Lacking access to Hollywood stars, independent filmmakers are skilled at finding the stars of tomorrow. It’s safe to say, however, that the star of Rosario Garcia-Montero’s truly odd short Are You Feeling Lonely? won’t be busting out in the next Hollywood rom-com. For her tale of a Pakistani morgue attendant who searches for love by calling widowed women with an unnerving come-on — “Are you feeling lonely?” — Garcia-Montero cast a non-actor, Pashu Pathi Ganeshan, whose onscreen presence is truly unsettling. Some may find his creepiness too, well, creepy — indieWIRE panned the film, noting that “the atrocious performance of the director’s lead actor was clearly a deliberate choice on her part” — but for us the film, along with her previous short Locked, in which a sad, obese woman kidnaps a nightclub doorman, announce Garcia-Montero as an original talent.
Born in Chicago and raised in Lima, Peru, Garcia-Montero worked there in television news before getting an M.A. in film at the New School in New York. And while she’s now shooting another short, she’s mostly focused on a feature about a 10-year-old girl living amid terrorism in Peru in the 1980s. “But this is not a grim story, not at all,” Garcia-Montero cautions. “She is charming, and so, so dark.” — S.M.
“I was in science class when my teacher told us about a machine that could destroy viruses using frequencies,” recalls 22-year-old Ryan Eslinger. “Soon afterwards I started writing the script.” Eight years later, during the summer after his sophomore year at NYU, Eslinger shot Madness and Genius, a Kubrickesque tale of a reclusive professor (played by Tom Noonan) and the two troubled students who discover his revolutionary invention. Eslinger finished school while the film was in post, and just months after earning his bachelor’s degree he was on his way to the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival, where Madness screened in the festival’s Discovery section.
Since finishing Madness, Eslinger has kept busy, writing two screenplays that are both attracting attention. When a Man Falls in the Forest has been selected for the 2004 Sundance Labs, while The Highway Disorder is being produced by Wonderland’s Holly Wiersma. “When I look at my scripts, I don’t know what category they fall into,” says Eslinger, who recently relocated to Los Angeles. “They adhere to classical structure but the material is unusual. We’ll see what happens.” — M.R.
Contact: Craig Kestel at William Morris: (310) 859-4580
|PHOTO: RUSTY WHITE/WIREIMAGE.COM.
8/9 Eric Johnson & Gina Levy
Perhaps no film has ever captured the ugly sadness of drug addicts’ lives better than Foo-Foo Dust, a short documentary by first-time filmmakers Eric Johnson and Gina Levy. A profoundly disturbing portrait of a crack-addicted middle-aged prostitute and her heroin addict son, the film has piled up honors during its year-long festival run.
Levy’s first fiction film was an adaptation of a Joyce Carol Oates short story; currently she is at work on some fiction shorts and a feature-length screenplay as well as developing several documentaries. Since finishing Foo-Foo Dust, Johnson has moved to Mexico City, where he continues to take photographs as well as develop films with the Mexican production company Simplemente. — M.R.
Elena Elmoznino’s short doc Freestyle has such an irresistible subject matter — it’s about “canine freestyle,” a sport in which dogs and their owners dance competitively — that all she really needed to do was point her camera at these prancing duos and let the footage speak for itself. But what makes Elmoznino’s film a true delight as well as an award winner (it nabbed Best Short Doc at Slamdance 2004) is its sure storytelling sense and the compassionate humor with which it depicts its subjects.
“Coming up with a storyline was difficult,” admits Elmoznino. “There was a lot of humor in the footage, but nothing was driving the story forward.” Then Elmoznino discovered in her hours of tape freestyler Patty Ventre’s efforts to get Olympic accreditation for the sport and she had her larger hook.
Elmoznino made Freestyle for City College’s Masters Film Program. Previously, she worked for the Department of Public Health in San Francisco doing AIDS research. And currently, she is partnered with fellow filmmakers Lori Chodos and Dan Akiba in the doc collective Basement Films. First up is a portrait of a Bill Gates’–funded high school in the Bronx. Then, says Elmoznino, “I’m looking for a subject to fall in love with like Freestyle. That hasn’t happened yet, but we have a folder of ideas that’s getting bigger and bigger. — S.M.