Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Toronto: 'Bella' is the People's Choice

Congratulations to Mexican-born, Texas-educated, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Alejandro Monteverde, whose feature debut BELLA won the Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award. As part of the Contemporary World Cinema programme, Bella didn’t arrive at the fest with huge advance buzz, but this modest, warmly observed two-hander about a washed up soccer star (Eduardo Verastegui) and a lonely, pregnant waitress (Tammy Blanchard) might just have stuff to be a breakout indie hit.

Toronto audiences have a knack for picking interesting and popular films–many of them go on to be Academy Award nominees and IFC award winners. Previous people’s choice winners include AMERICAN BEAUTY, TSOTSI, WHALE RIDER, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, and STRICTLY BALLROOM

If I were a betting woman, I should have heeded two good omens about BELLA: first, the movie’s leading man was the cause of the one impromptu female movie fan freakout I witnessed on Cumberland Street. Walking to a screening, there was a sudden, high pitched shriek–two young women all but lunged at a very handsome dark haired man walking near the four seasons. It was Verastegui, who obliged them by posing for autographs. Other women stopped just to get a look. Others strayed from their male companions. “Who is that guy?” one abandoned husband huffed. I should have known.

Second omen–actually, the first. The night before the festival began, I got in to Pearson airport very late–my flight had been delayed six hours–and I wandered around in confusion, looking for my ride to town. We never connected. Who should offer me a ride but writer director Alejandro Monteverdo, who was on pins and needles awaiting the premiere of his film, BELLA.

So not only is he a winner, he’s a nice guy, too. Congratulations again.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon