Same procedure as last year – the festival kicked off thursday morning with a film fund pitch competition led by its festival director Teddy Grouya. A dozen of projects were presented in a more than two hour long session, free and and open to the public. As one of the jurors for the competition – ”up to $50.000 in awards ia available” – I can not highlight which projects that I will support, when we have our decision meeting. The results will be announced at the end of the festival. What I can express is my appreciation of the competition itself that gives young American independent filmmakers the chance to put forward their works, most of them ”in progress”, many at the point of final editing, and several giving the comment that they have self-financed the production and need help to get a strong editor on board to complete the film. The pitch structure is very simple – 3 minutes of trailer/teaser, the filmmaker(s) on stage, some few questions/comments from the jurors, the session moderated in a relaxed manner by Teddy Grouya. As put last year, we Europeans should learn from this pitch format.
The opening night at the Camelot theatre brought a full hall to celebrate Joe Berlinger, who received the annual ”Seeing the Bigger Picture Award”, which has been previously been given to Oliver Stone, Harvey Weinstein and Peter Bogdanovich. Berlinger was there and a retrospective of his work will be shown at the festival, including works like ”Brother’s Keeper” (1992), ”Under African Skies” (Paul Simon in South Africa 25 years after ”Graceland” was released) and ”Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger” (2014).
Last night he showed his latest work ”Tony Robbins. I am not your Guru”, an almost 2 hour long – as the Americans say – vérité documentary about the life coach and best selling author, who was there to meet the audience, that was thrilled by the charismatic man, a true performer, who was filmed by Berlinger in a six day seminar with 2500 people attending. As put by the director, this film is for him a ”feel good” film, whereas his works always have been with a sceptical documentary eye, ”feel bad” films he jokingly said. It is a fascinating, well made documentary with a sympathetic main character, who – the film demonstrates – gives hope to people to overcome traumas and live a better life full of Love. ”I am addicted to help”, said Robbins, who was welcomed to the festival as a rock star in a film that shows a sooo American phenomenon, that I can only agree with a French director, who characterised the film as being – as well – an anthropological study of an American way of dealing with how to find yourself and overcome crisis and traumas. Made with respect and appreciation of Robbins, who is an overwhelmingly convincing character.