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Atlanta festival puts spotlight on Ga. film talent

POSTED: March 29, 2012 12:30 a.m.

The 2012 Atlanta Film Festival kicked off last Friday and ends in grand fashion this weekend. The festival offers a full range of narrative and documentary features and shorts, low budget productions and higher budget films using the festival circuit to generate buzz, and films of all kinds from around the world.

The festival also incorporates musical performances, industry discussions and hands-on workshops. That eclectic mix of programming fits the mission of the organization, according to festival director Charles Judson.

“It’s about building up Atlanta’s film culture,” Judson said. “About celebrating how vital film is to the world around us, and showcasing what we (in the Atlanta arts community) do and the economic impact of what we do. We are trying to be a true hub, not just for film but a cultural hub.”

Judson said the documentaries this year are very strong, and some of this year’s films speak to why he loves film in the first place.

For instance, Judson calls “Brooklyn Castle” a “great story about kids and chess. Watching the kids is touching and inspirational, and it’s also about how important arts funding is. One of the problems in the film is that their funding gets cut. They’ve won over 20 championships but they can’t afford to travel to the competition.”

In “Trash Dance,” sanitation workers present a dance to the public. The movie celebrates sanitation workers, who play a crucial but usually overlooked function in society.

“It’s about finding art in the most unexpected places,” said Judson. “It’s especially important now, in an election year and a down economy. You get a whole new view of what sanitation workers do.”

Another of the festival films finds art in our own backyard. Vivian Ducat’s “All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert” profiles a Cuthbert native who is becoming a major artist but whom most Georgians don’t know.

Rembert’s life provides a snapshot of a crucial era in American and Southern history. He grew up in a cotton town, lived through segregation, participated in civil rights marches, did a stint in prison, worked a chain gang, and upon his release, moved north and discovered his artistic voice.

The film is a slice of history we must never forget and an introduction to a Georgia artist we should all embrace and celebrate.

Friday night offers two more great films by Georgia talent.

Macon native Carrie Preston — known as Arlene Fowler from “True Blood” and from “The Good Wife,” “Doubt,” and her many other acting roles — directed “That’s What She Said,” a comedy about three women who help each other work through love issues while enduring various misadventures on the streets of New York City.

That description might make the film sound like a typical chick flick. However, it is anything but. Preston has described it as “an unflinching answer to the ubiquitous bro-mance, so I guess you could call it a wo-mance.”

Based on a script by another Southern actress/writer, Kentucky-born Kellie Overbey, the film stars Anne Heche, Alia Shawkat and Miriam Shor.

“That’s What She Said,” which has earned comparisons to Woody Allen’s work, premiered at Sundance and will soon be distributed more widely.

Atlanta filmmaker Mike Malloy’s “Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the 70’s” also plays on Friday night. Malloy’s documentary gives an impressively complete history of the exploitative crime movies that dominated Italian screens during the 1970s. Many of these fearlessly violent, guiltily pleasing films starred American actors, and many were exported to America during the 1980s home video boom.

Offscreen, real figures from Italy’s criminal underworld were involved in some of the productions. The behind the camera stories are often more outrageous than the movies. Rarely are documentaries this much fun.

Schedule and ticket information can be found on the festival’s website. Judson provides a perfect summary of why you should take a look.

“Art should exist because it’s something you want to see, that empowers you. The more we can do that as an organization, the more vital we’ll be” to the entire metro Atlanta area.

Jeff Marker teaches film and literature at Gainesville State College. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.


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