Friday, May 26, 2006

issue 20: Tribeca All Access

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Download Jennifer_Lopez wallpaperWHO'S GOT THE MOVES?...MTV has green lit Jennifer Lopez's reality show, " Moves," which will shadow six dancers as they try to land gigs. Exec producer and former "In Living Color" Fly Girl dancer Lopez will help pick dancers as well as make cameo appearances throughout the eight-episode season. It begins the fourth quarter of this year. But get this, MTV has also announced an untitled "street" dance reality show from J. Lo's ex, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. Seems MTV has dance fever. Let's see if J. Lo or Diddy wins this ratings battle, which will be fought out on the dance floor.

ENCORE PERFORMANCE...And speaking of P. Diddy, just as Sidney Poitier brought his Walter Lee from Broadway to film, so shall Combs, who starred in a revival of A Raisin In The Sun on Broadway in 2004. Fellow play cast members, Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald, and Sanaa Lathan, are in the TV film for ABC, which will begin shooting this December in Toronto. Let's hope TV critics are kinder to Diddy's TV performance.

SAY A LITTLE PRAYER...If you haven't gotten one yet, you probably will--an email visual/slide show pray for Whitney Houston. The one sent to us had lots of "Before" and "After" photos, and a universal prayer for the singer/actress. Maybe her sister-in-law got tired of speaking to The National Enquirer and sent it out.

..."Girlfriends" fans, if you've been wondering what happened to Cee Cee Michaela (aka William's ex-cop girlfriend), she's been off creating spiritual getaways called Holywood Retreats ( ). The second annual one is about to happen, on July 13-15. This retreat is done in conjunction with Cee Cee's GodzGirl Network, and it's not just a spiritual retreat. Planned are seminars on entrepreneurship, money matters, industry image making, even AIDS education.

CITY OF HYPHY...BET's Mad Linx explores the hip-hop phenomenon “Hyphy,” which started in California's Oakland/Bay Area. His show, "Rap City," will explore the music and its most prominent players--including Too $hort, E-40, Heiroglyphics, and Davey D from May 30 to June 5th. So if you wanna be up on the latest rap movement, you have to tune in. Check local listings for exact time.

...Queen Latifah will play an AIDS' activist in Life Support, an HBO TV movie about the HIV crisis in the black community. The project is based on the life of writer Nelson George's sister and their family. George will direct from his script. Shooting begins next month in New York.

...The Langston Hughes African American Film Festival 2007 has officially called for f
ilms about African-Americans and people of African descent from around the world. Filmmakers do not have to be Black, but film themes must have primary focus on Black people, Black life, and/or Black culture. Genres/themes: dramatic narrative, animation, shorts, children's/youth films, lesbian/gay, documentary, experimental. Deadline: January 31, 2007. Visit

GLOBAL VIEW...The San Francisco Black Film Festival (SFBFF) is set to take place June 6-June 11, at various venues in the city, including the new Museum of the African Diaspora. Since 1998, SFBFF ( has presented work by independent filmmakers from every culture and country. The opening film this year is Son of Man from South Africa.

BLACK STAR POWER...The folks over at the Hollywood Black Film Fest gmailed to let us know how star-packed the event is going to be this year. So far, screenings include 104 features, shorts, student, documentaries, animation, and music videos including 30 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres and 5 Los Angeles Premieres. Among them: Shottas, directed by Cess Silvera and starring Ky-Mani Marley, Spragga Benz, Paul Campbell, Wyclef Jean, Lennox Lewis; Restraining Order starring Robin Givens and Sean Blakemore; Craig Ross Jr.'s Traci Townsend with Richard T. Jones and Mari Morrow. Be sure to check out our daily festival blogs!

MALE BONDING...Guess where Mekhi Phifer, Tyson Beckford, Duane Martin, and athlete/sometime-actor Rick Fox will be on June 1st? At a fly Beverly Hills estate along with other stag partiers attending an event called House of Hype celebrating the 2006 MTV Movie Awards. They'll also be checking out the manly swag at House of Hype. Tauted as the "Ultimate Gentleman's Retreat," House of Hype will house men's luxury lifestyle products--automotive, fashion, grooming, health, sports, and technology.
Ah, the perks of being a celebrity.



In an attempt to do battle with the ever-expanding Google, eBay has announced an agreement with Yahoo. Under this new business deal, eBay will receive text-based advertising while Yahoo gains access to eBay's PayPal payment program. In a press statement, the companies explained that the multi-year strategic partnership "consists of four major components in the areas of search and graphical advertising, online payments, a co-branded toolbar, and the opportunity to explore "click-to-call" functionality."

"Our consumers will benefit from the combination of Yahoo! and eBay's leading technology and services, providing them with one of the best online experiences," said Terry Semel, chairman and chief executive officer, Yahoo! Inc. "Yahoo! holds a leadership position in all forms of online advertising. This partnership with eBay provides us with a great opportunity to further extend our sponsored search and graphical advertising reach to one of the largest and most active communities on the Web."

