Film fest adds on finishing touches

Movies: A Waters favorite, a romantic comedy, documentaries and even a work in progress fit the bill.

April 10, 2000|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

One of last year's big hits at the Maryland Film Festival was "Boom!," a campy 1960s period piece starring Elizabeth Taylor. "Boom!" was presented by John Waters, who considers it the greatest bad movie ever made.

Waters' choice this year -- Lodge Kerrigan's "Clean, Shaven" -- will be presented in a diametrically different spirit. The drama, about a young man suffering from schizophrenia, terrified and impressed Waters when he first saw it in 1993.

"There's not the slightest bit of irony in my selection this year," said Waters, who is currently in the final stages of completing "Cecil B. Demented."

In addition to "Clean, Shaven," the Maryland Film Festival has announced some more additions to its program. Filmmaker Christine Fugate will present "The Girl Next Door," a documentary about the adult-film actress Stacy Valentine, and director Greg Watkins will present his film "Sign From God," a romantic comedy about a struggling filmmaker avoiding commitment. In a happy twist of fate, the musician Jonathan Richman, who wrote the soundtrack for that film, had already been scheduled to present his favorite film, a 1950 adaptation of "Cyrano de Bergerac," at the festival.

Other additional films include "Juvies," a documentary about Maryland's juvenile detention system that was produced by Rory Kennedy -- director of "American Hollow," which played last year's festival -- and "The Initiate," a film by Atlanta-based filmmaker Chad Etchison that festival program adviser Gabe Wardell described as a "southern Gothic neo-noir" thriller. The festival will also show an episode of "The Corner," the HBO mini-series based on the book co-written by Baltimorean David Simon.

Marnie Nixon, the singer who dubbed the singing voices of Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" and Deborah Kerr in "The King and I," will be on hand at the screening of "My Fair Lady" at the Senator. Nixon also provided Audrey Hepburn's dulcet tones in that film.

And Sun music critic J.D. Considine will introduce and discuss "The Great Rock and Roll Swindle," Julien Temple's controversial 1980 documentary about punk-rock pioneers the Sex Pistols.

Wardell and festival founder Jed Dietz also announced the addition of a new feature at the festival, the exhibition of works in progress. Francis Xavier's "Barry's Gift," which Wardell described as "almost finished but in need of more work," will be shown free of charge. The idea is to give the filmmaker an opportunity to glean advice from a supportive audience.

"We want to accentuate the value of the process," explained Wardell. "And by giving audiences a chance to see something in the works, when it's completed they can appreciate the stages it went through."

"This is something that we're very interested in," added Dietz, "because one of our goals is not to be just another festival, but to provide a real service. And this can provide a real service, in both directions."

Like last year, the festival will also provide panels: one on filmmaking outside the mainstream, featuring independent artists Danny Plotnik, Jean Finley and M.M. Serra; and one on the documentary "George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire," featuring filmmakers Paul Stekler and Daniel McCabe, as well as Dr. Levi Watkins and author Taylor Branch.

The Maryland Film Festival will be held at the Charles and Senator theaters April 27-30. For information about programs and how to get tickets, call 410-752-8083, or visit the festival's Web site at

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