this grievously flawed criminal justice system. But what does life hold for the recently exonerated? Jessica Sanders explores this key question in her enthralling debut documentary; The Boys of Baraka (USA), Dir. Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady (who will be joining). Twenty “at risk” 12-year-old boys from the roughest neighborhoods of inner-city Baltimore are selected to attend an experimental boarding school in the hinterlands of Kenya. The film follows four of the boys on their exhilarating journey of transformation, as well as their return to the difficult and painful realities of the city; The Devil’s Miner (Germany/USA), Dir. Kief Davidson & Richard Ladkani (Filmmaker Kief Davidson will be in attendance). This unflinching and heartrending documentary exposes the scandalous child-employment practices in the silver mines of Bolivia. The story is told through the eyes of 14-year-old Basilio Vargas who, with his brother, descends into the dangerous depths of the mine, far from the bright future he longs for; La Sierra (Colombia), Dir. Scott Dalton & Margarita Martinez (who will both be in attendance). A small neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia, is ruled by a gang of young men, mostly teenagers, affiliated with Colombia's illegal paramilitary armies. This riveting documentary follows the lives of three young people, illuminating their experiences of war, death and love; The Real Dirt on Farmer John (USA), Dir. Taggart Siegel (who will be joining the festival along with Farmer John). Maverick Midwestern farmer, Farmer John, transformed his family farm with a revolutionary agriculture, only to be castigated as a pariah in his community. Even so, this man resurrects his farm amidst a failing economy, vicious rumors, and arson, creating a bastion of free expression in the process. This inspiring documentary of revolution and agriculture set in rural America challenges all our assumptions about red states and blue states; Stolen (USA), Dir. Rebecca Dreyfus (who will be joining along with Producer Susannah Ludwig). In March 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police officers gained entrance to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum successfully executed the largest art heist in modern history. Spanning the centuries from the 17th century Dutch masters to the 19th century art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner to present day investigators, felons, and con men Stolen merges the aesthetic power of art and the intrigue of crime; Same Sex America (USA), Dir. Henry Corra (who will be attending along with co-filmmaker Charlene Rule as well as many of the film’s subjects). This heartfelt documentary weaves the stories of seven gay and lesbian couples on their emotional journey to the altar with the dramatic showdown at Massachusetts’ constitutional convention. The result is a subtle, richly layered film that inspires and entertains while taking the viewer on an unforgettable journey to the heart of the new American family. Playing with Goodnight Bill, Dir. John Mitchell; Unknown White Male (UK), Dir. Rupert Murray. One day Doug Bruce woke up in Coney Island with absolutely no memory of his identity or past. Director Rupert Murray, who knew Bruce before the amnesia, documents Bruce’s journey as he traveled back to Europe to meet family and friends for the first time. This astounding film explores what it is to have a second chance at life, and how memory makes us who we are.
Documentary Jury members include: Producer (“Fahrenheit 9/11”), Tia Lessin; Producer (“Left of the Dial”), Patrick Farrelly; Filmmaker (“Parallel Lines”), Nina Davenport.

The Documentaries Out Of Competition include The 10th District Court: Moments of Trials (France), Dir. Raymond Depardon. In France, cameras are seldom allowed in the courtroom and footage from proceedings may not be shown for 20 years afterwards. But filmmaker Raymond Depardon takes us inside for a thrillingly rare look into the trials (and tribulations) at 10th District Courthouse in Paris; The Beauty Academy of Kabul (USA/UK), Dir. Liz Mermin (who will be attending). After the Taliban's fall, six American women traveled to Afghanistan to open a beauty college in order to help women learn a trade and heal themselves and others with haircuts, perms and make-up. The students reveal the complexities of life under the Taliban as they also express hesitant hopes for the future of their society; The Education of Shelby Knox (USA), Dir. Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt (who will both be attending). A self-described "good Southern Baptist girl," who has pledged abstinence until marriage, 15-year-old Shelby Knox plunges headfirst into the culture wars as an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex education when she learns that Lubbock, Texas, which teaches an “abstinence only” sex education, has the highest rate of STDs and teen pregnancy in the state; Reel Paradise (USA), Dir. Steve James. This utterly engaging documentary follows American independent cinema producer John Pierson (who will be attending), and his wife, Janet, and their two kids to a remote movie theater in Taveuni, Fiji, where they plan to show American, British and Hindi films for free. While humorous and heartbreaking clashes of culture, religion, and work ethics inevitably ensue, the film never forgets pleasure of going to the movies; Troop 1500: Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (USA), Dir. Ellen Spiro & Karen Bernstein (who will both be attending). Their mothers may be convicted thieves, murderers and drug dealers, but the girls of Troop 1500 want to be doctors, social workers and marine biologists. With monthly meetings at Hilltop Prison, this controversial Girl Scout program brings daughters together with their inmate mothers, offering them a chance to rebuild their broken relationships; Twist of Faith (USA), Dir. Kirby Dick. When firefighter Tony Comes learns that the priest who sexually abused him as a boy lives just a few houses away, he is forced to confront his powerful emotions, and decides to go public with this disturbing past. [Academy Award Nominee, Twist of Faith is the first documentary to delve into the wrenching psychological journey of one victim who determines to take on the church and set things right, even as this decision threatens to shatter all Comes has known; Writer of O (France/USA), Dir. Pola Rapaport (who will be attending). In 1954, the elegant S&M fantasy and seemingly autobiographical account of Pauline Réage, The Story of O scandalized the literary world and became an inevitable best seller. Fifty years later, Dominique Aury, a mild-mannered editor with the prestigious Parisian publisher, Gallimard, came forward as its creator. Pola Rapaport interviews the 89-year-old author and dramatizes sequences from the infamous novel in order to explore the relationships between sexuality and power and literature and real-life inspiration; Shake Hands with the Devil (Canada), Dir. Peter Raymont. Lt. General Roméo Daillaire, the commander of a small UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, witnessed the failure of humanity on two counts: the genocide that took the lives of 800,000 people and the world that turned its back on this crime. This powerful film documents Dallaire’s emotional return to ten years later, still haunted by the profound catastrophe he was unable to stop; Murderball (USA), Dir. Henry Alex Rubin & Dana Adam Shapiro is a raunchy and raucous contribution to the documentary genre, Murderball –the original name for quadriplegic rugby—follows the members of the USA Paralympic team on their way to the Olympic Arena in Athens. The game is a vivid and visceral spectacle, played in specially built, Mad Max style custom wheelchairs and without the usual padding and protection. All the drama of a sports film with none of the schmaltz. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. Paralympic athlete, focus of the film – and Providence native – Joe Soares will be on hand as will Producer Jeff Mandel.

