10/01/04 - Copied from the Daily Record - Morris County
Small films, big ideas
By Jim Bohen, Daily Record
been a good year for independent films. Documentaries and low-budget
such as "Super Size Me," "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Open
Water" have played to mainstream audiences. Zach Braff's "Garden
State" is still running at Garden State multiplexes. And even
Michael Moore never expected to take in more than $100 million with
his polemic "Fahrenheit 9/11."
This is all good news to Christine L. Rusin, curator of the Hope
and Dreams Film Festival. Now in its seventh year, the festival runs
Oct. 1-3 at Hope Township Elementary School in the Warren County
village of Hope.
Over its three days, the festival will present 14 independent films,
including features, short films and documentaries.
"It's a great time for independent films," Rusin said. "With
the advent of DVD distribution, many films are being shot digitally
on video and going direct to DVD. We're bypassing the filmic process.
It allows first-time filmmakers to actually make a film without major
Rusin and about a dozen volunteers put on the festival, she said.
They solicit entries for a competition, with the winners to be honored
at a ceremony Sunday.
"The films are sent from all over the world, and these are
the finalists," she said. Past entries have gone on to be aired
on HBO or PBS, or have been released on DVD, she said.
"We look at it as a long-term relationship," Rusin said. "We
help them down the road, put them in touch with distributors, watching
them grow from their first feature film to many other endeavors."
The weekend is divided up into 10 time slots, each featuring two
or more short films or one long one. Several of the filmmakers will
attend the festival and answer questions from the audience.
"Our theme is 'Changing the world one film at a time,'" Rusin
said. "We're bringing a lot of important concepts to the ordinary
person and showing them films that they would never have an opportunity
to see. In essence what you're doing is bringing the world closer
Sunday 2-3 p.m. time slot will present three short films appropriate
6 and over, including Rusin's own "One Last Cup:
Closing Day at Hartung's Store," about the last day at a local
festival will present its DreamCatcher Awards to three filmmakers:
television news correspondents Jim Fahy and Caroline Bleahen,
whose documentary "September 11th: Stories from the Twin Towers" won
an award at a previous Hope festival, and Polish-born PBS documentary
maker Slawomir Grunberg.
will be present to answer questions from the audience after a screening
of his new film "Assassination: The Death of Archbishop
Michael Courtney," about the killing of the Pope's ambassador
the weekend, the antique stores and shops of Hope will be open
and will feature
the theme "Movies and Memorabilia." The
Hope Township PTA will sell refreshments during the event.
"We were told seven years ago that you can't do this in Warren
County, and we've proven them wrong," Rusin said.
Tickets are $8 per time slot; $28 for all day Saturday or all day
Sunday; or $70 for the full festival. For advance tickets, call (908)
459-5797. For more information, visit www.hopeanddreams.com.
'Out of Our Dens'
Jersey filmmakers James Hannon and Leon Leybs found their subject
close to home.
Hannon is the webmaster for Richard and the Young
Lions, a 1960s garage rock band whose members regrouped 35 years
later. The band's 1966 single "Open Up Your Door," with
its fuzz-tone bass and driving beat, was a regional hit that never
broke out nationally. Still, it made them stars in places such as
Detroit, where they played to 18,000 fans at Cobo Hall, second billed
to the Temptations.
a computer programmer from Scotch Plains, saw the group's story
as a good
vehicle for a longer film than the shorts he had
been making. The result was "Out of Our Dens: The Richard and
the Young Lions Story." The Hope festival will screen it today
at 8:30 p.m.
"As time went on, a lot of cool things happened," Hannon
said. "Getting Pat St. John on board was great." The veteran
disc jockey, a fan of the band since the '60s, narrates the film.
As it turned out, Hannon said, "he lives in a big house in Montclair
three blocks away from where the band rehearses."
the help of another fan, E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt,
recorded a reunion CD of new material. But in June,
after the film was completed, lead singer Howard "Richard" Tepp
died of leukemia.
The group went on to perform at Van Zandt's International Underground
Garage Festival in August and still hopes to release the CD. As for
the film, Hannon is just glad Tepp got to see it before he died.
"This was a personal project for me," Hannon said. "Will
I sell a million copies? I highly doubt it."
For more information about the film, visit www.lantern-media.com
'Chaos, Chords and Karma'
is also the soul of Canadian filmmaker Lalita Krishna's "Chaos,
Chords and Karma," which will be screened Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Her documentary follows eight teenage musicians who come together
at a community center at a Toronto housing project. The center's
director challenges them to form a band, raise money and take their
act to India, where they are to perform a benefit concert for an
organization that shelters homeless children.
Overcoming conflicts with each other and the adults who surround
them, the teens make the trip and encounter a level of poverty in
India that they never conceived. But they also have a spiritually
uplifting visit with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader,
at his home in northern India.
who worked for Canadian television before forming her own company,
previously made "Ryan's Well," a film about a
6-year-old boy who set out to help an African community dying from
lack of clean water.
"That's when my own focus shifted to young people doing extraordinary
things in the world," she said. "I've been looking for
stories like these."
and her small crew were present through every step of the teens'
though at first some of her subjects might have felt
self conscious being filmed, "soon you become part of the scenery," she
said. "They don't even notice us."
Her film, which will air on Canadian television at a future date,
has already won an award at the Columbus International Film and Video
Festival in Columbus, Ohio. She also hopes to get it into schools
in Canada and the United States, since it has an important message
"If you give kids the opportunity to think of something outside
themselves, they make life-altering decisions," she said.
'Day of Independence'
people are the focus of the short dramatic film "Day
of Independence," which will be screened Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Set during World War II in a camp in which the U.S. government interned
Japanese-Americans, the film uses a July 4 baseball game as the backdrop
for a young man's relationship with his parents, who are returning
to Japan without him.
"A big part of what happened in the camps was how hard the
parents tried to make those barracks a home," director Chris
Tashima said. "They created their own life behind the barbed
wire. It was a great attitude."
Tashima not only directed but also plays the role of the umpire,
who addresses the camera several times with homespun ballpark wisdom.
This device and the film's distinctive look (processed in the lab
to desaturate the colors, producing an aged or period feel) give
it the quality of a dream or a fable. It softens a subject that might
otherwise have gone in a dark or angry direction, Tashima said.
"We deliberately chose a different route, with baseball and
dancing and those kinds of things," he said.
writer Tim Toyama had previously collaborated on "Visas
and Virtue," a short film about a Japanese diplomat in 1940
Lithuania who helped Jewish refugees escape the Holocaust by granting
them visas - against the orders of his own government. That film
won an Academy Award for best dramatic short film in 1997.
Oscar ceremony, of course, was a big thrill. "My parents
were there, Tim's mother was there, it was terrific," Tashima
said. "It ended up doing some great things for that film, which
is still playing in festivals."
He has plans for a feature-length film about the internment, in
which he sees parallels to actions the current U.S. government has
taken since 9/11.
"Certainly with the Patriot Act and many other things the government
was doing against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans was very reminiscent
of that wartime racist hysterical attitude," he said. "Everyone
in the Japanese American community immediately recognized what was
happening. Our government made this mistake once."
Jim Bohen can be reached at email@example.com or (973) 428-6632.