Malibu film fest wraps it up as winners celebrate

Yvonne Dejoria with models at the awards dinner. Nancy Kaye / TMT

From stories of “freaks” to the exploration of brother relationships, the fourth Malibu International Film Festival screenings covered a wide variety of topics, some shocking, others touching.

By Laura Tate/Editor

ou have to want it more than anything,” actor and producer Amy Madigan said.

And the filmmakers of the Fourth Annual Malibu International Film Festival did want it more than anything-to make a film, whether it be a short, a documentary or a full-length feature. Most borrowed from their parents and maxed-out credit cards, pulled favors and labor from friends, and shot on the run to achieve their goal. All to have their efforts screened over five days last week, hoping to receive the distinction of an award, but most of all to “network.”

Screenwriters, directors, producers and actors conducted question and answer sessions following screenings of their films, exchanged notes with each other during opening night at Duke’s Malibu Restaurant, as well as during mixers at local restaurants, and finally came together to network some more, hopefully get an award and to party at the awards dinner at Taverna Tony’s on Wednesday.

Madigan’s comments came during a question-and-answer session following the Sept. 27 screening of the feature “After the Past,” written and directed by Malibu resident Ash Adams, which he also starred in, along with Branden Morgan.

Of more than 3,000 entries, from as far as Germany, Croatia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, France and England, 153 were selected for screenings and seven winners were chosen by jury and audience favorites. Master of Ceremonies Tony Griffin, son of Merv Griffin and director of “Squint,” a winner of last year’s festival, and actor Dennis Weaver, most noted for his “McCloud” series, announced the winners on Oct. 1. As Griffin mugged it up, going on and on with imitations of Arnold Schwarzenegger and other celebrities, the audience groaned and urged him to get on to the good stuff-the winners of this year’s fest.

But first, festival founder David Katz, with father Marty Katz and family looking on, presented several “thank you” awards to supporters, including major festival supporter John Paul DeJoria of Paul Mitchell Systems. DeJoria’s mother, Yvonne, accepted the award in his name.

The documentary “Nihi,” directed by Brooks Guyer and produced by Jimbeau Andrews, won Best of Festival. The film focuses on Titus Nihi Kinimaka, a Hawaiian big wave surfer, stuntman and global adventurer.

For animated short films, the Audience Choice Award went to “The Freak,” a tale of a “gleefully dancing freak that disturbs an otherwise ‘normal drone world,’ ” directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas. The animated Best of Festival was won by “Dreamscapes,” a film by Sean McBride. McBride’s film examines dreams of people from all walks of life and then animates them using different effects such as digital painting and 3D.

Director, writer and director Susan Vail won the Audience Choice Award for her live action short “Valette.” The short was a lighthearted, amusing look at the life of a girl who parks cars, taking on the identities of the owners of the vehicles and then possibly finding her own.

“Family Tree,” a story of a guy dealing with his dysfunctional family, including a brother who sprouts leaves when he gets wet, written by Scott Ingalls and directed by Vicky Jenson, won the Best of Festival for a live action short film.

Weaver announced the Audience Choice Award for a feature film, which went to Adams for his poignant story of two brothers who struggle to come to terms with their dark history and relationship with their recently deceased father in “After the Past.”

“Everybody said I couldn’t make a film for $4,000,” Adams commented on his directorial debut, which was shot on video.

“Next time around I hope I can get $5,500,” he followed, with laughs from the audience.

To that comment, Weaver told Adams, “I work cheap.”

Bret Carr won Best of the Festival for his feature “Lou,” which was co-written by Quinn Redeker (co-screenwriter of “Deerhunter”), Carr and Mary Helen Shashy. Carr plays the role of a man whose stutter leaves him incapable of expressing his feelings, except through violence. A loss at a chance at middleweight boxing causes him to painfully transform himself-from his stuttering to homophobic beliefs-into a sensitive and articulate motivational speaker.

Carr thanked his parents for their help, a recurring theme for most of the filmmakers accepting awards. He also thanked mentor Paul Michael Glaser (“Starsky and Hutch”) for giving him “notes” and encouragement.

The awards ceremony was followed by a fashion show produced by Nathalie Dubois, featuring recycled clothes and jeans handpainted by Senegalese artist Sissoko. Models in painted jean shorts, pants and jackets (complimented by wild wacky face paint) strutted downstairs, growling and howling to the delight of the audience.

Katz said attendance at this year’s festival, which has been shortened from a format of seven days, is comparable to last year.

However, he feels that Malibu residents need to come out in support of this local venue for it to become the “world-class” event he hopes it will be some day. It is a sentiment he expressed after last year’s festival.

“The people of Malibu are not attending the festival,” he said, although acknowledging that many local such as DeJoria are committed to helping the festival each year.

With support from Malibu, he said, the festival could be a steppingstone to the Academy Awards for filmmakers.

Next year, Katz said the festival would most likely take place during the summer, and definitely not during a major Jewish holiday as this year’s did-the festival opened on Rosh Hashanah. See next week’s issue for reviews of the winning films.