Buzz strong for 'Park Day,' 'Trans,' 'Caboose'

As the curtain rises on the 20th edition of the Independent Feature Film Market, there is a sense of history in the air.

Not far from Gotham’s Angelika Film Center, where the latest crop of indies will screen for festival programmers and acquisition execs Sept. 18-25, a retrospective of notable IFFM films is unspooling at the Anthology Film Archives.

Among the titles in the “20 Years of the IFFM” series are Richard Linklater’s “Slacker,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Down By Law,” Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust,” Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” and Hal Hartley’s “The Unbelievable Truth.”

The IFFM retrospective demonstrates the role that the market, which is sponsored by the Independent Feature Project, has played in bringing fresh talent to the attention of industry execs during the last two decades.

‘Blood Guts’

The opening night film for this year’s market is another reminder. Joe Carnahan’s tale of two down-and-out used-car salesmen, “Blood Guts Bullets & Octane,” screened at the 1997 IFFM before acquiring finishing funds from Next Wave Films and being picked up for theatrical distribution by Lions Gate Films.

More than 400 projects are being showcased in the 1998 market, including 102 narrative features and 19 full-length docu-mentaries. Nearly one-quarter of the filmmakers coming to the IFFM have previously attended the market, either with other films or with their current projects in an earlier state of development.

Among the veteran filmmakers at this year’s mart are Susan Kaplan, whose documentary “Small Wonders” was nominated for an Oscar and who is bringing her new doc “Love 3″; Tom Musca, the producer and co-writer of the 1987 IFFM hit “Stand and Deliver” who is back with the satirical drama “Melting Pot”; and Conor McCourt, who has followed up last year’s IFFM discovery “The McCourts of Limerick” with “The McCourts of New York.”

Strong buzz

On the eve of the market, buzz was strong for the titles “Park Day,” which won the audience award at the Urbanworld Film Festival; the Toronto film fest entries “Trans” and “Mixing Nia”; “Floating”; “Men Cry Bullets”; “Rose’s”; and the mock documentary “Who’s the Caboose?”

IFFM attendees will run the gamut from production companies such as Forensic Films, Open City Films, Killer Films, Redeemable Features and Propaganda Films to distributors such as Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, October and Miramax to programmers from festivals such as Berlin, Rotterdam, Sundance, South by Southwest, San Francisco and L.A. Independent.

For the fourth year, the IFP is also holding its annual “No Borders” co-production market for scripts and works-in-progress in tandem with the IFFM. “No Borders” will pair roughly 50 projects in development with potential financing partners such as Alliance Independent Films, the U.K.’s Channel Four Television, Good Machine Intl., October Films, Home Box Office and others.

As has been the case for the last eight years, the highlight of the IFFM will be the IFP Gotham Awards, which will take place Wednesday at Chelsea Piers. The main fundraising event for the nonprofit group, the Gothams attract more than 1,000 industryites.

Filmmaker honorees

This year’s Gotham honorees are “Living Out Loud” director Richard LaGravenese (the writer award), “Pi” helmer Darren Aronofsky (Open Palm Award), “Slam” stars Saul Williams and Sonja Sohn (Perry Ellis Breakthrough Award), Frances McDormand (actor award), Hallmark Entertainment president of worldwide production David Picker (producer award) and Sidney Lumet (lifetime achievement award).

For the second year, the IFP will honor one black screenwriter and one black director with the Gordon Parks Independent Film Awards. Each of the winners will receive a $10,000 cash prize and the opportunity to discuss distribution of their film with a division of Viacom, which is sponsoring the awards.

“The Gordon Parks Independent Film Awards have helped spark a remarkable increase in the number of African-American filmmakers at the IFFM,” said IFP executive director Michelle Byrd. “Two years ago, we had only 16. There are 55 today.”

The nine finalists for the directing award are Lee Lew-Lee for “All Power to the People,” Z. Cathleen Campbell for the short “Away in a Manger,” Craig Ross Jr. for the work-in-progress “Cappucino,” Darryl LeMont Wharton for “Detention,” Cauleen Smith for “Drylongso (Ordinary),” Stacey L. Holman for “Girl Talk,” Patrice Mallard for the work-in-progress “Mute Love” and Sterling Macer Jr. for “Park Day.”

The finalists for the Gordon Parks screenwriting award are Z. Cathleen Campbell for “Death Takes a Holiday (Brothers in Arms),” Tamika Lamison for “The Jar by the Door,” Myla Churchill for “The Judgement Days,” Charles Hall for “Wash My Feet Baby!” and “The Wretched” by Marlon Jamal.

The honor will be announced Thursday.

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