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January 15, 2008

Louisville film entities ’dance again in Utah

In the movie business, it’s called a sequel.Hart-Lunsford Pictures and The Group Entertainment, two entities with Louisville ties, return to Sundance this week promoting four new films between them. With luck like theirs, they should handicap Derby races or lotto tickets.Just how lucky?Every year, Sundance judges receive about 4,000 entries. From those, they select 60 feature films and 60 documentaries to be screened, and of those, 10 or fewer are actually bought by distributors.“Some guys in Louisville, Ky., got four,” says Ed Hart, one half of the Hart-Lunsford operation.This year, H-L has tossed into the ring “Diminished Capacity” and “Birds of America.” The former stars Matthew Broderick (“The Producers”), Alan Alda (“M.A.S.H.”) and Virginia Madsen (“Sideways”). The picture explores the life of a man suffering from memory loss who travels with his uncle and high school sweetheart to a sports memorabilia conference, where they conspire to sell a vintage baseball card. “Birds of America” stars Oscar-winner Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry”), Ginnifer Goodwin (HBO’s “Big Love”), Ben Foster and Lauren Graham. The drama/comedy, directed by Craig Lucas (“Prelude to a Kiss,”) explores the lives of three dysfunctional adults when they return to their childhood home.H-L and longtime partner, Plum Pictures, the New York film company started in 2003, want to capitalize on their successful sale of last year’s entries “Grace is Gone” and “Dedication.”“Grace,” directed by James Strouse, was the first of only 13 films sold at Sundance last year. It starred John Cusack as a husband whose soldier wife was killed in Iraq. The film won the audience award for drama, featured a score by Clint Eastwood and received positive press from rottentomatoes.com, Rolling Stone and The Chicago Sun-Times.Hart says Cusack signed onto the project because at the time no one had made a film about the collateral damage of the war. The quirky matchup in “Dedication” of actors Billy Crudup and Mandy Moore came from director Justin Theroux’s relationship with Crudup, whom Hart called, an “actor’s actor.” Moore signed on because she wanted a serious role.For “Birds” and “Diminished,” Hart credited the three women who founded Plum Pictures — Galt Niederhoffer, Celine Rattray and Daniela Taplin Lundberg — for landing such star power on scripts that challenge audiences, and their hands-on approach. The three stay on-set for 18 hours a day on shoots that can last a month or more.“Our partners,” Hart says, “are doing the heavy-lifting.”Heavy is but one word that defines “For Love of Water” (or “F.L.O.W.,” www.flowthefilm.com), the documentary entered by The Group Entertainment, a company co-owned by transplanted Louisvillian Gill Holland.Directed by French radio journalist-turned-filmmaker Irena Salina, “F.L.O.W.” examines the world’s impending water shortages, as well as the corporations working behind the scenes to privatize what activists argue is a common natural resource.Salina and her crew visit roughly a dozen countries and several U.S. states to document the depletion, sometimes under sinister circumstances, of mankind’s most vital substance. The documentary features interviews with the former head of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as Bolivian activists who fought for, and after a decade finally won, control of their country’s water rights.The film examines the use of atrazine, one of the world’s most widely administered pesticides, which has been banned in the European Union but not in the United States. Atrazine has been linked to cases of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer and to the chemical castration of frogs.“F.L.O.W.” will show at Baxter Avenue Theatres for a week in March, and Salina is expected to attend for a Q&A session.The Group’s second entry, “Adventures of Power,” is a comedy that chronicles the quest of Power, played by Ari Gold (not the agent on HBO’s “Entourage”), to become air drummer extraordinaire. The film stars Adrian Grenier, who plays lead character Vincent Chase on “Entourage,” as an opponent specializing in the art of fictitious percussion, and Michael McKean (“Spinal Tap”), Shoshanna Stern (“Weeds”) and Jane Lynch (“The L Word,” “Best in Show”).“It’s ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ meets ‘Rocky,’” says Holland.Gold, who plays keyboards and ukulele in The Honey Brothers, is no stranger to the indie festival circuit. Judges called his short film “Culture” “the best 60 seconds of film at Sundance.” His 21-minute short “Helicopter,” which recounted the death of his mother Melissa and promoter Bill Graham in a chopper crash, won best short at the South by Southwest Film Fest. Contact the writer at mherron@leoweekly.com