We just returned from screening the film at the Utopia Film Festival in Greenbelt, MD. Instead of the regular blog writeup, we interviewed each other during the drive back using my crappy cell phone microphone for something a little different.
Links of Interest:
Here’s a link to a recent article posted on Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf…
For the 4th year in a row, the Baseball Film Festival has presented newly-released films of any genre with a baseball component. Stephen Light, the festival organizer, mentioned during his opening remarks that they had more submissions this year than ever and had tough choices to narrow the field down to the 13 films shown over 3 days in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Signs of the Time was accepted as an official selection amongst other feature documentaries and shorts.
The opening night program consisted of a great film called “The Lost Son of Havana” which follows Luis Tiant’s life and career in baseball and as he returns to Cuba for the first time in 46 years. Executive Producer Bobby Farrelly and Producer Kris Meyer were there to present and give a Q&A.
Our film played right after to a packed house starting around 8:15pm, including a father and son who told us they traveled from Maine to see the film because they knew Bill Werber and had visited with him before he passed away this past spring. We also had a deaf gentleman from Brockport who came down to see the film for the first time!
The rest of the weekend was a mix of watching baseball films, meeting filmmakers from around the country, sharing stories and going in all the shops on Main Street. If you’ve never been to Cooperstown, the fall is a real pretty time to go and the crowds are not huge so it’s easy to get around and see lots of stuff.
A couple noteworthy films that we saw are:
We Believe – a feature documentary about the century long love affair between the city of Chicago and the Cubs. Although they haven’t won a World Series in over a hundred years, it stills remains one of the most devout fan bases and nicest ballparks in the major leagues. Director/Writer John Scheinfeld was on hand to present the film.
A Shortstop in China – follows Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. as he embarks on a 10-day tour of China for the State Department as an official representative of the United States and baseball. The film was produced by Renegade Productions out of Baltimore. It’s a very well put together film with alot of great moments.
Ghost Player – reveals the 18 year journey of a group of ballplayers that entertain crowds in Dyersville Iowa where they filmed the movie Field of Dreams. This group that started as just something fun to do on a Sunday ended up touring throughout Europe and Japan and changing lives. Filmmaker Joe Schermann presented the film.
The Festival culminated with the Awards Ceremony Sunday at 3pm. Although we were hopeful, being up against the many worthy films we had seen made no guarantee to win something. However… the film and baseball gods were smiling on us that weekend as we were selected for the 2009 Award for Baseball Excellence. The Award for Baseball Excellence is given to the film that excels in one or all of the following categories: research, historical context, appreciation of the game, and the embodiment of the spirit of baseball.
Thanks to all the judges and audience that supported our film and to all the other filmmakers who participated. It is real special to be part of a festival with such passion and achievement within the same genre.
It was extra special for me because my Wife, Mom Dad, Brother, and In-laws were all there to share it with us.
Troika of movies take home hardware in event’s fourth year
By Bill Francis / National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Published: 10/05/2009 2:10 PM ET
As big league baseball’s regular season came to a conclusion, except in the American League’s Central Division, the Fourth Annual Baseball Film Festival was ending another successful run.
The three-day long event, held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, ran from Friday through Sunday. In all, 13 films of varied baseball subject matter, ranging in length from 12 to 90 minutes, were shown at the Hall’s Bullpen Theater.
The festivities came to an end Sunday afternoon with three awards handed out at a closing ceremony in the Museum’s Grandstand Theater. Capturing the Best Film Award was The Lost Son of Havana, the Award for Baseball Excellence went to Signs of the Time, and El Play captured the Award for Film Making Excellence.
Reached by telephone after the awards were presented, an overjoyed Kris Meyer, a producer of The Lost Son of Havana who represented the film in Cooperstown along with Executive Producer Bobby Farrelly when it was shown Friday, said, “It has been an incredible honor to make a film about one of baseball’s legends, and to screen it in Cooperstown at the Baseball Film Festival and to win it is just icing on the cake.
“Hopefully, we’ll return with another film soon.” The Lost Son of Havana documented former Major League pitching star Luis Tiant’s emotional return to his home in Cuba after 46 years in exile, and Signs of the Time examined the complicated history of hand signals in baseball. “Just blown away,” said Signs of the Time Director Don Casper when asked for his thoughts afterwards. “To receive an award for baseball excellence from Cooperstown is a real honor, especially when you make a baseball film. Being here for three days, seeing the quality of films that we were up against, it makes it even more special because there were really a lot of great quality films here.”
El Play told the story of an aspiring Dominican ballplayer from the baseball hotbed of San Pedro de Macoris and his struggles as he chases his dream of becoming a professional.
“This is thrilling,” said El Play‘s director and producer, Pablo Medina, while clutching his award. “Just having gotten into this film festival is an honor as much as winning. I was not expecting it, and I’m not being modest.”
