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Simon Arthur's producer told him the Salt Lake City Film Festival had a good reputation.
"It's a very young festival, but it has a dynamic for picking edgy films," said Arthur, who wrote and directed the tough-minded drama "Silver Tongues," the opening-night film of the third annual Salt Lake City Film Festival, playing Thursday, Aug. 18, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.
The festival continues Friday to Sunday, Aug. 19-21, at the Tower Theatre, the Post Theater at Fort Douglas and Brewvies Cinema Pub with 15 features and an array of short films from around the world.
"It's great, it's the first time we've ever opened a festival it is a really big honor," said Arthur, whose film took the audience award at this year's Slamdance Film Festival in Park City.
Chris Bradshaw, the festival's co-director, said "Silver Tongues" in which a couple (played by Enid Graham and "Oz's" Lee Tergesen) take to the road to role-play with strangers in disturbing ways "messed me up for a while."
The number of submissions doubled for this year's festival, said co-director Matt Whittaker, from around 120 last year to between 240 and 300 this year. The directors credit the increase, in part, to the use of a national online submissions platform, WithoutABox, but also because "the filmmakers were actively interested in screening our films in the Salt Lake City Film Festival," Whittaker said.
Filmmaker Chris Metzler said he wanted to come to Salt Lake City because "there's a thriving alternative subculture. We're always looking for those communities."
Metzler's movie could play well with that alternative scene. Metzler and Lev Anderson directed "Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone," a documentary on the pioneering Los Angeles band that broke racial barriers as African-American punk rockers.
"The thing that really attracted me to Fishbone is that they were outsiders. In tumultuous times, they went to white neighborhoods and fell in love with punk rock," Metzler said. "These guys who didn't fit in anywhere."
Fishbone, Metzler said, "was always a lot more critically successful than commercially successful." Another sign of the band's acclaim are the musicians who sing their praises, and the movie includes interviews with Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Gwen Stefani, Perry Farrell, Branford Marsalis, George Clinton and ?uestlove(of The Roots).
Utah connections • Joan Sekler's documentary "Locked Out" is about unionized miners in Boron, Calif., who were locked out of their jobs by the mining conglomerate Rio Tinto. She wanted to show it in Utah, where Kennecott Utah Copper, Rio Tinto's subsidiary, operates one of the world's largest copper mines.
"I actually applied to 50 different film festivals in almost every state," Sekler said. "I was especially interested in the one in Salt Lake City and the one in Grand Rapids, Mich." about an hour from Marquette, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where Kennecott has a mining operation.
"The festivals I've been in are not the big ones like Sundance," Sekler said. "They're in cities with a lot of working people, with a lot of unemployment." Even so, she said, audiences have been thrilled with her film which tells a story where (spoiler alert) organized labor wins out over corporate interests for a change.
Sekler said one of the Boron miners, who had recently retired, was approached at a screening in northern California by workers at a nearby Walmart, a notoriously anti-union company. "They had gotten copies of the documentary, and they put it in a brown paper bag and were passing it around," Sekler said.
For filmmaker Dustin Guy Defa, bringing his dramatic feature "Bad Fever" to the Salt Lake City festival is a homecoming of sorts. Defa, who relocated to Brooklyn in 2004 after spending most of his life in Salt Lake City, filmed his drama in the Glendale neighborhoods where he once lived.
"The film is, basically, a sort of outpouring of a number of years of built-up feelings of not being able to express myself," Defa said of his film, which stars Kentucker Audley as a guy with no sense of humor who tries to impress an attractive drifter (Eleonore Hendricks) by performing a stand-up comedy act.
As he wrote his script, Defa said, "the movie became about my feelings about myself living in Salt Lake City. … I realized I felt I was unable to express myself when I was living in Salt Lake City. I got interested in this curious feeling of repression. … Every time I come back to Salt Lake City, I see it more. I see my friends struggling to express themselves."
Defa stretched his meager budget by shooting "Bad Fever" in Salt Lake City in November 2009, using local actors and crew members. "It was a supportive, wonderful thing," he said.
"Bad Fever" debuted at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, this spring, and Defa has been to a couple other festivals since. The Salt Lake screening will be bittersweet, he said. "The worst thing is I can't actually come there," said Defa, who is also an actor and is lucky enough to have a job on a movie.
Long ride • Jen White's day job she's a cinematographer who's working on reality shows for MTV's Spanish-language channel Tr3s might keep her from coming to Salt Lake City along with her movie, the drama "Between Floors." Her movie intercuts five stories, each taking place in a stuck elevator.
White shot each story in hourlong takes, using what she called "structured improv" to "let the actors have a lot of play. … I was more interested in the mood of the scene [than in rigidly following the script]. It never felt on the page the way it felt in my head."
"Between Floors" has been a long rider on the festival circuit, hitting more than a dozen in the past two years. The experience has taught White that the relative youth of the Salt Lake City Film Festival is not necessarily a bad thing.
"There are certain festivals where you think you're getting there and there will be a certain level of organization, because of the length of time it's been running. But you get there and they haven't done any advertising," White said. "Or you get there and you think it's some regional festival, but they totally have their s- together. … Most of them have been good surprises."
Salt Lake City Film Festival
The third annual Salt Lake City Film Festival runs Thursday to Sunday, Aug. 18-21, at four venues:
The Broadway Centre Cinemas, 111 E. 300 South
The Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South
Brewvies Cinema Pub, 667 S. 200 West
The Post Theatre, 245 Fort Douglas Blvd., University of Utah campus.
Tickets are $10 per screening (plus convenience fees), available at the festival website, http://www.saltlakecityfilmfestival.com.
Here's a schedule of screenings, by day and venue:
Thursday, Aug. 18
Broadway Centre Cinemas • "Silver Tongues," 7:30 p.m. (sold out).
Friday, Aug. 19
Tower Theatre • "Green," 2:30 p.m.; "Bad Fever," 4:50 p.m.; "Silver Tongues," 7 p.m.; "Surrogate Valentine," 9:30 p.m.
Post Theatre • "Zeitgeist: Moving Forward," 3 p.m. (free); "Parade," 7 p.m.; "Better This World," 9:30 p.m.
Brewvies Cinema Pub • "Subway Preacher," 10 p.m.; "Between Floors," midnight
Saturday, Aug. 20
Tower Theatre • "The Invention of Dr. Nakamats," noon; shorts program, 2:30 p.m.; "Subway Preacher," 4:50 p.m.; "Better This World," 7 p.m.; "Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone," 9:30 p.m.
Post Theatre • "We Were the Vanquished," 3 p.m.; "The Invention of Dr. Nakamats," 5 p.m.; "Bad Fever," 7 p.m.; "Locked Out," 9:30 p.m.
Brewvies Cinema Pub • "Silver Tongues," 10 p.m.; "Surrogate Valentine," midnight
Sunday, Aug. 21
Tower Theatre • "Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone," noon; "Locked Out," 2:30 p.m.; "Jess + Moss," 4:50 p.m.; "Parade," 9:30 p.m.
Post Theatre • "The Book," 3 p.m.; "Between Floors," 5 p.m.
Broadway Centre Cinemas • Best of Fest, 7:30 p.m. (free; first come, first served).