19th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival - NIGHT CATCHES US & SEX MAGIC

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Not only was Friday night’s screening of Night Catches Us sold out, but attracted a cool, racial mix of peeps. This Centerpiece screening included a Q & A with writer/director Tanya Hamilton and lead Kerry Washington who looked really chic in her Costello burnt orange dress. Washington was drawn to the film not only because of it’s strong writing, but also the opportunity to humanize an important time period in our history, apart from the stereotypical depiction of afros, machine guns and fists in the air.

The film is set around my neighborhood of Germantown/Mount Airy, a fact that one audience member was livid about. As a former Black Panther member
who lived through the movement and the aftermath, he insisted this area of Philadelphia was not involved and demanded to know from Hamilton if she’d done any research at all! Hamilton replied she had, but decided to take poetic license with the location.

Patricia (Kerry Washington) plays a lawyer with a 9 year old daughter, Iris (Jamara Griffin) (pictured) immediately we understand Patricia uses her profession to advocate those in the neighborhood in trouble with the law. What unfolds more slowly is the fact that she was a former member of the Black Panthers. Nearby, Marcus (Anthony Mackie) comes home for his father’s funeral and we soon realize he and Patricia share history which includes a secret surrounding the death of her late radical Panther husband/Iris’ father.

Hamilton tells
the story through short scenes with minimal dialogue. Along with archival footage of Black Panther activities and police involvement of a decade prior to the happenings taking place in the film. The underlining thread involves characters all stuck in old wounds, still fighting demons of the past. Hamilton said she wanted a feeling of coming home after a war.

Set decoration and subtle costuming by Maren Reese (pictured) create perfect detail to the period (1976) along with a retro-soul score by The Roots. Overall Hamilton has delivered a compelling piece of cinema. The film has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures, look for it in theaters December 3rd.

After this screening I walked 18 blocks (patting myself on the back) to the Annenberg T
heater to see

Sex Magic, which had a good size audience. Part narrative, part documentary, part unintentional comedy, due to its odd subject matter. I’m not talking about Tantric Sex, I’m talking about Baba Dez,
sacred sexual healer. He is so over the top and totally doesn’t realize it. He is the epitome of a crunchy granola, chakra balancing, free loving, Sedona AZ living, hippie Guru.

And I say that as someone who owns a crystal representing every chakra of the body, done many 40 day meditations, who drives my neighbors crazy with ringing singing bowls, and I’ve read enough self-help/self-healing books to become the next Depak Chopra. But I have a sense of humor about the whole thing, it can be your truth without becoming weird. Or as the director Jonathan Schell said during the Q & A -”It takes a lot of energy to be so authentic”.

Jonathan was joined by editor George Danno (pictured) for the post screening discussion.They said the genesis for this film was not Dez as the film’s focus, but rather Dez was looking to document his work in sacred sexual healing at his temple. After days of shooting, th
ey got back to the editing room and found the piece lacking; it had a lot of people talking about Tantra, but no actual sessions were filmed.

They also discovered a through line of a slightly different story – the rocky relationship between Dez and “his beloved” Mya. Mya had come to Dez from a very broken and abused place in her life; while teaching her the art of sexual healing they fell in love. Mya became a skilled sexual healer in her own right and believed in intimate contact with clients, but Dez also practiced polyamory which basically is a fancy name for being extremely promiscuous (Dez has lost count as to how many lovers he’s had, somewhere between 1000-2000) Mya wasn’t down for this, causing major problems in the relationship. On top of that, Dez was accused by a colleague of being innapropriate with his female clients.

The term Sex Magic is the art of manifesting tangible desires through the sharing of sex, while holding the image of what you are trying to accomplish in your mind during the act. In some ways it reminds me of Kundalini Yoga, which is activating the coiled spring of energy at the base of your spine, to tap into receiving or manifesting material matters.

Schell said Dez practiced Sex Magic to conjure people willing to participate in sexual healing sessions on film. Well, it worked, cause we see quite a bit!

The whole thing makes for a very entertaining and enlightening 77 minutes. “Hold a space” for this movie if you get a chance to see it!

Food Footnote: I wrote most of this post at Darling Cafe (2100 Spring Street) on Notepad, as Darling's WiFi was down. I was on my way to Antspants Cafe (2212 South Street), which has such a great vibe and very good menu choices for a coffee house; but I happened to see an open, no meter parking space near Darling. I should have kept going as the coffee was weak, luke warm and no refills; they were out of good bread, so my veggie grilled cheese tasted bland on white bread, they were also out of the pumpkin cheesecake, advertised on the banner out front, and the peanut butteryness was missing from the peanut butter cheesecake. I do however want to point out, the two guys behind the counter were friendly and apologized for every disappointment.

Reminder: Visit Philly Film Fest photo Flickr page!

Tomorrow on Tinsel & Tine: Closing Night Award Winners and Attendee’s Comments on 127 Hours and their favorite film of the festival!

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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