Day 7, and just ahead of the final weekend for the 22nd Annual Sedona International Film Festival, moviegoers are in for a treat. This evening, 6 pm at Sedona Performing Arts Center, the festival presents a special screening of the film that asked: “Where were you in ’62?” The cast of American Graffiti reunites for a presentation of the beloved George Lucas classic, followed by a Q&A.
In addition to new films, including a second showing of Prophet’s Prey, a ninety-minute documentary of Warren Jeff’s rule over the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints playing this morning, 9am at Harkins Sedona 6 and a repeat performance of Reparation this morning, 9:15am also at Harkins Sedona 6, from Finland, there’s the film that was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, The Fencer.
The locally produced film that enjoyed its world premiere last evening to a packed and hugely appreciative house was Sacred Journeys. As one member of the audience suggested during a lively Q&A with the cast after the showing, the real title of the film is Sedona Magic. Sacred Journeys will have a second showing tomorrow, Saturday, 12:20 pm at Harkins Sedona 6. Here’s a full review:
Ask any visitor to Sedona and they’ll tell you; among the many breathtaking sights to enjoy, the most spectacular of all is the clarity of a cloudless, night sky. It’s where the inky blackness above looks to be literally sprayed with twinkling stars. Knowing that the nearest star is a few million light years away and it takes almost as long for that image to reach our sight, when we look above, what we’re actually seeing is the past while we remain standing in the present.
With that in mind, the opening shot of an Arizona night sky that begins the hugely likable short film from director Tracy Boyd, Sacred Journeys, underlines that same theme; when the principal characters meet, they are faced with their past and forced to deal with it in the present.
Jeep tour driver Marco (Glenn Scarpelli) is a slob. He sports perpetual slurp stains down the front of his tee-shirt; he uses the socks he’s wearing as emergency heating pads when taking something out of the oven; and in order to move around in his apartment, he has to navigate his way past mounting boxes of junk and plastic bags of trash that create their own in-house pathways. “I’m a mess,” he admits to his suffering tour business manager, Tom (Stephen Wallem) who wants to know if it was true that Marco stopped the tour and made everybody wait while he bought a burger for lunch. It was true.
Tiff (Mackenzie Phillips) is a single mom to her 13-year-old son, Luke (Matthew Kosto). When we first meet them they’re just pulling in to Sedona for a brief visit. The trip is mostly for Luke’s benefit, though the real reason isn’t revealed until later in the story. “It’s to nurture and relax you,” Tiff reminds her son. Just like most visitors to the mountainous area, one of the first things they do is take a jeep tour, and that’s when tourist Tiff recognizes tourist guide Marco, and by seeing each other, both are suddenly faced with a past they never knew they would have to face again.
“What’re you doing here?” asks Marco in a manner suggesting that the last person he would ever expect to meet after all these years was Tiff. While keeping as much of their conversation away from the ears of the boy as possible, Tiff and Marco quickly catch up with their individual stories so far. After a relationship they once shared, Marco partied too much, blew his inheritance, then moved back to Sedona to drive a jeep for sightseeing. Tiff had a child, admitted to herself that she was gay, and embraced it. “You’re gay?” asks a bemused Marco, then adds as if it all suddenly makes sense, “You always did like herbal tea and NPR.”
Running at a scant forty-five minutes, Sacred Journeys never has a chance to wear out its welcome. In fact, the overall feel to the film is that by getting to know these likable characters as quickly as we do, once everything concludes, secrets are revealed and new beginnings are set in place, you may find yourself wishing that things lasted even longer; spending a few extra minutes with everyone would be perfectly fine.
Much of the fun for locals will be recognizing Sedona landmarks such as the Goldenstein Gallery, and the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts village. Plus there are those spectacular opening, panoramic shots of the night sky, then the sun rising over the Sedona red rock mountains. Even though these widescreen, introductory moments last just a few seconds, cinematographer Radan Popovic has created an opening worthy of any big screen, large-scale epic – the larger the screen the better – proving one invaluable point to any other potential filmmaker considering Sedona as a location: In this part of the state, no matter where you point that lens, there’s no such thing as a bad shot.
All four principal cast members, Scarpelli, Phillips, Wallem, and Kosto, nicely establish their characters as people we would like to know if we were ever to meet them, and they do it in a short time, but it’s Mackenzie Phillips who shines. Seeing her again, if only for this brief period, is a reminder of how natural a performer she is and how much we never realized we missed her.
Plus, writer Michael Colucci’s script manages to keep events and dialog bristling at a pleasant, moderate pace with gentle and occasionally some self-deprecating humor that helps make even the most dramatic of unexpected plot turns appear upbeat. When Tiff remarks to Marco about the spectacular view of the area from his apartment window, Marco states that without the view, “You might as well be living in an alley in Scottsdale.” Plus when Marco and Tiff talk in front of young Luke while attempting to keep any real information from him, the boy asks them both, “Why are you talking in fortune cookie?”
Book early. Because of its subject and locale, the Arizona premiere at the 2016 Sedona Film Festival, Sacred Journeys, along with two short supporting features, Homeward and Monsoon ll, will understandably attract the attention of local festival audiences.
Sacred Journeys will have a repeat showing tomorrow, Saturday, February 27, 12:20 pm at Harkins Sedona 6.