Rachel&185;s DaughtersWhen last we checked in with Doug Wolens, the S.F. lawyer-turned-filmmaker was traipsing around the country with his Amsterdam stoner travelogue, Weed. The 1997 documentary ultimately played in 43 cities and proved a major self-distribution success; as you&185;d expect, it was especially popular on college campuses.
Wolens eagerly promoted every booking, even stopping on his way to L.A. at a Colinga pay phone to honor a scheduled interview with a Garberville radio station. Put on hold for a few minutes, he listened with amazement as the DJ chatted with a young woman sitting atop an old-growth redwood -- part of a radical strategy to protest and prevent Pacific Lumber&185;s logging operations in Humboldt County. Five days later, Wolens hauled his camera 180 feet up the tree to meet Julia Butterfly Hill.
&179;I am not a spiritual person,&178; Wolens declares. &179;I am not an environmentalist. I smoke cigarettes, I drink tons of coffee, I eat cheeseburgers.&178; Now he was face to face with a true believer who had given the tree a name (Luna) and said things like, &179;Everything that fits under everything else fits under love.&178;
Hill&185;s been sitting in the tree nonstop since Dec. 10, 1997, conducting interviews and speaking with supporters and Earth First! cohorts on a cell phone. For his part, Wolens has spent six nights in the tree. &179;My plan was to be the fly on the wall,&178; he explains. &179;But in a 6-by-8-foot platform cluttered with mail, food, and motorcycle batteries, there&185;s no space.&178;
Wolens also interviewed Pacific Lumber employees along with local apple farmers and truck drivers, and the feature-length Butterfly evolved from a profile of a single activist into a portrait of a community. That didn&185;t stop Hill, who&185;s celebrated two birthdays atop Luna, from giving Wolens a forest name singularly appropriate to a filmmaker: Little Sleep.
Wolens hopes to premiere Butterfly (which was shot on film, a rarity in these days of cash-starved documentaries) at an Amsterdam doc fest in November; Film Arts Foundation&185;s &179;True Stories&178; series presents a work-in-process screening Wednesday, Aug. 11, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. And if you missed Weed&185;s one-night stand at the Red Vic a couple of years ago, it comes out on video Aug. 16.Mad CitySome folks cite Joan Chen as our town&185;s best movie actress, but she&185;s segueing into directing. My Uncle Ralph votes for Sharon Stone, although her primary domicile is L.A. Wake up, people! The Bay Area&185;s best thespian is none other than Channel 4 reporter Wallis Alviar, surely the most underrated screen talent in this time zone. Yes, Alviar&185;s a one-trick pony, but it&185;s one helluva trick: At some point in every single live report she does on the 11 o&185;clock news -- standing in the windy night, gazing into the camera, reciting her well-rehearsed spiel about some act of carnage or missing teddy bear -- she&185;ll gracefully drop her eyes down and to the left in a gesture that says, &179;Yes, I&185;m an objective journalist with a veneer of a highbrow accent, but I&185;m spontaneous and real and I care so fucking much!&178; It&185;s obvious, to me at least, that Alviar has greater ambitions than Pam Moore&185;s job; she wants Susan Sarandon&185;s career.Top HatFall&185;s a-comin&185;: The Pacific Film Archive initiates its new interim space Sept. 11 and 12 with free screenings from the PFA&185;s collection. The lineup includes a Mexican melodrama, a Japanese detective comedy, and The Conversation, which Francis Coppola has on deposit at the Archive. ... Regret to Inform, Barbara Sonneborn&185;s Academy Award-nominated doc about Vietnam War widows, opens Sept. 24 at the Lumiere.By Michael Fox