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The newest Asian film festival was almost called "Yellow Fever"

Wednesday, Jun 18 2003
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"Our first title was "Yellow Fever,' but after the SARS epidemic hit we thought we should go with something less controversial," confides Gabriel Monts, co-founder of the first Scratch Pictures Film Festival. So he and Angelina Cheng opted for the irreverent "Asian Films Up the Yin Yang" for this weekend's celebration of Gen Y-genre imports. From a list of 200 recent titles they procured half a dozen, from the Japanese rock 'n' roll zombie flick Wild Zero to the Hong Kong-in-the-'70s coming-of-age tale Just One Look to the Thai C&W musical Monrak Transistor. "This is not the "Super-Serious Identity Crisis Film Festival,'" Monts says with a chuckle. "It's all about coming out and having a good time."

In the tradition of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, the East Bay couple -- he's a lighting technician, sound recordist, and camera assistant; she's an actress and makeup artist -- was naively inspired by the idea of staging a fun event. "Since it's our first festival, I really didn't know if these films are hard to come by or not," Monts says. "I went out with no prior knowledge and tracked down the distributors and jumped through a million hoops and went down a bunch of misleading trails. For me, they were all hard to track down and acquire." A couple of the movies had already reached these shores in the home video/DVD tsunami, but Monts doesn't care. "I didn't research too thoroughly how available they were. What was more important was that we make a really entertaining show."

Cheng and Monts are fronting all the costs of the festival -- with the aid of a few sponsors -- including the theater rental. "If we can make this at least marginally successful, we plan on doing it again," Monts promises. "We have bigger dreams for it." "Asian Films Up the Yin Yang" screens this Friday through Sunday at the Roxie Cinema. Advance tix are available at the Rolo shops on Howard at Ninth Street; go to www.scratchpictures.com for program info.

Rebel With a Cause When Robert Anbian returned to Film Arts Foundation as director of development and marketing (Reel World, Dec. 11, 2002), he vowed to raise the 27-year-old nonprofit media arts organization's profile. Lacking the dough, however, to sign a celebrity spokesmodel or acquire the naming rights to a ballpark, Anbian and his compatriots concocted a street-level strategy: Come December, Film Arts will distribute a quarterly calendar of its classes and workshops, modeled after the Castro's and Roxie's pictorially rich schedules.

"Artists are not the only people using media now," says Anbian, explaining that the proliferation of desktop filmmaking has expanded Film Arts' market well beyond professional moviemakers. "There are people in all walks of life, for personal or business reasons, who have a story to tell. For us, it's the idea of the independent voice. To have an active, vocal populace in the most important language of the day -- which is media -- is central to our mission."

The Rock "The only reason we don't have a lot of big film projects here is because Willie Brown abandoned the film community," veteran local producer Debbie Brubaker declares. If that sounds like a pre-election call to those S.F. craftspeople who make a living from movie production, you're right. The Bay Area Film Alliance (Reel World, Jan. 8), a year-old advocacy group, "is going to hold the mayoral candidates' feet to the fire," Brubaker promises.

According to BAFA's e-mail announcing a July 31 forum with the candidates, "The new mayor will appoint a film commission and an executive director of the film office -- and you can help to voice our concern that we need qualified, responsive and responsible appointments to these positions." For the lowdown visit www.filmbayarea.com.

A Star Is Born Kudos to the Bay Area winners of the 30th Student Academy Awards. Elizabeth Pollock of UC Berkeley scored the silver medal in the documentary category for Indiana Aria while Stanford's Renee Fischer took home the bronze for Those Who Trespass. In animation, Moonsung Lee of Academy of Art College collected the silver medal for Bert. Lindsay Ann Daniels of California College of Arts and Crafts, a doc finalist for All That I Perceive, also has cause to crow. -- Michael Fox

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Michael Fox

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