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US indies hit the Champs-Elysees

US in Progress initiative to showcase five features by independent US filmmakers.

Austin, Texas-based filmmaker Michael Tully’s [pictured] coming-of-age-vacation comedy Ping Pong Summer kicks off the latest edition of US in Progress on Thursday.

The US in Progress initiative, hosted by the Champs Elysées Film Festival, will showcase five features by independent US filmmakers over the coming two days to some 30 European buyers.

Set against the Maryland beach resort of Ocean City, Ping Pong Summer combines a cast of unknown adolescent actors with established big screen stars Susan Sarandon and John Hannah.

The picture was among six recipients last year of a $300,000 grant from the San Francisco Film Society and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. Other projects in that selection included Fruitvale and Short Term 12.

Tully’s previous films include Cocaine Angel, Silver Jew and Septien.

Also screening on Thursday is New York director Leah Meyerhoff’s I Believe in Unicorns about a teenager who runs away with an older boy to escape the day-to-day grind of caring for her disabled mother. The cast features host of indie stalwarts including Julia Garner, Amy Seimetz and Joshua Leonard.

Pictures due to screen on Friday comprise Jaffe Zinn’s Children, Tommy Oliver’s 1982 and Shawn Telford’s BFE.

Children revolves around a southern Idaho camping trip by two women which turns murderous when one of them becomes convinced that they are living in the end of times as prophesied in the book of Revelations, or Apocalypse. It is Zinn’s second feature after the award-winning Magic Valley.

Oliver’s semi-autobiographical Philadelphia-set 1982 tackles the issue of crack cocaine through the tale of a father trying to protect his daughter from the impact of his wife’s drug addiction.

Shawn Telford’s dark comedy BFE follows the adventures of a terminally ill old man and his grandson as they look for a way to end the former’s life.

US in Progress is a joint venture between the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, the Champ-Elysées Film Festival and Black Rabbit Film.

It aims to present US Indie films in post-production to potential European buyers. Distributors due to attend the event this year included French Bac Films, Memento, Wild Bunch and MK2 as well as the UK’s Hanway and Soda Pictures, Danish Level K and Germany’s K5.

The second edition of the Champs-Elysées Film Festival, running June 12-18 and devoted to showing mainly US fare, opened on Wednesday evening with a screening of Brian Dannelly’s Struck by Lightening, featuring Glee star Chris Colfer, who also wrote the script. Eurozoom will release the film in France on June 19.

Nine independent US pictures will screen in the festival including Jocelyn Towne’s I am I, Sean Garrity’s Blood Pressure, the Helen Hunt and Alice Eve-starring Decoding Annie Parker, documentary How to Make Money Selling Drugs and Thanks for Sharing, starring Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow. 

Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s Girl Most Likely will shut the festival in the presence of its two stars Kristen Wiig and Darren Criss. 

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