Sunday, April 8, 2018

Vail Film Festival day two was as exciting as the weather

Posted By on Sun, Apr 8, 2018 at 11:32 AM

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Day two of the Vail Film Festival, Friday, April 6, was ruled by cool, wet weather in Vail and the surrounding area, though the weather hit hardest after dark. A traffic collision caused local authorities to close at least one on-ramp; it's been an exciting evening.

I spoke with playwright-turned-screenwriter Carolyn Kras, a Chicago native living in Los Angeles, and producer Jon Diack of Centennial, Colorado. Kras won Best Comedy at the Vail FIlm Festival screenplay contest for her film, New Reality, which was originally commissioned by Diack and mutual friend/co-producer Rachel Fowler. It's a cross-cultural workplace romantic comedy — the main character's tech company is replacing her and her department with workers from overseas. She's torn between sabotaging the man she's training to replace her and slowly falling in love with him. Currently, they're working on funding the film — it's hard to say how long it will be before it's ready to screen.

Diack raised concerns about funding film in Colorado, as well. A mid-2017 audit revealed widespread misspending by the Colorado Film Office-administered film incentive program which allows the state to offer a 20 percent tax rebate and loans to finance up to 20 percent of a qualifying film's budget. Denver Business Journal reporter Ed Sealover reports that the conversation in the State Legislature has shifted away from canceling the program to keeping its funding flat, but it's hard to say what would happen to the program and to the Colorado Film Office's leadership should any inappropriately appropriated funding be discovered in future audits.

One of the night's stand-out films was 2017's Alaska Is A Drag, directed by Shaz Bennett and featuring comedian Margaret Cho and Hawaii Five-0 actor/Lilo & Stitch voice actor Jason Scott Lee in supporting roles. The story follows Leo (played by Martin L. Washington Jr.), an aspiring drag queen working at a fish canning factory somewhere in Alaska. The film's anchored less to an easily-summarized plot and more a series of events, starting with the arrival of new cannery worker Declan (played by Matt Dallas), cannery boss Diego (played by Lee) offering to train Leo as a boxer and an upcoming drag competition at "the only gay bar in 100 miles," owned by Jan (played by Cho). The story explores themes of strength, self-deception and the gulf between dreaming and making dreams come true.

There are a few moments of gorgeous post-production play with lighting and dandelion fluff that adds a dreamlike whimsy to the film's often-heavy elements of homophobia and abandonment. But while the acting's on point and the characters are at turns charming and tragic, the less-than-cohesive plot makes them bear much of the burden of engagement, especially when it doesn't feel like most of what happens has consequences. That said, it's a heartwarming film with a memorable cast of characters — and let's be honest, the number of boxing drag queens in film is too damn low.


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