Indie Roundup

Indie Roundup looks back at the past seven (or, sometimes, eight) days of news in the indie film community, along with a peak ahead to what's coming soon.

Opening. The highest-profile "indie" is Woody Allen's Whatever Works, wiith Tatia Rosenthal's stop-motion animation feature $9.99, Francois Velle's NYC drama The Narrows, Andy Abrahams Wilson's Lyme disease doc Under Our Skin, and Tommy Wirkola's Nazi zombie flick Dead Snow vying for attention on a limited number of screens. On the festival circuit, CineVegas drew to a close on Monday (Eric D. Snider covered it for us), the same night that Silverdocs opened in Silver Spring, Maryland. The Los Angeles Film Festival starts tonight and the New York Asian Film Festival kicks off tomorrow.

Box Office. Last weekend saw several strong openings, with Robert Kenner's doc Food, Inc. leading the way ($20,171 per-screen), followed by Duncan Jones' sci-fi drama Moon ($17,006 per screen), and Francis Coppola's family drama Tetro ($15,252). The doc Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love ($10,866) and Le combat dans l'ile ($10,217) also debuted nicely, while the expansion of Sam Mendes' Away We Go brought in good business ($12,463). Daryl Wein's very informative AIDS activist doc Sex Positive drew $3,408 at one theater.

Online Viewing. How about a doc about a doc? Keir Moreano's documentary As the Call So the Echo follows an American doctor who unexpectedly finds himself in Vetnam after he decides to donate unused medical equipment. The film is available for free streaming at Babelgum, courtesy of the good folks at Cinetic.

After the jump: How will AFI Dallas the Dallas International Film Festival fare without AFI?



Dallas International Film FestivalFestivals. Before I came on board with Cinematical, I did some work for the Dallas Film Society (both as a volunteer and as a paid temporary writer) in their preparations for the first AFI Dallas International Film Festival in 2007. As I wrote earlier this year upon the conclusion of the third edition, "AFI Dallas became a cultural institution in its first year, an event heavily covered by local online, print, and television outlets." The relatively high profile for a start-up regional fest was made possible in large part by a contractual arrangement with the American Film Institute, a partnership that has now ended.

Mike Jones was the first to post the news that AFI and the Dallas Film Society jointly announced the "completion of their initial three-year agreement." The deal for AFI's name and expertise was reported to be for the sum of $836,000 over the period of the contract, according to indieWIRE. Jones commented: "At the end of the day, I would imagine DFS didn't want to shell out the licensing fee to AFI."

From a local perspective, it seems to me that the folks behind the festival worked hard to overcome initial apprehension and doubts, succeeding in forming bonds with many film and other community organizations in the city. One of the major initial concerns was that the well-funded "newcomers" scheduled their fest in March, right after South by Southwest and just before the long-established USA Film Festival. But SXSW remains the higher-profile, more widely recognized and nationally-reported-on event, and USA FF continues as it has been, a small, well-curated event that lasts a handful of days and tends to a small base of devoted supporters.

The challenge for the Dallas International Film Festival remains the forging of its own distinct identity. If they continue to reach out broadly to varying audiences, maintain cordial relations with other local fests, showcase local filmmakers, program some bold choices, secure a few well-known names to walk the red carpet, and be modest in their ambitions (no need to try and be Sundance or Cannes), I see a clear path for the event to be a vital regional festival and an important component of the local arts scene, even without the name brand recognition of AFI.

Recognition with international distributors and sales agents may be a different story. I would hope the fest has established a sufficiently good name on its own merits so as to continue to secure more challenging foreign-language fare.