Seven hours of sleep later and it was noon. I had missed the filmmaker retreat. It was disappointing for sure, but what was more disappointing was that I felt old and lazy. At last year’s festival, I was working on three hours of sleep max every night and here I was snagging seven. What a hog.

Fortunately, I was able to get a hold of Elizabeth Wood and she agreed to pick me up for lunch. I had met Liz the night before at Station. While not actually working with the festival, she’s worked with and knows many of the Sidewalk folks and local filmmakers. So, in a way, I was still keeping the Sidewalk experience going strong. I hadn’t completely left the pack. Lunch was great, but it was the trip to the bookstore afterwards that was the brain melter. We took a trip to Jim Reed Books, more of a museum than a bookstore actually, jam packed with posters, toys, records, old film equipment, assorted knick knacks, and, yes, books. Looking for that old hard-backed Hardy Boys collection you used to have as a kid? Jim Reed has them at his store. And let’s not forget the Zoloft clock. Yes, a Zoloft clock. Never has the term “happy hour” had more meaning. I encourage everyone to check out this store, especially if you attend the festival next year. Make Jim Reed Books a must stop sight seeing destination. Jim is the King and I salute him.

Later that evening was the opening night party, different from the kick-off party the night before. It was a gorgeous rooftop location where we could all drink, eat and check out the surrounding Birmingham area, including the Alabama Theatre where we would all be heading for the opening night film, “Americano.” I had met the director of “Americano,” Kevin Noland, the evening before at the kick-off party. He had confessed that the article I had written on Sidewalk last year had absolutely piqued his interest in the festival and that he was looking for the same kind of slam-bang hellraising time I had depicted in that piece. I swore to not let him down, however, I did manage to lose him just about every night. I could only imagine that he was off leading his own hellraising mission, just like any good soldier should. Anyway, I was looking forward to seeing his film and I told him at the kick-off party that if his film turned out to be crap, I’d slug him in the gut. Not very jury-like of me, I know. What can I say? I have no class. None. A perfect example:

Convinced that I would be able to make it across the street with a beer in each hand, I was stopped as soon as I made it out of the door of the party. Liz Wood was accompanying me and her exclamation of “Police!” was what brought me to a halt. Thinking that she meant a cop car was passing by, I was quick to hide the beers behind my back. But looking back at the doorway I had just walked through, I found that a cop car wasn’t what I needed to be concerned with. Two police officers were standing at the door, monitoring the departing guests. And now, they were monitoring me as I stood ther with double fisted beers. The jig was up. The party was over. I was frozen in my spot and I resigned to my fate – I would have to duck back inside and drink these beers quicker than any beers I have ever drank before. And just as my liver started flexing its muscles, the officers did the unexpected. They told me to just stick the bottles in my pockets. Never one to disrespect authority, not to its face anyway, I complied and walked off to the Alabama Theatre with my pockets filled with beer. Perhaps they were just security guards. I’ll never know. But, man, were they nice guys.

Preceding “Americano” was a trailer for a film made by a group of local filmmakers, the crew responsible for last year’s award winning Alice’s Misadventures in Wonderland, led by director Robert Rugan. The film is “Limbo,” and even though production is just starting on it, the crew had shot material for a trailer, a little taste of what’s to come. Rob had sent me the script a while back, and I finally got the chance to read it the weekend before this festival, so the story was fresh in my mind and I was curious to see what they were going to do with the material. I’ll say this, it’s a kind of otherworldly serial killer type thing and I’ll say no more. Well, I’ll also say that the trailer completely blew away my expectations – it’s loud, sharp, tense and it rocked the asses of everyone at the Alabama Theatre that night. The place was packed and the Alabama is huge, so that’s a lot of asses that got rocked that night. You’ll be reading more about “Limbo” right here at Film Threat shortly. This spooky thriller is going to gain a lot of fans. The Alabama film community is a force to be reckoned with.


As it turns out, no gut punches needed to be made that weekend. “Americano” is an exhilarating trip through Spain as three American college graduates blow off some steam, indulging in all this foreign land has to offer, which includes taking part in the running of the bulls. The movie is driven by character experience more than plot. As Ryan (Timm Sharp), Michelle (Ruthanna Hopper) and Chris (Josh Jackson) venture further into Spain, they take the viewer right along with them, making for a kind of European vacation for the audience, with clueless, but adorable travel guides no less. Amongst other places, their travels bring them to a bar called “Americano,” where they run into the tripped out bar owner played by Dennis Hopper. Chris also meets a mysterious Spanish woman, Adela (Leonor Varela) who takes him and his friends in at her home, quickly turning their adventure into a quiet countryside vacation. Things get even more interesting as Chris and Adela form a bond as the relationship between Ryan and Michelle begin to show signs of strain. Beautifully shot and filled with lovable characters you could watch for hours, “Americano” is an amazing journey that makes one yearn for travel. Now, who’s coming to Spain with me?

The after-party took place at a restaurant called Los Angeles, of all things. Cool place, even cooler due to the keg sitting in the middle of it. And they have this salsa there that needs to be tasted to be believed. I was wondering why everyone I ran into reeked of garlic. Then I tasted the salsa and everything was so clear.

After a while we all decided to move the party over to one of the designated festival hotels, the Redmont where we hung out for quite a while, as it was around three in the morning, I believe, when everyone disbanded. It was casual. Just a bunch of people hanging out on the patio in front of the hotel, good gettin’ to know ya type activity, made even better by the ice chests filled with beer a certain someone who was generous enough to supply us with. So, three in the morning. Not bad. It looked like it was going to be an early evening and that’s a good thing being that I had an eight in the morning jury breakfast to be at, conveniently taking place in the restaurant of my hotel. No problem.

But that all ended when someone mentioned that there was wine at her house if anyone cared to come over.

The story continues in part four of BACK TO THE SIDEWALK>>>

Posted on October 11, 2005 in Festivals by

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