Virgin Voyages

World Premieres to Watch For

Any veteran film festivalgoer knows that the World Premiere
designation before a film is a broad and uneven category. It’s no
guarantee of quality, and may, in fact, be a tip-off for a film
going straight to video, or worse. In the festival
world — especially beneath the tightly curated upper echelon of
festivals — world premiere may be a code word for “last stop before
oblivion.” Suffice to say, some of the bleakest moments in our own
Film Fest history have occurred at “world premiere” events.

Pardon the glum moment, because on the other hand, some of the
gems of Film Fest 2006 may well be lurking under the world premiere
umbrella. Expectations reasonably run high for the opening-night
world premiere, 7:30 p.m. at the Arlington, of the great
screenwriter Robert Towne’s new film, Ask the Dust (see interview
with Towne on pg. 37), an adaptation of a John Fante novel and one
of few films Towne has both written and directed. Oh, and the cast
includes Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek and Donald Sutherland.
Hayek, and possibly Sutherland, will be in the house, along with
Towne.

The festival’s Centerpiece event (Tue., Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m., at
the Arlington) is the world premiere of writer-director Mike
Binder’s Man About Town, with a cast including Ben Affleck as a
cuckolded Hollywood agent in search of self. Also in the cast are
Rebecca Romijn, Bai Ling, and John Cleese.

On the documentary side of things, the recommended fare includes
Todd Ahlberg’s METH, about the rising popularity of crystal meth in
the gay community; No Limit: A Search for the American Dream on the
Poker Tournament Trail, directed by Tim Rhys and Brian O’Hare; and
Anne Makepeace’s Rain in a Dry Land, chronicling two Bantu families
making their way in America.

S.B. filmmakers hitting the big screen this year include Russ
Spencer, with DreamTending, an investigation into the world of
depth psychology and the stuff of dreams. First-time filmmaker and
wine connoisseur-in-training, Robert Dafoe took his Sideways-fueled
curiosity about wine to the Santa Ynez wine country and brings back
his own valentine to wine, From Ground to Glass. Another Santa
Barbara-based filmmaker, Bob Collector, premieres his feature film
Believe in Me, about a high school basketball coach, based on a
true story.

Also in the sizable “world premiere” corner are the
provocatively strange Planet Ibsen — Jonathan Wyche’s highly
stylized play-within-a-nightmare fantasy about tensions between
Scandinavian playwrights Ibsen and Strindberg. And one film that’s
making fest staffers excited is The Hamiltons, which is an artsy
entrée served up under the horror menu by the aptly named Butcher
Brothers. From the Cult Asian sidebar of the festival, comes Yoh
Komaya’s tale of con artistry, D. And one film that’s making fest
staffers excited is The Hamiltons, which is an artsy entree served
up under the horror menu by the aptly named Butcher Brothers.

The benefit of hindsight will separate the wheat from the chaff.
We’ll compare notes in two weeks.

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