The Stonzek Theater in Lake Worth, Florida is always willing to offer a wide array of unconventional indie films to please the small art-house community that attends its only screening room. This week, two well-known film festival hits, “Amy” and “Tangerine” will make their debut at the Stonzek. Will the theater’s regular attendees find these films as ingenious and innovating, as did audiences at Sundance and Cannes?
The Stonzek Theater, a small but cozy art venue in Lake Worth, Florida is screening two very particular films back to back this week, no doubt delighting the small indie film crowd that knows everything about them, but making those who don’t, raise a quizzical brow when they look at the theater’s film schedule. Stonzek manager, Charlie Birnbaum, told Art Film File, that he had been after Tangerine for a while, delighted by the premise of a film that had been made completely using an iPhone. “In regards to the Amy documentary, Birnbaum states: “I loved her music, loved her singing, she was an amazing artist who died much too young, and I think fans of Amy Winehouse will like it”. He confesses that sometimes he is at a loss when it comes to predicting what films will be a sucess with the Stonzek’s regular atendees. “I have to say I just don’t know. I hope that these two films, “Amy” and “Tangerine” will draw a younger crowd, but the truth is sometimes I hit it on the nose and other times, I completely miss the mark. I have a great deal of confidence in my instincts to judge films, but in judging the audience? Not so much.”
Birnbaum is quick to clarify that the transgender topic in Tangerine, which has flared all over the media in the last few months, was the last thing on his mind when he booked the film for the Stonzek through its distributor, Magnolia Pictures. “I didn’t book it to capitalize on the Kardashians and People magazine”, he states. There were many number of reasons that attracted me to this project, and the transgender topic, to be honest, wasn’t the most important”. Birnbaum confesses to be of the “old school”, preferring celluloid to digital, but was willing to overcome his personal idiosyncrasies, to see this particular “female buddy movie, shot on a telephone”.
The New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis, wrote: “Tangerine” encompasses dizzying multitudes. It’s a neo-screwball chase flick with a dash of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, but mostly, movingly, it is a female-friendship movie about two people who each started life with an XY chromosome set.” Admittedly, the plot of Tangerine is actually, quite simple: Sin-Dee, a transgender prostitute, hears that her pimp boyfriend cheated on her while she was in prison, sets out to get her revenge. While the story is less than profound, Tangerine premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and received high regards from audience, and jury alike. Although critics seem divided as to the actual worth of the film, the fact that this was the first feature made completely from beginning to end using an iPhone , revealed the start of a major game change in film making. Although director Sean Baker used a particular software called FILMIC pro with his iPhone, purchased with money raised on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, which allowed him to shoot and edit Tangerine like a regular feature film, it still renders the question: will movie cameras even be necessary in the near future?
Tangerine will premiere alongside Amy, directed by Asif Kapadia, which portrays the downwards spiral into drugs and alcohol, of late twenty-seven year old British singer Amy Winehouse, found dead of alcohol poisoning in 2011. The film made a successful debut in the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and was praised by The New York Times as “an intimate view of Amy Winehouse’s rise and destruction”. The documentary has also been controversial in lieu of Amy’s father, Mitch Winehouse, who told British newspaper The London Telegraph, that the film shamelessly exploited the image of his daughter.
Ben Brown, the Stonzek’s projectionist, has a higher expectation for Asif Kapadia’s Amy having more success with the theater’s audience than Tangerine. “I think people will like it, at least fans of her music will” he states. “I don’t know about Tangerine, though. We had people walk out of a performance of Cabaret at the Playhouse last month, because two men kissed in one of the scenes. So, who knows?”.
The Stonzek is the only one venue screening Tangerine in Lake Worth and West Palm Beach, at least for the moment. Amy slowly made its way into two theaters in Palm Beach County last week, screening at Muvico in downtown West Palm Beach and Regal Cinemas in Royal Palm Beach; however, it only played for two weeks to a rather thin audience. The questions remains if audiences will be more abundant at the Stonzek for these two films. The fact that much of the theater’s audience is composed of elderly retirees who attend the matinee shows, will perhaps be on their guard with Tangerine. However, the Stonzek is likewise frequently visited by an abundant art crowd and indie film fans, who undoubtedly will appreciate the screening of an innovative film like Tangerine, in conjunction with Amy Winehouse’s melancholic documentary. What is certain, is that every moviegoer that enjoys the unique atmosphere of this small and quaint theater, shares a common preference for the unconventional stories that indie and foreign films have to offer.