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Reel World 

The unusual marketing effort behind Mau Mau Sex Sex

Wednesday, Nov 7 2001
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Inserts Ted Bonnitt's charmingly salacious movie, Mau Mau Sex Sex, was originally slated to premiere at the Roxie in the summer of 2000. "We always thought this would be the best city because of the subject matter," says Bonnitt via phone from L.A. The documentary resurrects sexploitation pioneers Dave Friedman and Dan Sonney, whose oeuvre included such low-rent classics as The Headmistress and The Long Swift Sword of Siegfreid. "They were in the fast lane in the '60s, and now they're looking for their thermos cap like anybody's grandfather," Bonnitt relates. "Dan and I play cards every week, and he takes $5 or $10 off me."

After a wildly successful screening at L.A.'s American Cinematheque, Bonnitt canceled the Roxie booking and took the film to the Independent Feature Film Market in New York to land national distribution. But the offers were so insulting, he says, that he opted to self-distribute. Bonnitt's strategy echoes that of Friedman and Sonney, who embraced the hucksterism implicit in marketing their sleazy genre of entertainment. "I'm doing the road-showing they did," Bonnitt says with a laugh, "but with new technology." He produced the movie digitally and, eschewing costly film transfers, screens it on DVD with a portable Sharp video projector. "Dan and Dave built 75 brick-and-mortar Pussycat Theaters to get their stuff out there," Bonnitt notes. "Now it's a FedEx bill."

Inexpensive digital projection is a boon to indie filmmakers, Bonnitt declares. "Filmmaking has returned to a small-business enterprise. It's an antidote to the blandness of major releases. You see a dandelion sprout in a crack in the pavement, and that's what this represents." Bonnitt will be present at the Nov. 9 screenings at the Roxie, while Alameda author Eddie Muller (Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of "Adults Only" Cinema), who introduced Bonnitt to his subjects and co-wrote Mau Mau Sex Sex, will be on hand Nov. 8 and 9. The doc also plays Nov. 10-12 at the Parkway in Oakland, Nov. 13-15 at the Rafael in San Rafael, and Nov. 9-15 at the Camera 3 in San Jose.

Love Jones East Bay director Steve Smith is on the verge of a major career leap, as starlet Vivica Fox (Soul Food, Two Can Play That Game) has signed to play the lead in his indie feature Plain and Simple. "This will be one of the first independently made West Coast films that will focus on black people in San Francisco," says Smith, slicing the pie mighty thin. It's an urban love story about two ad agency friends who become roommates (the sky-high rents, you see) and then, well, something more. It's not a message film, Smith emphasizes. "Love is not a heavy-drama kind of subject. It's not The Waterboy, but it's a film with humor."

Smith got to Fox through actor Larry B. Scott (Fear of a Black Hat), who read the script and jumped on board as co-producer. Pre-production on the 35mm feature is set to begin in mid-November, pending funding. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who studied film at City College and directed a couple of music videos for a Turkish band. Smith also filmed P-Funk on tour in Europe and Africa this summer. "We're not talking about an ordinary band -- 40 members and a 50-member entourage," Smith says. "Take it from Sam Fuller: Pan down, but never cut off the camera. Shoot everything."

From the Hip Apologies to director Steven Statler, whose The Breathing Lesson premieres Friday, Nov. 9, at Delancey Street, for misspelling his name last week. ... Ghost World just passed the $6 million mark, while The Deep End has exceeded $8.7 million. Except for Memento, they're the most successful indie films of the year so far.

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Michael Fox

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