So it was five or six of us drinking wine until sun up. Wine and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” An odd combination, but I did enjoy. Fortunately, someone was kind enough to drive me back to my hotel, and drop me off at eight in the morning, just in time for the breakfast. I didn’t even bother going up to my room to freshen up, I just went straight to the restaurant, ready to be jury wrangled.

For those of you that don’t know (which would be most of you) what goes on at the jury breakfast, I shall tell you. The members of the different juries sit at a large table, spooning at cold porridge, while jury wrangler Arik Sokol circles the table, baseball bat in hand, screaming at anyone that dares look him in the eye.

You can believe that, or you can believe that we ate a delicious breakfast while Arik provided us with all of the pertinent info we needed as jurors. Choose your own adventure.

And it was at this breakfast that I was finally able to meet my other fellow jury member, Curtiss Clayton, another amazing member of the team. Despite sounding like he had a bit of a rough trip into Birmingham due to the hurricane nearby, he was ready to see the rest of the films we needed to see as jurors. Yes, it was Saturday, the festival was in full swing and we had movies to see. But first, Eric had to take a quick nap.

Up and alive a few hours later, I headed out for the festival to catch the screening of “The Unseen.” And, as I was soon to discover, I was just in time for the lovely storm. Walking down the street to the theater, it’s not like I felt it begin raining and then it just started pouring, I could see the storm heading directly towards me. You see all of that rain moving down the street towards you and it kicks in the instinct to turn and…RUN!!! And run I did, finding shelter underneath an awning before getting too soaked. I shared the space with a couple homeless guys and we shot the shit about the weather. Well, what else are you gonna talk about while hiding out from the rain? Fortunately, the rain let up a bit after a few minutes, just enough so that I could make it to the theater in time to see “The Unseen.”

The Unseen

Old childhood demons are dug up as an African American man, Roy, returns to the small southern town he grew up in, inheriting his father’s store upon his passing. As a child, one of Roy’s best friends was a white boy named Harold whose father happened to be a Klan member. Of course, this didn’t bode well for the boys’ friendship and it soon dissolved, even instilling a hatred in Harold towards Roy. Years later, Roy finds that hatred still intact as he attempts to settle back into his childhood home. Delivering a package to Harold’s house one day, Roy finds Harold’s brother, Sammy, a blind shut-in, locked away by Harold, attempting to make a break for it out the window. Roy and Sammy form an unlikely bond, a bond that enrages Harold and causes the mother of all conflicts, one that’s bound to spring forth some truth lying behind all of those demons. Starring Steve Harris as Roy, Gale Harold as Harold and Phillip Bloch as Sammy, “The Unseen” is an emotionally tense movie. Sniffles could be heard throughout the audience as the end credits began their roll. Mission accomplished.

Following the screening was a locally produced short film called “Who Killed Tangerine?” No, it’s not a Tears for Fears music video, it’s a trippy little film about a guy who suddenly starts receiving sinister phone messages. Something about a tangerine and it’s in trouble…she’s in trouble. This girl, Tangerine, she’s in trouble, or is she? The race begins to figure out just who this girl is and more importantly, what’s her problem. We’re not sure what’s real and what isn’t as this guy runs about town trying to solve what appears to be a really bad nervous breakdown. The action here is tight and the film has you guessing right till the very end. Seeing a bunch of local people in the film I knew from hanging out at the festival was a bonus, too. A wise man named Jeff Spicoli once said, “Hey, I know that dude.”

So, after such an emotionally charged feature and a mindbender of a short, it was time to blow off some steam at another party – WOOOOO! On the 16th floor of an office building, we came, we drank, we listened to loud music. Surrounded by windows, we partied while getting an eyeful of downtown Birmingham at night. A couple of bands played, including a Novem cover band. “Novem” is a film that was playing Sidewalk that weekend, a faux documentary about a fictitious band that met with a tragic end. The Novem cover band rocked the house, but it was seeing a good friend who drove in from Austin that was the highlight of the evening. You know who you are.

Once that party began to fade, it was back to the Redmont for more drinks and hijinks until someone came up with the grand idea that it was time to go dancing. Moments later it was a select few of us heading off to Station for a little clubbin’ action. Being that it was a Saturday night, the place was way more packed than when I had been there previously on Thursday night. Way more packed and way LOUDER. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old man, it had been a really long day with lots of drinking involved. For some reason that didn’t mix well with this aural barrage. “Americano” filmmaker turned festival pal Kevin Noland agreed by describing the place as “violent.” So, with that being said, it was back to our hotel rooms to prepare for the last day of festivities. I couldn’t even tell you what time it was.

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

Posted on October 11, 2005 in Festivals by

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