Twin Rivers Media Festival 2009

The annual Twin Rivers Media Festival runs this weekend at Courtyard Gallery. As usual, the winning feature takes the place of the 8 p.m. Friday weekly World Cinema screening. And, as usual, the festival offers some high-quality works, including the winning feature.

This year’s winner is a slightly odd—or at least offbeat—offering from Brooklyn filmmaker Elias Plagianos called The Crimson Mask. It tells the story of two men—a washed-up fighter (Robert Clohessy, whom you may recognize as Jim Sturgess’ father from Across the Universe) and an unscrupulous stockbroker (TV actor Joshua Burrow)—who are both backed into corners that have, it seems, only one possible out, which involves engaging the other in a kind of ritual gladitorial combat. That may not sound like much, and in itself it wouldn’t be, but what Plagianos does with the premise is something else again.

The film’s structure is fragmented and moves around to various points in the narrative, weaving its way to both the death match and the beginning of the film. This might have been a cheesy conceit used to dress up an otherwise uninteresting narrative. Here, however, it’s an integral part of the film—not merely a stunt—and a good deal of what keeps the film interesting. It was also probably the best way to tell what are essentially two different stories that finally intersect and prove to be intriguingly related on a couple of other levels. I won’t go into detail on these connections, because it would do the film a disservice. Let’s just say that they are both surprising and apt.

The Crimson Mask is, however, far from a perfect film—but that’s something you really have to expect with this level of production. We’re not looking at something with a Hollywood budget here. We’re looking at a committed filmmaker doing the best he can with limited resources, and while his best is very good indeed, the limitations of resources are apparent—as are some of the expected faults of a filmmaker doing his first feature. On the latter, there’s some sense that even at only 85 minutes, the film feels padded. On the former, this is something that can actually be a plus.

The budgetary restrictions of a film like this often result in some fascinating choices—simply because you’re watching a filmmaker work around those restrictions. From a viewer’s standpoint, this is probably of more or less academic interest, though it’s never unrewarding to see creative lighting or a keen eye for framing a shot. However, from the standpoint of a burgeoning filmmaker—and Asheville has a few—it can be a useful lesson in how to make a film that costs very little look like it cost a great deal more. In this regard, I’d certainly urge anyone who is interested in making a film to take a look at this one.

The two runner-up features—The Businness of Story and Fuel—will show at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31, respectively.

In addition to the feature films, Twin Rivers has a wide array of short films that are being screened on Saturday and Sunday starting at 1 p.m. I didn’t have a chance to watch many of these, but the two I did see were very strong. That’s not all that surprising since short films are very often the best things at a film festival—something that filmmakers often forget because they’re understandably dazzled by the prospect of a marketable feature film. Shorts are simply not a saleable item these days except at film festivals.

The Gynaecologist—subtitled “an absurd tragedy”—is a 10-minute Spanish entry that details the story of a female gynecologist who balks at giving an examination to an obviously male patient. Its absurdity is very good—especially since it takes in both bureaucracy and the strange acceptance of some things by the media—though I’m less sure that its shock value is quite as shocking as the filmmakers obviously believe.

The French short Surprise! is an 18-minute delight of pure French farce. It’s a film that doesn’t set out to reinvent cinema. It isn’t going to dazzle anyone with its technical accomplishments—though there’s nothing at all wrong with it on that level. Rather, Surprise contents itself with a nuts-and-bolts approach to making a well-crafted, genuinely funny—and even surprising—comedy. It’s definitely worth catching, and it could definitely be used as another learning tool for aspiring filmmakers.

For more information on the Twin Rivers Media Festival, visit www.twinriversmediafestival.com or call 273-3332. The festival will be held at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St., in downtown Asheville.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

One thought on “Twin Rivers Media Festival 2009

  1. For anyone that wants to complete 3 day schedule you can download it at:
    http://www.twinriversmediafestival.com/TRMR09prog.pdf
    or here it is here:

    Gallery Exhibit: 5pm-8pm
    Anne Dickens – Paintings
    Katie McCracken—Mixed Media

    8pm: Award Winning Films—Filmmakers will be present for Q&A;after program.

