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Spike Lee's 'Passing Strange the Movie' to open Downtown L.A. film fest

August 6, 2009 |  3:00 am

PassingStrange "Passing Strange the Movie," Spike Lee's film of the semi-autobiographical, portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-man rock musical by the L.A.-raised rocker, Stew (Mark Stewart), will have its first L.A. screening when it opens the 2009 Downtown Film Festival-Los Angeles, at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the AT&T Center Theater.

Stew, who emerged on the alternative rock scene in the 1990s fronting his band, the Negro Problem, won a 2008 Tony award for the musical's book, which told of his upbringing among L.A.'s black middle class, his beginnings as a punk rocker, and early artistic-expatriate experiences in Amsterdam and Berlin. The score is by Stew, who plays the show's narrator, and his bandmate, Heidi Rodewald, who plays bass in the play's onstage musical ensemble.

Lee ("Do the Right Thing," "Malcolm X") fell for the show and filmed its final two performances, then added further cinematic touches by shooting it again without an audience. It was screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

"We're honored to premiere any film by Spike Lee," said Greg Ptacek, director of the Downtown Film Festival-L.A., "but in particular, "Passing Strange the Movie" is a fitting way to begin our festival because of Stew's strong connection to the Silver Lake/Downtown L.A. arts scenes."

Cast members Chad Goodridge and De'Adre Aziza will be on hand for the screening. The film is scheduled to have a national release via cable on demand, starting Aug. 26. PBS has bought the rights for broadcast next year in its "Great Performances" series.

-- Mike Boehm

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Photo: Stew (left) and Daniel Breaker as his younger self in Broadway's "Passing Strange."Credit: Carol Rosegg