Filmmakers screening ‘Local Color’ film in Beaver Creek Saturday | VailDaily.com

Filmmakers screening ‘Local Color’ film in Beaver Creek Saturday

Special to the Daily

BEAVER CREEK – Stories are better when they’re true, like George Gallo’s film “Local Color.”

The film centers on Gallo’s loving recollections of the summer he befriended an renowned elderly, alcoholic genius artist who had lost his wife and had turned his back on art and life.

Two award-winning artists, Hollywood writer/director and painter Gallo (Midnight Run/Bad Boys) and American painter Don Sahli, will host a benefit screening of at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, 6 p.m. Saturday, in conjunction with the 23rd annual Beaver Creek Arts Festival.

The evening will also include a pre-show discussion, “Inside The Hollywood Machine,” featuring the film’s producer, Jimmy Evangelatos, who will share his insight on the movie industry, and take questions from the audience.

The film follows the true story of Gallo’s own apprenticeship as a young artist, and is woven with lessons about mentorship and finding beauty in life.

In 1974, in the suburb of Port Chester, New York, aspiring artist John Talia has a troubled relationship with his father, who does not understand his talent. Talia learns that the genius Russian painter, Nicoli Seroff, lives nearby and he decides to visit to his idol.

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The Russian has degenerated into a bitter old alcoholic who is still grieving the loss of his wife Anya after many years. The boy befriends the master, and when Nicoli travels to the Pennsylvania countryside, he invites Talia to come along to teach him how to paint.

The student sees through the eyes of an artist; the master sees past the ugliness in life and again embraces beauty.

Before “Local Color,” moviegoers will view a video short entitled “The Legacy of the Russian Masters,” with remarks by artist Don Sahli. Gallo will then introduce the film.

For $28, moviegoers get preferred seating and admission to the Osprey at Beaver Creek’s Russian Masterworks backstage reception following the film.

In addition to appetizers, courtesy of Osprey Chef Michael Wilganowski, the reception features an entire collection of historic Russian artwork. Many are major Soviet Era and contemporary masterpieces, previously only displayed in museums, and have never been seen outside Russia.

The events in the movie happened to both Gallo and Sahli. Gallo was raised in New York. He learned a Russian master painter lived in his neighborhood and knocked on his door.

“There weren’t that many people interested in what he was doing at that point, so he seemed flattered,” Gallo said. “We became friends very quickly because we loved a lot of the same things, and I had a spark he had lost. There was an instant connection.”

Gallo and Sahli quickly found that same connection. They met Tuesday for the first time, and already they’re finishing each others’ sentences.

During this interview they were pulling together painting gear to hurry off and paint Mount of the Holy Cross.

Gallo is good, and says it’s good to be lucky sometimes.

“I was very lucky to live inside and outside the Hollywood system at the same time,” Gallo said. “I wrote the screenplay for ‘Midnight Run’ and when Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin said they were going to make it, they made it the way it was written, the right way.”

His film “Middle Men” was financed by a private investor and Paramount picked it up.

“I made Local Color with my own money,” he said. “I’m proud of it and people seem to love it. It’s most important to me that artists love it. I get upset when I see a movie about artists made by someone who obviously did not know anything about it. The people I was thinking of when I was making it like it, and that means a lot to me.”

Sahli lives in Evergreen where he has taught art and painting for 15 years. He has run a landscape workshop in the Vail area for the last 10.

He saw the trailer for the movie on the Internet and immediately recognized the paintings as Russian, his area of passion and expertise.

Sahli’s artistic roots run straight to the great Russian masters. He was Sergei Bongart’s last apprentice. Bongart was Nicolai Fechin’s apprentice, and Fechin was Ilya Repin’s apprentice. Repin is credited with creating the Russian style, and is mentioned with the greatest artists of all time.

“If you were to say ‘Repin’ in Russia, it would be like saying George Washington here,” Sahli said. “The film is the same story I lived when I was an apprentice. When I saw the movie and the old man sitting in the chair drinking vodka, that was my teacher.”

Sahli says Bongart changed his life in an instant.

“I was a professional artist making money at 16 years old. I was always looking for someone who could teach me more, but there was so much B.S. I saw Bongart do a demonstration in Idaho and instantly I knew. The moment is still very strong with me.”

You’ll find Sahli’s work at Vail Fine Art and Beaver Creek Fine Art. Tonight he will be doing a demonstration at Beaver Creek Fine Arts, from 4 to 7 p.m.