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Montclair Film Festival winds down with Cinema 505 party

in Arts/Montclair Film/Montclair Film Festival


A large crowd turned out Saturday night for the Filmmakers’ Party at Cinema 505. PHOTO COURTESY TONY TURNER




The Montclair Film Festival had its closing night with a housewarming party of sorts.

At the end-of-festival filmmakers’ party at Cinema 505, it was a packed house: “cheek by jowl,” as Executive Director Bob Feinberg termed it on Tuesday, with filmmakers, donors and patrons mingling in high spirits.

The May 6 Filmmakers’ Party was held in Montclair Film’s new home, Cinema 505, on Bloomfield Avenue.

“I think it’s been great. We’ve had very enthusiastic audiences,” said Evelyn Colbert, board president of Montclair Film. She noted that the previous day’s rain had not impacted any of the scheduled events. “And it’s so fabulous to have everyone in our new space,” she said of Cinema 505.

“I mean, everyone who works on the festival is extremely passionate about it,” said Garrett Sergeant, whose firm, Simple DCP, has worked with the Montclair Film Festival for three years. He said that the festival had the right mix of up-and-coming filmmakers and seasoned veterans. “I always support festivals that support that mix of talent,” he said. “Plus, they take really good care of their filmmakers,” he added.

Filmmaker Allison McGourty was presenting a film at the festival for the first time. Her film, “American Epic,” is to be aired on PBS later in the month. And the audiences at the festival had given “American Epic” a very warm reception, she said: “The audience clapped after every song and gave us a standing ovation,” she said.

And Brendan O’Brien, director of “Fry Day,” had just arrived in Montclair that day and was looking forward to his film being screened on the last day of the festival.

Wesley Jones and his family had a total of two films in the festival. One was Jones’s own film, “Cat Killer.” The other was “The Indubitable Molly Davis,” directed by Jones’s 15-year-old daughter Lily, a student at Montclair Kimberley Academy. The film won a special jury prize in the festival’s Emerging Filmmakers competition for middle and high school students. And both films, Jones said, got a warm reception from the crowds.

The ground floor of Cinema 505 was packed with filmmakers, donors, support staff and the general public, as hors d’oeuvres were handed around – including hot dogs, White Castle sliders and crab cakes.

So what was the mood among the film festival organizers on Tuesday, after the festival was all over?

“Everyone is really, very excited,” Feinberg said.

The festival volunteers met for an end-of-festival party at the Pig and Prince on Sunday evening, after the last film had been screened. “And it was a combination of excitement and exhaustion, and a little of both,” Feinberg remembered.

The general consensus at the party was that the festival had been a massive success. “Our only frustration was, we’ve already outgrown our new space,” Feinberg said on Tuesday, referring to the massive turnout at the Filmmakers’ Party.

When asked for his own favorite moments from the festival, Feinberg immediately pointed to Bill Nye. “We sold out the Wellmont, there was a line around the block,” Feinberg said. Another favorite was the screening of “Megan Leavey,” the story of a Marine and her military service dog. Feinberg had admitted via email that he had tears in his eyes during the screening.

So what’s next?

The crew had been working virtually non-stop for the past 10 days. “People will take a couple of days to regroup,” Feinberg said. As of Tuesday, however, Montclair Film was in the planning phases for the rest of the year’s events, including the summer film series.

Montclair Film Festival: Truth is difficult- awards presented

in Arts/Montclair Film Festival
Yance Ford, director of “Strong Island,” holds the Bruce Sinofsky Prize for Documentary Feature Competition at the Montclair Film Festival Jury Awards presentation, held Saturday, May 6. Courtesy Tony Turner / Montclair Film Festival.


There was a theme at the Jury Award presentation Saturday night: truth-telling is more important than ever.

The awards ceremony was held at MFF’s new home, Cinema505, The Investors Bank Film & Media Center.

Audience awards were announced on Monday.

MFF’s Artistic Director Tom Hall introduced the junior jury, made up of 15 high school students from 12 area schools, and said that they debated for hours. The Junior Jury awarded their top prize to “Elián,” directed by Tim Golden.

Raphaela Neihausen, one of the jurors for the New Jersey Films Award, said of “ACORN and the Firestorm,” which won “The American Truth Seeker Award,” the film’s prescience is necessary “in an age of fake news and truthiness.”

