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Scumrock and 25 -- A Brief History of the Festival

Wednesday, Apr 25 2001
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Rock 'n' Roll High School "Dude, this is a movie about rock 'n' roll," proclaims Jon Moritsugu, his enthusiasm sparking the phone line from his Inner Richmond flat. "It's a sprawling epic about the scene -- generic West Coast, U.S.A." The no-budget maestro of multiculti melodrama is talking about Scumrock, the ambitious new feature he's editing with an eye on a summer premiere. Moritsugu shot an astounding 130 scenes and expects Scumrock to run north of an hour and a half, much longer than his previous fever dreams, Mod Fuck Explosion and Fame Whore.

Whether it's San Francisco thrash or Japanese pop, music is always crucial to a Moritsugu film. This time around he's the beneficiary of an original score by veteran jazz trumpeter Mel Davis, who composed separate musical themes for the main characters, then laid down the tracks in a swank Fort Lauderdale studio. (Moritsugu happens to be Davis' son-in-law; the filmmaker's leading lady, Amy Davis, played one of the lead roles and handled the cinematography.) In addition, Scumrock will feature the haunting underground pop of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and other little-known combos. "It's a really good dynamic between lowbrow and highbrow, lo-fi and hi-fi," says Moritsugu with subversive glee. "I'm definitely not hopping on the '80s retro bandwagon."

Scumrock also boasts local filmmakers Craig Baldwin (as a college professor) and Valerie Soe (as a very pregnant drug dealer) in amusing cameos. Incidentally, Moritsugu shot the film on Hi8 analog video, eschewing the stampede to digital. "We're dragging video into the gutter," he announces merrily. Moritsugu emerges from the editing suite to join "In Search of an Audience: Exploring the World of Self-Distribution," an S.F. International Film Festival panel taking place Sunday, April 29, at 2 p.m. at the AMC Kabuki.

Frisk Last year the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival commissioned a 12-minute piece from Marc Huestis to mark its upcoming 25th anniversary. After amassing 12 hours of raw footage, the filmmaker and impresario (numerous Castro events, including "A John Waters Christmas") proposed a one-hour homage instead. One of several local filmmakers who helped found the SFILGFF, Huestis says their aims were decidedly modest. "We all used to go to Harvey Milk's camera store to get our little Super 8 films developed," he recalls. "We were just a bunch of ragtag hippie fag filmmakers. We didn't know we would be making something that would last for 25 years."

His effort, 25 -- A Brief History of the Festival, includes interviews, black-and-white footage from the first year, and a wealth of film clips. Huestis sees 25 -- and the SFILGFF itself -- as a celebration of independent cinema made by gay people for gay people. After its free screening at the SFILGFF in June, Huestis jokes, the film "will be thrown in a time capsule and buried." But he quickly backs down. "For people who come to work at Frameline [the festival's parent] or want to sponsor the festival, it will be a valuable piece. First I have to see if people even like it."

Another film that will screen at this year's SFILGFF -- Hedwig and the Angry Inch, or, as I like to call it, Velveeta Goldmine -- sold out its local debut at the S.F. International Film Festival last weekend. The SFILGFF also hosts a sneak preview of The Cockettes, local filmmakers David Weissman and Bill Weber's fabulous (and nearly finished) documentary resurrecting the late '60s/early '70s S.F. hippie-queer musical-theater provocateurs who glitter-paved the road for Bette Midler, the New York Dolls -- and Hedwig.

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Michael Fox

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