This past Thursday through Sunday I attended my first ever Macon Film Festival. It was quite the experience to say the least. I volunteered as an MC on Friday where I awkwardly introduced the film Desires of the Heart. The next day, Saturday, I had the opportunity to interview the director of Desires, James Kicklighter, about his experience making the film.
Friday was the first day that my schedule allowed me time to attend. One of my favorite films of the festival was the documentary feature “A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power and Jayson Blair at the New York Times.” The film was well done and highlighted the life and lies that surrounded Jayson Blair who was the center of the New York Times plagiarism and fabrication scandal. Blair began by taking parts of different articles and piecing them together as his own. Blair was eventually caught, ruining his career. The film really brought the journalism nerd inside of me out because one of the first lessons journalism majors learn in their classes is about the dangers of plagiarizing. The film portrayed Blair’s scandal in a way that served to teach as well as entertain. Documentaries are not the most popular genre, especially with the younger crowd, but I have always had a soft spot for them simply because they are honest and raw. A Fragile Trust fulfilled that craving.
Kicklighter’s narrative feature, Desire’s of the Heart, followed suit after A Fragile Trust. Desires is a story of love, to say the least, but not love in the cliché overdone way. The film focuses around a psychiatrist, Kris, from India who is practicing in Savannah, Georgia (close to my hometown!). Of course, Savannah is full of artists and Kris happens to meet one. The two fall in love, but then Kris is called to come home to India where he must decide between the woman he fell in love with in America and the woman his parents picked for him. The film was beautifully executed.
Kicklighter worked with Solila Parida on Desires. Parida has work on a series of Bollywood films and had been developing Desires over the past ten years.
“I worked with her to really make it a film about our identity and the choices we make versus the choices that are made for us,” said Kicklighter.
Kicklighter helped with the script as they rewrote parts of it everyday of filming because it was not yet ready when the crew was ready to start shooting.
“I must say it is a very difficult way to do a film and I hope to never have to do that ever again,” said Kicklighter.
Kicklighter shared that everyone in India spoke fluent English and the foreign crewmembers easy to work with. He believes that many Americans tend to forget that many countries teach English along with the native tongue.
“Desires was cast rather unconventionally because the lead roles, not the supporting roles, were cast from people that we liked,” said Kicklighter.
“It was really delightful shooting in Savannah and we shot at a lot of the famous locations in Savannah like Wormsloe Plantation and all these beautiful picturesque locations. Getting around to each of them wasn’t so bad because we scheduled them daily,” said Kicklighter.
“The challenge in Savannah is that we were filming the beginning and the ending of the movie and the middle of the movie is in India,” said Kicklighter. “So, as a director my challenge is really collaborating on building a character arc that makes sense.”
Kicklighter explained that the character arc is when you start with point A of a character then go to point B and it is the journey that character goes on.
“Since you film completely out of order one of the primary jobs of a director is to work with the actors when you’re shooting completely out of order that the emotions are right,” said Kicklighter.
The special screening was Birdy with Matthew Modine and Nicholas Cage. Modine was present at the festival as a special guest and he spoke at a symposium on film and film critique and was present during the screening. I had a brief understanding of what the film was about before I saw it but could not quite understand why Modine talked so much about the Wounded Warriors Project before the film (it seemed slightly unrelated). It was not until after the film I understood the connection and why the project is important to Modine. Birdy was intense to say the least. And both hilarious and graphic. And then intense some more. The story was focused around a young man who thinks he is a bird and his friend trying to help him. The character Birdy (Modine) had always had a passion and attachment for birds and when he and his friend Al Columbato (Cage) return home from the Vietnam War Birdy is mentally unstable and truly believes he is a bird. Columbato is called to the mental institution to try and help bring Birdy back into reality but Columbato discovers that the institution has its own issues as he races against time to bring Birdy back.
On Sunday I saw the film Birthday Cake, a sequel to the short film Groom’s Cake, and it was by far the most hilarious film I saw at the festival. The film was a mockumentary that depicts the three days leading up to a gay couple’s daughter’s first birthday. The couple is almost as dramatic as they are hilarious as they struggle through visiting relatives, screaming children, and even a dead clown. The couple, Daniel Ferguson and Steven James, struggles through the conflicts of parenthood as well as the struggles that come with handling and overcoming judgmental relatives. The film demonstrates the importance of loving the family we were born into and loving the family we create through marriage and friendship. Birthday Cake will be out on DVD in May but the director and producer wants the film to be available in RedBox and you can help them get the film there through their social media campaign at: http://www.birthdaycakemovie.com/#!distribution/c15hw.
Overall, the 9th Annual Macon Film Festival was one of my best experiences in Macon since I came here in the fall. I have slowly noticed Downtown showing its true artistic colors that are absolutely beautiful and exiting. I cannot wait to see more of Downtown and especially cannot wait for the Film Festival next year!