If you go
Summer Independent Film Series
Where: Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, 2301 First St. Fort Myers
When: 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Aug. 29
More information: fortmyersfilmfestival.com
Come for the film, stay for the conversation. What better way for cinephiles to while away the dog days of summer than with some hot movies and cool discussion? That’s what the Summer Independent Film Series is serving up at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center Mondays through Aug. 29.
The series is an ancillary offering of the Fort Myers Film Festival, whose tagline is: “We are the film festival that pioneered the trend to support our local filmmaker.”
The singular form of the word “filmmaker” brings a pause: It’s how one might speak of an endangered species. With festival founder Eric Raddatz at the helm, however, that likely won’t be the case.
“Promulgation of independent film is exciting because it’s not filtered through the bigger production giants,” he said.
Food for thought
The summer series is an extension of Intellectualization Mondays — which begins again Sept. 5 — during which the community has the chance to screen and discuss submissions to the festival. If intellectualization is too weighty a word, feel free to refer to the sessions in the vernacular: TGIM (Thank God it’s Monday). After all, the screenings are low-cost, the discussion is informal, and — really — what else are you planning to do Monday night?
In case you missed them, the summer series is bringing back entries from the first annual festival, which happened in March, including the winners, “Fambul Tok,” “A Delicious Peace Grows in an Ugandan Coffee Bean,” and “For Once in My Life.” Those films had been screened by the public before the judges had a look at them. The spirit of the festival celebrates a certain democratization in film art.
“Anyone can make a film now,” Raddatz noted.
He said independent films don’t boast of cutting-edge effects or A-list actors. But that’s part of the point, as evidenced by another tagline of the festival: “Thank God we’re not in L.A.” Without the dubious benefit of car crashes or computer generated animation, it all comes down to point of view. And that, according to Raddatz, is where genius lies.
Not all the independent films on the roster are “locally grown,” as Raddatz calls them, but those that are offer a rare chance to experience local stomping grounds in another light. “Canvas,” locally produced by Brent Saitta, presents its action against the scenery of Naples, North Fort Myers, Captiva and Sanibel.
Independent film also offers an opportunity for artists to express perspectives and present difficult topics that might prove too edgy for big production houses. “Burma: An Indictment,” documents the unthinkable conditions people suffer in that country. It’s not exactly a film that would be previewed before a showing of “Horrible Bosses.”
Although the topics might sometimes be difficult, Raddatz said the intellectualization sessions take some of the tough emotion out by talking about them.
Other themes are perhaps too simple or universal to be shown except from an independent perspective. “Light” was locally produced by Marty Wisher and presents the struggle of a teenage boy to deal with what he suspects may be super powers. When we were in the process of chiseling out our identity against the tribulations of high school, didn’t we all indulge in a bit of magical thinking?
No accounting for taste
However archetypal, Raddatz said that what one viewer gets out of the film will be different from someone else’s impression. That’s another part of the beauty of independent film: it leaves room for the viewer.
The discussion is never predictable.
“Sometimes it’s brilliant,” reflected Raddatz, but with people encouraged to be brutally honest, “sometimes it’s the ‘American Idol’ of film.”
He said one of the most profound ideas to come out of a TGIM session was courtesy of a nine-year old child after a showing of “Charlie and the Rabbit.” In the film, a boy watches Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs Bunny on TV then decides to hunt a rabbit of his own. He ultimately takes his gun and points it at the rabbit and (spoiler alert!) doesn’t shoot.
Raddatz remembered the intellectualization centered around parents’ choice of entertainment for their children. The young viewer volunteered a surprising revelation, saying, “I think why he didn’t kill the rabbit is because in Bugs Bunny (cartoons), Elmer Fudd never killed the rabbit.” That insight probably did more to advance the adults’ argument than their own could have.
Raddatz said Southwest Florida residents are “enthusaistic about having independent film and art in their steady diets,” and that having a festival that supports it contributes to the community and encourages a spirited consideration of diverse points of view.
Good thing, then, that in Fort Myers, cinematic art is always on Monday night’s menu.