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Monday, January 28, 2008

Southern Circuit: The youth of America, or, why I am never satisified

These Furman University students seem happy--but
have they fulfilled their CLP credit for the semester?


GREENVILLE, SC -- Tonight’s screening at Furman was a qualified success. On the one hand, it was a room full of laughers, and that’s the most immediately gratifying response available to a filmmaker or performer. Pin-drop silence is a finer gratification, but I’m happy to make do with guffaws, which proliferated throughout the Burgiss Theater almost the whole way through (Elizabeth Povinelli's remark that "There's a whole creepy side to Catholicism--which I experience in the south, actually--" got an especially nice laugh). And the auditorium, which seats 150, was perhaps 2/3 full. Furman has a handy program called CLP--the Cultural Life Program--handy for visiting filmmakers, that is, because students get credit for attending gallery exhibits and oddball experimental documentaries about how coastal homosexuals, Jewish intellectuals, and drag queens respond to French-Catholic organ music. After the show, in the lobby, there were two tables set up, one with Apparition-related merchandise and the other where the audience got its CLP ticket validated, like a parking chit. One of these tables was mobbed by cinephiles.

My only real disappointment was that the 30-inch extravaganza in the Sunday Arts section of the Greenville News didn’t appear to have convinced many people to brave the balmy evening to see the show. Were there even ten people there who weren’t Furman students or faculty? I really am being such a whiner for pointing this out, because it was a very good and good-sized audience, but there’s just this feeling of—exactly what kind of press do you need to fill a theater? Thirty inches above the fold on the front page of the sports section? The crime blotter? If thirty inches doesn't cut it in this town, exactly what kind of organ--but now I sound bitter.

The day was good. Lunch with long-lost Liz Lopez, Lowell '88, now Liz Lopez Anderson with a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old and a husband who teaches religious studies at nearby Wofford College. Perhaps Apparition has a future in Greenville. Shouldn't the film that introduced the word "blow-job" to church screen at BJU? With a Google News alert that the Mobile Register had posted their story, I felt justified in taking an hour to finally design a press page for apparitionfilm.com. It has three—count them!--features, and zero reviews. I’m looking forward to seeing what became of my interview with the Beaufort Island Packet, which I enjoyed doing, and with any luck I’ll pick up some more ink over the next ten days. Meanwhile, I have to thank Thomas Harrison at the Register for this line in particular:

"Festa, based in San Francisco, has put together 31 colorful interview subjects that likely would chase Ken Burns off the premises."

And if this film achieves nothing else...

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des Récollets.

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