The Carmel International Film Festival, running Oct. 18-22, may only be entering its 9th year of existence, but for co-founders Erin Clark and Tom Burns there are already enough stories about the event to go around. Of course, there was the time that the portable screen on the beach punctured during the middle of a movie.
“It was like the Wicked Witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ it just kind of went down,” says Clark. “And you have 350 people on the beach watching this. And we get a phone call telling us, ‘We have a problem.’ O.K., because, you can’t be everywhere at once, right?”
It goes without saying that while Clark and Burns realized it was fun in theory, in reality, the windy Pacific coast was best served for parties and special events as opposed to a temporary screening venue. Fast forward to 2017 and Carmel has grown to four indoor venues, including the 700-seat Sunset Center Theater, and a slate of 100 feature length and short films that will screen over the five-day event.
This year’s narrative highlights include John Curran’s “Chappaquiddick,” Ruben Östlund’s “The Square,” Ben Lewin’s “Please Stand By” and Todd Browning’s “The Unknown,” a 1927 horror classic starring Lon Chaney and a young Joan Crawford that has been re-scored by Mark Governor. The composer will direct a live orchestra that will perform the new music to the silent black and white film on the opening night of the festival.
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Documentaries also share the spotlight at Carmel and two in particular should draw interest from patrons: Nathan Meier’s “Logan’s Syndrome” and Sara Bordo’s “Protect Her.”
Salt Lake City area artist Logan Madsen has suffered from Miller’s Syndrome since birth. It’s a rare genetic disorder found in fewer than 30 people on earth including Logan and his older sister, Heather. Meier and Madsen met in art class while attending high school and after the former went to CalArts to pursue filmmaking they lost touch. Nine years later they reconnected and Meier learned that Madsen had decided his next artistic subject would be none other than himself. Meier knew something “drastic” had changed with Madsen and that eventually became the inspiration for their collaborative documentary, “Logan’s Syndrome.”
“I spent an entire night, recording him with this little video camera while he was making one of the first paintings from this series,” Meier says. “I never touched that footage for two years and finally got it out and looked at it and was really struck by how honest he was. How articulately he described his conditions, and how he deals with them in his daily life, and then being intrigued by him also choosing to focus on these in his art.”
Meier says Madsen was actually the impetus for them to submit to Carmel, but he’s thrilled they were accepted because the festival “offers a lot to beginning filmmakers.”
“Ultimately, I want this film seen by as many people as possible,” Meier says. “I don’t think we’re ever gonna make a dime on this movie. Not to get my name out there as a filmmaker even, but really because I think this story is gonna be something that will benefit other families to hear. And so that for me is the main goal.”
Considering the recent stories of sexual harassment in Silicon Valley and Hollywood as well as the recent decision by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsey DeVos to rescind recent guidelines on campus assault cases it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate time for “Protect Her” to debut. The documentary follows Alexis Jones, a motivational speaker who formed an organization to encourage student athletes to change the culture around sexual assault and the “locker room talk” mentality.
Bordo was inspired by Jones’ work across the country and thought she could help provide a louder megaphone by chronicling it in a movie. The number of men willing to participate in the project including well known TV analysts, players and coaches affirmed her decision to move forward with the project. In fact, much of the materials used to discuss this issue are out of date and antiquated.
“We just really believed there had to be a much more current way to talk and communicate and activate the hearts and minds of these kids,” Bordo says. “We’re really excited that it’s about to see some really bright light in the form of the film.”
The premiere of “Protect Her” will feature an audience full of middle schools, high schools and college age students from the Carmel area. That’s due in large part to the Festival’s own community outreach efforts and something Bordo also experienced with her last film at Carmel.
”One of the reasons why our fingers were crossed for Carmel, was my first film had a screening there, ‘Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story’ and you know it is rare that a festival make the priority community involvement and youth activism,” Bordo says. “That is so important to Erin and Tom, and the rest of the team at Carmel. When they called and said ‘We would love for you to premiere here’ the first thing out of my mouth was ‘Can we?’ And she said “And we’re doing a really big community push, so let’s start talking about that.” It inspires me to be premiering this at a festival that prioritizes social change and youth culture, in the way that Carmel does.”
Carmel also has a number of events you wouldn’t expect including a special screening of “The Lego Batman Move.” The Warner Bros. release had been released in February, but director Chris McKay will journey to Carmel to participate in a Q&A for kids who have been inspired to make their own Lego movies.
“These aren’t like high school kids. These are 10-year- olds,” Burns says. “One of my coworkers has two kids and he was like, ‘Oh my god, you don’t know what’s going on with ‘Lego Batman.’ So, we’re going to incorporate the kids with that. To their great credit, the filmmakers loved the idea.”