"We are thrilled to be working more closely with Yahoo! and we think this agreement represents a great opportunity to benefit our communities and grow our businesses," said Meg Whitman, president and chief executive officer, eBay Inc. "Yahoo! offers an engaged online audience, which drives massive traffic through its rich consumer content and premium services. Working together, we can create more exposure for our properties, which in turn makes them more valuable to our users."

According to industry insiders, PayPal represents about 20% of eBay's revenue. With this new partnership, Yahoo can offer digital content for sale with PayPal as a payment method. While Yahoo is the most visited website, it has been steadily losing ground to Google. And, according to ComScore, EBay is the Internet's fifth most visited site. According to reports, no money is changing hands; both companies will share revenue, splitting proceeds from advertising and PayPal fees. Full implementation of the plan, say the companies, will be complete by 2007, with the first phase to begin over the next few months.



No doubt, you caught our daily round-ups during the Tribeca Film Festival but this facet is just so special, we decided to give ya a "remix" on it just in case it got lost in the shuffle. What are we referring to? The portion of the Tribeca Film Institute known as Tribeca All Access (TAA), an arm we just happened to stumble upon. It turns out that this gem was actually installed to assist filmmakers and screenwriters of color. So for those you know who may be encountering obstacles with a stellar project, read on. This just may be the answer.

According TAA director Beth Janson, the program was launched just three years ago and was started by the festival programmers since they believed their overall submissions lacked diversity from U.S. directors. "We wanted the submissions to reflect the fabric of the city and wondered how to get the word out to them to let them know the Festival is for them too," explains Janson. So they developed an entity that would not only do this but also truly help in terms of creating co-productions.

It's really quite simple, actually: Hopefuls can even apply with even just a completed script (however, for documentaries, it is required that is shooting has at least begun). Hundreds of submission come in during the acceptance period in the fall and 30 are selected from that grouping via a rigorous application process akin to that of applying to a top graduate school!. Those which are selected are then paired with established industry notables so that new connections can be made. Janson stresses, however, that TAA's mission--at least for the moment--is more about preparation and assistance for the business side of projects, not so much the creative. "This is, for example," she states, "about how to pitch in order to get one's project completed. And we pair the filmmakers with industry reps who are really actually looking for new material so there are real opportunities created here! The idea is actually to give traction to current films."

TAA also provides some grant awards as well. Janson noted that the organization's biggest success story to date is Antoine Fuqua's agreement to sign on as executive producer of a soccer story recently submitted. But when asked about the biggest hurdle TAA faces, Janson added: "I think the biggest current challenge for the program is the one our filmmakers face when trying to make their films--getting them to be considered as storytellers FIRST and foremost without having to deal with pre-conceptions that some members of the industry may have because of the communities they are coming from. This will continue to change though as the financiers and development side becomes more diverse. And don't get me started on audience demographics and how that determines which films get made (as long as we continue to use race and ethnicity as a factor in demographics, it will be a factor in what the industry invests in)." This woman obviously gets it!

TAA works with such organizations as DV Republic, the Hip Hop Association, and the Black Documentary Collective as well as Asian and Latino sources in order to get the word out about its existence. These organizations also give feedback to the TAA on its endeavors, films, etc. as well. If you miss any of this outreach, interested filmmakers should also visit for more information on sessions held in NY and L.A. to attend question and answer sessions about the program.

Tribeca All Access is aptly titled so because the organization's mission is to open doors to decision makers in the industry. "I hope we do a good job at that," adds Janson.The A-List would say just the mere attempt is even already a magnificent start. Shout out to TAA.

Busta Rhymes, Chingy, Eddie Murphy's ex-Nicole Mitchell, John Salley, partin' at TRUE Magazine's 6th anniversary bash on May 17 at Hollywood & Highlands Nightclub in L.A.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Cannes #3

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Hello From Cannes. Day Three.

Yesterday, I'd planned a whole day of screenings for today beginning at 10am. However, a very late night last night was the reason for my 1PM wake-up call today. After "breakfast" and the beach, it was close to 4PM by the time I hit the Croisette. Ce la'Vie.

Volver Movie Stills: Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Due�as, Pedro Almodovar
Pedro Almodovar's Volver

And yes, I know that's probably not spelled right. But at this point, I've butchered the French language so badly, I have no more shame.

Anyway, my pal Nia and I were excited to catch an afternoon screening of Pedro Almodovar's latest, Volver, starring Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura. It's classic Almodovar with all his quirky trademarks. In Spanish with English subtitles, the story has its share of twists and turns following three generations of women in one family dealing with abusive husbands, economic issues, and supernatural sightings. It's wonderfully all over the map. I have to say, this has to be one of Penelope's best performances--if not the best. She is always too dry for me. Here, she EMOTES, and the audience loves her for it.

After the screening, we grabbed cheap Chinese food. With three days of pasta, pizza, croissants and creams literally under our belts, all we wanted was something different. Home-made egg rolls did the trick.

