The Hours and Times

An experimental approach to the sensitive story of a man abused as a child

Robert Hall's soft-spoken recollections of being abused as a boy and his gentle commitment to healing himself and others were powerful, but novice filmmaker Frances Nkara couldn't figure out how to illustrate her interview with the doctor, poet, and co-founder of Santa Rosa's Lomi School of body-based therapy. "'What am I going to do?'" she remembers wondering. "'Re-enact childhood sexual abuse?' That wasn't going to work. So I spent a year sitting on it."

The solution, says Nkara, presented itself as a question: "What would I dream if I heard this story?" In soft black-and-white, she filmed a soothing tea ceremony, dancers in frenetic motion, and, impulsively pulling over outside the Caldecott Tunnel, headlights as she kneeled on the side of the freeway. "That was a moment of discovery," she recalls. "That was the first time I let the feeling lead me to the imagery, and I said, 'Oh, that's how it works.'"

Nkara's entrancing 28-minute Downpour Resurfacing premiered at Sundance, won prizes at the Ann Arbor and New Jersey fests, and has scored a PBS broadcast next spring. For somebody with a B.S. in chemistry and a master's in biophysics, Nkara has a knack for poetic experimental filmmaking. The key element, she suggests, "is not [to] be afraid of it not making sense rationally. That allows another language to come forth. And I believe that is the language of dreams. And the language of memory," she adds, thinking of Robert Hall.

Downpour Resurfacing has its Northern California premiere on Friday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. in the MadCat Women's International Film Festival program "Out of the Past" at Artists' Television Access. Visit www.madcatfilmfestival.org for info.

Winged MigrationCarl Spence, director of programming for the S.F. International Film Festival until a month ago (Reel World, Sept. 3), caught up with me between jaunts to the Toronto and San Sebastian fests on behalf of his new employers. "Honestly, I expected to be here longer," he confided, reflecting on his two years at the SFIFF, "but when there are opportunities to work with people you respect and admire, it's hard to pass those opportunities up." Spence has two new gigs, as director of programming for both the Seattle International Film Festival (where he had been the associate director prior to coming here) and the Palm Springs shindig.

Asked to assess his legacy at the SFIFF, Spence replied, "Overall, I'm proud that I was able to -- with the people I was working with -- maintain the integrity of the festival." While pointing out that the SFIFF now has one full-time programmer, down from three a few years ago, Spence said, "I have faith that Linda [Blackaby, the new director of programming] will continue a festival that the core supporters will appreciate. As long as the standard of excellent quality is maintained, the festival will continue to be an event that is respected and well attended."

Prick Up Your EarsThe IFP/Los Angeles Film Festival, where Rachel Rosen heads up the programming, has just created a full-time position for another SFIFF alumnus, Doug Jones. ... The directors and other notables will be on hand for a screening of Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion on Monday, Sept. 29, at 7:30 p.m. at the Delancey Street Screening Room to benefit the Tibet Justice Center; visit www.tibetjustice.org or call (510) 486-0588. The documentary opens in the Bay Area on Oct. 3. ... Sam Green's The Weather Underground is approaching $360,000 in national release, a solid showing for a political doc not directed by Michael Moore. Green would be doing even better if he had slipped in flocks of birds, a spelling bee, or sexual abuse. Filmmakers never take my advice.

 
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