Erin Carr, the late David Carr’s daughter, presented the David Carr Award for Truth in Non-Fiction Filmmaking. Carr said, “It’s a really hard year for truth.” Pancho Velez and Sierra Pettingill accepted the David Carr Award for their documentary “The Reagan Show.”

The Bruce Sinofsky Award for Truth in Storytelling was presented by Claire Sinofsky, the late documentary filmmaker’s daughter.

“Documentaries highlight the need for honest storytelling in this unstable climate,” Sinofsky said.

Director Yance Ford received the award for his documentary “Strong Island.” Ford said his film is a “reflection of the fact that truth is complicated.”

This year’s festival featured four competitive categories with five films in each: Fiction, Documentary, Future/ Now, and New Jersey Filmmaking. The 2017 festival featured over 150 feature and short films screened over 10 days.

The full list of jury winners:

Fiction Feature Award: “Lady Macbeth,” directed by William Oldroyd. Special Jury Prize: Florence Pugh, for her performance in “Lady Macbeth.”

Bruce Sinofsky Award for Documentary Feature: “Strong Island,” directed by Yance Ford. Special Jury Prize for Direction: Matthew Heineman, for “City of Ghosts.”

Future/Now prize: “Beach Rats,” directed by Eliza Hitman

New Jersey Films Award: “Swim Team,” directed by Lara Stolman

American Truth Seeker Award: “ACORN & the Firestorm,” directed by Reuben Atlas and Samuel D. Pollard

David Carr Award for Truth in Non-Fiction Filmmaking: “The Reagan Show”

Audience Awards: Fiction:
“Maudie,” directed by Aisling Walsh.
Documentary: “Dolores,” directed by Peter Brett.
World Cinema: “Clash,” directed by Mohamed Diab.
Short Film: “Edith + Eddie,” directed by Laura Checkoway.
Junior Jury: Special Prize for Innovative Filmmaking, “Casting JonBenet,” directed by Kitty Green.
Jury Prize: “Elián,” directed by Tim Golden.

Unreal TV? Montclair’s Fresco da Franco to be on ‘Help My Yelp’

in Arts/Dining/Television

Chef Franco Porporino Jr. sits at Fresco da Franco while the Food Network crew waits to film. Courtesy Franco Porporino, Jr.

Help My Yelp’
Season one, episode six: “Italian Intervention”
Host Monti Carlo vists Fresco
da Franco and owner Franco
Porporino Jr.

May 15, 10 p.m., the Food Network

Fresco da Franco is at 15 Church St.
frescoonchurch.com, 973-337-5100

Franco Porporino Jr. has a piece of advice for restaurateurs fielding calls from reality shows:

His experience with “Help My Yelp” was a little rocky.

Maybe it’s no wonder the producers hedged on what the title of the show was when they called him.

Ultimately, Porporino Jr. said, he learned a few things, and made a friend of the show’s host, Monti Carlo.

The exposure and air time were enticing, said the chef.

But if a restaurant were really in trouble the show could be very helpful, he said.

It’s just that his restaurant, Fresco da Franco, at 15 Church St., was never in trouble. On the Yelp site, Consumers share views. Or are they truly consumer views? In one response, Porporino Jr. suggested the reviewers were shills from the competition. OpenTable, which also hosts reviews but is tied to reservations, is a better site, he said. There, his site receives a rating 4.2 out of 5, he said.

In “Help My Yelp,” a coproduction from Yelp and the Food Network, undercover Yelpers (that is, diners who don’t identify themselves as Yelpers), give feedback about a restaurant’s food and service. Later on, another group of Yelp Elite Squad members give their reports, to show how the restaurant has or has not taken advice.

And while Yelp reviews note a loud noise level at Fresco da Franco, that is only on Saturday nights after 9 p.m. Then, the restaurant might raise the music level. Fresco da Franco won the International Five Star Diamond Award award in 2015, and Porporino has just been told he’s won it again for 2017.

The award, given by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, recognizes food, atmosphere and service, and is endorsed by Michelin chefs Alain Ducasse, Jean George Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud.