The Music On Film program includes Be Here to Love Me (USA), Dir. Margaret Brown (who will be attending). Margaret Brown presents an evocative and tender portrait of the late Townes Van Zandt, whose songs have been recorded by artists as diverse as Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and The Meat Puppets. He was an outsider, an itinerant, and above all, a songwriter’s songwriter. His story is a must for any music fan; Bound to Lose (USA), Dir. Paul Lovelace & Sam Wainwright Douglas (who will be attending along with members of the Holy Modal Rounders who will performing). During the early 1960s folk explosion, fiddler Peter Stampfel and guitarist Steve Weber joined forces to become the Holy Modal Rounders. They quickly became standards on the folk circuit with their bizarre original compositions and absurdly irreverent versions of traditional folk songs; Press On (USA), Dir. Gillian Grisman (who will be attending along with legends of the “scared steel” musicians Calvin Cooke and Ted Beard who will be performing). This inspiring documentary introduces us to the 25-year-old pedal steel phenomenon, Robert Randolph, as he ventures to take “sacred steel” music—a unique style hidden for over 60 years from the secular world—out of the church and into the mainstream. A fascinating exploration of the interaction of African American gospel tradition and the future of rock-and-roll. Playing with Matisyahu, Dir. David Baugnon; Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling (USA), Dir. Kate Davis & David Heilbroner (who will both be whistling in Newport). “There are two types of people in this world—those who whistle and those who have tried.” Focusing on the first group, this jovial documentary offers an inside look at the astonishing world of competitive whistling; Favela Rising, Dir. Matt Mochary and Jeff Zimbalist (who will be in attendance). A man emerges from the slums of Rio to lead the nonviolent cultural movement known as Afro-reggae; You’re Gonna Miss Me, Dir. Kevin McAlestar. The story of Texas music legend Roky Erickson, who was singer and songwriter for the 13th Floor Elevators and released many recordings during a long solo career. Yet mental illness and a dysfunctional family drew his promising career to an untimely close.

Contemporary World Cinema features include The Beat that My Heart Skipped (France), Dir. Jacques Audiard. When he’s not planting rats in apartments or ripping up floorboards to forcibly evict immigrant squatters, the 28-year-old Tom trains to become a classical concert pianist. Jacques Audiard’s adaptation of James Toback’s 1978 cult classic, Fingers, is a compelling drama of obsession and identity; Only Human (Spain/UK), Dir. Dominic Harari and Teresa De Pelegrí. When a Jewish daughter brings her fiancé home to meet her loveable, dysfunctional family for the first time, everything goes smoothly until the boyfriend reveals he is Palestinian. The evening soon spirals out of control through a series of hilarious mishaps and misunderstandings and the couple's relationship is pushed to the breaking point. Playing with: West Bank Story, Dir. Ari Sandel; Pulse (Japan), Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa. A website, which at first appears to be merely a scary hoax with an irresistible marketing ploy, turns out to be run by a sinister and deadly force. This spine-tingling scary film, which was released at the same time as the more sensational Ringu (remade as The Ring) has been locked away in Miramax’s vaults until now; Somersault (Australia), Dir. Cate Shortland. A teenage girl makes a reckless, and certainly ill-advised, pass at her mother's boyfriend and caught in the act, she runs away to the Snowy Mountains, where she takes a job and a room, and embarks upon a series of encounters, sexual and otherwise, that usher her into the adult world. This coming-of-age story delivers an entrancing meditation on gender politics and youth culture. Playing with Twitch, Dir. Leah Meyerhoff; The World (China/Japan/France), Dir. Jia Zhang-ke. The World Park in Beijing reproduces the world’s greatest landmarks in miniature. It is against this fantastic and kitschy backdrop that the park’s employees go about their day-to-day lives, including a young dancer and a security guard who embark on a tentative romance. The film offers a spectacular and touching meditation on the struggle to remain human and retain one’s identity in the age of globalization.

The Rhode Island Spotlight film is Trudell (USA), Dir. Heather Rae. A film nearly twelve years in the making, Trudell is a musically driven, politically potent and engagingly lyrical documentary about John Trudell, a Native America poet-prophet activist who changed history. This stunning and inventive documentary opens eyes and challenges belief systems. Producer Elyse Katz will be on hand).

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