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September 11, 2003

Filmmaker comes home for fest

Doug Hadden

PAWTUCKET -- Film director Michael Corrente, who grew up in Fairlawn, returned to the city that left many of the growing-up impressions he continues to rely on in his busy movie-making career, which saw him put together four movies in the past year.

To make it for the opening of the six straight nights of the Pawtucket Film Festival, Corrente not only had to get up at 5 a.m. Wednesday to catch a flight and take a timeout from the Toronto Film Festival, he also had to invite himself.

And Rick Roth, sponsoring the local film fest for the fourth year, is glad he did.

"It was pretty cool that he came here," said Roth, relating that Corrente contacted him after reading a newspaper mention of the Pawtucket festival.

"He was very unpretentious, very down to earth. I said it's very small, and I think that interested him," and unlike others Roth said he has dealt with, "he's good on his word."

Corrente, casual in a white shirt with wide blue stripes, now lives in New York City with his wife of 11 years, Libby Langdon Corrente. But Corrente, who moved out of Fairlawn at 13 and graduated president of his senior class at Coventry High School, said his creative juices continue to flow from his local roots.

"Everything I write about that I do creatively comes pretty much from my roots in Rhode Island," Corrente said.

A piece of that evidence was on screen Wednesday night with the showing of Corrente's "Outside Providence," a 1999 film starring Alec Baldwin (whose character is from Pawtucket) that he directed and also co-wrote with Cumberland cutups Bobby and Peter Farrelly of "Dumb and Dumber" fame.

Corrente said his next project will be the life-and-times story of Providence's charismatic former mayor, now serving time in a federal prison for corruption. He said several writers are still in contention to do the screenplay, based on the Mike Stanton book, "The Prince of Providence: The True Story of Buddy Cianci, America's Most Notorious Mayor, Some Wiseguys, and the Feds."

The director also spent part of his day Wednesday at the Blackstone Charter School in Pawtucket, speaking in a program the RISD-sponsored Catalyst Arts group helped put together.

So what did the students ask about? "Obviously they want to know how much money they can make, when they can make it and if it's in small unmarked bills," Corrente cracked a wry smile. As for movie career ambitions, he told them, "they can do it if they want to. It's certainly within their grasp."

The four films Corrente's Revere Pictures made over the past year, on budgets ranging from $1 million to $10 million, are all expected to be released next year: "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," the title derived from a song by Warren Zevon, who died Sunday at 56; the coming-of-age "When Zachary Beaver Came To Town;" "The Door on the Floor," starring Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger and based on the book by John Irving; and "Corn."

Revere also has another six films now in development, and Corrente said he is always looking for new ideas. "You just turn a lot of rocks over. I read pretty much everything because you never know."

"Outside Providence" fit that pattern after Corrente read the Peter Farrelly book in 1987. "As soon as I read it I saw it as a movie," then hooked up with the Farrelly brothers "and went from there."

"The 'Buddy' movie, we're working on the screenplay right now. With any luck we'll be shooting that next year," said Corrente, who made his directorial debut with the critically acclaimed 1993 film, "Federal Hill."

Roth operates T-shirt design company Mirror Image on Exchange Street and the festival with help from employee and Tolman High School graduate Jessica Bahl.

He said having Corrente on hand for the start of the festival was "a great way to kick it off."

Each night's format (doors open at 6 p.m.) starts with a short film followed by a feature, which tonight will be "Federal Hill."

For the $10 ticket patrons also get a Pawtucket Film Festival T-shirt and beverage and food, including a variety of Eastern European breads made by Iggy's Bakery of Cambridge, Mass., plus a host of spreads to complement them.

For the fourth year, songwriter, singer and acoustic guitarist Christian McNeill, out of Cambridge by way of Derry, Northern Ireland, provides the musical interludes.

Underscoring the down-home feel of the film fest, which is part of the Pawtucket Arts Festival, McNeill for the first time Wednesday night had along his mother, Roisin, visiting from Ireland. McNeill said music runs in his family; his father, Eric, is also a singer. (The 31-year-old McNeill's Gaelic band, Hy Brasil, meaning "land of the blessed," will play Boston's Paradise Club Nov. 1.)

Corrente related to Roth that Tuesday night he had been at the Toronto Film Festival with other directors including Robert Altman, when he told them he had to take his leave for the early flight here to be at the Pawtucket festival, for them an unknown venue.

"I'll have to send them a T-shirt," Roth laughed.

ŠThe Pawtucket Times 2003

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