After 18 months, "Hounddog" howls in movie theaters

Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:28pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In 2007, "Hounddog" went to the Sundance Film Festival carrying a controversy that made it the hottest ticket in town, but it left that January after getting a cold shoulder from film distributors and critics.

But now, "Hounddog," starring young Dakota Fanning, is howling again with Friday's debut in U.S. theatres roughly 18 months after its difficult Sundance premiere, and few people are as happy as its writer and director Deborah Kampmeier.

The girlhood drama kicked up a fuss even before it premiered at Sundance, the top festival for U.S. independent cinema, because religious and conservative groups objected to Kampmeier's use of then 12-year-old Fanning to depict a child rape. There was no body double.

The outcry, coupled with some negative reviews, sent distributors scurrying for the doors instead of ponying up the cash for the right to release a coming-of-age drama starring a top child actor who captured hearts in films such as Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds."

"It was painful, some of the responses," Kampmeier told Reuters in a recent interview. "A lot of people were projecting their own agendas on this film that had nothing to do with it.

"No one wanted to see the film again" after the festival, she added.

Kampmeier said the version shown at Sundance 2007 was rushed through editing to get a version finished in time to be screened. She knew there were ways to make it better, and refused to let the experience put her or "Hounddog" down.

So, she went back to the editing room and spent nine months cutting each scene in ways that enhanced the performances and making one key change to the story's structure.   Continued...

<p>The director and cast of the film "Hounddog" pose as they arrive for the film's premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 22, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>