Arts & Events
The annual Berkeley Film and Video and Festival returns this year with yet another eclectic program of independent cinema.
The 18th annual festival, put on by Berkeley's East Bay Media Center, starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in downtown Berkeley and continues from noon to midnight Saturday with more than two dozen screenings.
Though this year’s program emphasizes documentaries, the festival features its usual eclectic blend of wide-ranging fare, from student films to experimental short subjects to feature-length films—all of them truly independent and all of them unlike anything showing at your local megaplex. More than a dozen of this year's entries come from local filmmakers, and the rest from across the country and around the world.
Below are are few highlights; the complete schedule can be found at www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org.
By Cecil Hirvi aka George Aguilar
George Aguilar continues his series of virtual films, unleashing his avatar alter ego Cecil Hirvi in Second Life for another installment of “Machinima Poetry.” This episode finds Hirvi finding himself as he gazes into the media mirror, watching old Hollywood footage of a young soldier’s uncertain return from the battlefield to the open fields of Wyoming.
15 minutes. Screens Friday at 8:10 p.m.
Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs On the Road
By Lars Movin and Steen M. Rasmussen
A documentary showing influential experimental artist and writer William Burroughs as few have seen him. Burroughs toured often in his final decades, reading from his work in theaters and clubs, bringing his unique diction and wily humor to bear on his wildly original prose. The prickly aloofness of his image is belied by his bashful charm as he meets and greets his fans, but when the lights dim and the microphone swings into place, the fierce, fiery satirist, sage and starry-eyed dreamer is unleashed, revealing a performer of great wit, drama and strength.
74 minutes. Screens Saturday at 8:10 p.m.
You Don't Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story
By Jeff Adachi
Jeff Adachi, director of the documentary The Slanted Screen, which examined the history of Asian-Americans in Hollywood, takes on the life story of singer and comedic actor Jack Soo. From his childhood in Oakland to his young adulthood in Japanese internment camps during World War II, and finally to his breakthrough roles in the play and film Flower Drum Song and television sitcoms "Valentine’s Day" and "Barney Miller," the erstwhile Goro Suzuki’s brave refusal to comply with America’s “oriental” stereotypes almost single-handedly broke the mold, recasting Asian Americans in a new light in our popular entertainment.
69 minutes. Screens Saturday at 1:15 p.m.
Oh My God! It's Harrod Blank!
By David Silberberg
Harrod Blank’s life is every bit as much a peripatetic work of art as the eccentric, eclectic art cars to which he has devoted his life. Silverberg’s film tracks the farm boy-turned-artist as he passes through UC Santa Cruz and Berkeley in his single-minded—some would say obsessive—pursuit of self-expression, enlisting a series of girlfriends as sidekicks on a rambling journey that is at times maddening but never less than fascinating and endearing.
75 minutes. Screens Saturday at 5:18 p.m.
Kaziah, the Goat Woman
By Amy Janes and Kathleen Dolan
Kaziah Hancock, armed with oils and brushes, celebrates the lives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq by painting gift portraits for their families. On her remote ranch in Utah, she also raises goats. Born into a polygamist sect, she knows the meaning of freedom, as she’s had to fight for hers. Liberation and discovery of self is joyfully celebrated in her art and in this cinematic document.
25 minutes. Screens Saturday at 4:25 p.m.
Behind the Wheel
By Tao Ruspoli and LAFCO
Director Tao Ruspoli and his band of Los Angeles filmmaker cohorts outfitted an old school bus as a fully equipped portable production studio and set off across the United States in search of art and artists. The journey takes them across the country’s southern states in a quixotic examination of the intersection of the personal and the political.
84 minutes. Screens Saturday at 9:25 p.m.
Ciuada del Futuro
By Damian Carnero and Karin Losert
The critical history of a former socialist model town in the outskirts of Havana, told by the adult children of its first inhabitants.
20 minutes. Screens Saturday at 3:02 p.m.
By Doug Harris
An affectionate biography of the legendary basketball coach who started at the University of San Francisco and went on to coach for Cal and the U.S. Olympic team.
13 minutes. Screens Saturday at 2:25 p.m.
By Carol Jacobsen
Carol Jacobsen’s short documentary roams the perimeter of a women’s prison in what amounts to a sustained traveling shot of fences, gates and barbed wire. Superimposed periodically are the faces of former inmates as they relate their experiences of fear, humiliation, degradation and shame while intermittent glimpses flicker by of life inside the prison gates.
10 minutes. Screens Saturday at 2:39 p.m.
By Sarba Das
“A fable about hope and love for a family of Hindus from Hoboken,” as the narrator describes it, Sarba Das’s feature takes place at the intersection of two strands of western-influenced easterners. An Indian family living in New Jersey finds itself stretched thin under the cultural and financial strains of American life. Meanwhile, in India, a young man employed as a call-center info peddler for an American corporation also hears the call to go west in the form of an unexpected long-distance romance.
90 minutes. Screens Friday at 9:35 p.m.
Under My Garden (Sotto Il Mio Giardino)
By Andrea Lodovichetti
In Lodovichetti’s evocative and ominous short film, a boy’s interest in the behavior of ants, paired with the disappearance of a neighbor’s wife and his new affair with a young, nearly naked companion, leads the boy to suspect that a body is buried in the yard in a sort of miniature Rear Window told from a child’s perspective. The film won a Golden Globe, the Spike Lee Award and has been an official selection at more than 30 international film festivals.
19 minutes. Screens Friday at 9:15 p.m.
Curses and Sermons
By Nic Saunders
Nic Saunders’ short film is a mystic reimagining of a Michael McClure poem, “Rainbows Reflected on Sheer Black,” that is both expressionistic and eclectic, ranging from rugged Western to Technicolor dream/nightmare.
15 minutes. Screens Friday at 8:40 p.m.
By Tom Bowilogua and Alex Beier
A bevy of buzzing lights, visceral electronic noise, pulsing heartbeats and a sort of breathy claustrophobia suffuse this unsettling film of sex, guns, violence and depravity. It is a story told in reverse, constantly stepping backward to fill in the gaps, gradually piecing together a plot consisting of desperate people resorting to desperate means in pursuit of cheap thrills, fleeting pleasures and sensual violence. In German with English subtitles.
27 minutes. Screens Saturday at 10:50 p.m.
Escape From Oakland
By Dan K. Harvest
Dan K Harvest’s guerilla-style music video follows a local rapper’s attempt to escape—by car, by bike, by any means necessary—his evil record company’s plan to cast him in a reality show. The clip takes us on a madcap journey through Berkeley and Oakland as the beleaguered hip-hopper tries to buck the corporate hacks and keep it real in the East Bay’s urban jungle. 7 minutes. Screens Saturday at 6:35 p.m.
Berkeley Video and Film Festival
Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and 26
2230 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.
Festival passes cost just $13 ($10 for students and seniors).
Festival info: www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org or (510) 843-3699
East Bay Media Center
1939 Addison St., Berkeley