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Bay Area filmmakers put their best footage forward

Wednesday, Apr 17 2002
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While Bay Area filmmakers certainly have a strong presence at the festival, there's no overpowering local artist -- say, a Francis Ford Coppola -- on hand with new work. Instead, we have Roman (son of) Coppola with his debut feature, CQ, and Eleanor (wife of) Coppola with her documentary, On the Set of CQ, neither of which was made available to the press. I can understand keeping the feature secret, but the documentary? Generating equal buzz is Alexandra (daughter of Nancy) Pelosi's evidently eccentric documentary about George W. Bush, Journeys With George, which has also been embargoed from the Fourth Estate, at the director's insistence. Isn't she a journalist? Regardless, caveat emptor.

Nervous nepotists aside, some striking locally made films are on view -- and happily previewed. Lynn Hershman Leeson's Teknolust is a camp futuristic fable involving AI, men who break out in bar-code rashes, color-coordinated fingernails, and Tilda Swinton. A good deal of Bay Area talent takes part in the movie (notably Josh Kornbluth), and there's enough genetic mutation going on that there seem to be two tongues in the film's cheek.

"They Came From the Bay" is a wildly varied group of shorts from local moviemakers, of which the most notable is David Sabin's Ulalume, a fantasy at once poetic and creepy. It suggests a Lord of the Rings stripped of its plot and shot for a few hundred dollars in parks on the weekend. This, in turn, suggests that filmmakers can create an otherworldly atmosphere, complete with convincing goblins, without spending a fortune. Laleh Soomekh's Dear Judge aims for an emotional response via a documentary about a woman imprisoned on drug charges, and earns it; Yoav Potash's Minute Matrimony is a strenuously silly comedy about a drive-through wedding chapel that begs for laughs and gets some; and Jay Rosenblatt's Prayer is just OK as a quick response to Sept. 11. Archival clips of old men and children praying, accompanied by music from what sounds like the Scheherazade theme from the play Kismet, are followed by a shot of the Statue of Liberty. It's better than it sounds, because the old images are touching.

Many other Bay Area entries are documentaries, including two that have received wide attention. Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco's Daughter From Danang follows the reuniting of a Vietnamese mother and the daughter she'd sent to America in 1975. This painful -- and painfully honest -- film deserves the acclaim it'll surely receive on its theatrical release.

Everyone who saw the Oscars will remember the strikingly attired S.F. street musician who accompanied his director, Sarah Kernochan, onstage when she accepted her Best Documentary Short award for Thoth (screening after the 57-minute Hope Along the Wind). If Thoth himself had been allowed to perform his one-man opera he'd have livened up the ceremony something fierce.

Also hard to shake is the original Celtic music (by County Clare fiddle legend Martin Hayes) that accompanies Dierdre Lynch's Photos to Send, a feature-length documentary inspired by a series of Dorothea Lange photographs taken in Ireland in 1954. The filmmaker visits the same stretch of rural Eire a half-century later. It's a movie you wish well for all the noble, honest faces it records, and it's a must for lovers of honest people and artists. Finally, Melissa Regan's half-hour short No Dumb Questions, tracing the reaction of three young girls to their Uncle Bill's sex-change operation, is a sweet look at how kids (and the rest of us) construct gender in their minds. (It screens with the hourlong Daddy & Papa; see "Provoking an Appetite.")

CQ and On the Set of CQ: Saturday, April 27, 9 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Sunday, April 28, noon, AMC Kabuki

Journeys With George: Sunday, April 21, 6:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Teknolust: Monday, April 22, 6:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, April 30, 9:15 p.m., Park

"They Came From the Bay": Saturday, April 20, 1:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Thursday, April 25, 7:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Daughter From Danang: Tuesday, April 23, 10 a.m., AMC Kabuki; Wednesday, April 24, 7:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, April 30, 1:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Thoth: Sunday, April 21, 12:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Thursday, April 25, 9:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Photos to Send: Monday, April 22, 6:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Monday, April 29, 12:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, April 30, 4 p.m., AMC Kabuki

No Dumb Questions: Monday, April 22, 6:30 p.m., Castro; Tuesday, April 23, 1 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Friday, April 26, 4:30 p.m., Pacific Film Archive

About The Author

Gregg Rickman

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