Porporino and his brother opened the restaurant in 2013, at a time when Church Street was less upscale than it is now. Now, the chef said, “you’re on Rodeo Drive.”

Food is in his DNA, Porporino says. When he was growing up in West Paterson, now Woodland Park, “there was no such thing as buying bread off the shelf, or cured meats.” His Italian immigrant parents grew their own vegetables out back.

After working in a pizzeria in Little Falls, and opening his own restaurant Porporino went to work as a broker on Wall Street and also hosted the upstairs exclusive celebrity club at Cipriani’s Soho in New York City. Celebrities often appear on Porporino’s weekly radio show, “Brunching with Franco,” on AM970 “The Answer,” which airs Sundays at noon. Once a month, he broadcasts live from the restaurant.
Within the past six months, Porporino has been signed as a producer to a large Hollywood production company, he said.

When he spoke to Montclair Local on Saturday, some of the personalities from “Real Housewives of New Jersey” were finishing lunch before heading off to see a film at Montclair Film Festival. And, Porporino said, it’s not only reality stars: United States Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson ate at the restaurant and sent the chef a thank you note.

Porporino’s concept for the restaurant was to have a little bit of the New York glamor of a place like Cipriani’s here in New Jersey.
So there’s some glitz — the palm trees outside come from Miami, he said. It’s the only restaurant on Church Street that offers valet parking.

And there’s serious cuisine.

His mother makes the pasta for Fresco da Franco. And she doesn’t use machines.

The “Help My Yelp” episode was scripted, with storylines, the chef said. He had some input into it. “Enters. Exits. Makes gnocchi.”
He thinks the show picked him because “they wanted a hot-tempered guy. I told one person [on Yelp], ‘You should go back to the Olive Garden.’”

He chuckled as he recalled challenging some of the Yelp reviewers when they filmed. “Monti was kicking me under the table,” he said. But he wouldn’t stop, telling them, “Either turn the camera off, or I’m going to keep going.”

Monti, he said, told him she’d never seen a kitchen like his. Nothing is precooked. The name of the restaurant means “Fresh by Franco,” and Porporino wants to keep it that way. He works behind the line on Friday and Saturday nights.

Filming the show did help him out with some things, especially dealing with his staff: He makes doubly sure servers know and understand all the ingredients in every dish.

The restaurant is relaunching a new menu the day the show goes live.

And he’s learned not to answer back if someone posts an unpleasant experience on Yelp.

Now, he said, “we’ll send out a gift card.”

Bill Nye, Stephen Colbert talk science (and other stuff)

in Arts/comedy/Education/Montclair Film Festival/Television
Bill Nye, right, and Stephen Colbert speak during a special “In Conversation” event at the Wellmont Theater on Saturday during the Montclair Film Festival. The discussion followed a screening of the documentary “Bill Nye: Science Guy.”


Right before the screening of “Bill Nye: Science Guy,” two familiar-looking men walked into the Wellmont Theater from a side backstage door, and the audience erupted in cheers.

One was Montclair’s own Stephen Colbert.

The other was the Science Guy himself.

Nye was at the Montclair Film Festival on Saturday as part of its “In Conversation” series.

Nye shot to fame in the 1990s with “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which aired on PBS for five seasons.Today, Nye is the CEO of The Planetary Society, which was founded by Carl Sagan, and host of a new series on Netflix, “Bill Nye Saves the World.” He has also been working to raise awareness of the threats posed by climate change — a job that has gotten more and more challenging over the past few years due to high-profile climate change deniers.

After the documentary screening, Nye and Colbert took to the stage to talk about a variety of things: science education, climate change, why the Pinto was a lousy car, the Planetary Society’s solar-powered LightSail spacecraft project … and comedy.

“If the microphone were the earth,” Nye said as he was explaining LightSail’s trajectory, “and you were the glory of the sun…”

“Thank you,” Colbert quipped as the audience erupted in laughter.

One recurring theme during the discussion, however, was something serious: concerns over a push-back against science, especially where climate change is concerned, and a persistent strain of anti-intellectualism.

“I saw this on Fox News — Fox Business. More silver bullets are sold during a full moon,” Colbert joked, referring to a commonly held belief that emergency room visits increase during a full moon.

“You’ve got to get to people before they’re 12. Ten is best,” Nye said, referring to the need to get children and young people fascinated by science. “And that’s a hard thing.”