Judging this year’s Baseball Film Festival entrants were Jeff Katz, a baseball author/writer living in Cooperstown, Oneonta (N.Y.) Daily Star sportswriter P.J. Harmer, and Rob Edelman, a professor of film history at the University of Albany and the author of The Great Baseball Films. “I enjoy all of the films,” Katz said. “There was just a wide variety of subject matter. And even the films that weren’t award winners you could tell there was a real passion behind it.
“But I will say that I’m just endlessly impressed with The Lost Son of Havana. That really was one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, let alone a great baseball film. It was so well done and so emotional.” According to Stephen Light, the Hall’s manager of museum programs, the more than 20 films submitted and 13 shown were records for the four-year-old festival.
“I thought it was a great film festival because of the strength and diversity of the films,” Light said. “We had so many different topics and it just showed, I think, the strength of baseball as a film topic.”
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
As Executive Director at the Grand Cinema, one of the most common questions I’m asked every fall is “which films do you recommend in the film festival?” With more films and better quality than ever this year, that question is becoming tougher to answer. Difficult as it may be, I’m up to the task.
The list here is in order by the dates films play. If you think it is tough deciding on which films to recommend, it would be tougher to rank them in a specific ‘must see’ order. So it is safe to say that everyone should attempt to see as many of these as possible.
One added aspect of a festival is the chance to often talk to the filmmakers. I’m happy to say that most of the films I mention here will have the filmmaker in attendance. There are MANY more great films in the festival, but for me, this would be my TOP 11 (because ten is always too few for the festival) FILMS FOR 2009.
(in order by date played)
Lovers in a Dangerous Time – This is a movie about a relationship that is so incredibly obvious to the viewer, but not always as apparent to the characters involved. By the end you really feel for the characters because they really pull you in to the story. This is a true indy film that we are happy to present for our Opening Night Gala. The filmmakers will be in attendance and there will be great food to go along with the film. What is there not to like? Thursday, October 1, 6:30 p.m. (food), 8:00 p.m. (film) at Annie Wright (and minus the food and filmmakers, the film plays again October 6, 4:45 p.m. at the Grand).
North Face – This is one I originally saw at SIFF earlier this year and is a perfect movie for anyone who loves movies the Grand typically plays. It is 1936 in Germany and there is a race to be the first to rock climb the near vertical Eiger North Face. This is a well made drama based on a real event that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Friday, October 2, 6:00 p.m. at the Blue Mouse Theater
Winning Isn’t Everything AND Signs of the Time – This is a great pairing of two very well made documentaries. One is on the NCAA championship women’s soccer program at the University of North Carolina. The other explores the origins of baseball hand signals and is narrated by Richard Dreyfuss. You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy either film because both move well past the sport that anchors the films. Friday, October 2, 6:30 p.m. at the Grand AND Signs of the Time only (paired with a different film) Monday, Oct 5, 2:15, also at the Grand
Freeing Silvia Baraldini – This documentary follows the life of a political activist who was arrested by the FBI and sentenced to 43 years in prison. Where is the line between crime and political activism? As an added note, the filmmaker was once associated with the Grand and will be in attendance to talk about the subject. Friday, October 2, 5:45 p.m. at First United Methodist Church AND Saturday, October 3, 8:45 p.m. at the Grand
Sweet Crude – This noteworthy documentary is playing around the world, from the Seattle International Film Festival earlier this year, to Vancouver, Canada and Strasbourg, France. There is good reason too. It is the story of Nigeria’s impoverished Niger Delta under which a billion dollars of crude flows. Some might remember the news stories that developed last year when the filmmakers were detained in Nigeria for a week while shooting the film. With the filmmaker in attendance, the film and discussion should be fascinating for everyone. Saturday, October 3, 12:45 p.m. at Tacoma Art Museum
Spooner – This feature film combines charm, romance and quirky humor into a nice film. Herman (Matthew Lillard) is turning 30 and is finally moving out of his parent’s home. When the girl of his dreams enters his aimless life, he tries to win her over before she leaves on a planned trip out of the country. The director and screenwriter will be in attendance. Saturday, October 3, 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Cinema
White on Rice – This is a quirky multi-cultural film from a director who previously played a film in the Tacoma Film Festival. It tells the tale of Japanese man now living in the states as he seeks a girlfriend…but with one specific woman in mind. The film has some very funny moments in it and is very well made. It is also starting to appear in theaters already so watch it here first! Sunday, October 4, 6:30 p.m. at the Grand (it also plays with a great local short film The Day My Parents Became Cool)
Comedy Shorts – This grouping tends to sell out annually and for good reason: comedy shorts are a ton of fun. There are too many to list individually but this year’s group has ten films ranging from 3 to 17 minutes in length. It is a fast paced screening and has many films that have won awards at other festivals. This plays twice because of its popularity. Sunday, October 4, 6:30 p.m. at SOTA AND Wednesday, October 7, 6:30 at the Grand.
