The 10th Annual Waterfront Film Festival on the scenic shore of Lake Michigan was held June 12-15 in the artsy village of Saugatuck, MI. Midwest premieres and world premieres were among the eclectic selection of full lengthfeature films offered at the festival. Dozens of film shorts, seminars on various film-related topics, and special events were also sprinkled throughout the schedule. More than 14,000 tickets were sold to viewers for the various screenings, in addition to the numerous directors, producers, screenwriters, and actors in attendance. Following the tradition of many indie film festivals, open Q&A sessions with filmmakers followed most of the screenings.
Named by SAGindie as one of the Top Five Film Festivals in the Winter 2007 issue of the Screen Actor’s Guild Magazine, each carefully selected movie at Waterfront served as a demonstration of the fact that notable independent film is often where the upcoming talent is found. As a general rule, independent films are created within the constraints of much lower budgets and shot in a fraction of the time frame of their commercial movie studio counterparts. Despite this, the Waterfront films displayed magnificent cinematography and scenic sets. Many garnered celebrity casts, while others showcased new talent.
Though I was not able to attend every film at the festival, there were, in my opinion, a few that stood out from the crowd. Dakota Skye was a clear winner on every level. A coming-of-age story about a teenage girl with the super-hero power to know the truth behind the lies people tell, this movie was my personal favorite. Amongst the slew of recent superhero films, Dakota Skye managed to add a new spin that made the main character so essentially human. The writing was fresh and intelligent, while the directing invoked the perfect blend of adolescent angst and empathy. The casting was equally impressive with up and coming actors Eileen Boylan, Ian Nelson, and JB Ghuman Jr., and I have no doubt that we will be seeing more from these young talents in the future. A testament to its pure entertainment factor, the young man who sat next to me laughed so hard that he could barely recover himself between scenes. A complete review and a separate interview with director John Humber, writer Chad Shonk, and actor Ian Nelson will be published soon.
Another of my personal favorites was Kabluey, whose cast included Lisa Kudrow, Christine Taylor, Terri Garr, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Conchata Ferrell. Scott Prendergast, who wrote, directed and starred in the film appropriately described this movie as a “melancomedy” about the struggles of a woman (played by Lisa Kudrow) whose husband was unexpectedly sent away to the war in Iraq for an extended period of time, leaving her behind with two ill-behaved young children and a household to support. Kudrow showed viewers that she is more than a successful sit-com ensemble cast member, but a solid dramatic actress, able to elicit both laughter as well as tears. An interview with filmmaker Scott Prendergast will soon follow.
Among the other popular crowd pleasers at the festival were Bonneville, starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, and Tom Skerritt and directed by Christopher Rowley. Though certain aspects of the plot were a bit predictable, this Thelma and Louise for mature women celebrating life certainly boasted both a charismatic cast as well as a scenic landscape backdrop for their fiesty adventures.
The screening for Bart Got a Room, whose cast included William H. Macy, Cheryl Hines and Steven Kaplan, was completely sold out. Chazz Palminteri and Christine Lahti starred in Yonkers Joe, a story about a group of gambling cons who take on Vegas for a final score. Man on Wire, about a man who balanced on a high wire between the Twin Towers and the World Trade Center, directed by James Marsh, was also well attended, as was The Flyboys, a rather unrealistic but adventurous family film about two young boys who unexpectedly find themselves in mid-air, forced to fly and land an airplane.
More films were featured at the festival than could possibly be given credit in this article. Suffice it to say, the Waterfront Film Festival is establishing itself as one of the prominent film festivals in the U.S. The art and entertainment combined with the relaxed casual atmosphere make it an event that serious film-goers and independent filmmakers will look forward to year after year.