Local and international talent on tap for Malibu International Film Festival

Malibuite Michael Madsen to be honored at the festival.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

The line-up for next week’s Malibu International Film Festival showcases local and international talent, with films that underscore the global interconnectedness of the human experience.

Among the four feature films, four documentaries and 21 shorts scheduled to screen is the journey of a young Ugandan tennis player hoping to escape the civil strife and poverty of his nation through the pursuit of what has traditionally been a game of the privileged white man; a boxing drama of broken promises and redemption and two short films on generational conflict and animal rescue.

Malibu local Dominic Scott Kay is all of 11 years old and is premiering his film, “Grampa’s Cabin,” along with the real-life inspirational story of his rehabilitation of an abandoned dog that lives at a Malibu Fire Station to this day, “Saving Angelo.”

Kay has been performing since age three and writes/directs/stars in his films. Such precocity was recognized early on by renowned filmmaker Steven Spielberg when he cast then four-year-old Kay as Tom Cruise’s son in “Minority Report.” He then went on to act in 27 film and TV roles before his 11th birthday.


“Dominic never just sat and played video games on his [film] sets,” his mother, Cindy Kay, said. “He was always all over the director or sound guy with questions. ‘Why do you do that?’ ‘What’s this for?’ He was like a sponge.”

Kay wrote and produced the script for “Saving Angelo” after rescuing an abused, comatose dog, at age seven. The scenario was good enough to attract Kevin Bacon and Eric Close, who were able to engage the interest of Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster and Eloise DeJoria for Kay’s next short, “Grampa’s Cabin.”

“I have a feature that will be ready to start shooting probably at the end of this year,” said Kay, who prefers to shoot in 35mm. “I like doing dramas and true stories. You really feel the vibe. But it’s all a part of everything I want to do.”

Introduced to music as a toddler by his drummer father, Scott Kay (who played for the Commodores), Kay sees himself touring with a band someday and continuing with acting and directing.

“I love working with other actors,” Kay said. “You get such a great feeling going off each other.”

Kay will speak about his films April 6. They will be screened on that day as well.

A tennis story with grit

Local producer David Thayne has lived in Malibu for more than 10 years and said that filmmaking “sort of fell into my lap.” His documentary, “Somay Ku: A Uganda Tennis Story,” is scheduled to be screened April 5 at 11 a.m.

Originally a pro tennis player, Thayne was teaching some of Hollywood’s elite the game when he became friends with Arnon Milchan, a producer with New Regency Productions.

In an opportunity that is every young filmmaker’s dream, Thayne spent “a lot of time with Arnon at New Regency and really learned the business,” he said. “When I heard the story of Patrick Olobo, I knew I had to produce a documentary about him.”

Olobo lived in Uganda, a county broken by civil war and poverty following the abdication of dictator Idi Amin.

“His family lived in refugee camps; some of them were murdered,” Thayne said. “Patrick sought to make a new life for himself by becoming the best tennis player in the country and then moving here to try the pro circuit. It really is a ‘coming to America’ saga.”

The film’s title, “Somay Ku,” means “Bounce, Hit” in Olobo’s native dialect.

“It sort of is a metaphor for his life,” Thayne said. “Bounce, hit, over and over. It got him out of some tight places when his life wasn’t so good.”

“Somay Ku” is seeing its world premiere at the MIFF and is being sponsored by the Tennis Channel, which will broadcast the documentary during this summer’s U.S. Open Tennis Championship.

“Tennis saved Patrick’s life,” Thayne said. “I feel privileged to be a part of it.”

Covering hope in Africa

Stephanie Black knows something about the effects of poverty on divided black nations, having produced the 2001 documentary “Life and Debt,” about the effects of globalization on Jamaica.

So when she was asked by the family of late reggae icon Bob Marley to document their journey to last year’s Africa Unite concert in Ethiopia, she jumped on the chance.

“I came late to the project,” Black said. “I only had about four weeks to prepare before the event, so we just did the best we could do. But I thought, ‘What better way to celebrate Bob Marley’s 60th birthday than to honor his message of hope before 350,000 people in Ethiopia?'”

“Africa Unite” chronicles the Marley family’s journey to the annual concert in Addis Ababa, interspersed with archival footage of Marley, who was profoundly influenced by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I and his movement for African unity. The Rita Marley and Bob Marley foundations sponsor the event.

The documentary has a scene of Marley appearing at Zimbabwe’s Independence Day celebration, when the country broke with its post-colonial past.

“Bob was invited to speak at the big inauguration,” Bobby Morgan, the film’s associate producer, said. “His energy is electric. We hope that the film engages the youth in Africa and inspires them to rise above civil divisions to bring their countries together.”

“Africa Unite” screens April 5 at 7 p.m.

Malibu’s tough guy to be honored

Malibu resident Michael Madsen, who gained attention from critics and fans with his performances in notable independent films such as “Reservoir Dogs” will be honored for his achievements in the art of acting during the closing night ceremonies on April 6. Madsen also stars, along with notable actor Richard Chamberlain, in the film “Strength and Honour” to be screened at the festival on closing night.

“I never expected to be picking up trophies or anything,” Madsen said. “Ginny (sister Virginia Madsen, 2004 Oscar nominee for her performance in “Sideways”) sort of broke the ice for that with a sledgehammer, but I’m still sloughing.”

Madsen is thrilled to be honored by the MIFF. “I so appreciate the festival and what they’ve done for me, particularly since it comes from home.”

The MIFF runs April 4-6. All screenings will take place at Malibu High School. A full schedule of MIFF screenings and information on the opening night gala and awards party, can be obtained online at www.malibufilmfestival.com

Previous articleChoose those who care
Next articleimg5238.jpg
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

Related Articles


Latest Articles

%d bloggers like this: