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New York Film: Uptown and Downtown

 Lincoln Center for the Performing ArtsLincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Monday, September 17---------The New York film season begins in earnest this week, with parallel events in uptown and downtown Manhattan that turn the Big Apple into a veritable "subway series". Uptown, specifically at the famed Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts complex on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the Press and Industry Screenings of the 45th edition of the New York Film Festival began its three week run. Downtown, in Manhattan's artsy Soho district, the Independent Feature Project (IFP) is hosting the 29th edition of the IFP Market, a screenings, conference and co-production think tank that has assembled enterprising producers, distributors, festival programmers and sales agents from around the world. Whilenot yet mastering the fine art of being in two places at once, I am making full use of my Metrocard subway pass to catch some of the highlights in both venues.

The New York Film Festival, which opens on Friday, September 28th with the US Premiere of THE DARJEELING LIMITED by director Wes Anderson, is unveiling some of its choicest films this week to members of the press and industry. The screenings start off in high style today with the morning presentation of THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY by painter-turned-director Julian Schnabel. The film was a major hit at its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, winning for Schnabel his first Best Director prize, and solidifying the renaissance man's reputation as a film auteur of the highest order. The screening, held at the Walter Reade Theater, the flagship venue of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, was followed by a lively interview with Julian Schnabel himself. The film, which is being distributed by Miramax, will open in October, and should be a major player in the upcoming awards season.

A lesser known quantity, but an equally effective work of cinema, was shown on Monday afternoon. I JUST DIDN'T DO IT by Japanese director Masayuki Suo (whose SHALL WE DANCE was a major hit in 1997) is the harrowing story of a young man who is falsely accused of molesting an adolescent schoolgirl on a crowded Tokyo subway train. The man's months-long odyssey in and out of jail, and in a Kafkaesque series of court appearances, is a telling critique of the Japanese legal system and the social etiquette of Japanese society. Other films being screened later this week include FADOS, a visual tapestry of Portugese music and dance by master Spanish director Carlos SauraTHE ROMANCE OF ASTREE AND CELADON, a sexual roundelay period piece by the legendary French director Eric Rohmer; the all-star cast pulp melodrama BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD by iconic New York director Sidney Lumet; and the zeitgeist comedy of manners, MARRIED LIFE, directed by Iras Sachs.

Downtown, the screening schedule at the IFP Market is dominated by completed documentary features and shorts, as well as an arresting series of "works-in-progress" screenings of both documentary and fiction features. The Market provides filmmakers with a rare opportunity to screen up to 10 minutes of their work and offer a "pitch" to assembled buyers, financiers, distributors and sales agents on where they are at with their projects and what money and resources they still need to complete their works. The Market has a three decades long history of assisting filmmakers at this critical moment of their creative process, and has midwifed many a movie that would eventually go on to acclaim on the film festival circuit and in theatrical release.

The Puck BuildingThe Puck BuildingWhile the number of films and "works-in-progress" being screened at the Angelika Film Center has been significantly pared down in recent years, the emphasis at the Market these days is information and networking. The Filmmaker Conference, a comprehensive series of information seminars held over the five-day event at the historic Puck Building, covers everything from film financing to marketing to new digital formats. It is an intensive film school education in less than a week, and allows fledgling filmmakers to hear from some of the most ambitious and creative minds in the industry.

While the Filmmaker Conference is open to all comers willing to spend the dough for a Market badge, the Market also sponsors a more clubby event that brings together international producers, distributors, sales agents and film programmers. The No Borders Co-Production Market presents a dozen pre-selected projects that already have international financing or elements in place, in order to help the films move to the next level. The event has brought together nearly 100 highly influential industry movers and shakers in an intimate atmoshere that allows the selected film projects to make practical contacts and secure financial or distribution commitments without the din of a major film festival or market event. IFP is partnered with Cinemart/Rotterdam Film Festival, the Sundance Institute, Filmstiftung North Rhine Westphalia, the Pusan Film Festival and several other international stalwarts in this pragmatic sidebar to the main event.

Many industry bigwigs are shuttling between the uptown and downtown events, making the subway platforms the best networking party in town.

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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