Festival's 'Filmadelphia' section showcases local directors

Celestina Peruggia , daughter of the man who stole the "Mona Lisa," is interviewed in Joe Medeiros' film about the 1911 theft.
Celestina Peruggia , daughter of the man who stole the "Mona Lisa," is interviewed in Joe Medeiros' film about the 1911 theft.
Posted: October 19, 2012

The Philadelphia Film Festival, known for showcasing first-run Hollywood flicks and international art films, also features a healthy selection of films by local directors in its "Greater Filmadelphia" section, a selection of seven films - four documentaries and three narrative features - screening over the next 10 days.

"We always have a lot of entries from Philadelphia filmmakers, so it's always kind of a tough choice what we can include," says festival artistic director Michael Lerman. "But we never pick a film just because it's local. We go for the best films . . . that can really belong in an international film festival."

Notable docus include The Missing Piece: Vincenzo Peruggia and the Unthinkable Theft of the Mona Lisa, a fascinating and at times irreverent account of the Italian glassworker who in 1911 stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris.

"It's a quirky, fun art movie," Lerman says, "a lot like a Morgan Spurlock film."

Director Joe Medeiros says the film has been brewing in his mind for 36 years. "I came across Peruggia's story in a book in 1976," says the Archbishop Ryan High School alumnus. "I was immediately hooked. . . . And I spent the next 30 years trying to write a screenplay about it."

Medeiros, 62, who recently retired from his job writing for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, says he was fascinated by Peruggia's motives.

"He claimed Napoleon had stolen [the Mona Lisa] from Italy and . . . [he] wanted to return it," Medeiros says. "And he even expected the Italian government to pay him a reward."

A more serious mood prevails in The Atomic States of America, a look at the various dangers posed by the proliferation of nuclear power plants in America, made by Philly documentarians Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce ( The Art of the Steal).

"We wanted to raise questions [and] inspire debate about the dangers and health problems" that may arise from nuclear installations, Joyce says.

The end of the world is around the corner in the narrative feature This Time Tomorrow from Northeast Philly native Shane Bissett. It takes its cue from speculation inspired by the Mayan calendar that the world will end Dec. 21, 2012. It stars Dave Coleman as a lonely soul who decides that if the world is coming to an end, he might as well make a last stab at true love with his ex-girlfriend, Parker (Jade Elysan).

"He's someone who bleeds regret. He feels that for his whole life he's made the wrong decisions," says Bissett.

Familial love is the subject matter of Jenny Deller's Future Weather, a coming-of-age story that also features sophisticated scientific discussions on the environment.

Perla Haney-Jardine stars as Lauduree, a science prodigy growing up in a small Midwestern town who is left to fend for herself when her flaky mother skips town to go partying. Her independence is threatened when her grandmother Greta (Amy Madigan) insists on taking her in.

"The story is basically about these three generations of women who have to learn to come to terms with each other," says Deller, an Illinois native who made the film during the eight years she lived in Philadelphia.

Lili Taylor costars as Lauduree's mentor, science teacher Ms. Markovi, who encourages her groundbreaking experiments.

"I went to a math and science academy," says Deller, "and this was a good way to bring attention to the science of global warming."

Contact Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or tirdad@phillynews.com.

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