Monday June 16, 2008

My love for independent films is equaled only by my love of documentaries. I am truly in my glory with the opening of the 6th annual AFI Silverdocs Film Festival-one of the preeminent documentary film festivals on the planet. Started in 2003, just months after the re-opening of the luxurious AFI Silver Theater in downtown Silver Spring Maryland (just outside Washington D.C.), this phenomenal event is the perfect way to kick off a summer which more often than not offers up mostly lame Hollywood blockbusters over the next 3 months. Some of the best times I've had in a darken theater in the last 5 years have been at this Festival. So, I can't wait to experience the variety of docs that will make their way from around the world to this 3 theater complex over the next 7 days. Festival director Patricia Finneran & Director of Programming, Sky Sitney, are about to present over 100 documentaries from 63 countries (!) that will go along way in driving home this year's theme "Think for yourself". And what a fabulous way to kick off the festivities by the U.S premier of "All Together Now" (*** 1/2), which details the extraordinary journey of how Cirque Du Soleil's "Love" came to be. Long time documentarian, Adrian Wills, has put together a dazzling work that captures the essence of what it was like for this company to obtain the Beatles' rights (virtually the only entity to do so) and the nearly 1 year journey to present it on stage at The Mirage in Las Vegas. Enlisting the help of the late great George Martin and his son, they literally took 28 songs from the Beatles' catalogue and then had the audacity to remix what was considered "The Holy Grail" of music. Wills begins the story detailing that the corroboration wouldn't have come to fruition if not for the vision of George Harrison, who was friends with Cirque founder Guy Lalberte, and then obtaining the cooperation of all the principals from the Apple family. What makes the behind-the-scenes even more fascinating is how the 2 remaining Ex-Beatles, Yoko, and George Harrison's widow, Olivia keep offering their input into the project, to the continual chagrin of Cirque director Dominic Champagne. When the opening night finally arrived in 2006, you see all of the principals in the audience dead on. (I literally got chills when I saw Paul singing along with Sgt. Pepper in his seat next to Ringo.) And you laugh when Paul, on more than one occasion reveals that he was amazed just how damn great this band is and how he actually wakes up to realize that he is only one of 4 people in the universe who can claim membership in this group! Wills does an amazing editing job that not only captures the intricacies of this, what I'm sure, is an amazing show, but it also includes a ton of stock footage of the Fab 4 that is craftily interwoven into the mix. The result is a music filled love letter to the greatest band ever. It will have you yearning to get the next flight out of town to Vegas. At the least, you will want to dust off your collection to relive the music that put the "pop" in pop music!The opening night festivities included a post-film panel discussion moderated by Bill Flanagan (EVP MTV Network) and included Wills, Champagne, & Jonathan Clyde (Producer and Director of Production from Apple Corps), as well as 4 Cirque Du Soleil performers. All this was followed by a first class reception hosted by the main sponsor of the festival, The Discovery Channel, in their spiffy digs across the street. Music was even provided by Matt White singing both originals and Beatles covers. A great way to start the festival!Come back over the next 7 days for daily updates that, hopefully, will bring you here to Silver Spring to experience, literally, the world through the eyes of talented filmmakers around the globe.