Once the bailiwick of indie filmmakers, the digital revolution has many of Hollywood's bigwigs clamoring for a piece of the pie. With everyone from Steven Soderbergh to George Lucas to Spike Lee jumping on the DV bandwagon, will desktop filmmakers be edged out by Tinseltown's large coffers? Not if ResFest, the touring showcase of digital moviemaking, has anything to say about it. Since S.F. founder and director Jonathan Wells launched the festival in 1996, the series has spotlighted cutting-edge directors like Lars von Trier while also giving screen time to bigger names like Soderbergh.
Traveling to such far-flung locales as Cape Town and Seoul after it kicks off here this week, ResFest is a flurry of screenings, parties, and seminars packed into five days. One of two full-length features, Joey Garfield's Breath Control: The History of the Human Beat Box (Sept. 21) makes the most of the medium's intimacy. Interspersed with performance clips, cartoons, and practitioners' uncanny sound effects, the doc features interviews with more than 30 boxers, including Zap Mama (Marie Daulne) and Doug E. Fresh, who share insights into "the art of using your mouth to generate sounds that are usually made by machines."
Every year, the schedule's packed with programs of short films and obscure music videos. Seven series of shorts touch on everything from the erotic to the itinerant ("In the Bedroom" and "Drive Me Crazy," Sept. 21), the mundane to the innovative ("Bad Day," Sept. 21; "By Design," Sept. 22). Todd Lincoln's Leave Luck to Heaven takes its title from the direct translation of the Japanese word Nintendo. An animated tale about technology's contribution to an increasingly alienated society filled with video games and gated communities, Heaven is a fitting selection for "State of the Art," a program that examines the intersection of art and reality (Sept. 18).
Admission is $10 or $80 for an all-entry pass
Stefan Nadelman's world-premiere documentary Terminal Bar, based on his black-and-white portraits of patrons taken over the course of his 10-year career as a bartender (part of "True Stories," Sept. 19), addresses alcoholism but is also a fascinating tale about the transformation of an old-school Irish tavern into a gay haunt. A new addition to the fest, "Videos That Rock!" (Sept. 19), pays tribute to MTV-ready directors like Michel Gondry, who remade the trendy pop duo the White Stripes as colorful Lego characters in the stop-motion animated video to "Fell in Love With a Girl." The ever-popular "Cinema Electronica" program (Sept. 20) highlights electronic music's cream of the crop, including Wong Kar-Wai's "Six Days" video for DJ Shadow.
For the past six years, ResFest has provided a glimpse into the future of filmmaking. If it keeps it up, we could see the next Scorsese or Spielberg at the series, armed with a digital camera, a DAT recorder, and editing software, as long as Hollywood doesn't get to him first.