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June 8, 2008

Ciao in New York


I'm on my way back to New York, where it just so happens that Ciao will be screening this evening. Since the last time I wrote about Yen's film, it's had its world premiere at AFI Dallas, won an Honorable Mention award there, and then set out on the circuit of just about every LGBT festival in existence. Its Manhattan premiere is courtesy of Newfest, and from there it will go on to Frameline in San Francisco and Outfest in LA, among others.

I haven't mentioned its festival run yet for somewhat selfish reasons: I didn't want to be a hypocrite by celebrating something that I'd been openly unhappy with. On the one hand, I was really disappointed that it didn't branch out further beyond the niche festivals that have been so welcoming to it; I wanted it to be appreciated as a great film, without having to be qualified as a great gay film. Essentially, I wanted it to have its cake and eat it too. On the other hand, though, I was very adamant that should Ciao fail to score a premiere at a major festival, then it definitely shouldn't starts its run at its hometown festival. No offense to that festival and its programer's' excellent tastes, but I felt that bowing where it did would put the film in a very small box and set the glass ceiling for its success very low.

Ultimately, though, the film was left between a rock and a hard place. I was staying with Yen last fall and winter, as the rejections from Sundance and SXSW and Tribeca rolled in, and over that time we had a lot of long talks about where the film might have fallen short of its original intentions, where it might be turning people off. Were we that far off from what we'd set out to do? Were our tastes out of whack? We conceded that there were some elements that hadn't turned out as well as they could have, but that's how it is with any film; there are parts that you watch and scratch your head, wondering why you made that decision, or why you didn't realize that moving the camera just a little bit closer would make the scene that much better. But even more than that, I think we began to realize that it just wasn't an easy picture to embrace. I remember writing to him in an e-mail that the film, by its very design, keeps the audience at arm's length for most of its running time, until, for just a moment, it opens up; if you miss that opportunity, you're stuck outside, and the film will leave you cold.

I keep saying 'we' when Ciao is, of course, Yen's own work through and through. But because I know it so intimately, because we worked together on making every single cut in the movie, bouncing ideas back and forth and wondering how long we could get away with holding on static wide shots, I feel ever so slightly protective of it. I can't help it. I think I know just what Yen was going for with it. And I believe I'm on the same page as him regarding the final product, which, whatever its flaws, I fully stand behind, and believe is good. I'm incredibly proud of it. And now that I've swallowed that same pride, I'm glad that Yen and Jim didn't listen to me about the premiere. If that glass ceiling I was afraid of ever existed at all, the film's long since shattered it of its own volition. It's said that every good picture will eventually finds its own path - and you can probably figure out the rest of where I'm going with that. Suffice to say, Ciao screens today at 5:30 at the AMC Theaters on 34th Street, and it's already sold out.

A few belated links:

And now to the airport and a flight that will, unfortunately, be landing long after Yen's screening is over...

Posted by David Lowery at June 8, 2008 12:32 AM