Reel World

Loss Prevention; East Bay documentary filmmakers; Balboa Theatre

Big Bad MamaAs a responsible member of the Fourth Estate, I can in no way condone the five-finger discount. But filmmaker Jeanne Finley, back in town and teaching at the California College of Arts and Crafts after a few years in New York, can be a little more candid. "The thrill of shoplifting is something I remember very, very well and with great pleasure," she told a select group at the Patricia Sweetow Gallery on a recent Friday night.

The lucky few had been invited to the space at the foot of Geary for the final night of Finley and collaborator John Muse's dreamy video installation, "The Trial of Harmony and Invention," and a sneak peek at Loss Prevention, their marvelous short portrait (made with Doug DuBois) of the thorny relationship between a 79-year-old Miami shoplifter and her perplexed daughter. "It was originally conceived as a radio piece" -- a segment of the filmmakers' audio interviews with older kleptomoms aired on NPR -- "then I tried to make a conventional documentary," Finley related. "It didn't work, so I threw it all away and wrote a script with a composite narrative."

The evening peaked with A Song for 3, 4 or 5 Hands, a performance in which new-music diva Pamela Z -- impersonating a 21st-century theremin -- provided spellbinding vocal and rhythm accompaniment to Finley and Muse's shimmering images. Loss Prevention screens March 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Yerba Buena Cinema for the Arts in an S.F. Cinematheque show wryly titled "Jovial Tales for Tragic Sensibilities." As a bonus, Pamela Z will also reprise her earlier performance.

StreetwiseMore evidence that East Bay documentary filmmakers are America's conscience: Rick Goldsmith (director of the 1996 Oscar-nominated Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press) and Abby Ginzberg spent a year filming young adult AmeriCorps volunteers in Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland. "We took an issue that was nationwide and explored it in our own backyard," Goldsmith noted. Everyday Heroes, which does irrevocable harm -- er, good -- to the slacker generation's rep, premieres March 11 at 5 p.m. at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. Tix can be purchased at the door or call 355-9988. Meanwhile, Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman's just-completed exposé of the underbelly of the high-tech boom, Secrets of Silicon Valley, has been booked into the Roxie April 1 and the Fine Arts Cinema April 5-11.

Odds Against TomorrowSome folks, like Landmark Theatres cofounder Gary Meyer, have movie houses in their blood. A consultant on various exhibition-oriented projects in recent years -- including Robert Redford's proposed artplex in the Presidio -- Meyer has recently taken over the lease at the Balboa Theatre. But first he spoke to dozens of customers of the Richmond District fixture. "What I found was it's a very loyal audience," Meyer confides. "Half come from the Richmond, with a surprisingly large number from the Pacifica/Seaview/Half Moon Bay area. There are very few people under 40 years old -- which I decided was an advantage, since there was an audience I could reach out to." Meyer is committed to keeping the Balboa a second-run neighborhood theater, but it's a much different world than it was in 1965-66, when Dr. Zhivago played for nine months.

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