'Hawk' lands in Gainesville theater tonight


Paul Giamatti as "George" and Michael Pitt as "Fred" in "The Hawk is Dying"

GENE PAGE/County Line Films
Published: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

When "The Hawk is Dying" premiered at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles earlier this month, the Egyptian was simultaneously screening a series called "The Seventies: The Good, The Bad and The Strange." The series includes buried cinematic treasures from the disco decade, movies that were unfairly panned or never received a proper release, but have since been acknowledged as classics.

Facts

"The Hawk is Dying"

  • What: Film by director Julian Goldberger and based on the book by Gainesville author Harry Crews. Starring Paul Giamatti, Michelle Williams.

  • When: Reception at 5:30 p.m. tonight, followed by screenings at 6:45 and 9 p.m. tonight; 4:30, 6:45 and 9 p.m. Saturday; 2:30, 4:45 and 7 p.m. Sunday; and 6:45 and 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday

  • Where: Hippodrome Cinema, 25 SE 2nd Place

  • "Hawk" director Julian Goldberger finds the pairing a tad ironic.

    His movie, he says, has the feel of a '70s film, dark and character driven, and not conforming to Hollywood studio formula. And, like the forgotten '70s classics showing at the Egyptian, he hopes "Hawk" is the kind of movie that will be rediscovered a decade or two from now.

    "People will say 'What happened? What was wrong with everybody back then?'," Goldberger says.

    It's been a rough road for the small independent movie that was filmed in Gainesville in 2004. But tonight it will make its triumphant return. The premiere showing of "Hawk" at the Hippodrome Cinema will start with a 5:30 reception this evening, followed by a 6:45 screening.

    Coming home

    When the filmmakers descended upon Gainesville in October of 2004, it was reasonable to believe that "Hawk" had a bright future. Heading the cast was Paul Giamatti, whose wine-country comedy "Sideways" was at the time drawing critical praise and strong box office, and was headed to multiple Academy Award nominations. "Access Hollywood," "Entertainment Tonight," and other media outlets interviewed Giamatti on the "Hawk" set when he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in December of 2004.

    Goldberger had adapted the script from a 1973 novel of the same name by Gainesville literary legend Harry Crews. The film tells the story of George Gatling, a downtrodden Gainesville auto upholstery dealer who is thrown into emotional turmoil by family tragedy. He develops an obsession with a redtailed hawk, which spends most of the film attached to Giamatti's arm (the hawk, actually was played by three separate birds and a stuffed hawk for long shots).

    Michelle Williams, from the TV teen soap "Dawson's Creek," and later an Academy Award nominee for "Brokeback Mountain," was also in the cast, playing a mysterious pot-smoking UF psychology student who gets involved with Giamatti's character.

    The film was produced by Antidote Films, and independent movie firm with a strong track record for bringing quality art films to a larger audience. The filmmakers, with a budget of just under $1 million, used a variety of locations in and around Gainesville, including residential and commercial sites, Paynes Prairie State Preserve, Rainbow Springs State Park and others.

    Filming wrapped Dec. 19, 2004, and after a year of post-production, "Hawk" was first shown to an audience at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in January of 2006. Reaction was less than favorable, something Goldberger attributes to and audience that was expecting light comedy.

    "It's not 'Sideways' with feathers. It's not the feel-good date movie of the year. This is Harry Crews we're talking about and his work does not go down easy," he says.

    After the film failed to find a distributor at Sundance, and Goldberger went back into the editing room and produced a new, tighter version which he took to the Cannes Film Festival and other international festivals. "Hawk" got a much better reception, won some awards, and found international distribution. Antidote found an American distributor, Strand Releasing, last fall, and it finally hit U.S. theaters in April, albeit only three screens in New York, one in Chicago and the Egyptian in L.A.

    Not what you'd call a "wide release."

    Arthouse cinema

    Goldberger says his film has proven that it has an audience, and the shame is that the movie has not been marketed and distributed in a way that allowed it to find that audience. Instead, it was given a token release, to make it eligible for awards, and quickly released in DVD form (the DVD is available from Strand this week.)

    "This is a film that should have been shown in college towns, places like Oxford, Miss., Athens, Ga., Gainesville, Madison, places that have a real college crowd that wants movies like this," he says.

    Here in Gainesville, however, the film is being warmly anticipated. Hippodrome officials say Crews, who has made very few personal appearances in Gainesville in recent years, will be on hand to introduce the film tonight. Members of the crew that worked on the Gainesville shoot will also attend. Cast members were also invited, but none are expected.

    Mark McCauley, who played George Gatling's brother-in-law in the film, went to the L.A. screening last month, and says "Hawk" was very well received.

    "It's really a film that's made for an audience," McCauley says. It's a really introspective look at people's lives. I think it will be enjoyable for the people in Gainesville."

    Goldberger has moved on, and, ironically, is now adapting a script for Universal Studios, though he's not sure that his next project, or any project he works on, will end up being made by a major studio. The "Hawk" experience has left him a bit jaded on the state of the U.S. film industry. But he hopes the film he created in Gainesville will have some lasting impact.

    "It will stay with you, I know that," he says. "It's a question of 'Can you surrender to this film, and can you surrender to a different kind of filmmaking?' And if you do, I think you'll be rewarded." "The Hawk Is Dying"

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