Tell the Truth and Run
Veronica Selver shot her initial footage of KPFA on the Air back in 1991, long before the station (founded by poets and pacifists in 1949) became an emblem of late-century Berkeley activism. She was a listener and a fan who also happened to be an editor and a filmmaker. "I was trying to give something back to the station," Selver says. "I know that's odd, but it has been a companion for me. I've learned so much from KPFA and I wanted to celebrate that."
Selver was attracted by the idea of making "a film that had audio as its primary component. I thought there would be a certain visual freedom and that intrigued me." She had already been editing in New York for several months when last year's brouhaha erupted, and she and co-producer/writer Sharon Wood wrestled with how to incorporate it. "We understood that if we had integrated the current situation fully into the film, it would never get done," Selver explains. "That being said, it was absolutely evident that we needed to include what was going on, so we framed the film with the current event." Ultimately, the one-hour doc gives a resounding answer to the skeptic's query, "Why would people be so engaged with a radio station that they'd get arrested for it?" KPFA on the Air screens May 10 at 8 and 9:30 p.m. at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as part of the Film Arts Foundation's "True Stories" series, and plays the UC Theater on July 28 prior to a fall PBS broadcast.
Jim Mitchell emerged from S.F. State's film program in the late '60s inspired by John Cassavetes and Bruce Conner. Before he got too far down the road to experimental-film obscurity, however, he stumbled onto the fast-money world of porno films. He and his brother Artie soon adopted the old studio model of making the movies and owning the theater, and the O'Farrell Theater became a San Francisco landmark. Their entrepreneurial instincts coincided with the rise of porno chic, when a trendy crowd in tuxes would pack the house for the premiere of a high-class "fuck film" like Behind the Green Door (1972).
Emilio Estevez's made-for-Showtime Rated X is less a profile of indie filmmakers tempted from the art house to the grindhouse than a cautionary fable of success leading to excess. Most of the multimillion-dollar profits from Green Door went up the Mitchells' noses; in this telling, the blow is ubiquitous, the blow jobs far less so. The story is a metaphor for the erosion of '60s idealism, but Rated X is more interested in the brothers' dynamic than any real social commentary. (Catch Live Nude Girls Unite! for the girl's-eye view of '90s sex work.) Charlie Sheen has fun playing the hedonistic Artie as a guy who'd fit with both the old Raiders and the old Stones, helping this engrossing film overcome an absence of authentic Tenderloin locations and a soundtrack of fake '60s rock. Rated X premieres May 13 on Showtime.
Girls ruled at the S.F. International Film Festival, as Alice Nellis' Eeny Meeny nabbed the Skyy Prize (and 10 Gs) for best first feature, Jasmine Dellal's American Gypsy was named best documentary, Deann Borshay Liem's First Person Plural got the nod for best Bay Area doc, and Julia Query and Vicky Funari's Live Nude Girls Unite! charmed the Audience Award. ... A benefit for the doc-in-progress Grrlyshow ("about girl zines and girl zinemakers") rocks El Rio during the day on May 13. ... The Bridge resurrects its summer "Midnight Mass With Peaches Christ" series beginning June 10 with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Plan your vacation firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Fox is host of Independent View, which airs Fridays at 10:30 p.m. and Saturdays at midnight on KQED (Channel 9).
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