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#1 Tim Willson

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 10:19 PM

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 Verįstegui. I have rarely been as impressed with the background story of the film and the film-makers as I was with this one. Eduardo Verįstegui was a major star in the Hispanic entertainment world, but a few years ago he became very serious about following Christ and did not work for years, as there were no scripts that he felt he could be involved in making. Eventually he helped produce this film -- with a first-time writer-director and first-time producers... and the result shows so much poise and confidence that you swear that it was made by veterans. And although the creators have a clear faith-friendly intent, this film will not be recognized by many as a "Christian film", per se. (In fact, Sean said that it has been characterized in print as a pro-choice film and by a different publication as a pro-life film. Go figure.)

Essentially, the film is a day in the life of two people in New York City. There isn't a lot I want to say about the plot, except that it deals with grace and sacrifice and redemption in a profound and moving way. I can't remember the last time I watched a film with tears dripping into my lap, but they did with this one.

The Toronto Film Festival writeup is here. But note that the film that won Toronto was practically a rough cut (?!!) -- it was in final edit while TIFF was underway. When it won, the producers asked themselves if they shouldn't just leave it as it was, but they are confident that their director is improving the film by helping weave extra layers of mystery and subtlety, tightening up and cleaning up the first half.

The official site is here.

I can't wait to see what you all have to say about BELLA. At the moment, I regard it as one of my top film experiences ever.

#2 SDG

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Posted 24 February 2007 - 08:34 AM

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.

#3 Tim Willson

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Posted 09 March 2007 - 03:18 AM

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.

#4 Tim Willson

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 01:01 AM

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







#5 SDG

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 08:04 AM

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.

#6 Tim Willson

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 10:48 AM

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?

#7 MattPage

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 11:17 AM

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

Matt

#8 Darrel Manson

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 04:12 PM

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

#9 Darrel Manson

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 01:07 PM

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.

#10 Tim Willson

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 11:55 AM

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.

#11 SDG

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 12:19 PM

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.

#12 Darrel Manson

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 03:45 PM

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

#13 SDG

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 04:41 PM

QUOTE (Darrel Manson @ Oct 23 2007, 04:45 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
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.

#14 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 04:58 PM

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? smile.gif

#15 SDG

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 09:53 AM

QUOTE
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. smile.gif

Edited by SDG, 26 October 2007 - 09:54 AM.


#16 Christian

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 10:06 AM

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.


#17 Darrel Manson

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 10:07 AM

Mine is probably tepid as well.

#18 SDG

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Posted 26 October 2007 - 10:13 AM

Rosenbaum tips favorable (just). Rosenbaum.

#19 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 03:32 PM

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.

#20 Overstreet

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 08:57 PM

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, 28 October 2007 - 09:02 PM.