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THE TEMPE EMERALD REVIEW
Park City 2007

Quite possibly, the best film in Park City during the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, wasn't in the Sundance Film Festival. 

I fancy myself a "Film Aficionado."  Like my cigar counterpart, I scour the obscure establishments across the world, searching for that rare gem.  The inviolate masterpiece.  The virgin Emerald void of corporate America's stamp.

By God I found one.

True to character, my interests began to pall after viewing several cliché independents trying way too hard to be independent.  I found myself wandering, trying to escape the ennui brought forth by vapid cinema.  This flight led me to the Main Street Mall, wherein I noticed a banner tucked away 20 feet or so behind the elevator, displaying the Park City Film Music Festival.  The name sounded familiar.  I felt as though it was destined, so I perused the film listings strewn beautifully, independently, across an uncelebrated table littered with film flyers. 

The lady at the counter suggested "Little Chenier."  What the heck, I'll try it, it starts in an hour.

The best "spur of the moment" in the history of "spur of the moments."  For a film dork like me that is.

Without revealing too much, the film almost seductively dances the audience into a magical world of Cajun bayou life of monolithic reptiles and floating villages, through fluid, floating camera movements.

“Novel introduction,” I thought.  “Someone got lucky.”   

My skeptical American nature was unwilling to concede to the possibility of a random good film find.  Yet, the surprises didn’t stop.  Characters, characters, characters.  Wonderful characters with personalities as interesting as their names (Pemon, Beauxregard ,T-Boy, Sugar Man, Toothless Jimmy) are introduced.  Even with such characters, the film manages to stay pertinent to the story, many film makers wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation, and would delve into unrelated character tangents.  The director showed great film discipline and stayed on course.

My hands began to sweat from the anticipation.  Could this be “the” find?  The Emerald Jewel of the Independent Film Nile?

Frame after frame of visually stunning celluloid, threatened to pull me away from my conscious search for a gem; from my constant critiquing. The careful balance between uplifting innocence, humor, and intense drama, soon found me spellbound and emotionally connected to the two main characters, Beauxregard Dupuis (Johnathon Schaech, That Thing You Do ), and his mentally handicapped brother, Pemon (Fred Koehler, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood), deliver a cathartic performance of tragedy and triumph, as they fight to save each other from the vituperative actions of their jealous rival and town sheriff, Carl LeBauve (Jeremy Davidson). 
 
All the players were amazing, and I did recognize a few faces:  Chris Mulkey (Broken Trails, Twin Peaks), Marshall Bell (Capote), Clifton Collins Jr. (Capote, Traffic, Tigerland), and Isabella Hoffman. 

The film stayed true to its guts with an equally surprising, jaw-dropping seat-clinching ending.

I found my Emerald.  My unmarked Cuban.

Just remember, when “Little Chenier” comes to a theater near you...
...I found it first.  Well, me and the other audience members, that is. “Little Chenier” was given the Audience Award for Best Film Saturday night at the festival’s award ceremony.  It will still be my own Emerald find when I tell the story in smaller circles, of course.

Patrick Sweeney
Tempe, AZ


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