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Cannes, Sundance ... Sacramento
Yes, Virginia, There is a Sacramento Film Festival

The Sacramento Gazette
October 20, 2000
By E Haig

Sure, there is Cannes, and there is Sundance, and there are a host of other film festivals that are better known, but there is also an annual film festival right here in California's capital city, and this year's version of it takes place next weekend.

The fifth Sacramento Film Festival will run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 27-29, 2000, with all films to be shown at the Crest Theater. Highlights will include "Asunder" a new suspense thriller from Emmy-nominated director Tim Reid. "The Convent," a campy horror homage starring Adrienne Barbeau, and the not-to-be-missed "Chump Change," an offbeat, but absolutely hilarious comedy by the multi-talented Stephen Burrows.

Reid's film will open the festival on Friday night. It is very much in the film noir tradition and marks a break from the typical "black" film in that it portrays middle-class black adults in the setting of a contemporary thriller. "The Convent," directed by Mike Mendez, will be shown as the midnight movie on Saturday evening. It was well-received earlier this year at the Sundance festival.

The highlight of the festival, however, is sure to be the Northern California premiere of Stephen Burrows' "Chump Change."

The film is as good a comedy as we have seen this year and, once released to a mass audience, should propel Mr. Burrows into that rare circle of writers/actors/directors that is currently limited to Woody Allen and Albert Brooks. The film tells the semi-autobiographical story of "Milwaukee" Steve (Mr. Burrows), a would-be comedian, actor and screenwriter, who suffers through a roller coaster existence as a fledgling screenwriter, after he has "starred" in a single TV commercial and been sued by Merv Griffin. (We'll spare you the details here but they add to the film's hilarity.)

The film co-stars Tim Matheson in a hilarious send-up of all self-inflated studio execs, Fred Willard as the penultimate artist's manager, and Traci Lords as the down home girl who doesn't cotton to phoniness in her men or her food. Also featured in wonderful cameos are Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller.

In conversation with Mr, Burrows this week. we learned that he is very much a fan of Woody Allen, that he is already working on another film project, even as distribution plans for "Chump Change" are decidedly unsettled, and that he most admires performers like Mr. Allen and Bill Murray who have the ability to mock themselves as they make their audiences laugh.

"Everyone loves a failure," Mr. Burrows says. He recalled the scene from "Amadeus" (his favorite film of all time) in which the emperor mentions to the young Mozart that there seem to be "too many notes" in one of his latest musical compositions.

Similarly, Mr. Burrows character in his film is repeatedly told that the screenplay he is working on most feverishly is "too funny," even though it is supposed to be an "action sex comedy." Along the way, he also reveals the absurdity of acting classes, the inanity of the Hollywood production system, the desperation of wannabe stars and the frustration that anyone with even a modicum of artistic integrity must feel in the midst of it all. Trust us, this one is terrific!

The festival will conclude on Sunday with the premiere of "A Place Called Sacramento," which features 10 shorts written, produced and directed by Sacramento residents.


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