Colbert cited a quotation that is attributed to Isaac Asimov: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States. Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that ‘My ignorance is as good as your knowledge.’”

“Bill Nye: Science Guy” is the brainchild of filmmakers Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado. It looks back on Nye’s career as a science educator, advocate and comedian, and brings the viewer up to date on Nye’s more recent work. The film includes interviews by Neil deGrasse Tyson; Ann Druyan, co-producer of Cosmos, and widow of Carl Sagan; and some of the writing and production staff on “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

The documentary noted that there has been a substantial push-back in politics and the media by climate change deniers, including a steady parade of commentators on Fox News; Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis; and Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist who has argued that carbon dioxide does not contribute to global warming.

Colbert asked Nye if there was a particular scientist whom he might nominate as a national hero. Nye’s answer was Rosalind Franklin, the British scientist whose work led to the discovery of the double-helix shape of DNA. “You’re looking down the barrel at the image of DNA,” Nye said.

“You think you might have a way to persuade President Trump to take climate change seriously. What is it?” Colbert asked, as the audience “oohed.” (A short clip of Trump in the documentary had been met with a loud chorus of boos from the audience.)

“We think we can get to the president through space exploration,” Nye said. For there was evidence, he said, that the president changes his mind on a lot of things. “The EPA was started by Richard Nixon, for crying out loud!” Nye said.

“Richard Nixon could not be elected as a Republican today,” Colbert remarked.

Nye and Colbert also brought up a bit of trivia: Article One, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the ability “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” “Like comedy,” Nye said.

“And engineering,” Colbert added.

They also briefly discussed the Solutions Project, an ongoing project to demonstrate how the United States could conceivably run on renewable energy sources. “Did anybody buy a T-shirt?” Nye asked the audience. “It’s not magic, it’s…”

“Science!” the audience finished.

For the final question, Colbert asked if there was any piece of science or technology that Nye was especially amazed about.

“My phone tells me which side of the street I’m on!” Nye exclaimed.

Montclair Film Festival: singing and fighting together

in Arts/Montclair Film Festival
Director/screenwriter/actress/songwriter Zoe Lister-Jones talks to the audience at the Wellmont after the screening of “Band Aid” in the Montclair Film Festival on Saturday, May 6. Courtesy Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival.


Montclair Film Festival Artistic Director Tom Hall introduced “Band Aid” on Saturday night at the Wellmont by saying that he’d seen the film at Sundance, and had just stopped laughing.

Zoe Lister-Jones’ film about a couple turning their fights into songs was the festival’s closing night film.

Lister-Jones not only wrote and directed the film, she also wrote the songs for it and starred in it. “Band Aid” is her first feature as a director. She appeared onstage after the showing to talk with Hall and take questions from the audience.

Hall said that this film was “not a hard sell in Montclair: a married couple fights — ‘I’ll take two, please.’”

“Band Aid” will open at the IFC in New York City on June 2.

Lister-Jones said she began with the songs, and was looking for a story she could have fun writing. She has been married for four years, but been with her husband for 13. She realized that every couple fights and believes their fights are singular — then she spoke to her friends.

“We all were having the same fight,” said the director. While her husband, Daryl Wein, has been “very supportive” and executive-produced the film, he was not the first reader of the screenplay, she said.

Unusually, the performances in the film were shot live, rather than having actors perform to playback.

“It was important to me to capture the imperfections of live performance,” Lister-Jones said. The cast had two months’ band practice before shooting, which also helped them to get to know one another. Fred Armisen, who plays the weirdo neighbor, plays drums in the film, and is really a drummer.

Among her inspirations were Cassavetes, if Cassavetes made comedy, said Lister Jones. Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives” was also a big influence, especially in the way the camera in that film was voyeuristic. A big fight scene at the climax of the movie was done in one long seven-minute take, she said.

An audience member asked about the fictional couple’s being Jewish: Lister-Jones replied that she was, and wanted to “‘write what you know.’ I think some folks from my synagogue are here,” she said. “Park Slope Jewish Center is representing.”

Another question was about the film’s image of a dripping vent at the end. The movie opens with a faucet dripping, Lister-Jones said. That drip is fixed in the film, but seeing another drip shows that there are always “new things to be mended.”

