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March 8-14, 2006

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'Sunnyvale'

James Ricardo's Cinequest feature continues to rack up awards

By Richard von Busack


From the "Where are they now?" department: James Ricardo's Sunnyvale played at Cinequest 15. It is a comedy of a layabout's life and loves within four walls. In the year since, the indie film has been taking a slow-speed tour through national (and international) filmfests, including the Delray Beach Film Festival in Florida and the SNOB (Somewhat North of Boston) fest in New Hampshire.

Currently, Sunnyvale is lined up to open at U.K.'s Bradford Film Fest. The film's top honor is unquestionably the Golden Groundhog for Best Underground Film of 2005. (goldengroundhogs.com); the awards ceremony was hosted by none other than William Shatner. Here's Ricardo:

METRO: I notice that you've got a 310 area code now. You moved south? It may be a disappointment to Sunnyvale fans who hoped you were stuck still in that apartment. That's presuming Sunnyvale had its autobiographical content—did it, by the way?

RICARDO: Actually no, the movie isn't about the town of Sunnyvale. I lived there briefly as child, went to school there. The film was shot in an Art Deco loft in downtown Los Angeles. Sort of New York-style lofts for the L.A. crowd. As far as the film being autobiographical, it is in parts. Other sections are total fiction. I called it Sunnyvale since I didn't know what else to call it. And I thought it might be a weird title for a weird movie. That you really weren't sure what you were in for when you saw it. Much like movie titles like Eraserhead. Sunnyvale is a comedic sounding title. It's a city that could only be in California.

METRO: What was your background as a filmmaker? Did you grow up here? What spurred an interest in movies?

RICARDO: I took basic film courses at De Anza College. But mostly I'm self taught. I grew up in Santa Clara Valley, back before it became the behemoth known as Silicon Valley. My interest was spurred in movies growing up and seeing Kurbick films, Hal Hartley and David Lynch films. Plus the usual helpings of comedies, action and science fiction blockbusters. I would go to see movies over and over again, just to enjoy the audience reaction to them. I'd go see Ghostbusters multiple times just to experience the fun of seeing the audience crack up and applaud. I'm not really a people person per se. But I get a kick out of watching an audience truly get into a movie.

METRO: Which film festivals has Sunnyvale been so far? And did you receive the actual Golden Groundhog award yet. If so, what does it look like?

RICARDO: I was told that our film won the Golden Groundhog via a phone conversation with the CEO of the company behind the Golden Groundhog Awards and he said the panel of seven judges, half critics, half filmmakers chose our film over the others. Some films that starred A-listers like Dakota Fanning and Elijah Wood and Oscar winners and nominees like Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Sissy Spacek. I was floored we actually won.

METRO: French philosopher Blaise Pascal claimed "I have discovered that all man's unhappiness derives from only one source—not being able to sit quietly in a room." How would you say Sunnyvale relates to that comment?

RICARDO: The character of Sunnyvale, Opie, definitely spends too much time quietly in a room. So I'd say it fits well. Hell, that's a great quote. Maybe I should use that in the director's cut DVD of the film. Still, there's more to life than sitting in a room. It would depend who was in the room with you. If you could order in room service, liquor and hot women to your heart's content? I'd think many a man would be content in that sort of well furnished room. You'd need 500 channel cable TV, a good computer and fast internet service and maybe some free weights to make it complete though.

METRO: This is a long shot, but are you a fan of Jean Eustache's film The Mother and the Whore? It's also about a guy who decides against activity more involved than eating, yakking and having girls over.

RICARDO: Haven't seen it, sadly, but I definitely have to check it out now. Jean sounds like a filmmaker after my own twisted heart.

METRO: It's been a year since your movie turned up at Cinequest. What was it like seeing the film there?

RICARDO: It was a good experience, Cinequest is a fantastic festival. We got very good feedback on the film. Their after hours parties for filmmakers are great too.

METRO: What are you working on now?

RICARDO: Right now I'm putting the finishing touches on my next screenplay. A horror-action-zombie-comedy. Life is good in Geekville.


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