St. Petersburg filmmaker Chris Fuller waited years for his debut, Loren Cass, to get a distribution deal — and one day for it to become a Big Apple hit.
Kino International just bought the rights to Fuller's searing, abstract drama, set in his hometown after 1996's racial disturbances. The deal includes an engagement that began Friday at New York's Cinema Village multiplex.
New York Times critic Nathan Lee caught an advance screening of Loren Cass and published a rave review Friday. Lee writes: "this sharp, gutsy indie is one of the year's great discoveries."
That's just for starters. Lee goes on to compare Loren Cass with the early experimental films of Gus Van Sant, Harmony Korine's Gummo and the works of French minimalist Robert Bresson.
"Yet Loren Cass is no mere synthesis of influences or art-house pastiche," Lee writes. "Its techniques and sensibility feel fresh, organic, evoked from the scene at hand. Remarkable stuff for a debut film, all the more impressive in that Mr. Fuller wrote the screenplay at 18 and shot the film at 21."
Fuller, now 26, declined Kino's offer to join his film in New York, choosing to work at his Meatman gourmet butcher shop in St. Petersburg.
"There's not a lot I could do up there," Fuller said. "They might try to make me do a Q&A, and I hate those things, anyway. I'd rather have (Kino) spend the money on ads, to be honest."
The New York Times review gives Kino plenty to trumpet, including Lee's closing remarks:
"Mr. Fuller lived through the 1996 St. Petersburg tensions as a teenager, and Loren Cass was, by his own admission, a means of processing the experience. Some people keep diaries to deal with trauma. Others make art. A select few start careers of singular, exquisite promise."
Loren Cass is booked next month in Los Angeles. Fuller is hoping to secure a Tampa Bay run before its DVD release this year.
"I'm getting real confident that it'll be someplace here, for at least a couple of weeks," Fuller said.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs. tampabay.com/movies.