A Case of Indies Exposure in AP

Peter Kinoy, Paco De Onis and Pamela Yates — editor, producer and director of the game-changing doc feature RANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR — are the special guests during an in-person appearance at The Showroom on Saturday night, part of the AP IndieFest 2011.  

Don’t look now (actually, do look, now), but maybe for the first time since the glorydays of the old cinema palaces, Asbury Park has become a movie town — and for that you can thank Asbury’s nifty neighborhood nickelodeon, The ShowRoom and its filmophilically forward-thinking founders, Nancy Sabino and Mike Sodano.

In the works as we speak is something of a minor explosion of proposed art auditoriums and screening spaces, both all-new constructions and adaptations of existing properties. Nancy and Mike are, as you’d expect, already on the case — with a relocation and expansion (detailed here in a previously published pixelated page of upperWETside) that will beat the rest of the pack to the Punch by months, maybe years.

And, when the sidewalks in and around the Cookman Avenue corridor eventually become choked with Oscar hopefuls, work-for-scale H’wood heavyweights, Weinstein brothers and other migrating songbirds usually spotted at Sundance and other firmly established filmfests? The Sabino/ Sodano tagteam will still have gotten there first, via a feisty startup called the AP IndieFest 2011.

A three-day slate of screenings and ancillary events offered under the subheading “Films That Change You For Good,” the second AP IndieFest combines the eclectic multi-platform programming of “just another weekend at The Showroom” with in-person filmmaker discussions, live performances, a rare revival of a neglected mainstream hit from the 1970s, and the return of the homegrown phenomenon known as The AP in 3 Film Challenge.

Kicking off this Friday, September 23 and continuing through September 25, the whole thing is presented in tandem with the Asbury Park Film Initiative and with the Arts Coalition of Asbury Park — a couple of locally based nonprofit entities that are equally passionate about the projected image and its presence here in the region’s flagship zip for all things artful. Also playing a high-profile role in the proceedings are Yoga Basin (who will be tying into their own Yoga Fest events going on this selfsame weekend), plus Dana Reeves and the word-powered whirligig that is Adult Relaxation. More on IndieFest and all who sail with it, in three…two…one…

Neptune’s Kevin Elliott (aka Justice Truth) slams some sooths in live spoken word performance on Friday night, when The Showroom screens the documentary LOUDER THAN A BOMB.  

Anybody who’s followed The Showroom throughout the two(!!!) short years they’ve been in business knows that it’s more than a storefront screening space. It’s also a breath mint, a floor wax, a dessert topping PLUS a multi-purpose venue for music, theater, book signings, lectures, comedy and, most pertinent to the discussion, spoken word — a fact hammered home by the room’s having hosted the NJ premiere of Rock WILK‘s Broke Wide Open, since gone on to acclaimed tours across the country and the pond beyond.

Friday’s IndieFest inaugural offers up another example of Garden State firsties, as Nancy and Mike present an 8pm screening of Louder Than a Bomb — the feature by Jon Siskel and Greg Jacobs (best known for their “Witness” disaster docs on the NatGeo Channel) encapsulates the annual Chicago poetry slam competition of the same name — even as it “chronicles the journey from student life into young adulthood, utilizing poetry as a powerful tool to channel emotions and talent.” With spoken word enjoying something of an uptick around the Upper Wet Side in recent years, the Showroom shamen have called in one of its most expert impresarios — Dana Reeves of Wanttobeseen.net Photography and this thing called Adult Relaxation…the key to your mind body and soul.

Having coordinated music/ poetry/ Open Mic events in and around Asbury town, at venues ranging from Chico’s House of Jazz, Aqua Bar, The Berkeley Hotel, Words!, Watermark and The Bungalow Hotel in Long Branch, Reeves ringmasters a post-film program of six performance poets that includes LaChocolatebox from Freehold, as well as a couple of Neptune’s best — Jenelle Best, that is, and Kevin Elliott, d/b/a Justice Truth. There’s also a Q&A session with the performers and the crowd, so this one’s worth sticking around for.

Saturday’s a festival in itself from the looks of things, starting with a noontime showing of Life in a Day — a “user-generated” feature (the user in this case being “the global community”) compiled from tens of thousands of videos submitted for a YouTube call to action; the result being “a unique experience that shows — with beauty, humor, and joyful honesty — what it’s like to be alive on Earth today.” It’s followed at 4pm by an encore screening of a documentary that’s been making the rounds of schools, libraries and Unitarian meeting houses — Forks Over Knives, an advocacy piece on the health benefits of a plant-based diet that’s augmented with a panel discussion hosted by the folks at nearby Yoga Basin of Mattison Avenue (where a Yoga Festival by the Sea unfolds on Friday, carrying over to the boardwalk on Sunday morning).

At 7pm on September 24 comes the flagship event of IndieFest: the local premiere of Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. It’s a sequel of sorts to the first feature by documentarian director Pamela Yates, 1984’s When the Mountains Tremble — a chilling account of genocide under the US-backed military dictatorship in Guatemala, narrated by future Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Minchú. In this long-awaited followup, Yates documents Minchú’s attempts to bring the Guatemalan generals to justice in an international court of law — a proceeding in which the footage from the earlier film becomes evidence against the very commanders whose vanity compelled them to cooperate with the filmmaker. The screening features a personal appearance by Yates, as well as the film’s producer (Paco De Onis) and editor (Peter Kinoy), a bonus feature about which Sabino says, “Having the filmmakers join a lively audience and engage in meaningful discussion is wonderful feedback to them for all their efforts…we’d like Asbury Park to be the place that they remember for the warm welcome they receive.”

At 10pm comes an entry which at first glance seems a little out of place in an IndieFest — 1973’s Serpico, a major studio feature based upon a big best seller; directed by the recently passed veteran Sidney Lumet and starring the guy who was then Hollywood’s hottest young actor, Al Pacino. As Nancy explains it, the dramatized true story of the NYC cop who risked his life to expose deep-rooted corruption in the Department fits right in with the Fest’s theme of working to effect “positive societal change.”

“It’s really the first whistleblower movie,” she says of the self-described “lamp lighter” Frank Serpico‘s story. “And being one of the edgier sort of movies that Hollywood used to make in the 1970s, it has more of an ‘indie’ feel than many of the indies that are being released now.”

Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winning “Father of Microcredit” and subject of the AP IndieFest doc TO CATCH A DOLLAR.

Sunday’s final day of IndieFest is a similarly sprawling affair; touching upon a wide range of the human experience and touching down on lands from Africa and Asia to good old Asbury Park. Things commence at noon with Gayle Ferraro‘s To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on America, a portrait of a most unusual banker — Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Yunus, founder of Bangladesh-based Grameen Bank and inventor of a “Microcredit” system of noncollateralized loans in which the bank is owned by its borrowers (mostly women) and designed to eradicate poverty rather than generate profit. It’s followed at 3pm by Weekend, British writer-director Andrew Haigh‘s critically acclaimed boy-meets-boy story about two lonely young guys who hook up one Friday night, then spend a memorable weekend “in bars and in bedrooms, getting drunk and taking drugs, telling stories and having sex — that will resonate throughout their lives.”

As Nancy tells it, “A film such as Circumstance will ensure that you never think the same way again about Iran” — you know, that place where there are “no gays” as declared by President Ahmadinejad — and while writer-director Maryam Keshavarz‘s fiction-feature telling of an illicit lesbian love affair within a somewhat-less-than-open society has drawn its share of critical controversy, it remains a vivid, energized and, yes, POSITIVE portrayal of youthful rebellion/ sexploration, made under circumstances that H’wood location shoots can only not dream about. The 5pm showing (like all previous Sunday and Saturday offerings) is ticketed at ten bucks — and it’s followed by the Fest’s final, fantastically FREE, presentation — the results of this year’s AP in 3 Film Challenge.

If you’re not familiar with the premise of Nancy and Mike’s annual contest for on-the-run auteurs, AP in 3 invites filmmaking teams of all ages and experience levels to drop in at The Showroom on September 23 — once there, each team will select a genre, and will receive both a particular prop and a line of dialogue that must be incorporated into a three-minute movie, built around a specified theme (2011’s being “Asbury on the Move”).

From there, the teams have 48 hours to take to the streets of Asbury, write, shoot, edit and score their mini-masterpiece, and deliver it to The Showroom in time for the 7:30pm screening, where the entries are judged by an audience of sophisticated local cinephiles. As before, there are prizes awarded to the first place winner and runners-up — and this year, the people at ArtsCAP have sweetened the deal with an extra incentive.

Filmmakers who don’t happen to have a camera — and really, is there anything more tearjerking? — can access the use of a Flip camera, provided for the occasion by ArtsCAP through $85 sponsorship donations from several local businesses.

“This unique opportunity created by ArtsCAP allows AP in 3 sponsors to support aspiring filmmakers in an affordable, accessible way,” said ArtsCAP president Dennis Carroll in a press statement. “We are fostering collaborations between sponsors and artists, inviting competitors to capture our great city and experience what ‘Asbury on the Move’ means to them.”

“It’s the democratization of the filmmaking process,” adds Mike Sodano. “Anyone can have the opportunity to create their own movie and let viewers experience Asbury Park through their eyes.”

Admission to the separately ticketed events in the AP IndieFest is $10 for all screenings, with the exception of Louder Than a Bomb ($15 advance, $20 door) and AP in 3 (FREE!). It’s possible as we post this that there’s still time to get in on the AP in 3 Challenge; email info@TheShowRoomAP.com to inquire about access to filmmaking equipment, and take it right here to reserve tix online.