Underground Voices

The best of Northern California filmmakers at the FilmArts Festival of Independent Cinema

Northern California's independent filmmakers, even more than its organic farmers, think globally and act locally. Ambitious but cash-strapped, they turn their cameras on overlooked people and predicaments in our neck of the woods. Their best work is then harvested each year by the Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinemafor a raucous weekend of art and politics.

The fest's grassroots ethic is epitomized by Kevin Epps' Straight Outta Hunters Point (Nov. 11 at 3 p.m.), a chilling, street-level gaze into the broke-down heart of San Francisco ghetto life. The young filmmaker elicits self-serving (and revealing) commentary from drug peddlers, gangbangers, and wannabe rappers, illuminating the untreated cancer of poverty. The program opens on an optimistic note with Step Show: Portrait of a Black Fraternity, Marcie Aroy and Beverly Oden's upbeat portrait of rhythm and tradition shot on the U.C. Berkeley campus.

Willie Brown makes a brief, ineffectual appearance in Straight Outta Hunters Point, then commands center stage in See How They Run (Nov. 11 at 8 p.m.), Emily Morse's irreverent record of the 1999 S.F. mayoral campaign. Less a treatise on democracy in action than a rogues' gallery of smug local characters (the Chronicle's Phil Matier and Brown press secretary P.J. Johnston are almost as egotistical as the mayor), the documentary has fun with everyone. Clint Reilly and Frank Jordan are pathetic, while Tom Ammiano enjoys the art of self-mockery. Gordon Winiemko's short Art Strikes Back centers on the displacement of Mission District artists by rent hikes fueled by the dot-com boom.

Da Mayor lets loose in See How They Run, screening at the Film 
Arts Festival.
Da Mayor lets loose in See How They Run, screening at the Film Arts Festival.

The opening night feature, Come and Take It Day (Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.), savvily examines the rivalry between four Latinos in a San Antonio Riverwalk restaurant. Multicultural without being polemical, Jim Mendiola's film is funky and refreshing.

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