WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival has been very, very good to indie filmmaker Stanley J. Orzel. And he’s hoping the 2013 edition of the fest – which winds down this weekend – will be the third time he’s been charmed by the reception to his work.
A New York-born, Hong Kong-based writer-director, Orzel has resided in Asia for more than 15 years. After collaborating with renowned filmmakers Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) and Ronny Yu (Fearless), he struck out on his own to create several award-winning TV commercials, documentaries and films.
In 2009, his short film, The Thread, earned a Platinum Award at WorldFest/Houston. Two years later, he returned to the H-Town exposition to claim a Gold Award for his feature Four Assassins.
And now Orzel is back with Lost for Words, a romantic drama about two disparate strangers who become passionate lovers in contemporary Hong Kong. The film will be shown at 9 p.m. Friday at AMC Studio 30.
Working from a script he co-wrote with C. Joseph Bendy, Orzel focuses on a relationship that develops after a chance encounter. A lost soul further damaged by a recent breakup, ex-Marine Michael Vane (Houston native Sean Faris) arrives in Hong Kong to seek a fresh start as an IT specialist.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Orzel said with a laugh during. “But I don’t want people to think that this movie is autobiographical in any way.”
At first, he feels adrift as a stranger in a strange land, not quite able to navigate through the challenges of the corporate arena. It’s not until co-worker Stanford Lau (Will Yun Lee) becomes his friendly mentor that Michael realizes he can achieve success in the business world by applying his skills as a warrior.
But man cannot live by workplace triumphs alone. What Michael needs is someone to break down the fortress he’s built around his heart. And that’s exactly what he finds in Anna Zhou (Grace Huang), a lovely and talented dancer from the Beijing Dance Academy.
So let’s see: We have an American lost in Asia, in need of a shot at redemption, who providentially finds Miss Right.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Orzel said with a laugh during a phone conversation earlier this week. “But I don’t want people to think that this movie is autobiographical in any way.”
“Well,” Orzel allowed, “I do think, like any artist, you do use certain things in your art that are drawn from your life.
“But for me, I think the hook in this is, you’ve got these two lost souls in this new city. And they’ve both been concentrating on their work, not their needs. And the question arises: Do you find love, or does love find you? How much of a role does fate play in life – and in love?”
Elsewhere at WorldFest
Among the other promising offerings on tap this final weekend at WorldFest/Houston:
Ever wonder why you rarely (if ever) hear a female voiceover artist doing the portentous intros in trailers for fantasies, sci-fi spectacles and action-adventures? Well, actress Lake Bell has wondered as well.
And her curiosity sparked her to write, direct and star in this inside-showbiz indie comedy about Carol Solomon (Bell), a vocal coach and would-be voiceover artist who maybe, just maybe, might pass the auditions held by producers of an upcoming fantasy franchise that looks a lot like Hunger Games, with a lead who looks a lot like Cameron Diaz.
Unfortunately, her most serious competition for this sweet gig is her father, Sam Soto (Fred Melamed). Even more unfortunately, Sam just happens to be the reigning king of Hollywood v.o. artists. In a World… premiered to rave reviews last January at the Sundance Film Festival, and is scheduled for a summer theatrical release.
But in a world of golden opportunities – you can see it early at WorldFest. (9 p.m. Friday)
Edward Furlong (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) heads a crazy-quilt ensemble of what-ever-happened-to's in this dark farce about a young man’s quest for revenge after he catches his girlfriend in a compromising position with another guy.
Supporting players include Margot Kidder as a gone-to-seed stripper, Gary Busey (late of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice) as a daft pawnbroker – and Houston's own Lee Majors, Mr. Six Million Dollar Man himself, as a barber with questionable motives.
The movie could be a sleeper hit, or a total train wreck, but admit it: That cast is pretty dang close to irresistible, right? (11 p.m. Friday)
While WorldFest Houston hardly qualifies as the Sodom of indie cinema, it’s not exactly known for its fervent embrace of faith-based movies. So it’s mildly surprising, and more than a little intriguing, to see this year’s prestigious closing-night spot has been reserved for The Investigator, a family-friendly inspirational drama about a veteran cop (Wade Williams) whose faith is sorely tested by a series of personal and professional setbacks.
He winds up becoming a criminal justice instructor — and basketball coach — at a local high school, where he repeatedly challenges his students and players to be all they can be. But he in turn is challenged by one of his brighter students, who wants him to launch an investigation into one of history’s most famous homicides – the murder of Jesus Christ.
Frankly, I’ll be sorely disappointed if Pontius Pilate isn’t at least brought in for questioning. I always thought that dude could have been convicted by Sam Waterson on Law & Order for depraved indifference. (7 p.m. Sunday)