DCFF ’12: ‘On Our Radar’ Festival Preview Part 1

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The 4th annual Derby City Film Festival is now just days away and with 56 films to choose from it’s only natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. Whether it be feature-lengths or shorts, from across the globe or our own backyards, genre films or indie-dramas, DCFF ’12 has the cinematic hook-up to please the palettes of just about every film-goer out there. And hopefully, to convert more than a couple open-minded un-initiates as well.

With that same spirit of exploration LouisvilleKY.com is pleased to present a series of extended previews highlighting a handful of films that are ‘on our radar’.

Today’s edition details four feature-length films screening this weekend, two of which with local ties:

‘Wid Winner & the Slipstream’

There is no better place to start than with the festival-opening ‘Wid Winner & the Slipstream’. From Kentucky-native writer/director Alex O. Gaynor, ‘Wid Winner’ is the tale of two men on an admittedly absurd and yet personally vital journey. Caught up in the surrealist dreams of roaming tinkerer/would-be mad scientist Kenneth Brown (Alexander Wright), Wid (James Sheldon) is a fundamentally unsatisfied auto-parts store clerk turned partner-in-crime. What becomes apparent as the two continue their cross-country trek scavenging parts for Brown’s time machine is that these unlikely friends need each other just as much as they do the adventure. Sheldon’s role in the travel film has earned him a place amongst the finalists for the festival’s Best Actor award. Shot in Kentucky and with Wright also doubling as the composer for the film’s soundtrack, ‘Wid Winner’ debuts Friday (Feb 17) at 7:00pm in the Eifler Theater.

‘Sam Steele and the Crystal Chalice’

The serialized adventures of kid-detective Sam Steele Jr. first graced the screen at the 2010 Derby City Film Festival and ended with the promise, “Sam Steele will return.” Writer/Director Tom Whitus, based in New Albany, is back this year with a globe-trotting sequel that sees the titular hero (played by Jacob Hays) working alongside his female sidekick Emma (Katherine McNamara) as the two once again don fedoras and trench-coats to solve this new mystery with plenty of laughs amidst film noir conceits. The mystery in question involves a centuries-old chalice discovered to have been smuggled into the U.S. from the Soviet Union in the 1950’s and sees veteran television actor Kevin Sorbo join in the hunt. Hays and McNamara are something of a proven quantity in family entertainment (we’re talking Disney people!) and with a brand new adventure filmed primarily in Louisville’s Seelbach Hotel this might just be a family-freindly crowd-pleaser. ‘Crystal Chalice’ screens Friday (Feb 17) at 8:00pm in the Eifler Theater.

‘Johnny’s Gone’

Writer/Director Giorgio Serafini has crafted an emotionally raw journey informed by personal tragedy. Central to the the narrative of ‘Johnny’s Gone’ is the heartfelt relationship between Sarah (LaDon Drummond) and Johnny (2 year-old Johnny Sinclair) as they road-trip from Las Angeles to Louisiana. But begging the question of some deeper and darker mystery is an underlying strangeness between the two and the sudden nature of the trip itself. Serafini packed up the entire cast and crew for a real-life road-trip spanning five states for the filming of ‘Johnny’s Gone’ and the piece is up for two major awards this weekend, including Best Feature Film and Drummond for Best Actress. ‘Johnny’s Gone’ wraps up Friday night’s screenings, playing at 10:00pm in the Eifler Theater.

‘Below Zero’

Screenwriter Signe Olynyk and her main character Jack “The Hack” (Terminator 2’s Edward Furlong) have a very interesting fact in common. They both chose to lock themselves in an abandoned meat freezer. Both were attempting to break their own writer’s block, but while Olynyk came out on the other side with a thriller script called ‘Below Zero’, Jack finds himself in an unsettlingly mad scenario in which the nightmares of his own creation come to be increasingly intermixed with his own conception of reality. Throw in horror-flick legend Michael Berryman and you have an existentially frightening, genre-smashing mind-warp that promises equal parts entertainment and unnerve. Up for three awards at DCFF ’12, including Best Feature Film, Edward Furlong for Best Actor and Kristen Booth for Best Actress, ‘Below Zero’ closes out the Derby City Film Festival on Sunday (Feb 19) at 6:00pm in the Eifler Theater.

LouisvilleKY.com wants to send you to Friday night’s screenings FOR FREE. Head over to LouKY‘s facebook page and comment on the Derby City Film Festival thread for a chance to be one of two winners to snag a pair of tickets. Deadline for entry is Thursday at noon, at which point the winners will be chosen at random from all of the commenters.

Check back tomorrow for the second part of our ‘On the Radar’ Festival Preview, with a spotlight on a couple documentaries and international entries. And stay tuned for a series of filmmaker interviews to debut shortly.

Full schedule and ticketing information available via DCFF’s website.

LouisvilleKY.com will also be covering DCFF throughout the weekend with live-blogging via twitter @CT_Smash.

More articles by me here.

Chris Ritter <<<< twitter.com/CT_Smash <<<< ctsmash@gmail.com