And A with ] Brian Dannelly

[ Q

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May 06, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun Movie Critic

This week's Maryland Film Festival marks a homecoming for UMBC grad Brian Dannelly, 40, who's taken his private-school upbringing (Holy Family Elementary and Arlington Baptist) and used it as the inspiration for the comedy Saved! his first film as a writer-director. The movie stars Jena Malone and Mandy Moore as students at a conservative Christian high school (they're members of the exclusive "Christian Jewels" group) whose world is knocked decidedly askew when the boyfriend of one of them starts thinking he might be gay. Scheduled for nationwide release later this month, Saved! already has proved an audience favorite, debuting to rave reviews at January's Sundance Film Festival and recently winning the grand jury prize at New York's prestigious Gen Art Film Festival. It screens at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Maryland Film Festival.

What made you think the time was right for a film that satirizes the sort of conservative Christianity depicted in Saved!?

The whole Bush election campaign is sort of where it started. I think there is a new conservatism in this country. There was even a TV show last week about George Bush and his conservative Christianity. It's sort of a natural extension of everything that has transpired over the past 20 years. It's a weird time to be human. Ultimately, it's a very faith-affirming film. The protagonist finds her faith at the end of the movie. Someone in the audience the other day said The Passion [of the Christ] was about how Christ died, and Saved! is about who he died for.

How have audiences been reacting?

It's been sort of amazing. We've been getting standing ovations. Sometimes, there's someone from the Christian right who stands up and screams at us. But the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

How much Baltimore will we see in the film?

It's set in Baltimore, even though we filmed in Canada. You see license plates, and the signs on the buses, and occasionally people will reference John Waters or Cry-Baby or Hairspray. But really, it's supposed to be set in Anytown, U.S.A.

What's up next for you?

I just finished a script for the same people who produced Saved! It's called Runner-Up, about a beauty pageant in a woman's prison."

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