Image by Hannah Brandt

Filmworks Enters Its 10th year with Award-Winning Films at Festival

A son wants to honor his mother’s dying wish by releasing her ashes into the seas off Italy. An illusionist, one of a dying breed of stage entertainers, meets an awestruck girl who believes his magic tricks are real and his life is forever changed. A 22-year-old returns home to her artist mother’s Tribeca loft in lower Manhattan with the following: a useless film theory degree, 357 hits on her YouTube page, a boyfriend who has left her to find himself at Burning Man and a dying hamster. And the Fresno art scene quietly blossoms in a series of short films highlighting Central Valley artists.

A dying breed of stage entertainer tries to keep his art alive in The Illusionist, the French animated comedy that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

The 2011 Fresno Film Festival will explore these ideas and more in its April 1–3 run at the historic Tower Theatre. The festival is presented by Fresno Filmworks, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing first-run independent, experimental and international movies to the central San Joaquin Valley.

The seventh annual festival, which will feature 17 films from 11 different countries, marks Filmworks’ 10th year of programming. Filmworks continues to offer a multicultural, international and multigenerational film experience that most Fresno-area moviegoers cannot regularly get at commercial theaters.

The group’s president, Joy Quigley, said, “The whole idea of Filmworks and the festival has naturally appealed to the Tower District and Downtown Fresno crowds. But with this year’s lineup, Filmworks will be trying to reach more people throughout Fresno and the surrounding areas, including a unique outreach effort that will bus in high school students enrolled in a film appreciation class.”

The festival schedule includes a range of award winners and offbeat oddities. Centerpiece feature films include the German comedic drama Vincent will meer (Vincent Wants to Sea), which won the Audience Award at the 2010 Bavarian Film Prizes; the animated French comedy L’illusionniste (The Illusionist), which was nominated for the Best Animated Feature award at both the 2011 Academy Awards and 2011 Golden Globe Awards; and the American independent coming-of-age comedy Tiny Furniture, which won Best Feature Film at the 2010 South by Southwest festival.

Quigley is particularly happy about this year’s festival lineup and range of visiting filmmakers coming from Australia, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Central Valley. Of special note to the many Filmworks fans in the peace community is the Saturday afternoon “magic realist” documentary The First Movie, which portrays a different and inspiring Iraq through a child’s transformative eyes.

“I know our core audience really appreciates the festival,” Quigley said. “When scheduling films, it can sometimes be hard to get a good audience. This year we have a lot of popular, engaging films that have received great press. We’re excited about it.”

Other feature films include the Thai drama Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which won the Palme d’Or Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, and the Italian drama Le quattro volte (The Four Times), which won the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European Film at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

In addition to the features, Filmworks will continue its support of short films. Of the festival’s 17 scheduled films, 11 will be shorts, including a documentary about local artist Richard Silva. Filmworks will screen one full program of short films on Saturday and Sunday. Quigley said the Filmworks board decided to expand its selection of short films this year due to a higher number of quality submissions.

At the conclusion of the opening night film, Filmworks will welcome visiting filmmakers and the public to the festival by hosting a party catered by The Painted Table. Hors d’oeuvres and champagne will be served at the Tower Lounge, adjacent to the theater. The Groove Monkeys will provide entertainment. Admission to the party is included with a festival pass or with general admission to the opening night film.

Also, on the festival’s closing night, Filmworks will screen a special tribute reel about the late local filmmaker John Kelly. Quigley said that Filmworks has established a memorial fund in Kelly’s name that will support the juried awards. Prior to Tiny Furniture, Filmworks will present four festival awards, including juried awards for Best Short Film and the second annual John Kelly Award for Excellence in Cinematography, as well as audience awards for Best Short Film and Best Feature Film. The board, Quigley said, hopes the juried awards will help the festival become an Oscar shorts-qualified event in the near future.

The Filmworks jury panel will consist of Byron Russell, a Fresno City College adjunct professor and founder of the Appropriation Alliance and the Critical Remix Festival; Rosemary Rawcliffe, an Emmy award-winning consultant, executive producer and founder of Frame of Mind Films; Oscar Speace, an Emmy award-winning producer, writer and director for KVPT-TV (PBS) and ABC 30; B.D. Johnson, a Sundance award-winning director of photography; and David Kennedy, a Fresno-based award-winning filmmaker and photographer.

A down-and-out film studies grad returns to her mother’s Manhattan loft to find herself in Tiny Furniture, an award-winning American independent comedy that played at the South by Southwest festival.

