The Man Between

"When I decided to be an artist, I thought it was my license to investigate being alive."

San Francisco filmmaker William Farley premiered two acclaimed features in competition at the Sundance (né U.S.) Film Festival in the '80s -- Citizen, which marked Whoopi Goldberg's screen debut, and Of Men and Angels -- before expanding his focus to documentaries. "Very early on, when I decided to be an artist, I thought it was my license to investigate being alive," he says. "It seems to me being alive encompasses all genres."

His wide-ranging projects-in-progress include Darryl Henriques Is in Show Business, a portrait of an outspoken L.A. comic who's working the comeback trail after his predicted breakthrough never materialized. (Coincidentally, Henriques was in the Bay Area last week performing at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley.) For Arianna's Journey, Farley has amassed 60 hours of material he shot of a Milan healer he met in a Manhattan ashram. "She has a vision of her purpose in the world that, if it came true, would put her in the company of Mother Teresa," he declares. Such a claim naturally elicits skepticism -- until Farley discloses that he filmed his subject performing an exorcism on a 20-year-old woman.

The Boston expat's most personal project, however, is a long-gestating screenplay about his childhood that he intends to direct. A funny, sad tale of a father who drank and inadvertently set things on fire, Cooperstown deals with trust and forgiveness. A major L.A. casting company has agreed to show the script to name actors. "The only brass ring that's left for me is to get a film in general distribution," says Farley. "The myth is you have to sell out to do that, and that's ridiculous. You're only in competition with one person, and that's yourself."

Stage FrightIn the wake of last fall's San Francisco World Film Festival and Marketplace, add another grandiosely named shindig to the Bay Area movie calendar. The inaugural Golden Gate Film Festival is slated for Feb. 6-8 at an undisclosed venue -- or so its Web site (www.goldengatefilmfestival.com) asserts. And that's all we have to go on, since organizer James Nguyen hasn't responded to our calls or e-mails. (An assistant referred us to a press release on the site.) The founder of Moviehead.com and a producer and director (Julie and Jack, slagged by one IMDb.com reader as "below a B movie"), the ambitious Nguyen lists no fewer than 15 Moviehead Awards to be given out at the weekend event. Oh, yeah, and a tribute to Kim Novak and Vertigo.

The site notes that the winners will be selected by a panel of 12 jurors, a number chosen "to honor the eleven men who died in helping to build the Golden Gate Bridge." Um, looks like somebody can't count. Yes, it's easy to take cheap shots at Web site verbiage, but the real issue is the professionalism and legitimacy of the Golden Gate Film Festival. After all, money is involved: Filmmakers pay a $40 entry fee to submit their work. I'm not suggesting that this fest is a scam, but when it's brand new, with no track record, it has to do more to engender trust than put up a site and set up a PO box for checks.

Horns and HalosAdventurous moviegoers will be disappointed to hear that a couple of notorious flicks -- Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny and Larry Clark's Ken Park -- turned down invitations from S.F. IndieFest. This upstart, like most fests, mixes titles solicited by the programmers with the best stuff that comes over the transom. Some 200 features were submitted this year; seven made the cut. But once their films are accepted, there's a dance that many moviemakers do before they sign on the dotted line. "They submit all over the place and wait for the biggest festivals to respond," Associate Programmer Tod Booth explains. "In the meantime, they turn down the smaller festivals for which their film might be more appropriate."

Local artists are represented by Olive or Twist, Peter Moody's years-in-production ode to the martini, and Corner of Your Eye, Jesse Spencer's slyly comic picture that dices and blends reality and dreams. The now-traditional IndieFest benefit/launch party happens this Friday, Jan. 23, at Studio Z; the festival itself unspools Feb. 5-15. Get the lowdown at www.sfindie.com.

 
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