Movie News & Reviews

Sacramento films in spotlight at SXSW, Tribeca festivals

Mandy Moody appears in the short film “Birthday” from Sacramento filmmaker Chris King.
Mandy Moody appears in the short film “Birthday” from Sacramento filmmaker Chris King. Courtesy of Watermark Films

Sacramento will have a strong presence at two of the nation’s most prominent film festivals.

On March 17, the documentary feature “All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records” will debut at the South By Southwest music and film festival in Austin, Texas. Years in the making, “All Things” was directed by actor and Sacramento native Colin Hanks.

Founded by Russ Solomon in 1960 in Sacramento, Tower Records helped define the retail music business. It folded in 2006 amid a changing consumer landscape that included stiff competition from big-box stores and online downloads.

Hanks began work on the film in 2006, and made several trips from Southern California to Sacramento for interviews.

“It can just take a long time – trying to make a film is not easy, and documentary films are very involved,” he told The Bee last year.

A 2011 crowd-funding campaign raised $92,000 and gave the project a second wind. “We were dead in the water, and Kickstarter really saved us,” Hanks said.

Hanks and “All Things” collaborator Sean Stuart had amassed so much footage over the years that “I could have released a huge chunk of this on YouTube,” Hanks said. “But Russ Solomon and company deserve better than that.”

In April, two Sacramento-shot short films will screen at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival: “The House Is Innocent,” a documentary focused on the couple who now live in the F Street Victorian once occupied by killer landlady Dorothea Puente; and “Birthday,” a narrative short that follows the recovery of a Marine severely injured in Afghanistan.

The shorts were among 60 chosen from more than 3,000 submissions to Tribeca, a 14-year-old festival co-founded by actor Robert De Niro. Tribeca runs April 15-26.

If Solomon is one of the Sacramento’s most famous figures, Puente ranks among its most notorious. In 1988, police discovered seven bodies buried in the backyard of the boardinghouse she ran at 1426 F St. Puente was convicted of killing three tenants. She died in prison in 2011.

The home’s most recent owners, Tom Williams and Barbara Holmes, have freshened its decor and embraced its infamy, posting joke signs like one warning intruders to “keep out from under the grass.”

Los Angeles filmmaker Nicholas Coles read about Williams and Holmes in a 2012 Sacramento Bee story. He met the couple and decided to make a short that’s more about them than the Puente case.

“They have incredible personalities,” Coles said of Williams and Holmes. “Their sense of humor really comes through” in the short, he said.

Prolific Sacramento filmmaker Chris King has placed several shorts in festivals over the years. But the response so far to his film “Birthday” is unprecedented, he said.

He finished “Birthday” – which chronicles the post-war reunion of the Marine (Chris Gouchoe), who is a triple amputee, and his wife (Mandy Moody) – in late January. It already has won spots in 12 festivals, including Tribeca.

“If this continues, the number of acceptances should dwarf our other films,” King said.

The tremendous success of “American Sniper” would seem to have sparked more interest in stories of Iraq and Afghanistan war vets. But King does not see a link between “Sniper” and his film, which was nearly finished before Clint Eastwood’s movie came out in January.

“They are completely different stories, and frankly, I wanted to make this film 2½, almost three years ago,” King said. “I think the topic of our wounded veterans is timeless.”

King said that after he and his wife/filmmaking collaborator Heather King complete the festival rounds with “Birthday,” they will start in earnest on another project they long have had in mind: a feature film about … wait for it … Dorothea Puente.

No Sacramento screenings have been announced for the three festival films. But Coles and King said they plan to submit their films to a local festival in 2015.

Call The Bee’s Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.