Who says Orlando moviemakers aren't willing to endure a spot of discomfort for their art? Not Ralph Clemente, director of the film program at Valencia Community College. At press time, Clemente was about to depart for Park City, Utah, to witness VCC's feature "Killing Time" (which he helped produce) compete in the Sundance Film Festival. He's going to be at Sundance the full 10 days -- even if he has to hobble all the way there.
"I broke my ankle in New York while we were filming [last spring]," Clemente says. "I'm still wearing this high-tech brace. It came off and my knee started swelling."
Leg troubles are wickedly appropriate to "Killing Time," a comedy whose job-hunting protagonist walks from Greenwich Village to 96th Street in a single day. Another collaborative project that teamed a crew of VCC students with industry professionals ÃÃ?this time, writer/director Anthony Jaswinski, winner of a 1997 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- the film is the first student project accepted into dramatic competition at Sundance since 1995's "The Brothers McMullen," Clemente notes. With that distinction earned, what's a busted ankle among friends?
"I guess that it turned out to be a lucky wishbone or something," he agrees.
Had original plans held, he might have racked himself up right here at home. According to Clemente, the creative team tried to film "Killing Time" on the New York City lot at Universal Studios, but the facility didn't offer the range of urban backgrounds the film required. (In its favor, Universal has its dog-poop problem pretty much under control.) Instead, Manhattan played itself in "Killing Time:" A dozen VCC students accompanied Clemente to the city to take part in a hectic shoot that was as close to guerrilla filmmaking as the law allows.
"We did have permits, but it's still a big city to be making movies on the street," Clemente says. "We would get canceled out of a place and move on to somewhere else."
And now it's moving on to Sundance. Whether "Killing Time" emerges a winner or a sterling example of the old college try, its prospects of attracting further industry interest look fairly decent: Jaswinski has already sold scripts to 20th Century Fox, Columbia, New Line and Warner Bros. The hometown crowd will get a look at the film when it's screened in late February or early March as part of this year's Valencia Film Celebration. Make like Clemente and brace yourself.
Beginning this weekend, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College will have more faces than Cher. Friday, Jan. 11, is opening day for "Unexposed Identities: Contesting the Photographic Portrait," an exhibit that challenges conventional notions of the snapshot. Incorporating pieces from the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach (and compiled with the help of that museum's former curator, Alison Nordstrom), the exhibit showcases the work of international artists with fresh ideas of facial representation. There's Cindy Sherman, who in her self-portraits assumes personas inspired by film noir. ("They're meant to be this underlying narrative, which you never think about as associated with portraiture," says Cornell curator Theo Lotz.) Other identity-manglers to watch: Leah King Smith, whose manipulated images reflect her half-European, half-Australian-aboriginal background; and Russia's Andrey Chezhin, who takes government-issued identity cards and replaces their holders' facial features with rocks, scissors, nails and the like. As I always say, it's only art if you can't use it to buy beer.
Also getting a facelift is SAK Comedy Lab's second annual "Foolfest" comedy festival, which returns to the Amelia Street venue Feb. 19 through 24. Expanded to six nights from last year's five, the festival's performance schedule welcomes a whole passel of newcomers, including Minneapolis improv troupe Drunk Baby Collective, Michigan magician Chris Linn and New York sketch squad High Fife. There's also the first "Foolfest" appearance of Houseful of Honkeys, the Los Angeles improv unit formed by SAK founders who went west to seek their fortunes several years ago. (The Honkeys will provide the conceptual counterpoint to California's returning Oui Be Negroes. Any trouble and the audience gets it.)
The only disappointment? The no-show of Chicago's much-loved Mission: IMPROVable. Its members had to give this "Fool-fest" a pass due to prior commitments and one golden opportunity: a showcase for representatives of more than 1,000 U.S. colleges. The M:I guys will be back in these parts for May's Orlando International Fringe Festival -- assuming they haven't pledged to some fraternity somewhere.
From Amelia to "Amélie:"
What's the difference between movie critics and the rest of the civilized world? Movie critics love the French! The Gallic charmer "Amélie" was named Best Foreign Language Film and Best Film of 2001 by the Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC), a coalition of 13 reviewers from Sunshine State publications. In two further threats to the American way of life, New Zealander Peter Jackson took Best Director honors for his "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," and Brit Christopher Nolan earned the Best Screenplay nod for "Memento." Defending the Yankee honor were Sissy Spacek (Best Actress for "In the Bedroom") and Billy Bob Thornton (Best Actor for "The Man Who Wasn't There," "Bandits" and the yet-to-be-seen-in-Florida "Monster's Ball"). For a full list of winners, go to www.orlandoweekly.com/movies.
For once, I can't piss and moan that all awards are meaningless: I was a voting member of the FFCC for the first time this year. But come Oscar night, expect my voice again to be loud and proud among the incredulous chorus of "Who decides these things?"
I'll be wearing a Jim Carrey mask.