    Friday 8pm
    3rd Place & Western NC Achievement Award—Dear Dad—6min—World Premier
    Dear Dad, is a short, documentary film about a daughter’s emotional journey she portrays by reading a letter she wrote to her dad as she watches her strong, proud, Pro Football Hall of Famer, dad, Pete Pihos,
    Melissa Pihos, Director , Greensboro, NC

    1st Place, Student—Squeezed Out of Business—9min—World Premier
    Tom and Judy Crofut made and sold fresh juice for 30 years in Austin, Texas without any health violation. Their company – Good Flow Juice has been shut down by the FDA
    Chithra Jeyaram, Producer; Director, Austin, TX
    University of Texas Austin

    1st Place—The Crimson Mask—85min
    Two desperate men, from different worlds, find themselves unwitting pawns in an ancient ritual. Greed, Lust, Pride, Anger, and Envy have consumed the lives of Thomas Caine, a seemingly wealthy businessman, and Parker, a down on his luck pro wrestler.
    ELIAS PLAGIANOS, Director, Brooklyn, NY

    Outdoor Films Saturday 11:30am-1pm

    4th Place—American Crisis, Shame: The Nat’l Consequence of Coastal Erosion—29min—World Premier
    Every 38 minutes a football field-sized portion of Louisiana’s coastline is
    converted to open water- the land simply vanishes!
    Rick Settoon, Executive Producer, Hammond, LA
    The Southeastern Channel

    2nd Place—White Shark Café—24min
    White Shark Cafe tells the curious history of great white shark research – from Jaws to Facebook.
    Sean Aronson, Director; Producer, Berkeley, CA
    UC-Berkeley Journalism

    3rd Place—Lake Winnipeg-A Blooming Crisis—23min—US Premier
    A Blooming Crisis clears the murky waters of Lake Winnipeg by
    illuminating the science behind the problem and personalizing the plight of those
    affected by the future of the lake.
    Michael Linton, Director; Producer, Winnipeg, Canada

    Animation Saturday 1pm-2pm

    1st Place, Student—Repaired?—3min
    Two stupid aliens try to fix their UFO after crashing from the Moon to the Earth but they don’t know how to fix it.
    Seung-Hoo Ihm, Director, San Francisco, CA

    2nd Place—O Acidente—7m—World Premier
    The story of someone who suffers an industrial accident. José is a clumsy roof tiler. The laws of gravity and the lack of safety at work put him in a dangerous situation.
    André Marques, Director, Avanca, Portugal—Cine Clube Avanca
    Patrick Griffin,Director; Co-Producer; Location Manager, Lexington, NC
    Savannah College of Art and Design

    Official Selection—Video Art—5min—World Premier
    Comic Strip Artist follows black cat to a strange 80’s disco world.
    Jon Clark, director, LA, CA

    4th Place—The Abomination—8min-World Premier
    Follow Dream Man, Avocado, and Gnaw Gnaw in another crazy adventure. Dream Man and Avocado go on a mission to save animals. Meanwhile, Gnaw Gnaw, a hopeless romantic, searches for his true love. He ends up finding it in the weirdest of places.
    Wally Chung, Co-Director; Producer; Executive Producer, New York, NY, 10276

    1st Place-Fruitless Efforts—4:30min—World Premier
    Apple is trying to lead a normal life, but is being held back by his friends.
    Oren Robashkin, Minneapolis, MN

    2nd Place Student—Perspective—13min—World Premier
    A magic camera gives a pessimistic claymation artist a second chance by changing his outlook.
    laura meoli, NY, NY

    3rd Place—Misadventures of Moon Kitty, 12min
    Follow the antics of the musical cat that lives on the moon as she frolics through space, nurtures her baby, entertains her fellow lunar loonies and escapes a meteor shower induced stampede of dangerous dinosaurs!
    DEWAYNE AUSTIN, Director; Producer, SAN FRANCISCO, CA

    Official Selection—X-Mess Detritus—2min—North America Premier
    MTV and SciFi Channel veteran, Voltaire, takes a dark look at gift-giving and the negative effect it has on the Earth in this one-minute Christmas parable. Animated in stop-motion by Voltaire and narrated by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance.
    Aurelio Voltaire, Director; Producer, New York, NY

    Short Drama—Saturday 3-6pm

    Official Selection: Intermezzo—5min—US Premier
    A man in a suit calmly tries to solve a crosswords puzzle while enjoying public transportation. He almost dozes of, when the next station is due…
    eric wobma Director, Amsterdam, Netherlands

    Official Selection—Interpretation—8min—World Premier
    A romantic couple’s brief encounter with several philisophical thugs unfolds in an unusual way.
    Lin Oeding, Director , Los Angeles, CA

    Official Selection—The Bridge—10min—World Premier
    A japanese-american soldier serving in World War 2 joins a squad of caucasian soldiers on a dangerous patrol in Nazi Italy.
    Sheldon Schwartz, Director; Executive Producer, Playa Del Rey, CA

