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Columns > Dean Budnick - From the Editor

Published: 2007/03/24
by Dean Budnick

My Festival Top 10

Over the past year, the bulk of the emails that I received touched on two specific topics (btw, the volume of those emails has reached several hundred a day and no I don’t mean spam, so, by way of a public service announcement I beseech you, hang on, I’ll get back to you soon).

One popular subject of correspondence, as you might imagine, focuses on specific bands, and why we should cover them at the site (Downers Grove fans may be leading the league, here). The other group of emails has posited a range of questions about the documentary film I directed, Wetlands Preserved, along with some queries about my festival experiences a whole.

So since month, we are continuing our reader Top 10 series (and please submit something to us-, I figured that I would offer up my own list, which will focus on festivals. Nope, not music festivals (stay tuned for that one) but rather film festivals and in particular those that have screened our film over the past seven months. While it’s not a Top 10 list per se, it does touch on ten separate categories (which is fair game, btw, for those of you who wish to submit your own lists).

Before we get there, the question I probably receive most is, “When will Wetlands Preserved come out on DVD?” The answer isplease stay tuned. We’re just wrapping up our film festival run (SXSW, quite fittingly may be the climax).

Anyhow, here is my Festival Top 10, based on my experiences with Wetlands Preserved

Best Panels- Santa Barbara International Film Festival (with SXSW a close second). I spent an entire day at SBIFF engrossed in the panels and tributes. The directing panel included: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (_Babel_), Todd Field (_Little Children_), Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (_Little Miss Sunshine_), John Lasseter (_Cars_). The writing panel offered: Michael Arndt (_Little Miss Sunshine_), Guillermo Arriaga (_Babel_), Aline Brosh McKenna (_Devil Wears Prada_), Peter Morgan (_The Queen_/_The Last King of Scotland_), and Jason Reitman (_Thank You For Smoking_).

Best Official Festival Support Network- Breckenridge Film Festival. Every festival I attended was friendly to filmmakers but Breckenridge took things a bit further by assigning “community liaisons” to everyone coming in from out of town. Sandi and Bill Bruns went above and beyond the call of duty in squiring me around Breckenridge, offering restaurant tips (along with a brew pub lunch) and passing along color photocopies of an article that ran on our film.

Geekiest Festival- SXSW, hands down and I mean this in the best way possible. Film geeks aplenty (and given the scope and mission of the festival, music geeks and Internet geeks as well).

Best Vibe- This is a tough one because to be honest, I had a wonderful time at each of the festivals I attended. I have nothing but plaudits for the screening venues, organizations and audiences (and while out there I heard some negative feedback about other fests). However, as I look back, there was something really special about the Woodstock Film Festival. Somewhere between the programming, the proximity of most theaters, the responsive filmgoers, the food and certainly, the Catskills in the fall.

Best Award from a Festival I Did Not Attend- We won Best Documentary at the Asheville Film Festival. Unfortunately, life intervened at the last minute and I wasn’t able to make the trip. So other than a big thank you, I don’t really have much in the way of commentary, other than the acknowledgement that Asheville has remained deeply supportive of the arts over the years.

Festival That Came Closest to the Mission of Our Film- This one goes to the Global Peace Festival down in Orlando. This is another one where we screened in absentia but I receive some glowing emails from folks who attended (including a bonus outdoor event at Rollins College). Our Story of An Activist Rock Club was well-suited for the GPFF.

Best Series- New York City’s New Filmmakers takes place each Wednesday at the Anthology Film Archives. Not a festival but similar in that you submit your work and then a curator selects and programs the films. Our screening went quite well, as it drew in Wetlands alums and an NYC Crew, along with several new faces and friends who have come to champion the film.

Best Parties- I have come to recognize that some folks deem this to be an essential part of the whole film festival experience. I have to admit, my preference is for something in chill/lounge continuum but I can appreciate spectacle for spectacle’s sake. And in that realm, I’ll tap Santa Barbara. Still this category is a three way tie, as I’d also like to recognize SXSW, a quality blend of geeky and intense (see Geekiest above) while Woodstock once again is notable for its vibe (you guessed it, see Vibe above).

Best Short Films- My nod here goes to the Rhode Island International Film Festival in my own home state. The RIIFF had the most expansive and eclectic shorts programming of the festivals I attended.

Best Music Films- While this one may be evident to many of you, nonetheless, let me anoint SXSW. Just in case you weren’t aware (and I recognize that many of you know this) SXSW offers a 24 Beats Per Second music documentary program. For some time now this program has long been a consistent source of the year’s best in music films. I have long made a point of seeking out those documentaries, whether it be at other fests or later on DVD. At any rate, I’ll admit it was quite gratifying to be part of the action this year.

I reckon that’s the good word. Please keep your Top 10’s flowing our way

Later days and peace,

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