Montclair Film Festival announces jury awards

in Arts/Montclair Film Festival

The Montclair Film Festival has released its 2017 juried awards. Most of the awards were announced at a ceremony held on Saturday evening at MFF’s  new home, The Investors Bank Film & Media Center.  The audience award was announced via press release this morning. This year’s festival featured four competitive categories with five films in each: Fiction, Documentary, Future/ Now, and New Jersey Filmmaking. The 2017 festival featured over 150 feature and short films screened over ten days.

Fiction Feature Award: “Lady Macbeth.” directed by William Oldroyd
Special Jury Prize: Florence Pugh, for her performance in “Lady Macbeth.”
Bruce Sinofsky Award for Documentary Feature: “Strong Island,” directed by Yance Ford.
Special Jury Prize for Direction to Matthew Heineman, for “City of Ghosts.”
Future/Now prize: “Beach Rats,” directed by Eliza Hitman.
New Jersey Films Award: “Swim Team,” directed by Lara Stolman.
American Truth Seeker Award: “Acorn & the Firestorm,” directed by Reuben Atlas and Samuel D. Pollard.
The David Carr Award for Truth in Non-Fiction Filmmaking: “The Reagan Show”

Audience Awards:
Fiction: “Maudie,” directed by Aisling Walsh
Documentary: “Dolores,” directed by Peter Brett
World Cinema: “Clash,” directed by Mohamed Diab
Short Film: “Edith + Eddie,” directed by Laura Checkoway

Junior Jury:
Special Prize for Innovative Filmmaking, “Cating JonBenet,” directed by Kitty Green
Jury Prize: “Elián,” directed by Tim Golden

MFF: Telling truth from lies

in Arts/Montclair Film Festival
Jim Axelrod, left, and Jonathan Alter discuss the responsibilities and perils of reporting the news, at Montclair Kimberley Academy, on Sunday, April 30. Courtesy George Wirt / Montclair Film.


“I don’t understand why there isn’t a niche for smart people,” Joe Klein said sadly on Sunday at Montclair Kimberley Academy, during the panel discussion “True or False? Reporting in the Age of ‘Fake News.’”

Many people, who seemed to be smart, challenged the panel with tough questions during a Q-and-A session.

MFF Executive Director Tom Hall introduced the member of the panel, which was co-presented with Retro Report.

Retro Report had also shown a block of films in the festival, titled “True or False? The Lure of the Fake Narrative,” short films that, Hall said, “re-contextualize old stories with modern understanding of the facts.”

Klein, the author of “Primary Colors,” and a long-time journalist with Time magazine, shared the bill with Montclair’s Jonathan Alter of MSNBC/The Daily Beast, Sarah Blustain of The Investigative Fund, and Jim Axelrod of CBS News.

Clyde Haberman, of Retro Report, formerly of the New York Times, moderated, noting that Montclair was considered one of the “pales of settlement” where New York Times staffers could live, along with Pelham and the Upper West Side.

The panel talked about the public distrust of the media, and what happened during the election cycle.

Klein said the current golden age of marketing, with news for every niche, was a fundamentally un-American principle. He also said that over his career, the default position of the press has changed from skepticism to cynicism.

Axelrod pointed out that the press in the 19th century were part of the “party press,” with direct political agendas. Calling himself “Little Mary Sunshine,” Axelrod said that had Hillary Clinton won the election, “we’re not up here. We’re now engaged in a very deep dive about what matters.”

Countering Axelrod’s suggestion that people don’t trust the media because so many of the press corps supported Clinton, Haberman asked, “Is it our fault or their fault they don’t respect our ability? I would argue a lot of people go into our line of work because there is a missionary aspect to it.”

With regard to the election, Haberman said that one of the “bricks hurled at our collective head was that we completely missed what was going on out there. I don’t think we did.”

Alter received a round of applause when he said, “We gave Donald Trump way too much coverage.”

When an audience member asked why the panel had allowed themselves to be manipulated by Donald Trump, Alter replied that nobody on the stage had been manipulated for a second.

“Whether the people who run cable news for profit were is another question,” he said.