    1st—Surprise—18min
    As an attentive husband, Pierre has prepared a surprise for his wife Brigitte’s birthday. But a series of harmless incidents brings the young next-door neighbour into his bed just as Brigitte walks through the door…
    Fabrice Maruca, Director; Producer,Asnières-sur-Seine, France

    Official Selection, Student—In the Dark—17min
    On the eve of Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran, a double agent, hunted by the new revolutionary government, agrees to exchange crucial information with the CIA in return for safe passage out of the country.
    Alex Fazeli, Director,South Pasadena, CA

    3rd Place Student—Zwischen Licht und Schateen (Fading Away)—14min
    Fading Away is a short film about Martha und Herbert, an old married couple. In the last time Martha behaves quite strange. Herbert is desperet. Is she just forgetful or is it more than that…?
    Fabian Giessler, Director; Producer, Germany

    5th Place, Student—Le Paradis de I’Imbecile—13min
    Joe, so immersed in his cinematic fantasies, is incapable of fulfilling the needs of his girlfriend, Sarah, in order to maintain a successful relationship ultimately forcing him to rely on his imagination while attempting to save their future.
    Patrick Griffin, Director, Lexington, NC
    Savannah College of Art and Design – Savannah, GA

    2nd Place-Student—My brother’s Treasure—21min—World Premier
    When Andy Floyd tells his best friend that he found a gun, there is only one logical thing to do: shoot it.
    Kevin & Matthew McManus, Director; Producer, East Greenwich, RI

    1st Place, Student—Land Gewinnen—20min—World Premier
    A young illegal immigrant couple spends their time furtively avoiding the German authorities, until the wellbeing of their young son dictates that they resolve their untenable situation.
    Marc Brummund, Director, Hamburg, Germany
    Hamburg Media School

    Official Selection—La Preda—18min—World Premier
    Out of school, a father fetches his two kids and drives them to their country house. The father gives the older a shotgun as birthday present. The next day they all make their way into the woods to go hunting.
    Francesco Apice, Director , Tommaso Arrighi, Producer, Roma, Italy

    Official Selection—Storstad—12min—World Premier
    Dark clouds move quickly over the town. In an apartment a child four years old is playing with his cars, watching a constantly nagging TV, drawing with his colored markers, listening to people walking in the staircase outside the apartment.
    Rafael Deugenio, Director, Malmoe, Sweden

    4th Place, Student—Near Life—10min—World Premier
    Haunted by the mistakes and memories of the past, Cameron is forced to relive the best and worst memories of his true love, Kristy.
    Joe Wilka, Director; Producer, Los Angeles, CA

    Saturday 8pm
    4th Place—Severing the Soul—18min
    Found footage interweaves an account of Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy procedure in 1941 with an overview of the psychosurgery movement of the 1930’s-1960’s in the US.
    Barbara Klutinis, Director; Producer,San Francisco, CA

    2nd Place—The Business of Story—87min
    An anti-social professor, desperate for tenure agrees to collaborate with her seemingly delusional mother on a book of childhood reminiscences.
    Rebecca Ormond, Director ,St. Louis, MO

    Experimental/Narrative Sunday 11:30am-1pm

    2nd Place—Transparent Movement—1min—World Premier
    1 minute Experimental Animation using Pixillation, Photo Montage, Cut-out and 2D Computer animation techniques.
    Soyeon Kim, Director; Producer, South Korea

    1st Place Student—The Jezebel Spirit—5min—World Premier
    The film explores the intersections of two religious rituals aimed at spiritual cleansing, with unexpected results.
    Mark Kendall, Director, Nashville, TN

    2nd Place Student-Direction—26min
    A film about the trials and frustrations of a filmmaker.
    Ronald J. Lewis, Director, NY, NY

    1st Place: Mixed Bag—12min.
    A surreal quest by a man who is to meet more than he has bargained for.
    eric wobma Director, Amsterdam, Netherlands

    3rd Place, Student—Coddled Birds—9min
    two ‘kids’ run away from their empty household and glutenous parents and stumble into the odd home of two odd and hungry witches…
    jocelyn spaar, charlottesville, VA

    3rd Place & Western NC Achievement Award—Dear Dad—6min—World Premier
    Dear Dad, is a short, documentary film about a daughter’s emotional journey she portrays by reading a letter she wrote to her dad as she watches her strong, proud, Pro Football Hall of Famer, dad, Pete Pihos,

    Short Dramas –Sunday 1pm-3pm

    5th Place—A Xinecologa—10min—US Premier
    A gynecologist is working at her hospital as everyday. But the next patient…. is a boy!
    alfonso camarero, Director Producer, galicia, Spain

