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
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
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
"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