From its beginning seven years ago, IFFCON has emphasized frank, pragmatic discussions rather than ego-gratifying fantasies. This year's confab began with keynote speaker Jack Lechner declaring, "Some very nice, well-made films that would have had a life five years ago, now won't. Unless you do something extraordinary and unique, that can stand out amidst the clutter, your film will never see the light of theaters." New York production exec Jason Kliot subsequently advised filmmakers to either migrate to digital video or make bigger-budget, more mainstream movies. "Independent film that is serious is no longer economically viable," he announced sadly.
Looking for good news? Anybody can afford to make DV movies. "The barriers to production have fallen and now it's about finding new models for distribution," said Peter Broderick, an exec with Next Wave Films, a Santa Monica subsidiary of the Independent Film Channel. By the time IFFCON ended, every filmmaker could use "streaming video" in a sentence.
Wedding in Galilee
"It's clearly a watershed of cultural and political exchange," says East Bay filmmaker Deborah Kaufman of the first Palestinian-Israeli International Human Rights Film Festival. Sponsored by the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and the Institute for Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Ramallah, the upcoming West Bank fest brings together 48 films about conflict resolution from 18 countries, including Kaufman and Alan Snitow's 1997 documentary Blacks and Jews.
"In our film," Snitow muses, "we talk about a ritual of recrimination between two specific American communities that needs to be broken. But I love it when audiences take their own messages from a film, so it'll be more interesting to hear what they have to say than to project my own analysis of the meaning of our film for them." The duo's next project, Class in the New Economy, examines the social and political impact of high tech on working people in Silicon Valley.
Lightning Over Water
The S.F. International Film Festival is ensconced in its new digs in the Presidio, and company's coming. Filmmakers Ruby Yang (Citizen Hong Kong) and Joan Chen (Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl) are moving into the film center, as are Robin and Marsha Williams. Yang is busily editing Chen's Autumn in New York, the Richard Gere-Winona Ryder weepie that's shaping up as one of the big fall releases. ... Universal is developing Clive Barker's children's book Thief of Always, with ILM in line to play a major role in the effects-laden production. ... Open your mind to the weird underworld of film scores (including the spooky electronics recorded in prison by Manson follower Bobby Beausoleil and used in Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising) when devilish KUSF DJ Carl Russo spins two hours of "Groovy Movie Soundtracks" at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30 (90.3 FM).
Michael Fox is co-host of Independent View, which airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on KQED Channel 9.