    Official Selection, Student—My First Tooth—14min—World Premier
    A young single mother must confront the tragic, violent incident in her past in order to protect her daughter from a similar fate.
    Reaves Washburn. Producer; Director, CA

    Official Selection—Ash Wednesday—12min-North American Premier
    Set within the first few days of the Bosnian War, two United Nations aid workers, traveling into Bosnia, stumble onto a band of Serbian Rebels, bent on war and destruction.
    Jordan Barrett, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom

    Official Selection—Tide-10min
    Hal is an everyman, alone on a beach, drifting from routine to aimlessness and back.
    Shane Rocheleau, Director; Producer, Richmond, VA

    4th Place—The Cab Ride—33min
    An aimless young cab driver, against his will, transports a terminally ill woman to a hospice to live her final days. En route we are witness to their generational differences and how their journey unfolds to create an astounding influence in each of their lives.
    Giuseppe Scarpitta, Director Highland Park, IL

    3rd Place—Rushin’—10min—World Premier
    Running late for work again, hapless waiter Frank Gilroy has more to worry about than just missing the bus when he receives a valuable piece of information from a dying spy.
    Michael Darling. Producer; Executive Producer, Houston, TX

    Official Selection—Galetten—22min—North America Premier
    The Gallete” is a story about basic human psychology and explores some common mechanisms that works in group dynamics.
    John Hellberg. Director; Producer. Stockholm, Sweden

    2nd Place—Scissu—27min—World Premier
    S c i s s u t e l l s a c h r o n o l o g i c a l l y s p l i t t e d s t o r y a b o u t a l o n e l y c o p a n d a n a d d i c t e d c o u p l e .
    Tom Bewilogua, Director, Hamburg, Germany

    Commercial Sunday 3:30pm

    3rd Place—Couch therapy—1min—World Premier
    A trendy young couple sees a therapist to resolve conflicting sexual preferences
    Jen McGowan, Director, Los Angeles, Ca

    4th Place—Battleship-Live the Game—1min—World Premier
    With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, three Generals learn that war really is child’s play.
    Ryan Landels, Director, Culver City, CA

    2nd Place—Kokanee—How Far Would You Go?—1min—World Premier
    The story of a man, a mountain and the greatest beer run of all time.
    Ryan Landels, Director, Culver City, CA

    1st Place—Jelly Bean, Grab the Tab—1 min—World Premier
    A Man in the Hospital fights off a young boy—with the help of the
    Dummit Law Firm’s Telephone Book Tab!
    Giuli Schact, Director, Producer, New Syrna Beach, FL

    Documentary Sunday 3pm-7pm

    1st Place, Student—Squeezed Out of Business—9min—World Premier
    Tom and Judy Crofut made and sold fresh juice for 30 years in Austin, Texas without any health violation. Their company – Good Flow Juice has been shut down by the FDA
    Chithra Jeyaram, Producer; Director, Austin, TX
    University of Texas Austin

    4th place—God is an American (Dieu est Americain) –52min—North American Premier
    God is American, and he was born in the USA ! The people of Tanna, an island in the archipelago of Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean, have invented a new religion.
    Richard MARTIN-JORDAN, Director; Producer, Paris, France

    1st Place—The Spam Job—13min
    Four friends. Three suspects. One can of meat. The unbelievably true story of a prank that started at Montana State University, traveled the world, and ended almost a decade later.
    Padraic Culham, Director; Producer, Valley Village, CA

    5th Place—Dos Americas: The Reconstruction of New Orleans—48min
    Post-Katrina reconstruction is still in progress with much of New Orleans still in ruins. This documentary focuses on those rebuilding this city—some 100,000 of them Latino.
    David Zlutnick, Director, Santa Barbara, CA,

    2nd Place—I Need That Record—77min
    A look at the plight of the independent record store that is sometimes tragic and sometimes humorous.
    Brenoan Toller, Director, Easthampton, MA

    3rd Place—Beyond the Call—82min
    In an Indiana Jones meets Mother Teresa adventure, three eccentric middle-aged men-former soldiers and modern-day knights-travel the world delivering life-saving humanitarian aid directly into the hands of civilians and doctors.
    Adrian Belic, director, LA, CA

    Feature Film Winner

    Sunday 8pm
    3rd Place—Fuel—94min—World Premier
    Fuel is the story of a young man’s struggle to save his girl from an abusive environment. Emilio discovers that he has the ability to run incredibly fast.
    Oktay Ortabasi, Director, Burbank, CA

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