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John Sayles to Open White River Indie Films' Fest in April


Here's some cool news for indie film fans: John Sayles will be at White River Indie Films' annual fest on April 27 with his new film, Amigo.

A story of American imperialism rearing its head in the Philippines in 1900, Amigo, starring Chris Cooper (pictured), was screened at the Vermont International Film Festival last October. It's available on demand and probably soon on DVD.

WRIF's Q&A with Sayles is still a big deal. If you remember the '80s, you probably know Sayles has been making films steeped in social consciousness since 1979's Return of the Secaucus Seven. He became an indie fixture before people used the word "indie," combining a leftist sensibility with sharp writing and solid drama in movies such as Lianna, Eight Men Out, Matewan, The Brother From Another Planet and Lone Star.

At the same time, Sayles has applied his writing chops to all manner of Hollywood screenplays, from the original Piranha and The Howling to The Spiderwick Chronicles. He's a respected industry craftsman who happens to have a strong point of view. And he tends to explore that point of view through narratives like Amigo — which is unusual, in these days when most "political" films are documentaries.

How did WRIF get such a big-name guest? Board member John Griesemer says in an email that Sayles is "an old friend of one of our board members. We showed John's previous film Honeydripper to a full house three years ago, so we were eager to get his next film. He was kind enough to say he & [producer] Maggie [Renzi] would come along with it."

Besides the screening and Q&A, the board hopes to arrange other events featuring Sayles and Renzi — workshops, panels, perhaps even a reading from Sayles' latest novel.

But why is WRIF happening in April, when we're used to seeing it pop up the first weekend in June? The change in dates reflects a change of venue, says Griesemer. For the past two years, WRIF has been using Briggs Opera House for screenings, working around the schedule of Northern Stage. But June isn't the best time for a Vermont film fest, because, points out Griesemer, "if the sun's out, after a long winter, inside is the last place people want to be."

This year, WRIF has partnered with Tupelo Music Hall to use that WRJ venue for a mud season weekend. It's "much better movie-going weather," says Griesemer, who notes that WRIF is still seeking its permanent home. Films will also be screened at the Main Street Museum.

WRIF hasn't posted its schedule yet. But expect announcements from the board at the annual Oscar party at WRJ's Revolution on February 26, 7-11 p.m., which WRIF is cosponsoring. It's free and formal and, yes, there will be a red carpet and a limo. Shouldn't there always be?