I watched the preview tape for the MadCat Women's International Film Festival late at night. I was tired and irritable and I just wanted to go to sleep -- a bad setup for giving the thing a fair shake. Ideally, I'd have just pounded a big cola drink and congratulated myself on getting to see cool indie films before everyone else. So when I sat down, harrumphing, to look at the festival's collection of shorts, I was further annoyed to find that I couldn't simply utter a few cynical remarks and hit the hay. The collected projects were all completely worthwhile, keeping me awake and pinned to the sofa. Poor, pitiful me.
Generally heavy on the animation and left-wing political statements, the shorts spanned a wide range of styles, from scritchy-scratchy black-and-white chalkboard work in Lori Hiris' The Invisible Hand to the sleek look and odd calm of Lori Samsel's sweet, funny, animated Fan (a love story). (No, not all filmmakers are named Lori.)
My favorite, because I'm as much of a sucker for high production values as the next gal, was Australian Jocelyn Cammack's watery, clever, live-action Better or Worse?, featuring an impressively dignified young actor in an optometric quandary. The film's gadget obsession reminded me a little of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet production like The City of Lost Children; ditto for Cammack's emphasis on sight, fear, and weird green lighting.
I didn't have the stamina to watch the feature-length movie, but then, to see its allure you don't need to know anything more than this: bisexual 1970s bloodsuckers. The festival begins tonight with a screening of The Velvet Vampire at 8:30 at El Rio, 3158 Mission (at Cesar Chavez), S.F. Admission is $7-20; call 436-9523 or visit www.madcatfilmfestival.org for a full schedule.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Apparently, we don't need to tell you much about the 911 Power to the Peaceful festival. Some 30,000 of you went last year, converging on Golden Gate Park in a giant, peaceful horde. So maybe you already know that Michael Franti and Spearhead are performing, along with anti-warriors the String Cheese Incident and Blackalicious' Gift of Gab, plus artists, DJs, and a slew of nonviolent speakers (we probably don't even have to mention that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now will be there). "Stand Up and Be Counted" is this year's theme; get down to it at 11 a.m. at Speedway Meadow, 25th Avenue & JFK, S.F. Admission is free; call 865-2170 or visit www.powertothepeaceful.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Today's Golden Gate Park visitors ride the vintage carousel and poke around museums, but had they pulled up in a horse-drawn carriage in the 19th century they would have seen a very different place. The city's first menagerie, a rollicking casino, an observatory atop Strawberry Hill -- all these structures are gone, but not forgotten. Join author Christopher Pollack for "Bygone Golden Gate Park," at which he shares visuals and remembrances from his book Golden Gate Park: San Francisco's Urban Oasis in Vintage Postcards at 7 p.m. at the Sunset Branch Library, 1305 18th Ave. (at Irving), S.F. Admission is free; call 753-7130 or visit www.sfpl.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
There are treats -- lemon drops, peppermints, those peach gummy rings. And then there's the stuff that makes you exclaim that you've just received proof of God's existence. The annual Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival is emphatically full of the latter, and $8 buys you five goodies from the vendors temptingly lining the open-air space. Savor Gelato Classico's intense chocolaty goo, sinful truffles from the Chocolate Bear, and chocolate-dipped naan bread -- or, if you must, stick to the calorie-free dessert-making demos -- starting at noon both days in Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point (at Larkin), S.F. Admission is free, but samples are for sale; call 775-5500 or visit www.ghirardellisq.com.
-- Joyce Slaton