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Bella

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I saw an extraordinary film the other day. BELLA, which won the Peoples Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006 is heading to theatres in (likely) May. Fans of great world cinema will appreciate this one - don't miss it!

Speaking at the screening (in Orlando) was one of the producers, Sean Wolfington, and the star of the film, Eduardo Ver

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Thanks, Tim. The last time I spoke to Wolfington, he told me distributors were looking at later dates, possibly September or even later. It's good to know the film is coming up earlier.

There's a lot of excitement around this film in Catholic media circles. I'm expecting a screener from Wolfington, but I haven't gotten it yet.

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Just noticed a new press kit at the official site (looks new, at least), and thought it would be interesting for those who are putting this on their must-see list. (nudge, nudge)

Still no firm release date, though.

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Big website overhaul, including ticket purchase offers (private screenings and bulk purchases) and tons of promotional info. Still no release date, though.

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I've seen the film, and interviewed the writer-director, star, and two of the producers. I liked the film a lot.

I know something about the release date, but I don't remember whether it's still confidential, so I can't say. It's later than August, though.

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Steven, I'd love to hear more about your response to the film.... or should that wait until it's more widely available?

My understanding is there there are now two potential distributors, and final distribution decisions are still pending. Is there more current info than that, i.e., a named distributor?

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Will they be shipping people in to screenings by the bus load as per TPot Christ?

Matt

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It shows up in the poster that Tim has in a post above, but opening date for this in 10/26.

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I was less thrilled with this that those who've weighed in on it. I thought they gave you enough to let you know what happened, but not enough for you to know the story. And then there were some recurring things that might have led somewhere, but didn't (flowers, 4 years,...). Not really as good as I'd hoped.

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That's disappointing, Darrel. I saw this in February, and it was the same cut as the one that played in Toronto. It was still being edited, though, and this new version may change my view of the film as well. I hope the changes haven't been ill-considered.

It doesn't open in Canada right away (who knows when?), so... we wait.

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FWIW, I've seen it about three times now, and my appreciation for the film is well settled. I'll probably post my review Thursday.

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One thing I did like was the breakfast scene -- very reminiscent of The Big Night. So much can be said without words.

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One thing I did like was the breakfast scene -- very reminiscent of The Big Night. So much can be said without words.

Yes, and such a "guy"/brothers thing too, to

reconcile by jostling elbows

.

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Barbara Nicolosi:

A producer on the film subsequently left a message on my voicemail noting that my refusal to support the film had its source "in the demonic." Really? "Demonic"? It couldn't just be that I found the film plodding, easy, sloppy and uneven? In short, I don't think Bella is great. It's not really "Catholic" (in the sense of overt spirituality). And it really isn't pro-life (in the usual sense of that term).

What is going on is a wildly over the top marketing blitz in which the investors in the project are trying desperately to recoup their investment, by telling good Catholic people that they must support this film to send a message to Hollywood. As with so many other mediocre Christian movies, the only "message" that Hollywood will get if Bella does well, is that the Christian audience has no idea what a good movie is and will rave about anything that remotely mirrors our world-view. . . .

When I saw the film in rough-cut, it was ostensibly to help the filmmakers decide on a name for the movie. I remember saying to them, "I don't know what to call it, it isn't really about anything." (In response, one of the producers on the film suggested that I have "deep spiritual problems"....seeing a pattern here?) . . .

Someone asked me if it was okay for kids. My take is, "No. They'll be bored out of their minds." I don't recommend or not recommend this film. Truly this is the kind of film for which the phrase, "It is what it is," was invented.

Hmmm, "It is what it is" was Nicolosi's response to The Nativity Story, too. Seeing a pattern here? :)

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A producer on the film subsequently left a message on my voicemail noting that my refusal to support the film had its source "in the demonic." Really? "Demonic"? It couldn't just be that I found the film plodding, easy, sloppy and uneven?

Yikes. I mean, holy smokes. That's unfortunate.

FWIW, while I enjoyed talking to all the Metanoia principals, I find Barb's charge plausible. And, FWIW, I think her take on the film is reasonable, although my take is different. (Wonder if she would say the same for mine.)

BTW, Ebert likes it. AND he takes a quasi-non-pot-shot at a critical comment in Variety's tepid review. :)

Edited by SDG

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Desson Thomson dismissed it in his review today:

When you know, practically from the beginning, what's going to happen at the end of a movie, what do you do with your time in between? Offer to buy everyone in the theater popcorn while you sit this thing out? Check cellphone messages? Catch up on lost sleep?

