SIFF SIFF 2007: Thursday Highlights
posted by June 14 at 11:24 AMon
A bunch of new reviews went up yesterday. Two very bad movies (of course I had to see them): The Neve-Campbell-gets-naked-and-it’s-still-pointless I Really Hate My Job and the ugly, boring La León. Does anyone know Argentinian slang? The Spanish word for “lion” is masculine; the ferry in the movie is called “El León.” My best guess as to why the movie is called “La” instead is that it’s some kind of gay slur? Affectionate gay slur?
Plus, one okay movie: Steve Buscemi’s Interview, reviewed by Bradley Steinbacher. And one excellent movie: The freaky-kid horror feature Joshua (not to be confused with Kyle, which is also in the festival this weekend), reviewed by Andrew Wright.
The Stranger’s recommendations for every slot in the festival continue below and at www.thestranger.com/siff.
THURSDAY JUNE 14
The early matinee—dull French triangulation d’amour—is no good. Stay at work, buddy.
4 pm, Neptune. Falkenberg Farewell is where it’s at. Prudish gays and adventurous art lovers should also enjoy Black, White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe (Egyptian, 4:15 pm).
6:30 pm, Neptune. Assuming you don’t live on the Eastside (where Joshua is playing at Lincoln Square, 6:30 pm), it’s time to witness the mostly incomprehensible yet nonetheless entertaining Cthulhu, by former Seattle City Council candidate Grant Cogswell and former inmate in a Czechoslovakian prison Dan Gildark (no, seriously; a press release is after the jump). Some reediting has occurred since I saw the film for review, so feel free to take the capsule with a sprinkling of sugar.
Neptune, 10 pm. If you’ve been there all night, you might as well stick around for Blood on the Flat Track, a very Seattle Channel doc about the Rat City Rollergirls. Pretty good if you aren’t expecting genius. (Note: I saw this one in its rough cut too.) The audience should be raucous.
Now for the curious tale of Cthulhu director Dan Gildark, as recounted in a press release.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 22, 2007
Contact: Grant Cogswell
FROM SING-SING TO BLING-BLING: A SEATTLE DIRECTOR’S SIX-YEAR JOURNEY FROM FEDERAL PRISON TO A MILLION-DOLLAR PREMIERE
Director Daniel Gildark is known these days in Seattle film as the man who finally got one over the wall--a feature-length, distribution-quality narrative film with a real budget and real stars: his gay-themed, global warming horror pic CTHULHU has its World Premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival on Thursday, June 14th.
The moody thriller about a man who discovers his father's New Age cult
is bent on world destruction stars Jason Cottle, Gus Van Sant ingénue Scott Green, The Sopranos’ Cara Buono and TV legend Tori Spelling. Based on the 1920s writings of acclaimed horror master H.P.Lovecraft, and with a budget twice any previous local indie film, and acclaim from Northwest players like Van Sant and James Longley (IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS), CTHULHU is Gildark’s moment in the sun. But it wasn't always this way. Just six years ago, Gildark was finishing four years in Federal prison on drug smuggling charges.
Coming from Baltimore in 1991, Gildark spent the first half of the '90s directing and acting in fringe theater productions in Seattle and taking writing classes at Seattle Central Community College. Broke, working as a caterer and a pedicab driver, the absurdity of dead-end jobs and the shadow of the Yugoslavian genocide sent him into a self-described “existential malaise”. At 26--in 1995--he decided to see the Balkan war for himself. That decision would change his life forever. "I suppose I wanted to know the exact dimensions of hell." Without a sponsor, he went to Yugoslavia as a freelance journalist. There, among mass graves and alleys where snipers had waited to shoot children, he says, "My moral compass was broken."
After weeks in the war-torn landscape interviewing rape victims and P.O.W.s, a Canadian he befriended in Belgrade suggested a way of making enough money to get them to the next war zone, in the Kurdish region of Turkey and Iraq: trafficking cocaine. Gildark, who claims to have never tried narcotics of any kind whatsoever, went along for the ride. In Naples, a Nigerian sent him to Rio de Janeiro to pick up a gym bag containing resealed juice cans filled with cocaine, and caught a return flight to Prague. At the airport, Gildark says when he got in line for customs, the police were searching all baggage. "I knew it was over. And right then, part of me shut down that took years to come back."
The Czech Republic's drug sentences had until March of 1996 (the month he was arrested) been extremely lax. But as Prague was enlisted in the war on drugs by the U.S. and the E.U., Gildark was given eight years hard labor. Incarcerated in a notorious communist prison where he worked twelve hours a day in a factory, Gildark shared a twelve-by-twelve-foot cell with five other men, all convicted murderers.
Friends and family sent books, (and vitamins, to complement the poor rations), which he read eagerly at first. But as the reality of his term set in, so did hopelessness and a kind of perpetual stress precluding all self-improvement efforts. Gildark says the primary emotion of a convict is intense anxiety, produced by an absolute lack of control over any aspect of his own existence.
The years began to go by. In late 1998, Gildark's Czech lawyer, on retainer to his family, secured him extradition; he was to serve the remaining six years of his sentence in U.S. Federal prison, with the option of parole and time off for good behavior. He was transferred to the Manhattan Correctional Center, where he spent six months among mafia and drug gang suspects being held for trial at the nearby Federal courthouse. It was a mixed improvement: though the food and facilities were far superior and he was able to receive visits from his family. Instead of illness and overwork, he feared violence. On trial, inmates were extremely tense and sensitive. Most of Gildark’s time there passed in silence; most of the prisoners believed he was an informant. Subsequently moved to a minimum-security federal prison in New Jersey, Gildark began to step toward recovery from his experience, and in his last year behind bars found time to read. With the end of his sentence in the foreseeable future, he started to consider a life as a filmmaker. Released with four years of parole in December 2000, he spent a year in Baltimore to watch his brother--who had been twelve when he had last seen him--graduate from high school.
But Gildark knew the Northwest was home; relocating in 2002 to Portland, he began working as a barista and attending classes at the Northwest Film Center, the alma mater of the man who had inspired him to be a director, Gus Van Sant. Approaching his friend, Seattle writer and activist Grant Cogswell brought him a screenwriter, and connections that could bankroll his dream: Gildark returned to Seattle in 2005. But it was the tenacity, the refusal to surrender that Gildark honed in prison that ultimately made CTHULHU a successful project.
Local filmmakers had not yet had a critical and commercial breakthrough, and Gildark set out to change that. One film, 2005's POLICE BEAT, had gained his respect. Gildark met its crew in early 2005 and brought on producer Jeffrey Brown and director Robinson Devor as a consultant, (Devor teamed up later with THINKFilm to produce the bestiality doc ZOO, which screened Sunday at Cannes) and hired most of the crew and executive producers behind both films, including acclaimed cinematographer Sean Kirby.
Gildark is thrilled to premiere at SIFF, one of the major American festivals, and on the rise. The world Lovecraft cult numbers in the millions. ("We just have to find a distributor who gets that," Gildark says.) And that crazy title? "There are six million citations for 'Cthulhu' on Google. It’s a huge subculture." But there is plenty else: Cogswell’s compelling futuristic vision, Kirby's lush photography, pop icon Tori Spelling raping a man, and what might be the best gay love scene on film. (Gildark himself is married to a woman.)
CTHULHU screens June 14 at the University District's Neptune Theater.