Reel World

Monthly gathering of indies; East Bay documentary maker Judith Ehrlich; the first S.F. Docfest

Short CutsAndy Hill is boldly going where many men and women have gone before. He has one goal: "To bring the independent feature filmmaking community together in San Francisco." The monthly "Movie Night" at a production studio at 2431 Mission, an ongoing word-of-mouth event, is Hill's first stab at showcasing local work. Now the London-born director and producer has compiled a DVD of eight locally made, world-traveled short films. "SF" (for "San Francisco" and "Short Film") aims to turn viewers on to new films and give the artists money to help start their next (perhaps longer) films. All profits go to the artists, and Hill, who hopes to make a feature someday, has expanded his circle of contacts.

"The motivation for making this DVD is to try and put together a distribution system that rewards filmmakers for making films," Hill explains. "DVD is exciting in that it allows filmmakers to get their films in front of people who may affect their future, in a format that shows their films in the highest quality, for half the cost" of traditional exhibition. Leather Tongue, Lost Weekend, and Naked Eye Video are selling "SF" for $20; peruse for other locations plus info about the disc's eight groovy titles.

Coming Out Under Fire"I make films because I love to be totally immersed in something for a couple of years and then go on and be immersed in something else," muses East Bay documentary maker Judith Ehrlich. She and Rick Tejada-Flores submerged themselves in the long-forgotten story of the 42,000 men who declared themselves conscientious objectors during World War II, emerging with The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It. According to the doc, most COs eventually were allowed to join the Army as noncombatants, but 7,000 were jailed. Double that number were assigned to "civilian public service camps" where they were given drudge work, prompting numerous COs to volunteer as medical guinea pigs -- receiving injections of the hepatitis virus, among other risky acts -- to prove their valor.

The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It, which premieres March 31 at the Sonoma Valley Film Festival, describes how social-justice concerns led many COs to work in understaffed mental hospitals, where in short order they reformed those institutions' medieval practices. Others, like Chicago 7 defendant David Dellinger, continued to champion activist causes after the war. "My real motivation is as an educator," Ehrlich says. "We didn't want to convince people with this film as much as give them a new perspective on something they probably think they know everything they need to know about." But there's a bit of trickiness to the title, she confides. In TV listings (a broadcast is expected later this year) it will inevitably be shortened for space to The Good War, luring viewers expecting yet another homage to America's last "clean" war.

All That Heaven AllowsThe intrepid folks behind S.F. Indiefest -- that would be Tod Booth, Alan White, and Jeff Ross -- will launch the first S.F. Docfest at a Union Square venue over Memorial Day weekend. Music films will comprise a sizable chunk of the nonfiction lineup, we hear. ... Jim Yee, the Bay Area-based co-founder of the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA) and the executive director of the Independent Television Service (ITVS), died March 17 of cancer at age 53. Yee was a brilliant and relentless campaigner for public television programming with guts, and his loss -- especially in the current political and economic climate -- is incalculable.

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