If there truly is a just God, the great gift of digital video will turn out to be his subversive potential. With only the mildest of financial barriers, the radical, the unique, the weird, the perverse, the marginal, and the unpopular are now totally free to storm the ramparts. Shout it from the rooftops: Death to the mainstream!
Admittedly, there is still the little problem of distribution. Craig Baldwin's "Other Cinema" at ATA has been one of the few champions of fringe points of view, but in just its second year, the Digital Video Underground Film Festival is carving out an enviable niche. The fest's raison d'être is encapsulated by Did We Go?, Aron Ranen's film about a wacky cross-country quest to prove that Americans did not land on the moon in 1969. Though it's strewn with left turns -- for example, Ranen's hunt turns up chilling evidence that Nazi scientist Werner von Braun used slave labor from Buchenwald in his World War II rocket factory (before joining the winning side after the war) -- it's also an unexpectedly penetrating and irresistibly entertaining picture. And it has a snowball's chance of airing on PBS or HBO. Another crowd-pleaser is Modern Tribalism, a wet kiss to both piercing-and-pain guru Fakir Musafar and the Burning Man phenomenon, laden with gobs of self-serving neo-profundities about "ritual."
The fest opens with Dani Minnick's tender Falling Like This, a San Fernando Valley tale of young love and petty crime. Newcomer Brian Vaughan gives a sublime performance as an aimless charmer doomed to a life of idiotic acts, while Ani DiFranco tunes echo his sweetie's POV. Falling sustains a fragility often missing from these kind of stories. At the bottom of the barrel, Cow Monkey is a pointless riff by local filmmaker Gabe Weisert (Fishing With Gandhi) and his buddies about morons in search of Bigfoot. It's exactly the kind of self-indulgent time-waster that gives DV a bad name. Scream it from the rooftops: Just because anybody can make a movie doesn't mean everybody should.