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World Premieres Get First Look At Palm Beach

One of the rarest things to find at a medium-sized film festival are films that have never been seen at another festival venue. World Premieres are a highly prized status that most festivals attempt to attract, but with the exception of the largest, rarely succeed in attracting.

So, it was with a mix of curiosity and excitement that I noticed that at this year's Palm Beach International Film Festival, there are a number of films making their world debuts at the event. The decision to showcase one's work at a more intimate festival, as opposed to the five-ring circuses of Cannes, Sundance or Toronto, is certainly an idiosyncratic one. What Palm Beach can offer is a supportive environment, an intelligent audience and the opportunity to get valuable feedback on one's film creation.

In the Features section, four films are making their first foray on the film festival circuit. 305, by American co-directors Daniel and David Hoelechek, is based on the online smash hit. The film is a mockumentary detailing the misadventures of five not-so-brave members of the Spartan army charged with guarding a seemingly ordinary goat path. But when their actions lead to the death of King Leonidas and his army of 300 men, the five must find a way to redeem themselves and save Sparta from invasion. The film obviously takes its cues from 300 and other sandal-and-sword epics of late, giving it an ironic twist and tongue-in-cheek acting style.

ANIMALS WITH THE TOLLKEEPER is not strictly a World Premiere, but the film, which was made over a decade ago, has been mired in legal disputes that prevented its exposure and release. Here at Palm Beach, to coincide with tonight's Gala Tribute to acting legend Mickey Rooney, producer Gabrielle Tana and writer/director Michael De Jiacomo are unveiling a newly remastered version of the film, which also stars such heavyweights as Tim Roth, John Turturro, Rod Steiger and Barbara Bain. In this lush romantic fantasy, a borken dreamer finds new meaning in ove and life after a trio of elderly French documentary filmmakers hijack his taxi cab to drive from New York to North Carolina. When the film was first released, it won a Best Director prize at the Sitges Film Festival, which specializes in sci-fi and fantasy films. However, with the exception of a handful of industry screenings, the cult film became "lost" over the years. Kudos to the Palm Beach Film Festival for resurrecting this unusual and heartwarming tale.

American director Avery Pack illustrates the clashes between American and Chinese culture in FOREIGN DEVILS, which is getting its first screening on Monday evening here. The film portrays the story of Nate, an American ex-patriot who thinks he is leaving his job in Beijing for business school in the U.S. When his deal falls apart, his friends help him to realize his goal, all set to the backdrop of the secretive Beijing business world where nothing is quite what it seems. With American interests in China multiplying and the Olympics-hosting company getting its fair of criticism, the tensions explored in the film offer a fascinating look at the east-meets-west tension of two cultures colliding.

Quentin Tarantino favorite Michael Madsen joins forces with Keith David in NO BAD DAYS, in this existential action film about tomb-raiders who rob previous Mayan artifacts. Their journey pits them against a rugged ex-military operative who tracks their every move. Set in the exotic terrain of the Yucatan Peninsula, NO BAD DAYS works its fast-pace style to make for a story with many surprise twists and turns.

Several documentary features are also making their world premieres at the Festival. APOLOGY OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN is a US/UK/Greek co-production by diretor Stelios Kouloglou. At a summit meeting set in Ecuador, a North American finance guru discloses the secret network that uses the Word Bank, payoffs, extortion, sex, mmilitary coups and political assassinations to create the American empire. This is controversial stuff, offering a view of the U.S. government's clandestine activities to control world finance.

From local Florida filmmaker Victor Milt comes CRACKER--THE LAST COWBOYS OF FLORIDA, a portrait of the 250-year old history of the cowboy culture one usually associates with Texas or the Southwest. For over two centuries, cowboys have ridden the plains of central Florida. The film captures the beauty of this rugged outdoor culture, which must content with an ever-increasing encroachment by modernity and real estate development.

In OBJECTS AND MEMORY, co-directors Jonathan Fein and Brian Dantiz have crafted a visual essay on ow ordinary things in our lives have been trasfored into irreplacable conveyers of experience, aspiration and identity. The film conveys the mutual impulses of preserving the past while trying to plan for the future.

Several short films are also making their world premieres at the Festival, including SAVING THE EARTH ONE BUSINESS AT A TIME, which teaches consumers and businesses how they have the power to adapt green sensibilities to their core businesses; BEAUTIFUL SCENERY IN GUANGXI, a short fim presenting the natural scenery and culture of the beautiful Chinese region of Guangxi Zhuang; and WORLD, a Canadian film that features two dozen teenagers who teach us about love in a racially charged spoken word piece.

Sandy Mandelberger, Palm Beach FF Dailies Editor on

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