Heaven Is for Real
Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.
Anath White, an Illinois native, was a committed "movie goer" in her early teens. By college, the International Film Series at the University of Colorado turned her on to film. Following a back-to-nature stint in the mountains above Boulder (no running water, plumbing nor electricity, no neighbors for miles), she moved to Denver and gave 10 years to radio. Five were at public station KCFR-FM, when it was still "free form." As a deejay, local host for "Morning Edition," and producer of dozens of arts/film-related segments, including for NPR, she was awarded a national Grant for Women in Public Broadcasting. She segued into (pre-Limbaugh) talk when she began producing shows for Alan Berg, the top talk host at the venerable 50,000 watt KOA-AM. Nine months later, Berg was murdered in a political assassination by a neo-Nazi cadre. Fast forward 5 years. When Oliver Stone directed Talk Radio, a script which combined a play by Eric Bogosian with elements of the Alan Berg story, White was Stone's technical advisor on the Dallas shoot, and had a cameo in the film. This experience gave her the gumption to relocate to Los Angeles. Since 1990, after holding distribution and special projects coordinating positions at the AFI, she's done everything from script coverage for The Sundance Institute to researcher/creative consultant on numerous Showtime films, to associate producing/coordinating British TV shoots in the U.S. and associate producing three documentaries.
Far Flung Correspondent Anath White reports from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Anath White picks her favorite piece of Roger's writing.
Anath White reflects on Haskell Wexler's short film "The Bus" (which you can watch at the end of the essay).
CalArts, founded by Walt Disney in 1961, remains an incubator for animators, directors, actors and other creative types. That was clear at the 10th annual New Original Works Festival at Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
As Roger Ebert noted in February, film festivals have become so ubiquitous that there's almost certainly one within driving distance of most film fans in the US. And lots of them are sprouting world-wide. Three years ago, I'd pitched Roger with an "FFC" piece on the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. He advised that I provide a sense of the town and its atmosphere, the people, as well as what the festival itself was like.
Seasonal anticipation: as 2013 debuted, many were feeling it. The 28th iteration of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, aka "SBIFF," was on the wind, with jazzed moviegoers soon to converge elbow-to-elbow in a familiar, even familial, and happy bustle on downtown's State Street.
I was among the excited, as this would be my third year covering the festival. And for me, extra sweetening would be provided by the tribute to Daniel Day-Lewis, the oft-reticent acting genius whose reanimation of Abraham Lincoln seemed certain to bring another Best Actor Academy Award -- his 3rd, making him the only actor to surpass Marlon Brando, who received 2.
Los Angeles is a behemoth or, better, an octopus, with tentacles stretching 468.67 square miles, a fact that shocked me when I moved here in 1990. That meant that it was bigger than the distance consumed by driving to and from Chicago from my hometown, Kewanee (150 miles southwest), and back again. I soon realized that one could easily live an entire lifetime in Los Angeles and never see it all. This also meant that so much was always going on, including really desirable events, many of which would most certainly be missed.
News that the incomparable journalist Mike Wallace has died brought back a story. In a life filled with remarkable and dramatic events, it is perhaps among the most memorable but little told. It happened in Iran in 1981.
In early 1979, the Iranian Revolution burst upon the world, forcing out the widely-hated, long-serving despot, Shah Reza Pahlavi, and bringing the exiled Islamic fundamentalist Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power. Anger at America, whose policies had supported the Shah and interfered in Iran's politics for decades, was widespread, as thousands of Iranians demonstrated daily in the streets, and Khomeini denounced "the Great Satan." That November, revolutionary students stormed the American Embassy in search of C.I.A. files, taking the 52 staffers present hostage. It was a siege that would last a seemingly infinite 444 days, becoming an American sensation on the nightly news (ABC's "Nightline" was created to cover "the Iran hostage crisis"), and profoundly influencing the outcome of the 1980 Presidential election.
It's a sunny, unseasonable 80 degrees as the 2012 Santa Barbara International Film Festival kicks in, but all I want is to be indoors. When you peer at a schedule listing nearly 200 films jammed into 10 days, and you just can't wait, you know you're an addict. This is my third SBIFF so I recognize the signs.
Suddenly each January, there's an extra bustle in this appealing, laid-back town. Downtown on lower State Street, trucks appear bearing vivid banners, soon to be festooned overhead. Special lights and rigging go up at 2 central venues - the precisely restored, historic Lobero and Arlington Theatres. Locals watch to see whether Festival Director Roger Durling changes his hair: one year it was spikey, another year purple. This time it's rather like Heathcliff - longer, romantic.
Awards season again. Last year, as you may recall, a many months pregnant Natalie Portman received the Oscar for Best Actress for "Black Swan." Her lithesome acceptance speech, without notes, thanked many colleagues she knew had helped her stand there. As both a lifelong moviegoer and a worker on films, my spirit lifted at these words: "There are people on films that no one ever talks about, that are your heart and soul every day, including Joe Reidy, our incredible A.D..." Along with so many others, I was thrilled by her sentiment -- and especially pleased for Joe Reidy.