Md. filmmakers in the spotlight

Directors' works to be shown Sunday at Hopkins


On Screen DVD/Video

April 21, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Evan Guilfoyle and Jonathan Schultz's Winterlude is an episodic, subversively elegiac look at relationships. John Kinhart's Non-Player Character is a documentary about three men whose lives are perhaps uncomfortably defined by the make-believe roles they play. Nikc Miller's A Special Message from CCAQZ is a happily absurdist short about gay zombies and their antisocial behavior.

Three films, aimed at disparate audiences, but with one common thread -- all are the work of Maryland filmmakers, as are all the films being shown Sunday as the seventh Hopkins Film Fest winds to a close.

"The films we got from Baltimore were almost uniformly good," says festival director Sean Ruch, a senior film major at Hopkins. "It was surprising, considering how many of our submissions are usually not good."

The four-day festival opens tonight at 8 with a restored print of Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai's 1991 Days of Being Wild, followed at 10 by Federico Fellini's 1965 Juliet of the Spirits. Over its four-day run, the festival will highlight works by filmmakers you've never heard of -- obscure, low-budget features and shorts that make up in imagination (and potential) what they may lack in polish.

The three feature-length and nine short films on Sunday's schedule range from the crazed to the sublime, from the surprisingly well-polished to the proudly profane and defiantly amateurish.

Guilfoyle and Schultz's Winterlude, for instance, follows a director as he struggles to make a movie that mixes reality and fiction, starring a real-life couple and based on their lives together, with some scenes scripted, others improvised. But what the film-within-a-film is really about is the director's own failed relationship, and his attempts to discover what happened by seeing it re-enacted by another couple (who don't realize they're being used as behavioral guinea pigs).

Guilfoyle, 26, who has worked locally as a location scout for HBO's The Wire, says he and Schultz followed the example of British director Mike Leigh, who works with his actors to give them an understanding of their characters, sets down a plot, then pretty much lets their interpretations and improvisations dictate where the movie goes.

"Basically, it was just a lot of rehearsal," he says, "and by the time they were ready to roll, we were ready to roll."

Not realistic at all are Miller's short films, gleefully primitive and anarchic shots across the pop-culture bow that look to make their audiences howl (hopefully in merriment, but perhaps in outrage) while hopefully getting them to think. Special Message is presented as a nine-minute infomercial by a group of Christian right-wingers determined to rid the world of gay zombies.

"I'm trying to make fun of everybody, so that nobody gets left behind," says Miller, 22, who is studying film production at Towson University. "The No. 1 thing I try to do is to give people a good time and just be absurd ... have them not realize that they're thinking about stuff. After they laugh initially, then they think about it."

For Richard Baker, whose short The Fashion of the Christ suggests that the Son of God would need a killer haircut for his message to be heard nowadays, inspiration came from being teased about his own hair.

"I constantly get teased for my hairstyle," says Baker, 31, a part-time teacher from Hampden who plays the title role in his film. "A few of my students kept telling me I looked like Jesus. I'm not really a Christian, but I often wonder what people would really think if Jesus appeared back on the street."

Kinhart, a Harford County native who has studied painting and video at Maryland Institute College of Art, wanted to make a documentary that could straddle the fence between drama and comedy. For Non-Player Character, he settled on three men -- a stand-up comic who goes by the stage name Gemini, a member of an improv comedy group, a guy who helps devise labyrinthine imaginary worlds for him and his friends to role-play in -- whose lives involve a blurring of the line between who they are and how they want to be perceived.

"I wanted to [find] something that was kind of silly that I could take seriously, that I could find something serious about, but still treat it as a comedy," says Kinhart, 25.

All four fledgling directors said they were glad to be part of the festival's decision to highlight local filmmakers -- "It's nice, to be shown with other filmmakers that we know," says Guilfoyle. But then, when you're struggling to get a foothold in the business of making movies, it's nice to be shown anywhere.

"The whole goal of it is not to sell movies," says Miller, "but just to find people on the same wavelength to work with ... and, hopefully, getting a job someday."

Sunday's schedule of movies from local filmmakers begins at 3:30 p.m. with "Non-Player Character," followed by a selection of shorts at 5 p.m. and "Winterlude" at 7 p.m. The festival closes with a screening of Adam Nemett's "The Instrument," the story of seven art-school students experiencing a new form of worship based on music, at 9 p.m. All films will be shown in Shriver Hall on Hopkins' Homewood campus; tickets prices are $3 per film, $5 for a day pass or $15 for a pass to the entire festival; Hopkins students and faculty get in for free. Information: www.hopkinsfilmfest. com or 410-340-4703.

For film events, see Page 39.

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