Take a smattering of hot topics such as Richard Nixon, Darfur refugees, brothels, bankruptcy, family strife, Israeli tensions, rekindled love, and street kids. Throw in performances by Danny Aiello, Olympia Dukakis and Sean Penn, and guess what you have? It’s the Seventh Annual Westchester Film Festival.
Starting March 10, filmgoers can enjoy a three-day line-up of creative and thought-provoking features, documentaries and shorts at the White Plains City Center National Amusements’ Cinema 15 de Lux on Mamaroneck Avenue (map). Screenings will begin at 3 p.m. each day and run back to back throughout the afternoon and evening. A number of the screenings will be followed by Q&A’s where audience members can meet the filmmakers.
The event, co-sponsored by Westchester County and Cappelli Enterprises Inc., includes more than two dozen independent films that run the gamut from serious themes reflecting a hard-core reality to softer whimsical tales more likely to warm the soul. A March 13 awards ceremony in the City Center’s Performing Arts Center will also recognize two Academy Award winners: Chris Wedge, the director of Ice Age, Robots and soon-to-be-released, Ice Age II, and Joe Stillman, a writer who co-wrote Shrek and Shrek II and was a contributor to the new release Curious George.
Topping the line-up is Brooklyn Lobster, the true story of a Sheepshead Bay family that fights to keep its seafood business afloat during the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s. Danny Aiello and Jane Curtin star as the married but estranged proprietors in this low-budget down-to-earth drama showing the complexities of family dynamics. The film is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, March 11, and Aiello is expected to participate in a Q&A afterwards.
The other evening highlight, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, March 10, is Jesus, Mary and Joey, a delightful romantic comedy featuring Academy Award-winner Olympia Dukakis as the matriarch of a close-knit religious Italian-American family. Her aimless son Joey falls for a girl who may be “the one,” and tries to follow his heart, asking questions about his family’s faith along the way.
Two other big names - Sean Penn and Naomi Watts – will also be featured in the festival as they star in The Assassination of Richard Nixon. This story focuses on the tragic and true story of a paranoid and alienated salesman who, in 1974, was driven to plot the assassination of the 37th president of the U.S.
The rest of the schedule features a healthy assortment of features, shorts and documentaries. Following are a few of those scheduled:
The Drugging of Our Children. An investigative documentary by nutritionist and award-winning producer Gary Null about the increasingly common practice of prescribing Ritalin, Prozac, and other psychotropic drugs to young children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Interviews with doctors, parents and children who say they have suffered from these medications.
Academy-Award winning Born Into Brothels. A documentary portrait of several unforgettable children who live in the red light district of Calcutta, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Zana Briski, a New York-based photographer, gives each of the children a camera and teaches them to look at the world with new eyes.
Darfur Diaries: Message From Home chronicles the history, hopes, and fears of the people of Darfur, Sudan, and the tragedy they are living. Three independent filmmakers visited Darfur and the refugee camps in neighboring Chad to document some of the images and stories of those affected by the ongoing violence.
Damon. An African-American edgy reality film about life on the streets.
Fetching Cody. A bittersweet sci-fi fantasy about a Vancouver drug dealer who uses a time machine to try to save the life of his comatose girlfriend. Upon awakening in another time, he embarks on a desperate mission and discovers that changing the past is much harder than he ever anticipated.
Boys of Baraka. This documentary follows four African-American students who get the opportunity to attend an academically rigorous school in Kenya designed to give them a path out of the violence and poverty of inner-city Baltimore.
Magic(s). A rousing portrait of a beloved magician as he conjures laughter from Palestinian and Jewish kids hospitalized amidst the daily tensions of Israel.
Trivia Town. A little movie about the world’s largest trivia contest.
I Love Your Work. A dark psychological drama that follows fictional movie star Gray Evans through the disintegration of his marriage, his mental breakdown, and his obsession with a film student who reminds Gray of his own life before becoming famous. The film explores the pressures of fame and the difference between getting what you want and wanting what you get.
The full schedule of showings and times will be available the first week in March at www.westchestergov.com/filmoffice or by calling the Westchester County Film Office at (914) 995-2917.