Malfunctioning media machines fell to their glory in the winning animated short Five Minutes Each, a Canadian entry by way of Serbia-Montenegro from director Vojin Vasovic.
The MIX is a new contender on a Richmond film-festival scene that crowds this time of year; the second annual Southern Film Festival goes up this weekend at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, followed by the 20th annual French Film Festival and the 19th annual James River Film Festival.
“This festival is really a conglomeration of my life’s work,” she explains. In L.A. she started the Creative World Awards, which in its fifth year propels competing scripts to companies like Lion’s Gate and Relativity. These production houses have huge slush piles, but four scripts have received options, according to Waters. “One of my inspirations was how in Hollywood you play the waiting game,” she says, adding that there’s a huge bureaucracy that for the most part discourages newcomers. “My effort is to create production opportunities and, through this festival, produce films that give people the chance to be a part of filmmaking.”
For the weekend, Waters says about 1,700 attended the MIX festival in Richmond.
The two films made in Richmond within a two-week time frame were Strive, in which the Byrd Park tennis courts served as a stand-in for the U.S. Open, and a documentary, Trading Ages, where moppets with microphones conversed with adults and their elders to gain perspective on their lives.
The award for narrative film went to Based on a True Story — a bleak Turkish entry by writer-director Karem Keskin. The Tarantino riff featured miserable stiffs seeking a big score to relieve themselves of the need to work, but it all goes wrong because real life doesn’t play out like the movies.
This film beat out Respira, a well-done Hitchcockian thriller helmed by Portugese director Telmo Vicente and Philipo Rylatt and set in that scariest of places, a gated residential complex. They ratcheted up tension until, well, let’s put it this way: After seeing this 26-minute mess-with-your-head movie, you’ll never again think the same way about locking the bathroom door.
The audience's preferred choice for the narrative slot was Un Fils, an entry by French-Canadian filmmaker Andre Gaumond about a gay teen telling a psychologist why he wanted to commit suicide.
Carbon for Water, by Carmen Elsa Lopez Abramson and Evan Abramson, won in the documentary category with the judges and the audience. It tugged on the emotions and showed off a rare species in public view these days — humanitarian capitalists — working in remote Western Kenya to provide drinkable water. Until now, Kenyans have destroyed their forests to boil water. The firewood gatherers tend to be children, usually girls, starting at around age 6. The youngsters risk injury, rape, arrest and privation while hacking down forests. The Life Straw Carbon for Water program is trying to change that, one household at a time.
The catch-all "Other" category allowed a split: The judges went with A Finger, Two Dots Then Me by L.A.-based filmmakers David and Daniel Holechek and movingly presented by writer Derrick Brown, whose exultant exclamation, “The design in the stars is the same in our hearts/in the rebuilt machinery of our hearts,” rang the Byrd’s rafters.
The audience went with Thugs: The Musical!, written by comedian Kevin Avery and directed by Liam Sullivan. The film is about a misguided African-American actor who wants to get a thug acting part that all other black performers complain about always getting. It features boldface names such as Margaret Cho and David Alan Grier.
The MIX’s festival jury included Marlene Neubauer, an L.A. producer of “socially relevant and commercially viable” content who's also Waters’ business partner in Creative World Awards; Charlottesville-based casting director/producer Erica Arvold, who recently worked with the Spielberg Lincoln production; Harry N. Doyle III, a regional health-care executive representing “the general audience" on the jury; and Eduardo Montes-Bradley, CEO of the Heritage Film Project. Richmond was represented by Jerry Williams, a longtime regional cinematic observer and writer.
Williams also emceed the awards events and kept the show going.
Then we all went to Balliceaux in the snow for the after-party.