Before we kick off our coverage of all the films we can possibly see this year at the Temecula Valley International Film & Music Festival, I have to mention one thing. As many of you know, we don’t typically do reviews here on THE LIST. However, it would be irresposible of me not to have some critique of the films being showcased… especially after being given free access to see them.

I don’t typically rate films because it always seemed strange to me that The Matrix, Goodfellas and Toy Story could all be considered 4 or 5 star films when they all rank high for completely different reasons. So, for our purposes here, we’ll be relying on a different rating system which will be as follows: See it, Rent it, Wait for Cable and Skip it. With that out of the way, let’s discuss opening night and the festival’s premiere film: St. Roz.

Twas a beautiful night of festivities. This particular fest may be smaller than your Torontos or Sundances but it certainly isn’t for a lack of trying. The night kicked off with a red carpet gala where all the filmmakers were paraded in in classic cars and interviewed as the crowd lined the carpet on either side. From there, a quick photo op and then it was into the theater for a quick wine tasting before taking our seats.

Once seated, we listened to the very charming festival creator as she gave a speech. The mayor did as well. We then watched as 5 songs were performed by 2 of the acts performing in the music portion of the festival. This was added to the film festival in 2001 as a way of honoring Ray Charles and has continued since. In all honesty, the acts that  performed weren’t my cup of whiskey but there was no denying their talent. Finally, the director and producer/ actor of St. Roz gave a quick speech and presented their film.

I’m going to rely on the festival for this next part. Here’s some info and a breakdown on the film:

A film by Gregory Sheppard
Canada, 2009, 75 minutes
Executive Produced by: Michael Lamport and Gregory Sheppard
Written by: Maryann Kovalski – Cinematography by: James Gardner
Cast: Rachel Wilson, Veronica Snow, Michael Lamport, Jonathan Higgins, Michelle Nolden, Sarah Allen, Tim Roson, David Fox, Jayne Eastwood

Light a Candle, Lose A Pound! Minnie Barr’s weight loss empire is booming in Hamilton. She has but one thorn in her side: her overweight daughter, Judy. In a poor church near the steel mills, a chubby altar girl discovers that she loses a pound whenever she lights a dollar candle before a recently delivered statue. Women swarm the church. One of them is Judy. Within weeks, St, Roz is an international Star. As Judy celebrates her new figure, her mother’s world, along with the rest of the forty – billion weight loss industry lies in tatters. Powerful forces decide that the statue must disappear. Two gentle forces decide to save her.

Now, you probably wouldn’t know any of the actors in this Canadian film. The only person I recognized was Jayne Eastwood (from 1,000 movies I can’t think of and the Dawn of the Dead remake that I can’t get enough of).

Of course, Jayne is only a bit player in this one helping add some extra moments of comic relief. Of which this film has plenty. Jayne plays the sidekick of Father Culcoski (the priest in the parrish where the weight loss saint resides). Culcoski is played well by Michael Lamport(pictured at top on far right) who is brutally underused in this film! Having heard the man speak on both the red carpet and in the film’s introduction speech I expected his character to have me in stitches. The man not only shares an uncanny resemblance to Robin Williams but also maintains his energy level and rapid fire humor and wit as well. Sadly, his character limits him to being little more than serviceable.

The stand out performances in this film are turned in by Rachel Wilson and Victoria Snow who play the daughter and mother (respectively) that this film revolves around. I’d be really surprised if we didn’t see more and more of Wilson in particular in the years to come.

Keep an eye out for a brief role in the upcoming SAW 3-D.

When this film was over, a filmmaker sitting next to me asked me what I thought. I said, I’m not sure it’s a great film but if it had a quick rewrite and was recast with Anne Hathaway, Dame Judi Dench (who is Victoria Snow’s doppelganger) and Robin Williams (another doppelganger), as a studio film, this film would’ve easily grossed 50 million dollars.

Ultimately, the film suffers from the same thing that gives it it’s charm… it’s size. Being such a small film, I think the film fails to realize it’s full potential. However, this film has just that… a TON of potential. And while the laughs in this film go sparse, if not disappear completely for long periods of time in this film, it still managed to make me laugh more than most big budget comedies do these days. So, for those reasons, I have to say: SEE IT!

Kudos to the filmmakers on this little film and to the festival for such a great start to the festival. Unfortunately, this isn’t Variety or Entertainment Weekly so I have to take a day off from the experience to pay the bills but I promise to cram in as many viewings as I can starting Friday night and posting reviews as soon as humanly possible. So, stay tuned!!!

You can see the trailer for St. Roz by CLICKING HERE!!!

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