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Archive for May, 2010

Closing Thoughts on the 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival

Weeks have passed since the Newport Beach Film Festival came to a close. It was a fun, new experience for me. It does kind of suck the life out of you trying to catch up with as many films as you can. What follows are my thoughts on some of the films I saw on the last day of the festival.

“The Elephant in the Living Room” is a documentary by Michael Webber that shows us the underground world of exotic animal ownership in the U.S. This documentary is the best thing I saw at the Newport Beach Film Festival. The documentary was informative, interesting and touching as well. The film follows Tim Harrison, a man who makes it his job to protect exotic animals living in the country. The other person the film follows is a man named Terry who keeps a male and female lion in his backyard.

I found the film an incredibly fascinating look at an entire society of people who keep wild, exotic animals as pets. It could have been easy for the filmmakers to condemn these people, but instead it gives people like Terry a fair chance to state their opinion. Even though I think that people like him are nuts, we do learn that he does genuinely care for his animals. There are some really beautiful, touching moments involving the lions in the film. Everyone should definitely catch up with this film. I can’t recommend it enough.

I also caught up with “True Adolescents” from director Craig Johnson. I caught up with this film because of the film’s star, Mark Duplass. Duplass made a splash last year with “Humpday”. I really liked that film and was impressed with his performance. In this film Duplass plays a 30-something wannabe rock star who is not going anywhere in life. When his girlfriend dumps him, he has no choice but to move in with his Aunt, played by Melissa Leo. Duplass ends up getting stuck taking his cousin and his friend on a camping trip, which doesn’t go according to plan.

I wasn’t sure what the film wanted to be at first. Some of the humor in the beginning of the film didn’t work for me or the audience. I think everyone expected the film to be more of a comedy than it was. I wasn’t sure if I could accept Duplass playing a semi-serious role after his great comedic turn in “Humpday”. But by the end of the film I was impressed with the dramatic chops that he was able to deliver. Duplass delivers a great moment where he takes a hard look at himself in the mirror. Issues of belonging, and sexual identity are handled extremely well in the film. This is a coming of age film for both the young kids and the Duplass character.

The last film I saw at the festival was the premiere of a film called “Tug” directed by Abram Makowka. The film is a nice little picture, that is a bit unfocused. Sam Huntington plays the film’s unnamed lead character, who is a wannabe screenwriter living in Michigan. He has a good relationship with his girlfriend, played by Sarah Drew, but his relationship is threatened by an ex-girlfriend who won’t leave him alone. This crazy ex-girlfriend only increases Huntington’s  uncertain life and the film follows him as he tries to gets his life in order.

The best thing about the film is the performance of Sam Huntington. He is a very relatable presence on-screen. You do feel like you could be his character. Zachary King also delivers a good comedic performance as Huntington’s best friend in the film. One problem with the film is that I didn’t feel that there were any life changing stakes involved in the story. Some of the major plot changing scenes in the film are tired out; we have seen these scenes before in other films done better. Towards the end of the film I grew frustrated and just wanted this guy to make a decision and move on with his life. I liked the performances better than the film’s story.

I had a very enjoyable time at the Newport Beach Film Festival. My only regret is that I wish I was able to catch more films that were of better quality.

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Newport Beach Film Festival Interview: Justin Hogan, Producer of Climate Refugees

“Climate Refugees” was a documentary that played at the recent Newport Beach Film Festival. The film is a look at the people around the world who are being displaced due to climate change. Too many times the debate about climate change gets bogged down in politics. This documentary is worth a watch because it puts a human face on the consequences of climate change. Below is an interview with the documentary’s producer Justin Hogan:

Can you tell us about your documentary “Climate Refugees”?

CLIMATE REFUGEES is a documentary film that uncovers the unbelievable plight of people around the world displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters. The documentary illuminates for the first time the human face of climate change as civilization now finds itself facing the confluence of overpopulation, lack of resources and a changing climate. Traveling the world and interviewing several of the 25 million climate refugees now on the run, along with scholars, politicians and the like, CLIMATE REFUGEES brings to light the heart-wrenching truth of what is quickly becoming mankind’s greatest challenge. This documentary examines the creation—and migration—of hundreds of millions of climate refugees that will be displaced as a result of climate change. A cautionary tale, the film demonstrates that climate change isn’t a political issue; it’s a geopolitical one, one that literally transcends the concepts of nationhood and ethnicity .In this situation, we truly are all one people.

What was the geniuses of this documentary?

Three year ago Michael Nash (director) read an article published by the United Nations University.  It stated that the world had over 25 million climate refugees.  More refugees then caused by war or political persecution.  Michael started to investigate this further.  He asked me to join him on this journey after a month of research proving that this article had merit and a documentary could be made about it.  Michael and I had worked together before and are good friends.

How much research went into the film?

Years and years of research went into  making this film.  Because the concept of Climate Refugees is so new, there was almost no information that had been complied.  People through-out the world were working on the subject matter but were scattered everywhere.  Basically we would meet people who would lead us to other people or tell us about literature written on the subject but was obscure.  It was like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the final picture looked like.

What do you want people to take from this documentary?

It’s funny because people always ask us if they can give money to the cause. We tell them no. We say what we want is their will, their desire to change. To live a greener life. To buy from corporation that are environmentally friendly. To drive hybrid or electric cars. To use their energy differently but most important to become politically active and bring about a change to our world that is necessary for it’s and our survival. America is the only country where a debate is still going on about climate change. It is so sad and pathetic at the same time. Hopefully future generation will look back on us with praise not sorrow and pain.

Do you have a distributor yet? Do you plans to show the film at any other film festivals?

We are currently in negotiations with two distributors on the rights of this film. If everything goes as planned, Climate Refugees will be in theater this fall and at a college near you. We have so many more festivals that we going to. The biggest event planned will be with The Los Angeles Film Festival on June 25th. It will be a free community screening in downtown Los Angeles with special musical guests and VIP’s. All information on future climate refugees events and screenings can be found at http://www.climaterefugees.com

Is there a web site that people can find out more about the documentary?

http://www.climaterefugees.com and join us on Facebook.

Can you tell us about any future projects that you or Michael P. Nash have in the works?

Michael and I made a small feature film about alternative energy and magnetism called FUEL. It is a project we are actively working on to re-do with a much bigger budget and named cast.