Quigley said she hopes that the Fresno-area audience will turn out strong for the festival. Filmworks relies, she said, on the year-round generosity of sponsors and individuals alike, in addition to ticket sales.

“People continue to be very generous when we send our annual calls for donations and sponsorships,” Quigley said. “We’re grateful for that and we try to keep going because of it.”

Advance tickets and festival passes are available at the Tower Theatre box office, 815 E. Olive Ave.; at Fig Garden Bookstore, 5084 N. Palm Ave.; and online at FresnoFilmworks.org. Festival passes cost $60; opening night film tickets, which include the opening night party, cost $15 for general, students and seniors; and tickets for all other individual programs cost $10 general and $8 for students and seniors.

The festival’s presenting sponsors are ABC30, Anti Laboratories, the Fresno Arts Council, the John Kelly Memorial Fund, K-Jewel, Stella Artois and Sharmayne Sikora, CPA. It is also supported in part by a grant from the Community Enrichment Program, which is administered by the Fresno Arts Council.

For more information on Fresno Filmworks and the 2011 Fresno Film Festival, visit FresnoFilmworks.org.

Fresno Film Festival Lineup

Friday, April 1, 7 p.m.

Vincent will meer (Vincent Wants to Sea)

Director: Ralf Huettner. Germany (2010). 96 min. German w/English subtitles.

The story of an unlikely trio of runaways.

Dead Happy (short film)

Director: Nicky Lianos. UK. 11 min.

The Grim Reaper becomes bored with her job.

Opening night party

After the feature film, welcome the visiting filmmakers to the festival at the Tower Lounge, adjacent to the theater.

Saturday, April 2, noon

The First Movie

Director: Mark Cousins. UK/Canada (2009). 76 min.

In a small Kurdish village, the filmmaker discovers kids who have known nothing but war.

Saturday, April 2, 2 p.m.

Shorts Program #1

The Astronaut on the Roof

Director: Sergi Portabella. Germany. 12 min.

Two young filmmakers want to write a script that will make them famous.

Play by Play

Director: Carlos Baena. USA. 22 min.

A lonely 10-year-old leads a vivid imaginary life as a big-league ballplayer.

Silva

Director: Jonathan Mathis. USA. 19 min.

Fresno artist Richard Silva discusses his art and his life.

Corto King (Short King)

Director: Miguel Ángel Rubio Recio. Spain/Italy/USA. 7 min.

An animated comedy.

Touch

Director: Jen McGowan. USA. 11 min.

Two women make an unusual connection while waiting for a train.

Saturday, April 2, 5 p.m.

Le quattro volte (The Four Times)

Director: Michelangelo Frammartino. Italy/Germany/Switzerland (2010). 88 min.

A quiet, poetic vision of the revolving cycles of life and nature.

Saturday, April 2, 8 p.m.

L’illusionniste (The Illusionist)

Director: Sylvain Chomet. France/UK (2010). 80 min.

The story of The Illusionist, one of a dying breed of stage entertainers.

La Orquesta de las mariposas (The Orchestra of the Butterflies) (short film)

Director: Isabel Soria. Spain. 15 min. Spanish w/English subtitles.

The story of an old conductor who gets surprising support at a difficult time.

Sunday, April 3, 1 p.m.

Shorts Program #2

Dreaming American

Director: Lee Percy. USA. 27 min.

A young Albanian immigrant fights to keep his dream alive of making it in America.

Cold Sore

Director: Matt Bird. Australia. 17 min.

A woman haunts bars and nightclubs yearning to meet Mr. Right.

Defying Deletion: The Fight over Iraq’s Nineveh Plains

Director: André N. Anton. USA/Iraq. 21 min.

The story of the Assyrian Christians living in the historic Nineveh Plains.

El Cortejo (The Cortege)

Director: Marina Seresesky. Spain. 14 min. Spanish w/English subtitles.

The story of the oldest gravedigger in a cemetery.

Sunday, April 3, 3:30 p.m.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Thailand/UK/France (2010). 114 min. Thai/Isan w/English subtitles.

The ghost of a dying man’s deceased wife appears to care for him

Sunday, April 3, 7 p.m.

Tiny Furniture

Director: Lena Dunham. USA (2010). 98 min.

This film follows a 22-year-old who returns home to her artist mother’s Tribeca loft.

Prior to Tiny Furniture, Filmworks will present juried awards for Best Short Film and the John Kelly Award for Excellence in Cinematography, as well as audience awards for Best Short Film and Best Feature Film.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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