Newport Beach Film Festival News and Notes

Categories: Film
Random notes, observations and stuff plucked off the cutting room floor from the Newport Beach Film Festival, which runs through Thursday night.

The hierarchy of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is the main antagonist in Macky Alston's excellent documentary Love Free or Die, which is about the controversy that swirled around Gene Robinson becoming the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire and first openly gay, non-celibate priest to rise to such a position in all of Christendom.

Coming in a close second as the movie's heavy (heh-heh) is Purpose Driven hater Rick Warren.

As the film that screened Friday at Fashion Island Cinemas and Tuesday at Triangle Square shows, when the debate within the Episcopal Church hit the mass media in 2003-04, the head of Lake Forest's Saddleback Church appeared as a talking head on news programs likening homosexuality to pedophilia. Of gay marriage, Warren said things like he would also oppose brothers and sisters being given the right to marry and, "We should not let 2 percent of the population change the definition of marriage."

Bishop Gene Robinson in Love Free or Die.
Warren pops up again in the film to show the uproar that followed after Barack Obama chose the preacher to lead the invocation at the president's inauguration. Bowing to pressure, the new administration had Robinson give the invocation that kicked off inauguration weekend.

Orange County gets an even bigger closeup when Love Free or Die builds to the 2009 Episcopal Church General Convention at the Anaheim Convention Center, where up for vote was whether "gays and lesbians in lifelong committed relationships" should be ordained as ministers, and if bishops should be allowed to decide whether or not to bless same-sex marriages.

Pittsburgh Bishop Bob Duncan, who attended seminary with Robinson, invited Warren to give a prayer to the breakaway movement of priests and lay people who wanted to defeat the measures. But thanks to lobbying by Robinson and others, the convention affirmed both. Overwhelmingly. As Robinson had said in a sermon in New York City on Gay Pride Day, "Some people look at what's going on out there as a nightmare. I think it's God's dream coming true, before our eyes."

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Behind the Orange Curtain producer Zac Titus, executive producer Natalie Costa and director Brent Huff at NBFF opening night.
On April 1, when Newport Beach Film Festival tickets went on sale, Wednesday's 8 p.m. world premiere screening of the documentary Behind the Orange Curtain quickly sold out, so a second showing was quickly added.

Then, that 8:15 p.m. Thursday presentation of the documentary about the prescription drug abuse epidemic among South County youth sold out as well, leading the festival to not only add a third screening but a fourth.

One is at 3:45 p.m. Thursday at Triangle Square, and the other is 8:30 that same night at Big Newport.

But guess what? They sold out, too.

"Everyone is just blown away," executive producer Natalie Costa says.

*  *  *

It was probably wise of the festival not to play Behind the Orange Curtain on a double bill with the feature Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy.

Based on another controversial book by the Scottish author of Trainspotting fame, Rob Heydon's trippy life and love drug-affirming movie follows a raver/drug mule who finds true love, true sorrow and true danger at roughly the same time. Played by Glasgow actor Adam Sinclair, Lloyd is surrounded by the colorful, hilarious and menacing characters Irvine Welsh is known for.

At Tuesday's repeat presentation at Island Cinemas (Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy's Friday Night Spotlight showing was at the Lido), an admittedly conflicted viewer asked Sinclair whether the first half of the film glorified drug use. Probably, the actor conceded, before leaning on something Welsh has said on the subject: he is reflecting what's going on in Scotland.

Adam Sinclair takes one for the team in Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy.
"Kids are out there every Friday and Saturday, having a good time," Sinclair said without apology. ". . . There are downsides and upsides, but it is happening in our culture. Should we be doing anything about it as a society? That's up to you to decide."

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