A women's film festival is no longer a radical concept, at least not outside Riyadh, Saudi Arabia -- or Hollywood. Female filmmakers have likewise evolved, based on the stellar slate highlighted at the sixth MadCat Women's International Film Festival, where post-feminism morphs into profound humanism.
Consider The Odds of Recovery, Su Friedrich's methodical self-inventory of two decades of hellish surgeries and treatments. Instead of crafting a screed about the medical profession, the New York moviemaker (who'll be here for the world premiere Sept. 23 and 26) gradually accepts her body as a road map of personal (ir)responsibility. Catching Out (Sept. 17), Sarah George's seductive but overlong train-hopper travelogue, similarly disdains easy jibes at straight society to explore the clashing impulses to move on or settle down.
MadCat's seven programs of shorts showcase an amazing breadth of technique in the service of social commentary. Jen Sachs' The Velvet Tigress ("This Crazy Thing Called Love," Sept. 6) melds black-and-white animation and jazz-era tunes to evoke the flippant tabloid treatment to which accused murderer Winnie Ruth Judd was subjected in 1931. On the same bill, Kelly Reichardt's Then a Year uses the audio from true-crime TV to hint at the behind-the-scenes horror of domestic violence. A pair of unadorned short documentaries, Victoria Gamburg's Right Road Lost and Chris Willging's Standing at Ground Zero ("Truth Seekers," Sept. 20), comprise eloquent first-person accounts of the bulldozing of Iraqi soldiers during the Gulf War and the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Nagasaki, respectively.
Admission is $7
El Rio, 3158 Mission (at Precita), S.F.
The S.F. Art Institute, 800 Chestnut (at Jones), S.F.
Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft (at Bowditch), Berkeley
The dark age -- when distaff directors struggled simply to have their own voices heard -- is long over. This is an exciting time for women filmmakers, and for all moviegoers.