Las Vegas Film Fest 2011

Las Vegas Film Festival 2011

                                                      Vuola & Michael Madsen

Photos by Nikki Artale

The Las Vegas Film Festival held another successful event at the Hilton on July 15-17, 2011. People from all over the world came to view original film selections, documentaries, film shorts and foreign films. Panel discussions were featured each day with a screenwriter’s Panel, Producer’s Panel and the Filmmaker’s Panel.

A journey into the days of the mob was discussed by the legendary ex-mobster Henry Hill and wise guy Frank Cullotta, Meyer Lanksy 11 and Antonette Giancanna. There was an active discussion and question and answer period.

                                          Nikki Artale& Henry Hill

Opening night featured two films, “The Story” a ski documentary that takes a look at how people excel in the most extreme circumstances of life and how they push through to get to the other side of things. The next feature was a powerful film, “Oxy Moron”, winner of a Golden Ace Award. It is a true story of Johnny Hickey, who directed the film, and the drug addiction and violent crimes in his hometown, Charlestown, MA. It was his first time acting, producing and directing. The scenes are shocking and unbelievable for someone who has no concept of how it is to live in the drug addicted world. It is a sit on the edge of your seat film.

                                         Michael Kalil & Johnny Hickey

The winner of a Silver Ace Award went to “In the Woods”, directed by Vilma Zenelaj and her sister Greta Zenelaj, who won the best actress award for her role. This sister team founded Colored Films, an Albanian production company, and has won awards for two of their featured films so far. In the Woods was not shown at the festival but Greta & Vilma gave me a copy of the movie to view at home and I must say it was an excellent movie and Greta definitely deserved the best actress award she won for “In the Woods” in the New York International Independent Film Festival. They wrote the story and script about relationships. Sometimes you think you know a person, but you really don’t. I really loved the film and I am looking forward to more features from the Zenelaj sisters. Their parents are proud of them and are proud of their success and recognition. Part of their success is being together as sisters, because they can be brutally honest with each other. I was very impressed with their beauty, their kindness and the warmth that they showed whenever I saw them at the film festival. Greta and Vilma are working on projects for a TV series and I am looking forward to seeing their future shows.

                                                      Greta Zenelaj & Vilma Zenelaj
Our very own local star entertainer, Rick Faugno starred in the film “Virgin Alexander”. It is a story of a virgin who is in love with a prostitute and who is losing the house his grandfather gave him, to a foreclosure. It was a joy to see Rick in this movie and the dance in the end was priceless. Ricks acting deserved an award and we loved his part in the film.

50K in 5 Days, an award winning short film is the story of a group of young professional poker players who each pooled together $50.00 to create a bank so they could play poker on the internet. Their goal was to make $50,000 in 5 days. Bryan W. Shay produced & directed the film and it was a big accomplishment to win an award his first time out. The young men all had a close relationship with each other and they had fun working and playing poker together.

They reached their goal in one week. Jason Lee said that most of the time he lost but luckily the others won everyday. After seeing the film I suggested that they make a reality show out of their poker playing. Congratulations Bryan Shay on a great film and we will be anxiously waiting to see your next film.

                                                      2nd from left Bryan Shay
Get a Job is the story of Merton, a simpleton who is looking to get a job with the help of Willie K. In pursuing a career he is looking to getting back to his love of music.

                                                       Brian Kohne & Eric Gilliom

Brian Kohne, writer and director won the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival award for Best Comedy, won the Audience Choice Hawaiian Feature Award at the Big Island Film Festival and winner of the Golden Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival. There are over 100,000 Hawaiian residents here in Las Vegas and they are excited with the Get a Job film being shown here at the Film Festival.

Eric Gilliom
Willie K

Michael Madsen was presented with the “Indie Icon “Award for his film Vice which was shown prior to Michael receiving the award. It was a touching moment to see Michaels sons come on stage to present him with the award. He was totally surprised and he had tears in his eyes as they all hugged on stage. Michael said “I’ll never forget this as long as I live” It was a moment of family love and everyone present felt it.

                                                      Michael Madsen and his sons
Madsen’s good friend, Ash Adams presented a video tribute to Michael and then hosted the question and answers that followed.

The video showed some of the films that Michael appeared in, such as the classic Reservoir Dogs, Donnie Brasco, Kill Bill and Sin City, to name a few of the 170 that he made. Ash Adams film “Once Fallen” won the Best Feature Award last year at the LV Film Fest. His entry this year is a short “Peter’s Hope”.

                                         Mickey Silver and Michael Madsen

After the Q &A I took Michael upstairs for a private interview and asked more questions about the film. He said he read the first five pages of Vice and understood it but hated the ending, but knew that something was there. He said he would do it but wanted to rewrite the ending and they agreed to it. He also said he wanted Darryl Hannah to play the part of the vice cop and to have black hair so she would be more believable. I didn’t realize it was Daryl until I saw her name on the credits at the end.

                                          Nikki Artale & Michael Madsen 

While we were doing the interview, Michael’s sons were being entertained by Mickey Silver, “The Hands of Las Vegas”. Mickey is a slight of hand expert and is known to have the fastest hands in the world.

The Madsen boys and Mickey Silver

                                         Mickey Silver "The Hands of Las Vegas"

Michael Madsen & sons watching Mickey Silver perform
The Artisan Hotel once again hosted a pool party for everyone and it was a chance to party and meet many producers, directors, screen writers and of course all the wonderful actors.

See you next year for another fabulous Film Fest.


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