Idle hands? Not this filmmaker

The director's hand is constantly evident throughout Vincenzo Cosentino's feature film debut, which will screen Saturday at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

And in this case, that's not simply a cliche.

Cosentino's hand — which plays the title character, Handy — occupies nearly every scene of the 83-minute film about an extremity that detaches itself from a man's body and sets off on a journey around the world. On his travels, Handy wields a pen and finds himself under the tutelage of a demanding Italian writer, rides a tiny motorcycle, scores a job in a pizzeria and falls in love with a detached female hand named Manicure.

"Handy," in short, is about a character who travels from country to country and does a lot with limited resources. And that was the story of the film's production as well.

Cosentino, who based the movie on a short he made several years ago called "Being Handy," did most of the, well, handiwork on his own. In a very real sense, it was the Sicilian filmmaker's digits at work cutting fabric for costumes, constructing tiny sets and spending four years perched over a computer to hone the special effects.

"This movie, maybe, can show tenacity and the will to realize a dream, so I'm always happy to be in the Q and A and answer all the questions, because it's not something that happens every day — that you make a movie completely with no funds," Cosentino said by phone last week. "So people are always full of questions about how I did it, and that's why I'm always happy to fly [to] America and explain how I did it."

Flying around to support his movie takes up a lot of Cosentino's time these days. During the making of "Handy," he quit his job as a film editor to work full-time on his pet project, and though he's started to take paid editing jobs again, he'll hop on a plane in an instant to promote his film at another festival.

When he makes his latest stop in Newport Beach, Cosentino will be on the lookout for a kindred spirit.

"I remember when I was a kid, I was always full of questions — how things were made," he said. "So I'm always happy to answer that kid's question, because no one was there to answer my question."

When "Handy" premiered last year at the Austin Film Festival, Cosentino was more than happy to answer questions. Barbara Morgan, the festival's executive director, said the filmmaker stayed on the grounds for the duration of the event, passing out promotional materials, putting up posters for the film and introducing himself to audience members.

And, needless to say, he shook a lot of hands.

"I noticed people really made a point of coming up to him and standing in line trying to talk to him personally," Morgan said. "Because I think people noted that it was such a different kind of film to make and wanted to talk to somebody who would have the kind of creative mindset that Vincenzo has, clearly."

"Handy," which has also played festivals in Cleveland and Atlanta, comes close to being a one-man show for Cosentino: In addition to playing Handy, he plays the pizzeria owner and provides most of the other detached hands that appear throughout the film. He got assistance, though, from a female friend who lent her digits for Manicure, while veteran Italian actor Franco Nero, whose credits include "Die Hard 2" and "Django Unchained," played the small role of the writer who takes Handy under his wing.

According to Cosentino, Nero liked the short "Being Handy" so much that he offered to appear in the longer version for free. That wasn't the only perk that the director got from the short-film circuit. Cosentino filmed "Handy" in 23 countries, and many of the locations were the sites of festivals that he visited to promote his work.

"When I came back home, I had all this amazing footage of world travels," Cosentino said. "And it was one of the factors that pushed me to make the feature film."

If You Go

What: "Handy"

Where: Triangle Square Cinemas, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa

When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $14

Information: (949) 253-2880 or http://www.newportbeachfilmfest.com

"Handy" will also screen at 12:45 p.m. Monday at the Island Cinema, 999 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach. Tickets are $14.

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