Bound for Glory

The introduction of yet another film festival in this town, especially one scheduled Oct. 23-25 at the height of the fest season, is guaranteed to provoke yawns. The best you can hope for, if the coffee's working, is to generate a skeptical query: "Whaddya got that's different?" A cogent answer is mandated, especially when you've chosen the ambitious and perhaps grandiose San Francisco World Film Festival and Marketplace as your moniker. Founder and director K. Gabai has a little work to do on that front.

"I wanted to make a festival where it's about the experience of coming," says the former S.F. State film student and creator of several shorts. "The idea is not just to go to see a movie, but to interact with other people." Pressed to elaborate, Gabai explains that she's after "an atmosphere where people can linger, hang around, walk around, and hopefully be inspired by something -- whether it's what they watch or who they meet."

Gabai has booked the Palace of Fine Arts for Oct. 23, with the location of the other two days to be finalized shortly. The SFWFFM has a Web site (www.sfworldfilmfestival.com), and entries (and fees) are coming in, but Gabai offers few specifics about the programming. Event organizers are soliciting works across all genres with the theme of "Solutions," and Gabai's putting together a morning program for kids with other local film/education entities. She envisions that the Marketplace will also feature demos of digital cameras, desktop editing software, and the like. It's difficult, she notes, to convey the personality of a brand-new festival before it happens. "The identity will have a lot to do with being there, because it is an interactive event."

Sign o' the TimesFor the last couple of weeks, the marquee at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland -- which is visible to thousands of cars on 580 every day -- has proclaimed, "What is an impeachable offense? Lying about sex? No! Lying to wage war? Yes!" This is one movie house, obviously, that isn't owned by a conglomerate. Allen Michaan, the sole owner of Renaissance Rialto Inc. -- which also runs the Park (Lafayette), the Oaks (Berkeley), and the Orinda -- began operating the theater near Lake Merritt in 1980, though he wasn't inspired to use its enormous sign as a billboard until the power outages of two years ago. His first words of wisdom: "There is no energy shortage. This is an ethics shortage."

Michaan describes the response to his current message as overwhelmingly favorable. "I get a few people who say they will never go to my theater again, but I think it's my patriotic duty to speak out. Other considerations have to be secondary at this point. What this administration wants is to kill the First Amendment and kill free speech. So the most important thing we can do as citizens is speak out any way we can. I happen to have a theater marquee, and I'm using it." Michaan's other houses only display current titles. "Why am I not putting messages up on my other theaters? Because the marquees are too small." Incidentally, the Grand Lake is showing the socialist Seabiscuit, the subversive Finding Nemo, the amoral Pirates of the Caribbean, and the anarchic Johnny English.

The Frighteners"Beyond the Valley of the IndieFest" (Reel World, July 9), originally scheduled for early October, has been called off. "We just couldn't pull the resources together," S.F. IndieFest founder Jeff Ross says. His focus has shifted to the Feb. 5-15, 2004, full IndieFest event. And more bad news for fans of cutting-edge horror: The S.F. Film Society isn't mounting its "Dark Wave" series this year, either. Give the Roxie a call if you'd like to step into the breach and screen some shockers. ... The Lumiere is on track to reopen with first-run films on Aug. 15. Its niche-movie calendar will return Aug. 22, led by Lynn Hershman's Teknolust, although both the Lumiere and the Opera Plaza will play host to those specialty flicks. ... The theme of next February's film noir series at the Castro will be "Women." The Ace of Alameda, noir specialist Eddie Muller, who runs the series, hopes to lure a few of the legendary dark damsels of the '40s and '50s to town. I figure all he has to do is say the magic words "Hollywood starlets" to the Chronicleand he's guaranteed 20 breathless column inches. Well, they werestarlets, weren't they?

 
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