Blog: Braff’s buzzy premiere, I Origins’ low-budget love

Alan Bacchus weighs in on Zach Braff's (controversially) Kickstarter-funded film Wish I Was Here and is transfixed by Mike Cahill's I Origins (pictured).

Day 4 at the festival began with the anticipated Skeleton Twins, Craig Johnson’s dramedy notable for its SNL alum casting of Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader playing siblings reconnecting after the suicide attempt of Hader’s character.

With the exception of a couple of riotous comic scenes of the pair riffing like a classic comedic duo act, heavy drama leads the way. It’s a sure-fire pickup at some point during the festival, for mature audiences that can relate to the late-30s life-crisis phenomenon.

The major pick up of the day was no surprise at all – Zach Braff’s Kickstarter film, Wish I Was Here by Focus Features – although I believe the value is less in the quality of the movie than the already receptive audience primed to see the movie.

Personally I found the film lacking the inspiration of his first film Garden State. Of course, Braff’s high-profile Kickstarter campaign famously divided industry folk, ticking off those who felt he was diverting funds away from more deserving productions, versus others who saw the platform as means to build audience.

Personally, I’m on the latter side of the fence, as I don’t believe crowd funding is a zero-sum game, and can only aid in the ever changing low-budget financing landscape. However, the inability of some of those who contributed funds to get a ticket to the premiere caused a minor stir.

Low Down might just be the major talent discovery of the festival, specifically Jeff Preiss, the director whose film depicts the real life story of Joe Albany (John Hawkes), an L.A.-based jazz pianist and his struggle with heroin told from the viewpoint of his strong but impressionable daughter (Elle Fanning).

Vivid ’70s period detail and freeform narrative style elegantly connects to the rich jazz music prominent in the film. I’ll bet performances from Fanning, Hawkes and a fine supporting turn from Glenn Close will be in contention during next year’s award season.

Another surprise of the festival is Desiree Akhavan, writer/director/star of the low budget but witty and acerbic lesbian romcom, Appropriate Behavior.

Akhavan’s frank discussions of sex, self-effacing comedic style and NYC locales have drawn comparisons to Lena Dunham. But Akhavan’s second-gen Iranian background adds another cultural layer to the New York relationship comedy genre.

I Origins has also titillated folks around here – a divisive film from Mike Cahill the writer/director of Another Earth. This picture takes the sci-fi existential romance is even grander in concept and scope. Rigorous intellectually, the film threatens to get crushed under its own grand concepts, but Cahill admirably doesn’t back down from the challenge of stimulating our brains while moving us emotionally in equal measure. As impressive is Cahill’s low budget philosophy which is mostly invisible to the screen. (After this article was written, Variety reported the film was acquired for an unconfirmed $3 million by Fox Searchlight.)

Lastly Pat Kiely’s comedy Three Night Stand, which was produced by Robert Vroom (Banner House Productions) and EP’d by Marie-Claude Poulin and Pierre Evan, Meaghan Rath, Emily Alden and Brian Vroom. The film was screened at Whistler last month, and played at Slamdance on Sunday evening.

Myriad Pictures is repping world sales of Three Night Stand. 

I Origins photo via Credit: Jelena Vukotic

alanbheadshotAlan Bacchus is the Programs Manager for Bell Media’s The Harold Greenberg Fund, overseeing the Script Development Program for Canadian feature films. Alan is a member of the Online Film Critics Society, writing for Exclaim! as well as his own blog,  Alan has also produced and directed a number of short films.