The Screening Room Blog
Monday, November 10, 2008
"In a Dream"

LONDON, England -- Sheffield Doc/Fest is a film festival, industry session programme and market place making for five intense days in November.

This is the festival’s 15th year and our first day was on Thursday, the 6th. We took a red-eye flight from Philadelphia, PA to Manchester, arriving early, dirty and exhausted. After hopping the train to Sheffield, we went straight to the Showroom Cinemas where our film was having its first screening. All we wanted was a few hours of sleep but there was no time.

The movie is called “In A Dream” and we began filming more than seven years ago. What began as a film about my father -- a well-known mosaic artist, and storyteller soon became a love story about my parents’ relationship as it teetered after 40 years on the verge of collapse.

Doc/Fest is the film’s international premiere, marking the first time we’ve shown it outside our native USA. The film will air in America next summer on HBO and since Doc/Fest is attended by hundreds of European buyers and film executives, we’re hoping the screenings here help us to attract a European broadcaster.

The first screening went very well. After the film, there was time for a short Q&A.
“How is your family doing?”

“They’re good, thanks.”

“Are they still totally crazy?”

“Yeah, but in a good way…”

Just after the screening we were approached by representatives from the UK label of two of the bands whose music we used in the film (Colleen and Efterklang). They loved the movie, and we love their music so we all get drunk together, talked and laughed and made toasts to the movie and to the festival and to America’s incredibly brilliant and handsome new president Barack Obama.

“In A Dream” has one more screening at Doc/Fest. You can see it 7pm (1900) Saturday, 11/8 at the Showroom Cinemas. For more information on the film and to see a trailer, visit

There are over 150 films at this year’s festival from all over the world. The party ends on Sunday night.

-- Jeremiah Zagar (Director) with additional writing by Jeremy Yaches (Producer)

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Thursday, October 9, 2008
Artfully done

LONDON, England -- Damien Hirst's formaldehyde shark and gilded calf are sold for millions while banks crumble, but art has always delighted in courting paradox and eluding definition.

The same can be said for the documentary "Beautiful Losers." Opening with an artist describing a painting as "so bad that I love it," the story, just as the art it documents, resists conventional categorization.

The story follows a tightly-knit group of like-minded thinkers in the early 1990s who gravitated towards a small NYC storefront gallery called Alleged and combined to create easily accessible art that would reflect their lives.

Following in the traditions of Warhol and Basquiat, this creative think-tank drew on their diverse roots in the DIY subcultures of skateboarding, surf, punk, hip-hop and graffiti to assert their conviction that art could be brought down to street level and out of the sometimes ivory-towered, intellectual elite of international galleries.

Directed by founder of the movement and Alleged gallery owner Aaron Rose, the documentary traces the rags to riches story of the group who, despite little formal artistic training, now tour the world with their Beautiful Losers exhibition, featuring anything from installation art to graffiti.

With a soundtrack scored by Beastie Boy collaborator Money Mark, we are introduced to the variety of artists that comprise the group. They include (among others) Harmony Korine, screenwriter of controversial drama "kids," "Thumbsucker" director Mike Mills and Geoff McFetridge, a graphic artist who counts highly successful adverts for Pepsi and Nike among his commercial achievements.

The collective also boasts the acclaimed graffiti artist Barry McGee and his late wife Margaret Kilgallen. A formidable artist in her own right, Kilgallen's passing provides a touching backdrop to the history of the group, and the feature contains a tribute to her role as a driving force in Beautiful Losers artistic development and integrity.

As the audience watches the Beautiful Losers exhibition snowball to worldwide acclaim, it is treated to an uplifting story of self-belief, creativity and success against the odds.
Oscar Wilde once said a critic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing -- but it is the undeniable value of their art that "Beautiful Losers" impresses.

The ability to harness their wealth of creativity and insist upon its worth long before public recognition is worthy of respect from even the most cynical.

Although this inspirational and uplifting work could be criticized for being overlong, it is nevertheless mandatory viewing for anyone with creative aspirations.

Beautiful Losers will be screened at the London Film Festival on October 18 at 18.30 and October 21 at 16.15.

-- From CNN's Simon Laub

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Friday, August 29, 2008
Who owns this mystery yacht?
VENICE, Italy -- Yesterday, I experienced one of those strange moments when life imitates art.

There is the most huge, glamorous yacht moored next to the waterfront outside my hotel near St Mark’s Square in Venice. This thing must be about 50 meters long. It’s all mahogany panelling, white-clad deckhands and, of course, the ubiquitous sunglasses-wearing security men loitering outside.

Each morning as I wander down the waterfront to catch the vaporetto (water bus) across the lagoon to the Lido where the festival is running, I wonder who on earth owns this floating behemoth.

Yesterday, completely by accident, I solved the mystery.

I was in the festival’s cavernous Sala Grande cinema watching a documentary when the very boat –- moored in exactly the same position –- popped up on the screen!

I now know the boat belongs to tan-fastic Italian couturier Valentino Garavani who is in town for the premiere of “Valentino: The Last Emperor.” I am now also fully au fait with the interior of his floating palace.

The film is great, too. I went in expecting 90 minutes of fashion fluff, but ex-journalist Matt Tyrnauer ended up chronicling Valentino's last days at the head of the fashion house he created more than 40 years ago.

The ex-Vanity Fair special correspondent managed to gain complete access to Valentino and his associate of 47 years, Giancarlo Giammetti. “They were extraordinarily brave to let cameras live with them for two years. I think that was admirable,” says the director.

The crowd gave Valentino a standing ovation at the end of the screening:

Valentino says: "I wanted to show myself as I am because I couldn't care less about the camera." And there are some hilarious moments -- one of his five pugs having his teeth brushed by the butler; an unplanned moment where the maestro throws a hissy fit because he's not getting enough attention: "I want everyone on their knees in front of me!"

But the film is also moving. Tyrnauer can't have known it would end like this, but he ended up shooting 250 hours of footage during the time of a hostile takeover that led to the 75-year-old maestro being replaced as head of Valentino by 35-year-old ex-Gucci designer Alessandra Fachinetti.

Ultimately, the film is an extraordinary portrait of Valentino and Giametti's relationship. It's not made explicit whether the couple's bond extends beyond the boardroom, but when Valentino accepts the Legion d'Honneur it is Giametti to whom he offers an emotional special thanks.

As I walked to my hotel last night, Valentino was partying the night away at his opening night bash with the likes of Eva Herzigova. I looked up at the windows of the boat feeling like I knew the distant man a little more intimately.

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