High Drama at Malibu Film Festival


Films range from coming-of-age drama to the dark topic of child drug dealers. Anthony Hopkins to present 2006 Honoree award to director Brett Ratner on closing night.

By Carley Dryden / Special to The Malibu Times

Awide range of subject matter, from a “dark and twisted” coming-of-age drama to a documentary detailing the life of a famous American figure, and the dark topic of child drug dealers, will be screened at the Malibu International Film Festival beginning Friday.

Jonathan Schroder and Randall Rubin’s narrative feature, “Jimmy and Judy,” explores the intense relationship of two misfit young adults, seeking refuge from their suburban problems in the underbelly of society.

Schroder, a producer and screenwriter, came up with the idea while broke and disheartened after a bad experience with a producer and snowed in for two weeks in New England.

“I pounded out the first 20 to 30 pages, showed it to Randall and he said go with it,” Schroder said.

The entire 99-minute film was shot in 15 days in northern Kentucky, Schroder’s home state.

In the film, Jimmy and Judy, played by Edward Furlong (“Terminator 2”) and Rachael Bella (“The Ring”), are on a mission to find Uncle Rodney, a mythical figure who is worshipped, feared and respected by members of the underbelly of society, while exploring a world of drugs, deviant sex and crime.

“The film explores what middle America doesn’t want you to see. It shows what teenagers feel and think,” Schroder said.

The film has won previous awards at festivals including the Jury Award for Best Feature Film at the 2006 San Francisco Independent Film Festival.

Yet, Schroder, who lives in Venice, is ready for Malibu.

“I feel like a small fish in a big pond,” he said about the upcoming festival. “It’s finally nice to see it played in front of an audience.”

Renee Sotile and Mary Jo Godges made their documentary, “Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars,” with hopes of revealing the true story of the beloved teacher who died tragically in the well-known Challenger explosion 20 years ago.

“People think they know her story because they know how she died, but they don’t know how she lived,” Sotile said about McAuliffe.

Sotile and Godges met 10 years ago when Sotile, a videographer needed Godges, a songwriter, to help her with a song for one of her films. In the decade since, the two have worked on several projects, yet the biggest one by far has been this film.

“Christa’s life was so exuberant. She was a powerful force. People wanted to be around her. And we wanted the film to have that pulse to it-her as an empowering pioneer,” Godges said.

Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon agreed to narrate the film after meeting Sotile and Godges at a film festival, and Grammy winner Carly Simon composed a song for the film after being touched by a letter the women sent to her about it.

Sotile and Godges interviewed countless people to get the full story on McAuliffe’s life and received much support from McAuliffe’s mother, Grace Corrigan.

“When we screened it for her family and they gave us a standing ovation, we knew we did it!” Godges said.

The film won “Best Documentary” at the 2005 universe premiere at the High Falls Film Festival. “We’re total nobodies and to have everything come to us is amazing,” Sotile said.

Sotile said the film provided closure and healing for many of McAuliffe’s family members and she hopes the film continues showing others McAuliffe’s “selfless spirit.”

Filmmaker Will Canon’s eight-minute film, “Youngster,” explores a topic he finds most people don’t understand, a topic that intrigued and astonished him to want to learn more-child drug dealing.

“It’s about a kid who ends up in a bad spot,” Canon said. “People are demonized when they end up in a bad place. I want to humanize those people who make bad decisions, to tell the story of how they got there.”

In the film, a 12-year-old boy is on his first drug deal, yet something goes drastically wrong. Canon said although society may not believe it to be true, child drug dealing is prevalent. Children are easily exploited, Canon said; they do the “dirty work” for adults, because they will get a lighter punishment.

Canon, a NYU film school graduate, made “Youngster” in 2004 as a project for the Fox Search Lab, which he was enrolled in.

“The lab director said, ‘Is it believable?’ and that reinforced that hey, a lot of people don’t know about this,” Canon said.

Canon said the film brings up the importance of, as human beings, understanding each other. “We always see a person after they do something bad, but how do they get there?” he asked.

Film veterans such as actor Anthony Hopkins and Brett Ratner will be present at closing ceremonies Monday night. Hopkins will present Ratner with the 2006 Honoree award. Ratner has directed such films as “Rush Hour,” “Red Dragon,” and is currently working on “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

The Malibu Film Festival takes place April 7-10. Screenings, including opening night, will take place at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave. Santa Monica. The opening night gala takes place at The Victorian, 2640 Main St., Santa Monica. More information can be found at www.malibufilmfestival.org.