We opted to just watch "Bella," a Mexican movie in which the outcome is never in doubt, the scenes are endless -- sorry, we meant "poetic"-- and the false beard on the central character's face looks as though it could use a little extra gum.

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Mine is probably tepid as well.

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Barbara Nicolosi is now "moderating" the comments at her blog, because "I am suddenly seeing a strange uptick in infuriated and ad hominem attack style emails and comments (which have variously claimed that I'm stupid, unjust, jealous, pro-choice, clueless about movies, un-Catholic, and not even Christian, but also that the Bella 'movement' is holy...okay then....)".

Meanwhile, the film appears to have grossed about $1.3 million this weekend, in only 165 theatres, for a per-screen average of $8,024 -- easily higher than that of any other film in the Top 25 this week except for, uh, Saw IV.

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Watching the film, I liked it. Afterward, my feelings changed.

Bella has some scenes I found genuinely moving. It has memorable characters who are well-realized and fully convincing. The cast, especially the lead actress, is a remarkable ensemble. And the cinematography -- up-close-and-personal, handheld video -- is really quite creative without any special effects. I enjoyed watching it.

But afterward, as I listened to the director recount the odds he overcame in making the film... how he had no time, no resources, and no sense of what kind of trouble he was inviting, working under impossible pressures and deadlines... well, now I am in a state of utter disbelief. If things really played out as he described, then Bella is a wonder of resourcefulness. And this is his first feature? I'm eager to see what he does next.

How much should a film critic take into account What Was Accomplished in view of What Resources They Had? It's a good question. Bella is to romance and tearjerking drama what Primer was to mind-bending sci-fi. It's a standup piece of work that looks like it was made on a budget ten times larger than what was actually available.

And the idea that this film is in any way promoting the Pro-Choice agenda is nuts. It's a story about particular characters in a particular situation that is resolved in a particular way... it's not meant to represent the ideal solution to single-girl pregnancy. This is the ending that makes the most sense for this story and these characters.

Now, having said all of that, the film runs far beyond acceptable tear-jerking levels. I detached from the film emotionally with about 20 minutes to go (precisely when Nina starts talking about her mother). The movie was working too hard to make me feel, make me cry, make me care. If the film had cut out a good deal of talk, it would have been more intriguing, more involving. It just strives too much.

But it's heart is in the right place, and it's refreshing to see a slow-build romance that has little or nothing to do with making out.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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Jeff, when you say that your feelings changed as a result of the director's talk, am I right in thinking that you wound up more impressed (with the film's achievement) rather than less impressed (as a result of the director laying it on so thick)? The former seems to be the thrust of most of your comments, but I wasn't entirely sure.

FWIW, I also had the experience of liking the film more over time, and especially after seeing the film more than once. I agree with you, Jeff, that Nina's monologue on the beach is trying too hard, but Blanchard's work in that scene is so stellar that for me at least it turns a potential soft spot into a high point. (I also like the way it ties into the beginning and ending scenes on the beach.)

Edited by SDG

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: And the idea that this film is in any way promoting the Pro-Choice agenda is nuts.

Eh? Has anybody actually claimed that? Or did you mean "Pro-Life"?

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Well, I'd come across one person who was arguing that the film is dressed up as a Pro-Life film, but that the overall impact is to inspire more sympathy for those who choose and support abortion. And I don't know how they could get there from this film.

Steven, yes... it was a case of admiring the film more after meeting the director... primarily because I was amazed to learn that he made THIS film with so few resources, and under so much pressure.

Still, I can't let that affect my assessment of how the film measures up to other films. As a film, it's a fairly decent drama as dramas go, but not a great film by any stretch of the imagination. As an example of Doing Much With Very Little, though, it is a towering achievement. You know... by "The Five Obstructions" standards...

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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Still, I can't let that affect my assessment of how the film measures up to other films. As a film, it's a fairly decent drama as dramas go, but not a great film by any stretch of the imagination. As an example of Doing Much With Very Little, though, it is a towering achievement. You know... by "The Five Obstructions" standards...

I think that's a very reasonable assessment.

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If it is as the director claims, and

the butterfly kite that floats into the frame

during the final moments of the film really was a total surprise, an accident, something nobody planned or provided... that ranks among one of the great onscreen accidents ever filmed, don't you think?

I mean, the way he worked

the butterfly

through the film as a motif, the most predictable thing in the movie is that we will

float away on the wings of a butterfly

at the end. But no, the director claims that he was just filming the characters, and lo and behold... there was

this butterfly in the sky

...

Sometimes, the SPOILER blocks can turn posts into Mad Libs.

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