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in Filmmaking
on Nov 23, 2006

Below Andre Salas gives you some details about the special screening series at MOMA this week of the films we selected for our “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” Gotham Award. This is the second year of this award — last year we selected Caveh Zahedi’s I am a Sex Addict as the winner and Robinson Devor’s Police Beat as one of the nominees, and this year I think we picked films of similar quality. Indeed, it’s gratifying for all of us at Filmmaker to take such a concentrated look at worthy films that have really fallen off the distribution radar and try to get them some more attention.

Here’s my take on the five films:

Goran Dukic’s Wristcutters is a whimsical and melancholy look at unlikely romance in an afterlife full of souls who have died by suicide. Patrick Fugit and Shannon Sossamon are great, and Tom Waits, who is too rarely on screen, is hilarious, touching and wonderful. The film is full of deadpan humor and philosophical musings and it seems akin to works by Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismaki, among others.

In Choking Man, director Steve Barron takes the techniques he used in his series of innovative videos in the ’80s (“Billie Jean,” “Take on Me”) and applies them to a low-key drama about a shy, possibly schizophrenic dishwasher and his relationship with a ebuillient young waitress in a Queens diner. Produced for a less than $1 million, the film is infused with gentle magical realism and it’s visual design, the way Baron integrates animation and symbolic imagery into the narrative, is stunning.

Jake Clennell’s The Great Happiness Space is a fascinating documentary on the Japanese bar/escort scene, concentrating on a group of girls infatuated with a male escort who offers them a “boyfriend experience.” Then the film throws in a surprising twist that I’ll let you discover on your own. During our deliberations Matt Ross commented that the film is fascinating for its integration of the visually rendered melancholy romanticism found in the films of Hsou Hsiao-Hsien into the doc format, and I think he’s right.

So Yong Kim was one of Filmmaker‘s “25 New Faces” this year and her In Between Days is both deft and intimate with a filmmaking style closely attuned to the tiniest shifts in the emotional lives of its two young protagonists. Like Wristcutters, it premiered in Competition at Sundance and has been burning up the critic’s lists since.

Finally, check out the inventive and accomplished Colma: The Musical (pictured), Richard Wong’s fusion of John Hughes style suburban teen drama, Kevin Smith-ish irreverent slacker comedy, and Michael Bennett-influenced movie musical. Yes, when Wong calls his film a musical, he means it. Chock full of catchy, new-wave-ish music numbers that are hilariously choreographed, Colma is a feel good movie that’s not like anything out there on the indie scene right now.

Oh yeah, each of the screenings has a Q and A with reps from the film and moderated by an IFP or Filmmaker person. (I’ll be doing both after-screening sessions on Monday.) The series runs from Friday to Monday; scroll down for Salas’s post which has more details.

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