You would think going to a fledgling film festival in Atherton wouldn’t seem to have much appeal for a star like Mark Ruffalo, whose first try at directing, “Sympathy for Delicious,” won a special jury prize at Sundance in January.
But there you would be wrong.
“These people showed a lot of support for this film at Sundance, so I thought it would be nice to return their support by supporting their little film festival out there,” said Ruffalo on the phone from New York.
Ruffalo will present “Sympathy for Delicious” in person tonight at the inaugural Windrider Bay Area Film Festival, which runs through Saturday at the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton High School. It stars Christopher Thornton, a longtime friend of Ruffalo’s who has been in a wheelchair since a climbing accident some years ago and who co-wrote the screenplay, as a homeless DJ with healing powers who wants to be a rock musician. It also stars Orlando Bloom as an egotistical rocker, Juliette Lewis as a drugged-out bass player and Ruffalo as the priest who helps and struggles to understand the homeless healer.
“It’s about rediscovering faith – the faith one needs to get by in the world, which has so much strife, anger and hateful behavior,” said Ruffalo, who came to relate to Thornton’s disability when he had a brain tumor removed about a decade ago. “The movie is linked to the faith in the decency of mankind, ultimately. That’s what I was going for. … I definitely know what it’s like to look into the future and see it as bleak and hopeless. You have to rediscover your faith in yourself, your faith in other people.”
Ruffalo, known for his roles in “You Can Count on Me,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Shutter Island,” said he was surprised to find he enjoyed the entire directing process, including immersing himself in the business side of things – instead of leaving it all up to his producers, he’s been active in meeting with potential distributors.
“I liken it to eating,” he said. “An actor gets a slice of pie. As a director, I got to eat the whole pie. I definitely satisfied some desires.”
For more information, visit www.windriderbayarea.org.