Charleston International Film Festival
Fred Foote felt betrayed.
CIFF film schedule
Having read the play "Inherit the Wind" in high school, he believed that its depiction of the events and personalities surrounding the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 was a historical rendering.
Years later, having also read Edward John Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1998 book "Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion," Foote began to reverse course.
"I had come to hear that 'Inherit the Wind' was quite inaccurate, so upon seeing the film a second time, I dug into the story, going so far as to order the trial transcript. I came to believe that not only was the conventional wrong but that perhaps the inverse was true, and the real story of the Scopes trial had never been told."
So the Michigan resident took a holiday from his career in banking and finance to write and produce his first feature film, "Alleged," a provocative take on the fabled "Trial of the Century" that addresses such persistent issues as evolution vs. creationism in the public schools, the role of science in society, and religious and media bias on all sides.
"I tried to avoid lampooning the historical figures of Clarence Darrow and H.L. Mencken in the manner I felt "Inherit the Wind" lampooned William Jennings Bryan," says Foote, a self-described libertarian and Mencken fan, "but I think neither the whole story of their role in events or the trial itself has been accurately portrayed."
Directed by Tom Hines, "Alleged" is the showcased opening night feature of the fourth annual Charleston International Film Festival, which unspools May 18-22 at three sites: the American Theater (446 King St.), the Hippodrome Widescreen and Performing Arts Center (360 Concord St.) and Cinebarre in Mount Pleasant (963 Houston-Northcutt Blvd.).
"Alleged" takes the stand at 7 p.m. at the American Theater.
More than 85 features, documentaries, shorts, animated movies and videos will be shown representing the work of experienced and fledgling filmmakers from the Lowcountry, the U.S. and abroad. Also on tap are a series free industry panels, workshops, nightly after-parties and an awards gala.
Feast of features
Among the features with the most local participation is "Angel Camouflaged," which will screen at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Hippodrome.
Shot in Charleston, the movie had its premiere screening earlier this year at the Beaufort International Film Festival.
Beaufort native Michael Givens, long an accomplished cinematographer, took the reins as writer-director, working with the likes of veteran actor James Brolin, newcomer Dilana Robichaux and a largely local crew.
"The Charleston International Film Festival is not just some new kid on the block," says Givens, who is in the process of adapting the Ted M. Brogden novel "Jigsaw."
"It's currently in its fourth season and it's growing every year. As the festival's popularity has continued to increase, the selection process has become more and more competitive each year ... I'm thrilled to have my work singled out among them."
Into the limelight
One of the more intriguing festival offerings reveals the work of a notable artist in our midst, albeit one who, until recent, was little known outside of art circles.
Thursday's screening of Charleston-based director Kevin Harrison's "(Re)Discovering Don ZanFagna" (6 p.m. American Theater) introduces audiences to a recent area transplant whose life has been as diverse as his painting.
A West Point cadet, Fulbright scholar, University of Michigan quarterback, fighter pilot, Major League Baseball and National Football League draftee, Rutgers University art department chair, environmental activist, architect/designer, father and artist, ZanFagna, 83, may have his work in the Whitney Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and numerous other collections, but he is far from a household name. By design.
"Don has an incredible background, but is a really humble person," says Harrison, director of the local production company Production Design Associates.
"It's almost out of character for him to be so public about his achievements. He is one of those artists who has had the privilege and luxury of not having to make a living from his art, so it freed him up to make art for arts sake," Harrison says.
"Not only was he not seeking other accolades or approval for his creations, but few have even gotten to see the artwork that he has created, most of which would be produced and then simply put away. He'd didn't care if anyone liked it or bought. He had to be talked into making this film "
The 25-minute movie was commissioned by art dealer and restorer Allison Williamson of Charleston, and will be submitted to other film festivals around the country. But Harrison stresses that it is no puff piece.
"It's one of the passion projects I have the privilege to work on," he insists. "Gallery and museum shows are being lined up based on people seeing his work and on word of mouth, but no one's seen the movie to date. It revolves around the excitement that he might be a new great American find."
Long on shorts
As always, film shorts will be major players in the festival.
Among those being screened are local writer-producer-director (and cinematographer) John Barnhardt's "Black," a drama about "a man's inability to break out of the vicious circle of drinking and violence that encompasses his everyday life."
Chad Curry and Danielle Ward have the leads, with support from Michelle Mills, Bruce Williamson, Keanan Nelson, Philip M. Cohen and Danny Jones.
"Black" marks the fifth CIFF entry by Barnhardt, an independent filmmaker who runs Barnfly Productions.
Past movies include, "Dust," "The Replicant" and "Born of the Metropolis."
Three other films on which Barnhardt has been a contributor also will be on view: "Half Garage" by Owen Wilson of Seamless Pictures, "Last Confession" by David Walton Smith of Butcher Media and "The Afflicted" by John Stoddard of Afflicted Picturehouse.
Also among the featured short films is Summerville writer-director Jocelyn Rish's "Saying Goodbye," drawn from her South Carolina Fiction Project-winning story and recipient of a Film Production Fund grant from the S.C. Film Commission.