We then split up. Nia saw Claire Simon's Ca Brule. I went to check out the market premiere of We Do Not Exist by Herve Pierre Gustave. In this brash bit of film, the director plays the lead role of a 39-year-old porn star who wants to radically change his life. As he enters his new mainstream world, he is rejected at every turn--personally and professionally. But his strong will leads him to a tolerant, tattooed punk rock beauty and a better sense of himself. This flick, in French with English subtitles, was bizarre and hard to watch at times. But there were some nice moments. Still, I don't know if I'd recommend it.

I then headed over to Plage Mace, a massive outdoor movie screen propped up on gleaming silver pillars in the ocean. You watch from the sand on sling back beach chairs provided by the fest. You can also grab a complimentary blanket to get cozy. Very cool to watch a film under the stars with the waves hitting the shore and these oversized images in front of you. Loved the experience, even if the film--Electroma--left a little to be desired.

On my way back to the hotel, I passed the frenzy of the red carpet for the traditional "Climbing of the Stairs." This is the media and fan circus that takes place for all premieres scheduled in the Grand Theatre Lumiere. It's the visual that most of us envision when we think of Cannes. Starlets in evening gowns and handsome gents in tuxedos waving to throngs of international press on those red carpeted steps.

Tonight, the premiere was of X-Men The Last Stand. I tried to make my way through the hysterical crowds as quickly as possible. On my way, I THINK I saw Sam Jackson and Elijah Wood. But just in case either is in Santa Monica sipping lattes on Montana, don't hold me to it.

XMEN is one of several big studio films that have overtaken the Croisette with monstrous billboards. The best boards I've seen though are Dreamgirls (ok, maybe I'm a bit biased) and Miami Vice. That Miami Vice one is at the entrance of the Carlton and is fabulous. Jamie Foxx looks excellent--bald, sunglasses, simmering. The images of him and Colin Farrell are in this cool blueish, green tint. You know Michael Mann is sick with his stuff. I'm looking forward to that one strictly due to that damn board at Cannes.

While here, I've learned that this whole scene is really all about perception and buzz-building. And if in between the heavy creme pasta and the many, many parties you can catch some films, more power to ya. I did my best to break away for the swank and the bling, and am happy with what I saw film-wise. After writing and directing my first short, Saturday Night Life, and screening it here at Cannes, I now understand that each and every film--regardless of its critical or audience reception--is an accomplishment. It's harder for me to slam the films I don't love and easier to praise something when it goes even a little right. Making a film ain't easy and the first-hand experience has definitely made me a kinder critic.

Well, tomorrow, I head out. I'm glad I "did" Cannes. It's definitely a fest that's worth the pilgrimage.

--AMD, Cannes 05-22-06.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


The last couple of days in Cannes have been a whirlwind of good movies, good dinners and good parties. As the movies are what I came for, I'll get straight to the films.

Fast Food Nation

First up was Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation starring Oscar-nominated Catalina Sandino Moreno, Greg Kinnear, Ethan Hawke, Esai Morales, Wilmer Valderama, Patricia Arquette and Bruce Willis. I was pre-inclined toward this film because I think Linklater is bad-ass. Truly one of the most bold, imaginative, constantly evolving filmmakers of his generation. I'm a fan.

Fast Food Nation aims to do for the fast food industry what Traffic did for the drug trade. It pulls back the curtain of secrecy to reveal the trickle down effect of corporate corruption on hard-working people, primarily immigrants. The piece was entertaining and did a good job of making its point without being preachy. Three intersecting stories follow two Mexican sisters who sneak over the border to make a new life in the meat-packing industry, a corporate bigshot sent to investigate the nasty results of a recent hidden camera bacteria test, and a bright high school student who works the register at one of the burger franchises, and begins to feel used. All are making compromises and all are pawns in a larger game, from which the public suffers. I promise, after seeing this, I won't eat a burger quite the same way again--if I eat one at all.

Next, I saw several shorts, including my own, in The Short Film Corner. My film, Saturaday Night Life, starring Melissa DeSousa of The Best Man, seemed well-received. It was coupled with several other films that deal with issues of family and womanhood. I was pleased and felt blessed to show at Cannes.

Later, I saw a feature called The Hawk Is Dying. It premiered at Sundance a few months back, but I missed the Park City run so decided to check out a market screening here in one of the smaller theaters. The screening began with about 50 people. By the end, there were 4 of us left. I have to admit, the film is challenging. One of those stories where you have to COMMIT, explore it in your head and hope for a reward at the end. Well, the reward was definitely the performance of Paul Giamatti. Stellar in Cinderella Man and Sideways, he plays a sad man whose only passions are falconry and his mentally challenged nephew. Uh... Yes, I said falconry. Like falcons and hawks. Anyhoo, tragedy follows and the piece gets pretty low and sometimes off track. But I approached it as a metaphor about one's soul, our connectedness, our very being. It worked for me and in the end, I enjoyed the outcome.

Tomorrow, I have a full slate of things to see so stay tuned. It's 4am here, so time to wind down. Au'revoir!

-AMD, Cannes 5-21-06