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Wednesday, 01 July 2009 01:00

CineVegas Recap 2009

Written by  Jennifer Marino
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The 11th Annual CineVegas Film Festival took place from June 10-15, 2009 at the Palms Casino Hotel and Brenden Theater in Las Vegas, Nev. CineVegas successfully lures filmmakers, press and festival-goers to its festival by bringing the magic of Vegas to film premieres, screenings, cocktail hours and nightly parties that encourage networking and engage filmmakers in...
The 11th Annual CineVegas Film Festival took place from June 10-15, 2009 at the Palms Casino Hotel and Brenden Theater in Las Vegas, Nev. CineVegas successfully lures filmmakers, press and festival-goers to its festival by bringing the magic of Vegas to film premieres, screenings, cocktail hours and nightly parties that encourage networking and engage filmmakers in cinematic events.

Robin Greenspun serves as the festival’s president, Trevor Groth serves as artistic director and Dennis Hopper serves as the chairman of the Creative Advisory Board. CineVegas personnel reports selling a record amount of passes while individual ticket sales were also up from the previous year. Although it was a difficult year for the festival to gain sponsorship, they still attracted over 25 sponsors, including new companies. Out of the 1,200 film submissions that CineVegas received, almost 60 were screened.

The premiere of Saint John of Las Vegas opened the festival; Sarah Silverman appeared on the red carpet, suffering from a cold while maintaining her dry sense of humor as she joked about going to Vegas for the gambling on prostitutes.

Former Girl Next Door Holly Madison also attended the premiere and said that she was too busy to partake in the feature film world—but fans need not worry—she is booked for further photo shoots.

Director Rania Ajami took the cake this year—make that the wedding cake—since the red carpet at the world premiere of Ajami’s Asylum Seekers doubled as a wedding chapel for Houston couple, Richard Spiller and Ashley Matthews. To add to the memories, the Chippendales acted as groomsmen and the Sin City Girls transformed into bridesmaids—but it was Elvis’ role as the Best Man made an impression lasting ‘till death do us part.

Director Doug Tirola documents the resurrection of poker and its appeal to many as the American Dream in the film All In: The Poker Movie, another suitable CineVegas pick that premiered at the festival. The film stars professional poker players and features interviews Matt Damon, Jennifer Tilly and other celebrities.

“Thoughts on the American Dream, risk, the entertainment business - the story of poker became a catalyst to tell a lot of other stories,” says Tirola. “We used a Panasonic DVX 100 and shot in 24P.  Poker is so iconic in movies so we wanted the most cinematic look we could get on digital.”

Tirola claims that he continuously wanted to learn about the concept of poker and filming the documentary became almost addictive in itself. He compares his work to a John Hemmingway quote, "If I could, I would go into a book store, pull down my book and keep rewriting."

“What people outside of poker don't know is that poker is like its own universe…poker players are constantly being hit up for interviews from everything from TV shows to web blogs.  So when we approached them, it took a lot of convincing to help them understand we were a serious documentary that was trying to be the definitive film on the subject of poker and why it has had this massive comeback in our culture and the world,” says Tirola.  “Many times the payer [sic] or their rep would say I can give you 15 minutes and the interview would end up going an hour.  I think this is because they were happy to be talking about poker as a subject - a character - their passion - not just what happened in a particular hand in yesterdays tournament.  Often three or four questions [from] the person we were interviewing would interrupt and ask, ‘What is this for again, because I've never been asked these questions?’  This is when we knew it was going to be a great interview.”

The CineVegas Awards Reception was held at Rain nightclub and honored Jon Voight, and Willem Dafoe, as well as George and Mike Kuchar, Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago. The Grand Jury Prize went to Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s Easier with Practice, while the Grand Jury Prize for Pioneer Documentaries was awarded to Douglas Tirola’s All In: The Poker Movie. The Special Jury Awards included Godspeed, Etienne! and Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, while The Revenant won the Dramatic Audience Award, and Winnebago Man received the CineVegas Documentary Audience Award.

The Short Film Jury Prize was awarded to Short Term 12. Acting for the Camera received a special Grand Jury Prize in Directing and Communion won the CineVegas Nevada Short Film Jury Prize.

The closing night film, World’s Greatest Dad, screened after the ceremony, with a special appearance by director Bobcat Goldthwait. Wim Wenders’ Palermo Shooting screened as well, where festival chairman Dennis Hopper attended with his son.

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