Director Martin McDonagh answers questions from the audience of the Sept. 29 showing of his new film “7 Psychopaths,” in the Gaslamp 15 Reading Cinemas as part of the San Diego Film Festival. Troy Orem, City Times
Director Martin McDonagh answers questions from the audience of the Sept. 29 showing of his new film “7 Psychopaths,” in the Gaslamp 15 Reading Cinemas as part of the San Diego Film Festival. Troy Orem, City Times

‘See the Shih Tzu hit the fan’

More than 100 different early awards-favorites and independent films vied for audiences in downtown and La Jolla.

Launching under new management for the first time, Reading Cinemas and the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art became the home for the San Diego Film Festival which ran from Sept. 26-Sept. 30.

Arguably, the biggest highlight was “Seven Psychopaths,” which blends outrageous comedy and action together, and screened to two sold-out rooms. A second screening was added to accommodate audience demand.

“It’s a good problem to have,” joked “Access Hollywood” critic Scott Mantz who moderated a question and answer session with “Psychopaths” writer and director Martin McDonagh.

The film stars Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Gabourey Sidibe, Abbie Cornish, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Tom Waits.

“Wait till you see the shih tzu hit the fan,” said Mantz before the screening.

Farrell stars as Marty, an alcoholic writer struggling to get past the first page of his script entitled “Seven Psychopaths.” In a hilarious movie within a movie twist, Marty becomes entangled in his oddball friend Billy’s (Rockwell) troubles after he kidnaps the shih tzu belonging to an eccentric and crazy gangster played by Harrelson.

“He’s a lovely, funny guy to be around. I love him in both movies,” said McDonagh about reuniting with Farrell after directing him in “In Bruges,” 2008. “We both want to explore dark characters with humor.”

McDonagh obviously has the same sense of humor in his real life as he does in his movies, “…The scope is bigger, the canvas is larger…the jigsaw aspect of a film is the hardest thing to get my head around,” he said before laughing. “There’s no line of dialogue, or song that I don’t want up there. It’s all my fault.”

“Psychopaths” will be released nationwide on Oct. 12.

The festival showcased several more independent shorts and feature films that embodied different genres. Most importantly, it was able to highlight films that are still trying to gain mileage.

“The Story of Luke,” which details a young autistic man’s mission to begin living on his own after the death of his caretaker grandmother, was honored with the Best Feature Award.

U-T Best San Diego Film Award winner, “Red Line,” is equal parts mystery and suspense.  It tells the story of a terrorist attack that takes place on the Los Angeles underground red line subway. A group of surviving riders come to the conclusion that the bomber is still amongst them and it becomes a ‘Who done it?’ story.

The fact that film was made at all is a harrowing feat in itself.  Made with a mostly local cast and filmed on a small sound stage at John Paul the Great University in Scripps Ranch, it cost just under $200,000 to make.

“Everyone on the cast has more credits than me!”

Joked director Robert Kirbyson as he sat with producer Dominic Loco and actress Nicole Gale Anderson.

“When I watch it I honestly don’t know how we were able to do it all,” Kirbyson said.

“We’re hoping there’s a distributor in the audience,” Kirbyson joked before detailing that he hoped the film would be in the hands of the American Film Market by next year to secure greater distribution opportunity.

“Silver Linings Playbook,” which enjoyed a world premiere at the Toronto International Festival where it won the coveted TIFF Audience Award before arriving in San Diego, also enjoyed a sold-out screening.

The adaptation of the 2008 Matthew Quick novel of the same name, pairs director David O. Russell (“The Fighter”) with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro.

Cooper is Pat, a man plagued with bipolar disorder who has just been released from a mental hospital when the film begins. The stint, which cost Pat eight months, comes after the revelation of his estranged wife’s affair and a subsequent violent confrontation with her lover.

Cooper, who embodies Pat so completely that viewers will forget the crass comedies that first gained him notoriety, is wonderful.  In a hilarious and sad turn true to the dramedy’s theme, the Stevie Wonder hit “My Cherie Amore” becomes a trigger for Pat.

His chemistry with Lawrence, who plays an equally troubled, but sarcastic young widow who offers to help him reconnect with his wife, is evident. They quarrel, seemingly trying to prove one’s crazier than the other.

Both have garnered early awards talk for their portrayals as well as De Niro’s turn as Pat’s desperate, obsessive-compulsive father. The film will enjoy a nationwide release on Nov. 21.

The San Diego Film Festival is an annual event produced by the non-profit San Diego Film Foundation.

For more information on the movies screened visit

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‘See the Shih Tzu hit the fan’