Thursday, March 29, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
The first in a series of podcasts exploring behind the scenes footage of "Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story" with yours truly. In this episode, I delve into who Booker Wright was, and how he ended up in a position to anger an entire town with his interview on NBC in 1966.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
"Booker's Place--A Mississippi Story" will premiere internationally at the excellent Hot Docs festival--a Canadian festival that's become the first name in documentary must-see film events.
What else can I say? What can I post? I know. Let's take a trip back in time to my favorite Canadian television show. SCTV was a Canadian sketch comedy show in the 1970's that occasionally leaked into the US on iffy early cable channels. In the late seventies the show went mainstream on NBC (I believe). It aired on Friday nights at midnight and me and several friends--then in high school--made it a ritual to watch it every week. John Candy, Rick Moranis, Joe Flahrety, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis--the entire cast was brilliant and the sketches truly never missed. That's because when they weren't quite up to par the sketch became being about how the sketch wasn't really up to par. In the three sketches I've posted below you'll see Candy as Johnny LaRue, the fat excercise show host as well as Flahrety and Levy as the brilliant sleaze-show-biz characters Sammy Maudling and Bobby Bittman (Candy plays the sullen Ed McMahon sidekick to Maudlin). But first I've posted one of my favorites, the "120,000 Question"--the story of a sadistic game show host who tortures his contestant.
Thank you Hot Docs for taking our film. And thanks for making me think of some Canadian comedy. I know the connection is tenuous, but just consider it me not being quite up to par.
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 5:04 PM
Monday, March 19, 2012
Get this: Not only will "Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story" premiere at the TFF, it will be released day-and-date by Tribeca Films. In other words, we have a distributor--and a very fine one at that. Day-and-date means that the movie will be available on multiple platforms simultanously. You can see it, download it, stream it, I-tunes it, Amazon it etc. all as it premieres at the film festival. It will also play theatrically in New York and Los Angeles in order to qualify it for next awards season.
Dig this excellent Hollywood Reporter piece giving the lowdown.
One of the reasons I'm so happy about Tribeca becoming our partner in the film goes back a good number of years. In the early '90's, when I was just starting out, the very first deal I ever made was to develop my movie "Cafe Society" with HBO. We looked around for a good producer to team with and wound up with Tribeca Films--then fairly new on the block. Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro were to have been my first feature filmmaking partners--which in turn led to my visiting the set of "A Bronx Tale" which was then shooting in Brooklyn, of course. Alas, things didn't work out with HBO and I wound up making the movie independently (and with another set of producers--and therein lies a tale...wait a minute, I already blogged about that a few months ago). Nonetheless Tribeca and all it's associated with--films, festivals, restaurants--continues to remain a wonderfully positive element in my life.
How about a few minutes, then, with the big guy?
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 5:12 PM
Friday, March 16, 2012
It's official. My new documentary, "Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story", will premiere this April at the Tribeca Film Festival in good old New York City. This is the same festival that preemed (as they say in VarietySpeak) my recent feature "City Island", which wound up taking the festival's coveted Audience Award (and which came with a cash prize...a cash prize! Do you dig it?)
I couldn't be happier with TFF as the venue for this very personal film, which centers on the appearance of a black waiter named Booker Wright in a documentary made by my father, Frank De Felitta, in the mid 1960's. That film, "Mississippi: A Self-Portrait" was an brutally honest look at the town of Greenwood Mississippi during the heated struggles of the civil rights era. Booker, who was employed as a waiter at a "whites only" restaurant, looked right down the barrel of the NBC news cameras and--in a startlingly provocative and emotional speech--described the truth about what it was like to be a black servant to the white "planter" class.
The fallout for Booker was extreme. After the film aired on NBC, he was beaten so severely by a white police officer that he had to be hospitalized. His store (he ran his own cafe on the black side of town) was vandalized. And a few years later he was murdered. Though the culprit was caught, tried and imprisoned for life (he was a young black man), the case against him is murky and unconvincing. Booker Wright's murder is a big question mark to me and we raise the possibility in my film that it was probably related to his controversial appearance in my father's film.
I've blogged about Booker in the past--so check it out if you're interested. Here's a link to the Tribeca Film Festival website with more details on the films premiere. I'll also be creating a series of podcasts in the coming weeks about the making of the film. And, most importantly, I plan to use this blog as a celebration of all-things-documentary. I'll be posting classic docs of the past and clips of period news footage about the civil rights years.
Welcome to "Booker's Place", a movie about a time and place and way of life that no longer exists. Or does it? Some traveling music, from the great (and neglected) Barbeque Bob...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 10:13 AM