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GIRLFIGHT

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STARRING MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, SANTIAGO DOUGLAS, JAIME TIRELLI, PAUL CALDERON DIRECTED BY KARYN KUSAMA

BUZZ-O-METER 5

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? An indie about boxing has great buzz, launches a star, and wins awards…didn’t this work before?

It’s your average girl meets boy, girl loves boy, girl kicks boy’s butt story. Throw in a story line about growing up motherless in a tough part of Brooklyn and you’ve got this Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Directing Award winner. Though it was ultimately picked up by Screen Gems (Sony’s indie arm), Kusama’s directorial debut almost didn’t make it: ”People asked me to change the ending and put some starlet in the lead.” First-timer Rodriguez landed the part after five auditions, a day at the gym, and lots of pleading. ”I kept saying, ‘This is a role for me. I can pull this off.’ And I prayed.” Whether this year’s hot Sundance export becomes a Blair Witch Project or a Happy, Texas remains to be seen. ”It may be a little too populist to be a legitimate art-house movie,” Kusama says. ”It’s popular art on some level, and that’s a pretty gutsy position to take.” (Aug. 11)