Carmel Art & Film aims to elevate its movie moxie by focusing more on films.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
The Carmel Art & Film Festival, now in its fourth year, has had since its beginning a rollicking, shifting character about it. It’s been a sprawling event, corralling dozens and dozens of films, reams of art, handfuls of speakers and sundry music shows and parties. So it’s maybe natural that it shifts and morphs, even days before it launches and even during its run.
But year four marks a big shift in a couple of ways. It was co-founded by Artworks Magazine publisher Tom Burns and his wife, longtime KSBW-TV news anchor Erin Clark, and though many staff members from the art magazine’s masthead were integral, the art part of the fest is gone. This year, there is no tie-in exhibit at Marjorie Evans Gallery, no Art in the [Devendorf] Park, no art auction at the festival headquarters.
“This is the fourth year of the festival and we’re realizing what’s working and what’s not working,” explains Burns. “We’re trying to promote the arts… some of the galleries in Carmel weren’t happy about it. We hope we can do something [with art] in the future.”
Even the return of Mr. Brainwash doesn’t portend a return of visual art. He’s confirmed to attend an afterparty with DJ Shyboy (see story, p. 36) and the festival is promoting Mr. Brainwash’s signature poster of Clint Eastwood aiming a Super-8 camera as if it were a gun: “Look no further than the Clint inspired poster and print series,” the promotion suggests. But we saw that image in the form of cardboard cut-outs two years ago when Mr. Brainwash first came, and although Burns says the hard-to-reach L.A.-based Frenchman may bring art with him, the poster is, for now, the only visual art slated to be repped by the festival. And that’s not a problem.
“Film has always been the driving force behind this,” Burns says. “We didn’t want to let go of the art element, but the reality is people come to a film festival for the films.”
Celebrities have had a place at the table. Last year’s preview of Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar became one of the frothiest feeding frenzies of CAFF, while James Franco’s appearance, to popular acclaim, belied his film’s unique and remarkably banal approach. Burns says that while famous faces like Cheryl Tiegs, Beverly Johnson and Cloris Leachman are attending the Women in Film champagne reception and screening of About Face: Supermodels Then and Now (the talented Leachman is getting an award), this year Clint is not yet penciled in.
“We’re still waiting to hear back from him and [his wife] Dina,” Burns says.
There are the parties, but those are pretty exclusive affairs relegated to package holders; the music shows look reliably good (the aforementioned DJ Shyboy is releasing an album here while Griffin House returns to rock the house); the panel talks look indispensable if you remotely care about film (or dream of making one); and the schmoozing is a mostly an ego-free free-for-all. In the process, CAFF is just becoming more of what it’s always been: a film festival. And this year’s films move the whole affair, incrementally but assuredly, in that direction. A big reason for that lies with Tom Brueggemann.
Brueggemann is a longtime film buyer for theaters and film festivals, and a film screener, who CAFF hired as a consultant to get them bigger films this year.
“A lot of the top festivals in the world start off and remain in destination cities,” Brueggemann says. “Carmel was one of the last remaining places in the U.S. that didn’t have a film festival. One thing that the area has is a fair number of industry people, Academy members and members of other guilds, including people who vacation there. [The distributors] want [their films] to be in front of people who may be voting later on.”
California has a slew of film festivals leading up to awards season: Mill Valley, Santa Barbara, L.A. and, now, Carmel.
Precious, a film by Lee Daniels, was given an early screening at CAFF, and was later nominated for six Academy awards (it won two), and Brueggemann believes he’s secured a number of award contenders this year.
They include Amour, directed by Michael Haneke (Cache, White Ribbons), which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes; And If We All Lived Together?, a French film starring Jane Fonda (who speaks French fluently); and The Sessions, a quirky number starring Helen Hunt, William H. Macy and John Hawkes that won the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting at Sundance.
Also screening: A Royal Affair, a Danish piece that premiered in Berlin; and Central Park Five, a documentary about the 1989 beating and rape of a white woman jogger in Central Park and the subsequent prosecution of five black and Latino teenagers who served years in prison until they were found innocent. That one’s co-directed by Ken Burns, probably the country’s most famous documentarian after Michael Moore, and marks his first foray into contemporary social critique. Chasing Ice by Jeff Orlowski, meanwhile, has been described as a “super-cinematic” film experience in which photographer James Balog captured the movement of glaciers due to climate change in Iceland – a movement that compresses years into seconds.
These look to be a very strong lineup of films – about 100 of them, including shorts, documentaries, student and feature films. And for that, Brueggemann says, “This year is going to really upgrade the awareness and reputation of the festival.”
THE CARMEL ART & FILM FESTIVAL runs Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 11-14, at Sunset Center (where CAFF headquarters will be), Golden Bough Playhouse, Carmel High School Performing Arts Center, Carmel Youth Center and Carmel Beach. Films are $5-$10; passes range from $50/all day before 5pm to $195/Essential Credential; packages run $495-$25,000. 625-3700, www.CarmelArtAndFilm.com