MFF: ‘Sacred’ explores spirituality around the world

in Arts/Montclair Film Festival
In ‘Sacred,’ a film by Thomas Lennon, 40 filmmakers explore touchstone moments in life around the world. Courtesy Montclair Film Festival.

By Antoinette Martin
For Montclair Local
“Sacred,” a documentary on religious practices and rituals around the world provided Montclair Film Festival goers with an intimate look into spiritual life – and a surprising new take on film-making – at two screenings this week.

The feature-length documentary, which explores global religious rituals at birth, adolescence, marriage, aging and other key life moments. will now begin a weeklong run at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17th St., in New York City on Friday, May 5. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Thomas Lennon directs, with original music by Edward Bilous.

A packed house at Montclair State University’s Kasser Theater Monday evening watched rapt as a young boy in Myanmar – his face filling the giant screen – is made up and given false eyelashes for a ritual parade before having his head shaved and donning robes as a new monk. A couple of Japanese newlyweds inscribe their personal wishes for a child on a ceramic penis at a shrine devoted to fertility. The deep lines on the face of an old woman soften as she goes to Mecca in a wheelchair on a pilgrimage of forgiveness.

In ‘Sacred,’ a film by Thomas Lennon, 40 filmmakers explore touchstone moments in life around the world. Courtesy Montclair Film Festival.

How was it possible, Lennon was asked in a Q-and-A after the showing at MSU, that so many intimate moments could actually materialize on film?

Lennon answered that he made a global film “without ever leaving my desk in New York City.” He lined up more than 40 filmmakers in far-flung locations, from Burma to Sierra Leone, the Ukraine to Connecticut, to capture stories about faith and belief.

“This medium is being democratized,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there who shoot beautifully, including in places like Sierra Leone.” The African country is depicted in the film as devastated by poverty and the Ebola virus.
Lennon said he gave the filmmakers specs on visual style, and urged them to interview many candidates before selecting those to follow closely. He directed them to bring themselves to the work: “The filmmaker who shot the boy in Myanmar had himself undergone that same ritual at age 8 or 9.”

The director also collaborated with composer Edward Bilous from the outset, charging him with creating a new music “vocabulary” to serve as the through-line in a film that has no narration, and for some fairly lengthy stretches, no words.
Bilous brought an ensemble of two singers, two percussionists and a violinist to MSU on Monday night. The musicians performed along with digitally recorded background sound to haunting effect. Bilous told the audience that the music for the film was recorded digitally – and that the performers had never actually been in the same room before the appearance at MSU.

An audience member asked why indigenous music was not used. Lennon explained that his notion was to express a global sense of humanity, rather than a local one.

The close-in focus in the filming had the same rationale, said Lennon: “We wanted it to be recognized as human experience at all times, not as the easy spectacle, or touristy.”

MFF: John Turturro on knives and acting

in Arts/Montclair Film Festival
Stephen Colbert, left, talks with actor John Turturro during MFF’s ‘In Conversation’ series on Sunday, April 30. Courtesy George Wirt / Montclair Film.


John Turturro’s mother was “always with a knife,” he said.

The actor learned how to make a point dramatically from his family.

Turturro’ mother was Sicilian, his father, Italian. She sometimes waved a knife around to make a point.

The 60-year-old actor, sporting a beard, unlike the clean-shaven John Stone in HBO’s series “The Night Of,” spoke to a full house at Montclair Kimberley Academy Sunday afternoon to Stephen Colbert.

The talk was part of the Montclair Film Festival’s “In Conversation” series.

When his father was dying, Turturro said, he would ask people to scare him, to know he was alive. Once Turturro’s mother ran in with a big knife, shouting.

His father had a big smile, looking at her like, “I’m crazy about you.” Turturro said that had as much effect on him as the great acting teachers he had at the Yale School of Drama, which he attended after graduating from SUNY New Paltz.

Although his parents weren’t actors, they were very expressive.

Turturro said his brother used to call the characters on “The Honeymooners” Mommy and Daddy.

Laughing about how his parents would question the raise of an eyebrow and ask what a mouth movement meant, Turturro said, “I had no idea it was Sandy Meisner teaching me.”

The actor is known for his appearances in “Do the Right Thing” (1989), “The Big Lebowski” (1998), “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000), and the first three Transformers movies (2007-2011), among others.

