Freedom on My Mind
It barely qualifies as news that the sprawling Sundance Film Festival lineup features a clutch of new films by local artists. The Bay Area is exceedingly well-represented every January at Park City, especially in the documentary category. And every year, the Chron and the Ex act surprised. Not loyal Reel World readers, however, who are already familiar with four of the eight films with local ties premiering at Sundance.
The documentary competition includes a pair of eagerly anticipated films from San Francisco heavyweights: Academy Award winners Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman return to Sundance with Paragraph 175 (formerly titled The Pink Triangle), which examines the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, while Academy Award nominees Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffmann screen Long Night's Journey Into Day, a sobering yet optimistic view of South Africa via the Truth and Reconciliation Commission trials. (Those with an appreciation for symmetry will recall that Hoffmann edited Friedman's The Times of Harvey Milk.) Deann Borshay's deeply personal search for the Korean parents who gave her up for adoption, First Person Plural, joins them in the doc competition.
Although no local features are included in the feeding frenzy known as the Dramatic Competition, three Bay Area films surface in the edgier American Spectrum section. Mark Gibson's New Orleans bender, Lush, stars Campbell Scott and was produced by local heroes Scott McGehee and David Siegel, while Caveh Zahedi wrote and plays the lead in A Sign From God, Greg Watkins' S.F.-shot update of the story of Job. And Greg Harrison's Groove spans one long night in the turbocharged S.F. rave scene with interlocking characters and story lines.
We wouldn't want to forget the U.S. premiere at Sundance of Sofia Coppola's feature debut, The Virgin Suicides, which hits theaters in early spring. And Rated X, Emilio Estevez's made-for-Showtime movie (starring Estevez and bro Charlie Sheen) about San Francisco's infamous Mitchell Brothers, also premieres out of competition. As enticing as all of these films sound to adventurous moviegoers, none is likely to provoke one of those infamous Sundance bidding wars among distributors. But they will get invited to a bunch of other festivals, thanks to their inclusion in the well-read Sundance catalog.
In 1993, Sandra Davis was putting the finishing touches on her latest avant-garde film when she was set back by a serious car accident. How far back? The film, A Preponderance of Evidence, is finally getting its world premiere at an S.F. Cinematheque screening Dec. 12 at the San Francisco Art Institute. "This film is so full of high drama, it's almost turgid in its emotions," Davis says. "I have a lot of dying sopranos on the soundtrack."
Because of its richly designed layering of text and images, the 55-minute film -- recounting the stories of three women of different generations -- contains about 1,250 cuts, compared to a typical film's 140 shots. "Every generation thinks it knows so much more" than its predecessors, says Davis, a Salinas native who enrolled in the Sorbonne immediately upon graduating from high school. "We think we're more sophisticated sexually. Actually, we're all at the same foundation; earlier generations just didn't talk about it."
A professor at the University of South Florida and the Art Institute of Chicago before her accident, Davis came to film from painting and printmaking. "I wanted movement and I wanted things to evolve over time," she recalls. "There's something about being able to work in a time medium that allows you to explore human emotion and psychology."
Michael Fox is co-host of Independent View, which airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on KQED Channel 9.