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September 12, 2002

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September 12, 2002

Film fest goes global

Melbourne event attracts international attention, celebrity appearances

By Breuse Hickman

It started small. But, sure enough, the 4-year old Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival has outgrown its space at the Henegar Center for the Arts in Melbourne.

The festival will screen movies at two locations -- the Henegar, and the Metro Cinema Café in West Melbourne. A kickoff party, featuring 11 films, was Thursday night at DaKine Diego's Insane Burritos in Satellite Beach.

When the festival started, founder Terry Cronin Jr. received nine films and showed them all. This year, he and his committee chose 67 films out of 172 submitted.

"To a greater extent, filmmakers are knocking on our door," said Cronin, a dermatologist by day. "The quality of the films has increased. . . . We have three Academy Award-nominated films this year and several that were selected for best of the Sundance Festival."

Considering this year's lineup, it's little wonder MIFF is getting talked up at some better-known film festivals around the country.

While Cronin began the festival as a way to promote his films as well as those of other local filmmakers, they now share screen space with those from Australia, Scotland and Ireland, as well as Malasia and Germany.

Some of the movies being screened include "Alles mit Besteck" from Germany, "Sparky D Comes to Town" from Australia, and "Raj or Radge" from Scotland.

As with most film festivals, off-kilter is a big draw. One of the goofiest-looking movies to be screened is "Terminator Tomatoes," a five-minute video from American filmmaker Suzanne Twining.

The short, which has been featured at film festivals nationwide, is a stop-motion animation using puppets and miniature sets. The story concerns a farmer, a chemical corporation and a tomato crop.

"It's very funny, in the fact that it's done in the old Gumby-style cartoons and it preaches a message," Cronin said.

There's more. This year, the festival will feature something the more famous film festivals have: celebrities.

And while James Best of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and Dr. Carl Bilancione from "Survivor: Africa" might not headline, say, Cannes or Sundance, their presence suggests growth.

But Cronin is quick to stress he doesn't envision MIFF becoming the next Sundance.

"We do envision this becoming something visitors from out of the county will want to come to, but we want to make sure it stays a favorite event among people who live here," Cronin said. "We want it to remain a community-oriented event."

To that end, Cronin and his film committee select films not only for their artistic merit, but also how they think the films will be accepted by a Brevard audience.

That means festival patrons can see a host of films they're not likely to find at a multiscreen cinemaplex, and what local filmmakers have been up to.

Take, for instance, Brian Belefant, who grew up in Brevard County and works as a photographer and director of commercials in Los Angeles.

His short film, "Burning Passion," deals with a teen-aged boy who has a bizarre sexual dysfunction.

While the sexual subject matter might seem shocking to viewers unaccustomed to explicit material typical on the film-festival circuit, Belefant said he used his story to explore Hollywood's sexual exploitation.

"It's really a soap box that I've gotten on to show how Hollywood portrays sex as an act of violence," he said.

Belefant said his biggest challenge isn't finding acceptance for his work but competing with the growing number of filmmakers.

"Because of the technology, a filmmaker can drop $5,000 to make a film on digital video," said Belefant, 40. "But for me, I won't shoot on video because of my own aesthetics."

Titusville filmmaker Wil Petty made his film for only $500 using digital video.

His film "Harvester," which will be shown during tonight's "Creature Feature" program, is a period piece in which three British renegades seize a farmhouse in search of gold.

Besides the chance to air his film for free on the big screen, Petty said the festival atmosphere gives him a chance to network with other creative types.

"Last year, I got to meet so many people -- especially a lot of video makers that came from all over the country," he said. "My goal is to meet someone who can help me translate my efforts to a television series."

This year's festival will conclude with a wrap-up party at Meg O'Malleys, where one filmmaker will receive the Kelly's Hard Cider "Crystal Apple" Award for best film selected by the filmmakers. Also awarded will be the Indian River Brewing Company's "People Choice" award for best film, selected by festival attendees.

Where to watch
The festival opens tonight at the newly renovated Metro Cinema Café in West Melbourne. This year, both screens at the theater will be utilized. One will show horror movies; the other will show a variety of independent fare. Saturday's films will be shown at Melbourne's Henegar Center for the Arts, complete with an evening VIP Party.

special events

Meet and greet with actor James Best, known for his role of Roscoe P. Coltrane on "The Dukes of Hazzard" and for starring in the indie "Finders Keepers," 2 p.m. Saturday.
Meet the filmmakers and roundtable question and answer period, 3 p.m. Saturday.
Meet Dr. Carl D. Bilancione from "Survivor: Africa," at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
"Wrap party," 11 p.m. Saturday at Meg O'Malley's, 810 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne. At the wrap party, the Indian River Brewing Company will present two awards: "Kelly's Hard Cider Crystal Apple Award," for best film, voted by the filmmakers; and the "Indian River Brewing People's Choice," for best film voted by audience members. Here's a breakdown of general schedule and ticket prices:
"Friday the 13th Creature Feature," from 6 p.m. to well past midnight today at the Metro Cinema Café and Bogart's Lounge, Metro West Shopping Center, 3020 W. New Haven Ave., West Melbourne. Admission is $7. Call 727-0170.
Saturday's Daytime Program, 10 a.m. to 5:10 p.m. at the Henegar Center for the Arts, 625 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne. Admission is $7, which includes Saturday afternoon's special events. Call 723-8698.
"VIP Program," which includes a gourmet buffet, live entertainment and screening of 11 films, is 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Henegar Center. Admission is $30. Call 723-8698.
Package tickets, which include admission to everything, are $40.
Admission to the wrap party is free. Proceeds benefit Unconditional Love, a local charity helping HIV and AIDS patients.
For more information, go to www.3boysproductions.com


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