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Film Arts Festival
What gets less respect than short films? In a word, nothing. Yet nothing tops shorts for their purity of expression, subversiveness of thought, revelation of talent, and devout independence. Want to see the real independent films? Catch any program at the Film Arts Festival, the annually produced anthology of Northern California's finest shorts of the year. How can you miss with a bill titled "Tried and Punished" (five tales of serrated relationships) or Stripped and Teased (Amie Williams' one-hour documentary on Las Vegas' real working women)?

This year's fest is especially jammed with nonfiction crowd-pleasers, from Fernando Velasquez and Herb Bennet's Burning Man: Where's the Fire? (what is it about Nevada that inspires so much aberrant behavior?) to Jon Else's Sing Faster, which goes behind the scenery with the S.F. Opera's carpenters. The documentary lineup also includes Barbara Sonneborn's Vietnam elegy Regret to Inform, Carol Chamberland's eulogy to the Fillmore's jazz heyday The Legend of Bop City, and Laura Plotkin's kinetic study of champion East Bay boxer Gina "Boom Boom" Guidi Red Rain. Shimmering above them all is Cauleen Smith's nervy debut feature, Drylongso (Ordinary), the ambitious and textured Oakland-set tale of African-American life that opens the festival. Shredding genres and cliches at every turn, Drylongso delivers an unvarnished portrait of the vitality and constraints of urban black life in these United States. Like many filmmakers whose work is on view in this festival, you'll be hearing more from Smith.

-- Michael Fox

The Film Arts Festival runs Wednesday through Sunday, Nov. 4-8, at the Castro and Roxie theaters, plus additional venues. Call 552-FILM for a complete schedule.

 
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