Local screenings: Turning the lens on film festivals

  • Kevin Smith in the documentary, "Official Rejection"
Kevin Smith in the documentary, "Official Rejection"
February 26, 2010|By Michael Sragow | michael.sragow@baltsun.com | Sun Movie Critic

"Official Rejection," Paul Osborne's amusing and sometimes revelatory documentary about the grueling process of promoting low-budget independent movies, spends much of its 107-minute running time exposing the inequities and incompetence of some film festivals. Watching it, you often wonder: Grapes of wrath? Or sour grapes?

Osborne, who wrote the script for director Scott Storm's feature "Ten 'til Noon," chronicles the team's pursuit of a Sundance slot before they entered their film in smaller festivals.

The knock on Sundance as an ossified institution answering to big-studio "boutiques" like Warner Independent already is dated. Nearly all such companies have disappeared, and this year's Sundance made a good-faith effort to return to its artistic roots.

When Kevin Smith says that his Sundance sensation, "Clerks" (1994), would not have made more recent Sundance slates, he concedes that his ragged opus inspired a bevy of grunge moviemaking that could not be contained in a single festival.

This documentary is not so much an expose as it is a sardonic how-to video, and the kind of on-the-road chronicle usually reserved for aging country singers. During an excruciating episode at Chicago Indiefest, Storm wins a prize, but another filmmaker endures every indignity a feckless organization can visit on an aspiring movie artist, including soul-killing delays because of technical snafus, and managerial cowardice and ineptitude.

But by the end, several well-run festivals, marked by movie-loving volunteers, packed houses and lively Q-and-A sessions, bring Osborne to the brink of a real insight: Theonly enthusiastic, informed audience a total independent can count on these days comes from festivals. Going this route is no longer a way of finding film distribution. It is a film's distribution.

"Official Rejection" plays at 8 p.m. Monday at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. Tickets are $6-$8. Call 410-276-1651 or go to creativealliance.org.

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