What Dreams May Come

Life after Party of Five, training for Latin American military officers, and the "Godfather of Gore"

Oakland native Michael Goorjian -- Neve Campbell's love interest in Party of Five, for those of you still harboring a crush -- is in the throes of post-production on the indie feature he wrote, directed, stars in, and shot mostly in Northern California. "It's kind of like A Christmas Carol in that there's the main story and three visions, so to speak," Goorjian explained when I reached him on his cell phone in L.A. The tale centers on a dying filmmaker (Kirk Douglas) who wonders what became of the illegitimate son he disowned 30 years earlier. The answer comes in the form of a trio of movies of disparate styles (the teen film, the gritty art film, and what the picture's Web site, www.illusionthemovie.com, calls the "real-life film"), a structure that allowed Goorjian to shoot a segment, raise some dough, and then shoot the next bit. "I've been basically making money down here as an actor and going up there and spending it," he said.

The Illusion (its current title) took two years to make, culminating in February with Douglas' scenes. "I spent like a month at his house rehearsing with him, on his request," Goorjian related. "He's the type of guy, if L.A. blew up and everyone died, he'd still be alive." Another battler, Francis Ford Coppola, was among the first to see a cut of the film. "The moment I looked over, and he and his wife were crying, I thought, "OK, this is pretty good,'" Goorjian confided. (Or perhaps the Coppolas were also moved by memories of the son they lost some years ago.)

Goorjian has shuttled back and forth between Oakland and the southland for the last decade; lately he's been coming up to work on the score with his best friend, music man and actor Chris Ferreira (Groove), in West Oakland. "My main goal is to live up there and make films," he declared. He laughed, then added, "I say that from L.A."

The Panama DeceptionDigital video is a blessing for cash-strapped narrative filmmakers, but John Smihula asserts that its most profound application is in the hands of ordinary citizens. "I see it as a boon for democracy," explains the documentary maker, an instructor at the University of Nevada, Reno, who lives here when school's out. "It's a wonderful means of recording reality, spreading information, and mobilizing resistance." Citing a massacre in East Timor as well as Rodney King's beating, Smihula points out, "Here's a camera revealing something we never would have found out about otherwise."

Smihula's new doc, Hidden in Plain Sight, exposes the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, the facility in Fort Benning (near Columbus, Ga.) for training Latin American military officers that was known as the School of the Americas until two years ago. "No country is as thoroughly grounded in myth as this country," says Smihula. "The myth that my film tackles and shatters is that of the benevolence of U.S. foreign policy. That's going to disillusion and infuriate a number of people, including my own family."

Hidden in Plain Sight has been screened in Brazil, Uruguay, and Turkey as well as at dozens of grass-roots venues in the United States. While Smihula is in talks with a distributor, the movie's tour continues on Friday, July 11, at the Castro, in a benefit for Film Arts Foundation and the doc's producers. This screening marks the Bay Area premiere and should be quite the rowdy time; visit www.hiddeninplainsight.org for advance tickets.

Scary MovieSofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, with Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson, will open Sept. 19 in L.A., N.Y., and S.F. ... An old friend and horror-movie aficionado forwards the release announcing that '60s and '70s producer/director Herschell Gordon Lewis has been selected for induction into the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame. Lewis' bio is curiously incomplete, my pal points out: "Note that there is no mention of Blood Feast or 2,000 Maniacs," the flicks that helped earned him the nickname "Godfather of Gore."

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