Such is the premise of independent filmmaker Derek Stonebarger's award winning directorial debut I.M. Caravaggio, which gets its New York premiere, an exclusive one night only screening, on July 2 as part of the third annual NewFilmmakers Summer Fest at the Anthology Film Archives Theater.
"In the 17th century, the churches in Rome had the power, the money and most of the major commissions,"
Caravaggio, who was active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610, would most likely feel at home in Sin City, which has been ruled for 12 years by a former lawyer that represented mobsters, in other ways as well. Caravaggio was a killer by age 21 and lived his life on the run. He experimented with his sexuality, sleeping with both men and women. In his art, he used prostitutes as models for the faces of saints and virgins. He also loved to fight.
"Rome had the Collisuem, Vegas has the octagon," Stonebarger said. "Rome had Gladiators, Vegas is the home of UFC. The character in my film is a tough fighter, who is trained and excels in modern world mixed martial arts, just as Caravaggio most likely had training in fighting."
I.M. Caravaggio, which was written, produced, and directed by Stonebarger, follows the rise and fall of a modern artist named Ian Milano. As the non-linear story unfolds in the seedy and rarely photographed dark streets of downtown Las Vegas, which is nicknamed Naked City, Milano's life parallels that of Caravaggio.
"Ian Milano is essentially Caravaggio reincarnated,"
I.M. Caravaggio, which world premiered to multiple sold out audience at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival in Argentina, can be seen as a homage to the artist in more ways than just its story. Research has shown Caravaggio used darkroom techniques to create his masterpieces, more than 200 years before the invention of the camera. Likewise, Stonebarger used modern digital photography to create 50 original pieces for the project.
"Many consider Caravaggio the first photographer,"
The film has arthouse theatrical deals in Rome and Las Vegas and is currently being sought by a number of DVD and Video On-Demand distribution companies. After it's World Premiere in Argentina, I.M. Caravaggio screened to more sold-out audiences at the SENE Film Festival Providence, Rhode Island before winning the Bronze Palm award from the prestigious Mexico International Film Festival. Now the film plays New York and the Las Vegas director will be in town for a few days before and after for press opportunities.
"It's ironic, but I feel New York is the ultimate city for I.M. Caravaggio,"
The film is also the first born from the growing Las Vegas independent film scene to screen in The Big Apple. There are currently close to 50 directors of independent feature films in Sin City.
Co-written by Damen Draeko, I.M. Caravaggio touts an entire Las Vegas cast and crew. It introduces Ryan Eicher, and features erotic film starlet Beverly Lynne, as well as Fletcher Sharp, Alastair Bayardo, Damien Horton, Amanda Ouest, Kent Johns, Kylee Nash, Rusty Meyers, J.R. Thompson, Faouzi Brahimi, Ross Alzina, Randi Sorenson, and gossip blogger Robin Leach. Colin Huse and Victor Tapia served as Stonebarger's assitant directors.
"I'm so proud this film will be the first to represent Las Vegas and the talent we have behind and in front of the cameras," said Stonebarger, who was featured in May's issue of MovieMaker Magazine, "The Future of Movie-making"
As a television producer, writer and advertising director, Stonebarger has won an Emmy award and been involved in a number of Super Bowl commercials. In 2008 he founded the independent production company Vegaswood Studios and directed his first short film Longfellow’s Masterpiece, winner of six awards at the Las Vegas 48 Hour Film Project. I.M. Caravaggio followed shortly after.
For more on I.M. Caravaggio, please visit http://www.caravaggiomovie.com.
For more on Vegaswood Studios, please visit http://www.vegaswood.com.
July 2, 9 p.m.
Special New York One Night Only Premiere
Third Annual NewFilmmakers Summer Fest
at the Anthology Film Archives Theater
32 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003
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