A little unnerving to drop by the the Script Pitch on Sunday afternoon, the end result of the 2019 FIN Script Development Program, where one year ago I stepped up with”professor” Michael Melski and “class,” sweating bullets, and pitched the supernatural adventure Demon to a panel of industry experts.
I could feel the tension deep in my torso as I watched others go through the same thing. For the record, I’m still chipping away on Demon and have had some terrific feedback on the project in the 12 months since.
Congrats to this year’s line-up for your great pitches: Nicole Slaunwhite and her horror-thriller, Breeder, Mike Fardy and his Labrador-set period adventure Lily, Amy Trefry and Brett Braaten and their dark comedy Jerky (the short proof-of-concept was part of the Atlantic Shorts Program 1 on Sunday evening) and Katrina Bakolias’ magic realist drama Junkyard Girls.
Varda By Agnes
The last testament by prolific and much-loved French filmmaker Agnes Varda, who died at age 90 in March. Her previous picture, Faces Places, was admired by most, including me, though I felt like it helped if you were already a fan of her work going into that film. That’s not a dig—she and her many films (including her best-known picture, Cleo from 5 to 7, which is also screening at FIN along with three others, Le bonheur, Mur murs, and Vagabond) were an essential part the French New Wave.
This documentary is a director’s commentary writ large, covering 20 of her films. Varda sits on stage (and occasionally shooting on location) and discusses her work over clips, explaining the decisions she made at the time, how she adopted moments of documentary in works of fiction, and introduces collaborators. This is fascinating stuff—she explains her inspiration, her feminism, her intent. What an opportunity for the filmmaker to be reassessed on her own terms, and reconnect with the substance of her work. It’s less a classroom than a review, an opportunity to tell tales of adventures gone by.
“Real people are at the heart of my work,” she explains. She’ll be missed by real people, while all she’s left us will continued to be treasured.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
My mother had one or two of Linda Ronstadt’s records, because I remember “Different Drum” and “Long Long Time” in my childhood. By the time I was a teenager in the 1980s, Ronstadt’s stuff was terminally uncool, like most of the music that thrived on 1970s AM radio, and maybe I didn’t give her the credit she was due when I was coming into my own musical taste. This film does, reminding us all what a singular, restless talent she had, with a voice clear as a phrase.
Her career achievement is even more impressive when you consider the obstacles in her way—a deeply sexist music industry that put men first, and a hit machine that wanted to keep her on the road filling stadia. Instead she auditioned for musical theatre in New York, performing Gilbert and Sullivan, then doing an album of standards long before that was considered cool (by rock stars like Rod Stewart), and followed that up by dipping into music from her Mexican heritage, scoring other hit records.
The live concert footage seals the deal, and her famous friends step up to offer their memories, including Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Waddy Wachtel, and Don Henley, who looks like he was filmed through a lens slathered with an inch of vaseline. Ronstadt is living in Mexico now, managing a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, and though she doesn’t have control of her wonderful instrument anymore, I was heartened to hear her sing with her family.
It was a lovely night of music as I was also able to make it over to the Dal Arts Centre to see Lucinda Williams. Ragged glory, baby.