Turturro said he learned about performance from the “Million Dollar Movie,” a comment the audience applauded. A series on Channel 9, a local New York station, “Million Dollar Movie” ran movies twice each night for a week. Turturro grew up in Queens.

Turturro worked with his builder father in the summer growing up, and the first time he was on a movie set, he realized the two jobs had much in common: time pressure, finishing one thing before going on to the next.

Colbert led Turturro through a conversation that touched on his directing work, including “Mac” (1992, which he also wrote); “Passione” (2010, which he also co-wrote) and “Fading Gigolo” (2013, with Woody Allen).

“Passione” is a documentary about post-war Sicilian music. Audiences there “did all the emotions,” Turturro said. “It was like riding a big wave.”

Colbert asked about his work with Woody Allen, saying “I call him Woody because you met him once.” Turturro made the audience laugh with his imitation of Allen saying “I’m going to be merciless.” He also imitated Robert De Niro’s asking for40 takes of him chewing gum, and De Niro’s hemming and hawing.

An audience member asked him about his preparation for roles. Turturro said he finds out about people “like a journalist.” He also said a fundamental of acting is “Listening. Let your partner affect your response.”

MFF: Festival opens with stomps

in Arts/Montclair Film Festival
Xinos perform before the showing of ‘STEP’ at the Wellmont to open MFF’s sixth year. Courtesy Neil Grabowsky.


Montclair Film Festival launched its sixth season last Friday night with stomps and cheers.

Xinos, a step dance team from Hillside, performed before the showing of the opening-night film,and received whoops and applause.

Seen on the red carpet before the showing were Kenny Anderson, the former NBA star and subject of the documentary “Mr. Chibbs,” and Dolores Huerta, the subject of the documentary “Dolores.”

The film, “STEP,” directed by Amanda Lipitz, follows a few girls on the “Lethal Ladies,” the step dance team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, as they apply to college and compete in a step contest.

Producer Steven Cantor, and movie subjects “Coach G,” aka Gari McIntyre, and BLSYW Director of College Counseling Paula Dofat spoke after the film.

Dofat said, “What inspired me to do it is, I didn’t have a great guidance counselor. I was not a 4.0 student.” She said “ I fight to the end whether you have a 1.0 or a 4.0.”

Coach G said her mission was to be able to help and inspire, and “be there for one girl.”

Dofat noted that The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women is a public charter school, with 50 staff members and 540 students. She said that 400 of 540 girls have her cellphone number: “I know every girl by name and by need.”

The audience asked how the girls are doing now. Cori, who received a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University, is still there.

Asked whether there are any plans to follow the girls throughout their lives, like the British film series “7 Up,” Cantor deadpanned, “No.”

Moviegoers and moviemakers mingle at the Wellmont on Friday, April 28, at the launch of the sixth annual Montclair Film Festival.
Photo courtesy George Wirt.

At the party after the show, the audience enthused about the movie and the festival. Michael Cryan, who has been coming to MFF since it debuted in 2012, said the movie “really brought you into the inner city of Baltimore, in that very explosive time around the death of Freddie Gray and the demonstrations involved.”

Thom Powers, former artistic director of MFF, said “I feel like the birth father.” A Montclair resident, Powers added that “cultural events in a town have many layered effects. All this week everybody will be out in the streets , going to restaurants, using cabs. To me it’s the most exciting week in Montclair every year.”

Powers’ “Pure Nonfiction Live!” podcast had two events in MFF, one this past Saturday, and one on Sunday, May 7.

Former Montclair mayor Jerry Fried, co-producer of “HELLO HELLO HELLO : LEE RANALDO : ELECTRIC TRIM,” said, “I was mayor when [MFF] opened up. I’m excited to see how the festival is developing and helping Montclair.
“It’s just an idea that a few people had. This is a festival with a soul and a conscience.”

“HELLO” director Fred Riedel, who lives in New York, appreciated Fried’s connections, adding “The problem with this film is I can’t find a mayor in every city.”

Micah Barber, director of “Into the Who Knows!” which screened this past weekend, flew to MFF from Texas. “I’m here for the buzz,” Barber said. “It’s packed. It looks like a real film-loving community. It’s amazing to see all these folks here.”

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