Drama Shorts – The topics on these vary but there is some great filmmaking to be found here. These seven short films originate everywhere from Germany to the Pacific Northwest. Two of the most notable in the group are Short Term 12 which won prizes at both Sundance and SIFF and the German film Land Gewinnen which gives you a peek inside what it might be like for an immigrant child trying to go to school. It really moves you. Monday, October 5, 6:45 p.m. at the Grand AND Friday, October 2, 6:30 at SOTA
Four of a Kind – From Australia and with the filmmaker and lead actress in attendance! Four different women with four intertwining stories. Add in a bit of mystery and you have a movie to remember. Tuesday, October 6, 7:00 p.m. at the Grand
The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle – The pedigree of this film kind of speaks for itself. It debuted at Sundance and has since played at festivals such as SXSW, Seattle, San Francisco and Calgary. To describe this comedy would be truly difficult, so I’ll give you one sentence fragment from their website: “cookies cause spectacular visions, wild mood swings, and quasi-pregnancies in the male janitors.” This one is a lot of fun and the filmmaker will be here for Q&A. CLOSING NIGHT FILM, Thursday, October 8, 6:00 p.m. at the Grand Cinema
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Rochester,NY,USA
Much has changed about Signs of the Time since the locally produced documentary premiered at the George Eastman House last year.
Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss is the new narrator.
Major League Baseball footage has been added, including the controversial 1975 World Series play involving Cincinnati batter Ed Armbrister and Boston catcher Carlton Fisk.
And the 60-minute baseball film is on the festival trail, already winning “Best Documentary” at the High Falls Festival in Rochester last May and the SoCal Film Festival in Huntington Beach, Calif., last weekend.
“It’s a different film (from the original version),” said executive producer Ray Manard of Crystal Pix, a production company in Fairport.
“But the film is more than just about baseball. It’s about communication.”
Signs explores the contributions of deaf baseball player Dummy Hoy and legendary umpire Bill Klem, a Rochester native, toward the development of hand signals used in baseball.
It’s one of 13 films playing this weekend at the fourth annual Baseball Film Festival at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Signs is up for three awards: Best Film, the Award for Baseball Excellence and the Award for Film Making Excellence. The movie will be shown tonight along with The Lost Son of Havana, which chronicles the return to Cuba of Luis Tiant after 46 years.
Don Casper, the director of Signs of the Time, will be in Cooperstown to speak about the film.
Nearly 200 actors, writers, directors and producers worked on the film over a five-year period. Signs includes interviews with Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Earl Weaver and Brooks Robinson.
When the festival season ends, the film will have been shown in about 20 venues. In addition to Cooperstown, it also will be shown this weekend in Tacoma, Wash., and Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Coming up, it’s Secret City, Tenn. (mid-October); Celebration, Fla. (late October); and the Red Rock Film Fest in Utah (November).
Crystal Pix executives originally compiled a long wish list of possible narrators, including George Clooney, Harrison Ford and Billy Crystal.
“We wanted an actor with a good voice, and we wanted someone recognizable,” Manard said.
Dreyfuss won a Best Actor Oscar for The Goodbye Girl in 1977 and was nominated in 1995 for Mr. Holland’s Opus. He also was on the list. When he said “yes,” the search ended.
“He has a connection to deaf culture through Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Manard said. “I’m not sure why he decided to work with us, but it may have been that.”
Dreyfuss was in New York City last October promoting the movie W (he plays Dick Cheney), and Crystal Pix execs met him there to record the narration.
Including the Armbrister-Fisk play also was a coup. The filmmakers had to take the footage out of the original due to Major League Baseball restrictions. Now it is included.
In the 10th inning of Game 3 of the 1975 World Series, Armbrister collided with Fisk while attempting to sacrifice bunt. Fisk threw wildly to second base in an attempt to throw out Cesar Geronomo, and the Reds went on to win 4-3. Plate umpire Larry Barnett was criticized for not calling interference on Armbrister.
“Back that, there was no signal for interference,” Manard said. “All (Barnett) could do was point ‘fair ball.’ He couldn’t communicate ‘no interference.'”
Now, there is a signal for such a play.
“That controversy demonstrates the need for communication with the umpire and players on the field,” Manard said.
Crystal Pix eventually hopes to sell Signs of the Time to a network and then market it for home distribution. MLB Network, ESPN, A&E, The History Channel and the new Smithsonian Channel and Documentary Channel are possible buyers.
© 2009, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle