CineVegas is billing itself as “The World’s Most Dangerous Film Festival” borrowing the tagline from filmmakers who partied hearty last year.
Their words made CineVegas director of programming Trevor Groth believe that borrowing the motto would summarize what CineVegas has been doing all along.
CineVegas associate director of programming Mike Plante concurs that danger is not new to CineVegas or Sin City. “The town has always been considered dangerous,” Plante says. “It was an Old West town. Then a mafia town.”
“To both of us picking the films, it means that we can get away with anything. We don’t have to show one type of film. I don’t think that other film festivals get away with the range that we do.”
“Dare to push things,” Groth says. “People are up for the challenge.”
CineVegas programming is a mix of art films and underground movies. Despite the new tagline, the 2006 selection process did not differ from prior years: not much mainstream, nothing cliched — movies that trigger thought.
“We don’t want filmmakers that are safe,” Plante cautions. “It’s got to have a soul. You’ve got to do more than shock or titillate.”
He estimates that of all the films previewed in 2006, only about 25% contained the right sort of edge. “Half of our films, you get lucky,” Plante explains. He and Groth attend other fests and speak with numerous filmmakers, helping them to cast a wide net.
Dangerous programming includes specialty films about Vegas and insider pics produced by Nevadans. Besides the Shorts Programs, insider offerings are found in the new “Vegas Uncovered” section where two high-profile documentaries about Vegas will be screened.
There is also the Area 52 section, which showcases movies that are a radical departure from mainstream and do not readily fit one particular genre.
For independent filmmakers such as John Maringouin, dangerous is a way of life. His “Running Stumbled” screening this year is a documentary about the aftermath of visiting his father after a lengthy absence. It plays like fiction, but is not.
“I don’t think you can make a dangerous movie unless you are in danger as a filmmaker,” Maringouin says. “I want to do for movies what Hunter Thompson did for journalism.”
He says that the people who populate “Running Stumbled” are iconoclastic and anarchistic. “The film does not give you a convenient context to put them in,” he concludes.
For Eva Aridjis, who is presenting “The Favor,” her main character is a troubled and dysfunctional teen who has nothing left to lose. The film has, she says, “heavy drug scenes” and there is a pervading sense of tragedy.
“The soundtrack creates atmosphere and themes that a contemporary teen feels,” she explains. Musical tracks include Blondie, the Cure and the Stone Roses.
Another kind of danger is found away from the silver screen at the blowout parties that rock nearly every night. The filmmakers themselves participate in a rendition of “dangerous” with special events that begin in the ayem such as marathon bowling parties. Or go-kart racing in the Palms parking lot.