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Local Gal Makes Good Film. But Will It Play in Traverse City?

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

First, congratulations and all that to local gal Rachel Grady (raised in Mount Pleasant and Takoma Park), whose documentary "Jesus Camp" scooped up major prizes this spring and cinched a distribution deal last week that will put it in theaters nationwide by late September.

Now, though, for the inevitable smidgen of controversy -- can't market a documentary without it!

The movie, co-directed by Heidi Ewing , follows children at an evangelical summer camp in North Dakota. It was scheduled to be shown this weekend at the Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan, but distributor Magnolia Pictures quickly announced it would yank "Jesus Camp" because it fears association with the festival's founder -- muckraking filmmaker Michael Moore -- could drive away conservative and evangelical audiences.

"This is a film that manages to stay relatively objective," said Magnolia chief Eamonn Bowles , who said he will show other films at Traverse City. "We don't want to start it out with people thinking it leans one way or the other. It's like a Rorschach test for your beliefs -- different audiences walk away with different thoughts about it."

But the festival folks aren't playing along. Two sold-out screenings of "Jesus Camp" remain listed on their Web site . "It's going to be shown as scheduled," said Chuck Lombardo , a rep for the festival. Lombardo would not comment on what communication he's had with Magnolia. "The film has been shipped, and it will be shown."

Bowles sighed when we delivered the news. Moore "knows we want the film out of the festival," he said. "He'll be going against the filmmakers' wishes."

Grady, 34, a graduate of the Field School and NYU, said she got Magnolia's logic. "I guess they feel like Michael Moore is a brand name for liberals," she said. "I love Michael Moore, and I love his movies, but I understand what the strategy is."

GET THIS!

Maybe this will help America's image abroad! Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has landed on Vanity Fair's International Best-Dressed List for the first time, along with Gwen Stefani, Kanye West and George Clooney. Rice was cited for her "immaculately groomed and formidably dignified -- but with an audacious renegade streak" style. Gotta be those black knee-high dominatrix boots. "We'll let the secretary know when she gets back from the Middle East," said spokesman Sean McCormack.

HEY,WHERE IS EVERYBODY?

The summer exodus is in full swing, with VIPs sneaking off for some sun-kissed downtime. Who went where?

Laura Bush is just back from Alaska's Denali National Park and her annual hiking trip. The first lady spent five days roughing it with a few longtime friends . . . President Bush was in Miami's South Beach Sunday night, where he dropped into Joe's Stone Crab for jumbo Alaskan killer claws and New York sirloin. Bush dined with brother Jeb, actor Andy Garcia , football legend Dan Marino and a huddle of 1972 Dolphins . . . NBC White House Correspondent David Gregory, in a pink polo shirt and madras shorts, was spotted on the plane to Nantucket.

Spot a bold-face name at baggage claim? reliablesource@washpost.com .

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

· Vice President Cheney browsing Friday at Borders on L Street. The veep looked at "new nonfiction" and bought "Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945" and a stack of other history books.

· Actor John Stamos and two members of the Beach Boys at the Dancing Crab in Tenleytown on Saturday. The trio, accompanied by four women, ate hard-shell crabs and steamed shrimp before heading back to Wolf Trap for their evening performance.

QUOTED

"Even people who have been hostile provide you with an opportunity to practice tolerance. Which is a big lesson I need to learn. I'm just impatient, you know? And it's very easy if you get struck to try and strike back. . . . I'm trying to learn that as I go."

-- Mel Gibson , in an outtake from a March 2004 interview with Peggy Noonan for Reader's Digest, released by the magazine after the actor's anti-Semitic outburst Friday when arrested by police for suspected drunk driving.

"I don't take pride in hurting Mr. Gibson. What I had hoped out of this is that he would think twice before he gets behind the wheel of a car and was drinking. . . . I don't want to ruin his career. I don't want to defame him in any way or hurt him."

-- James Mee , L.A. County sheriff's deputy, in an interview with the Associated Press. Mee, who is Jewish, arrested Gibson on Friday.

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