It’s early in the evening of May 22nd, and the official close of the Charleston International Film Festival’s (CIFF) fourth year is still a few hours away. Still, all present can feel the lights slowing dimming over a truly momentous event. At the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, a modest crowd has gathered under the open-air pavilion for the festival’s closing award gala. The atmosphere is alive with the strains of Entropy Ensemble’s orchestral renditions of Radiohead and the jubilant buzz of filmmakers buoyant from five days of screenings, networking, workshops, and after-parties.
Thanks to CIFF, Charleston, South Carolina is fast becoming an artistic cornerstone of the South. CIFF audiences were treated to an impressive array of work drawn from all over the globe, like Francisco Álvarez’s Atroz (Audience Choice Award for Best Foreign Film), C. R. Reiser’s examination of xenophobia in Mandela’s South Africa in Protect the Nation, and Ariel Kleiman’s violently claustrophobic view of social disintegration onboard a Russian submarine in Deeper Than Yesterday...but it was the work rooted in native South Carolinian soil that audiences found truly inspiring.
Such an expansive body of local work was thanks, in part, to the South Carolina Commission’s Indie Grant Program. Established in the fall of 2010 and partnered with Trident Technical College, the Indie Grant program is a godsend to new filmmakers, supplying substantial grants and insuring industry exposure to the region. Standout 2010 Indie Grant recipients and their short works included Steve Daniels’ eye-popping Dirty Silverware, Rodney Lee Rogers’ sweetly sublime Downturn, and Maria White’s enlightening documentary The Debutante Hunters.
Beyond CIFF’s plethora of short works, several locally produced feature films left audiences hungry for more. Case in point was Angel Camouflaged, a rock musical-drama written and directed by Ridley Scott cinematographer and South Carolina native, R. Michael Givens, that took home the CIFF Jury Award for Best Feature.
At least one CIFF bombshell set off resounding shockwaves when producer Warren Ostergard delivered a sneak-peek screening of Yvan Gauthier and Vitamin A Films’ LA, I Hate You. CIFF had the honor of viewing this gut-kicking urban fantasy ahead of other high-profile festivals like the LA Film Fest, snagging CIFF’s Golden Crescent Award for Best Film for good reason.
Cinebarre CEO Terrell Braly proved not only a gallant and gracious host to CIFF attendees, he also donned his executive producer’s wings by bringing to the table Matia Karrell’s darkly comic short film, The Tub. According to the film’s lead and festival Best Actress, Dedee Pfeiffer (pictured top), The Tub was initially a little-known stage play produced nearly 20 years ago that proved decades ahead of its time. One only needs to see M. L. Kessler's heart-breaking screen version to learn the truth.
Local onscreen talent was also in abundance, as CIFF attendees were blessed by multiple screen performances of actor Daniel Jones. Appearing in both the world premiere of writer/director Matt Allen’s The Road to Jacob and Jason Stoddard’s The Afflicted, the recent coast guard retiree says he originally set sights on a new career in film production, but wound up in front of the camera, falling face-first into a genuine calling. Demonstrating the talent of an artist with three times his experience. Audiences look forward to Jones’ wizened and worldly features gracing the screen in the future.
CIFF co-founders Summer Spooner Peacher and husband Brian Peacher not only served up a delicious banquet of films, but presided over the screenings, events, and after-parties with a gentility that only honored their southern roots. Braly, ever-gracious with libations and swag, kindly threw wide the doors of his Charleston Cinebarre location, not only setting the stage for another performance of Richard Elfman and his Mystic Knights of the Cinebarre-boingo in advance of Thursday evening’s screening of The Forbidden Zone, but created the perfect melting pot for the CIFF community.
Come Sunday, as CIFF attendees cleared the auditoriums, bars, and beaches, they left behind a magical resonance that will no doubt linger until the 501(c) 3 non-profit organization gears up for 2012. Next year’s film submissions, attendees, patrons, and sponsors will no doubt double once word of Charleston’s little secret gets out.
Article by Cole Hornaday