Seven Days Featuring 19 Twin Cities Premieres
Rachael Crew, City Pages
MINNEAPOLIS — Oct. 28, 2004 — Not coming to a multiplex near you: bowlers, bloggers, brothel-born photographers, glam-rockers, head-shrinkers, winemakers, animators, Symbionese liberators, drama-queen documenters, Palestinian border-crossers, Midwestern warmongers, L.A. movie-lovers, indie-rock hipsters, and a self-described “curmudgeon” who’s pissed about pretty much everything. This year’s festival contains 19 Minnesota premieres, including Army of One, I Like Killing Flies, Los Angeles Plays Itself, No. 17 and The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan.
The 4th Annual Get Real: City Pages Documentary Film Festival is unlike any other film festival in the Twin Cities. An estimated 3,500 moviegoers will attend this year’s seven-day festival, featuring 19 documentary films, from November 4 â€“ 10, 2004 at the Oak Street Cinema. All films have been hand-picked by City Pages’ award winning film critic Rob Nelson and are exclusive Twin Cities premieres. Two films in this year’s lineup are directed by Minnesota-based filmmakers who will be in attendance at their screenings.
City Pages’ Film Editor Rob Nelson and select directors are available for interviews about the festival and its films. For more information and/or to schedule an interview, please contact Rachael Crew at the e-mail address or phone numbers above.
City Pages is the largest, most widely read news and arts weekly in the Twin Cities. With a circulation of 118,000 and a monthly readership of 559,300, City Pages reaches the metro area’s young, affluent population. Get Real: City Pages Documentary Film Festival is the Twin Cities’ only documentary film festival with more than 3,000 moviegoers having attended in 2003. City Pages is proud to support independent filmmakers and to offer this unique cinematic experience to our readers and the film community.
WHAT: Get Real: City Pages Documentary Film Festival
WHEN: Nov. 4-10, 2004
WHERE: Oak Street Cinema, 309 Oak St., Univ. of Minnesota, East Bank, Minneapolis
The following films will be shown at Get Real:
I, CURMUDGEON (opening night)
Alan Zweig, director. 97 minutes.
Screw the election! Hypersensitive misanthropes of the world unite! In this long-overdue testament to the power of negative thinking, Zweig (whose Vinyl is another crabapple cult classic) asks himself and other “curmudgeons,” including Harvey Pekar and Andy Rooney, just what their fuckin’ problem is. (Rooney, for his part, responds by giving Zweig the boot.) Punctuating these interviews with his own pissed-off monologues, Zweig deftly shifts the tone from irritation to sharp humor and, perhaps unexpectedly, bittersweet optimism. Ultimately, surrounded by his “people,” Zweig finds that the desire to discuss something real is, at its heart, a plea for connection–one that might even provide a glimmer of hope. As curmudgeon George Bernard Shaw once put it: “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven’t got it.” Zweig will appear in person to introduce the screening and answer questions afterward.
ARMY OF ONE
Sarah Goodman, director. 70 minutes.
This captivating award-winner at the Hot Docs festival follows three young New Yorkers who join the U.S. Army after September 11 in hopes of fighting for their country and finding themselves. Nineteen-year-old Nelson is looking to escape the South Bronx. Thaddeus, 22, gives up a stockbroker job in order to pursue fantasies of killing Osama bin Laden. Sara, a 22-year-old dancer from North Carolina, leaves her best friend in Manhattan and travels home to enlist. Goodman trails the recruits for the next two years, observing what happens when their dreams of heroism clash with the realities of army life, the unpopularity of war among friends and family, and the threat of harm overseas.
Chuck Olsen, director. 70 minutes.
A message from the blogosphere: “Hi there. My name is Chuck Olsen, and I’m producing an independent documentary about blogs. Blogs empower us to tell our story, to spout and debate our politics, and to share ourselves with the rest of the world. What compels us to blog? How does it affect us, each other, our work, the mediascape, and the world? Does the blogosphere have a life of its own, like an ant colony excited by the discovery of food? Do you have thoughts on these questions? I would love to hear them.” Olsen will appear in person to introduce the screening and answer questions afterward.
BORN INTO BROTHELS
Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman, directors. 83 minutes.
In the face of abject poverty, abuse, and despair, the children of prostitutes in Calcutta’s red light district would appear to have little possibility of escaping their mothers’ fates. Yet this visually stunning film chronicles the transformation of the kids in the Sonagachi brothels whom Briski and Kauffman come to know. Giving the children cameras and lessons, Briski, a professional photographer, goes far beyond a routine anthropological exercise: She ignites latent sparks of hope and creativity in young people who conjure uniquely beautiful images and are empowered by the experience. A portion of the proceeds from this screening will be donated to Yo! The Movement, a youth membership organization whose programs give young people age 13 to 21 access to opportunities in the Twin Cities metro area.
THE BOY WHO PLAYS ON THE BUDDHAS OF BAMIYAN
Phil Grabsky, director. 96 minutes.
The destruction of Afghanistan’s 1,600-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban made international headlines. A lesser-known fact is that hundreds of refugees were living in the caves alongside the legendary statues, having fled their war-torn villages. One such refugee is Mir Hussain, a vivacious eight-year-old whose spirits will not be dampened by his meager existence. Grabsky followed Hussain and his family over the course of a year, bearing witness to their daily battles for survival, their hopes of peace and security, and their conflicted feelings about the fall of the Taliban and the arrival of American troops.
Yoav Shamir, director. 80 minutes.
After 37 years of Israeli authority over the West Bank and Gaza Strip comes this powerful vÃ©ritÃ© portrait of the complex relations between the regions’ soldiers and civilians. Chronicling three years of daily crossings by Palestinians through checkpoints created to protect Israelis from suicide bombers, Israeli filmmaker Shamir captures, without interference, the candid and often charged encounters on both sides. The result is a film that conveys a profound sense of the destructive impact this situation has on both societies, a situation that breeds intolerance and hatred, often leaving little room for human dignity.
Ondi Timoner, director. 106 minutes.
Shot over seven years, this indelible addition to the rock-doc genre explores the friendship and bitter rivalry between two indie hipsters: Anton Newcombe, hyper-obsessive leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre; and Courtney Taylor, the more “well-adjusted” frontman of the Dandy Warhols. From the moment they met in the mid-’90s, the two artists bonded over a common desire not to conform to the narrow tastes of record label executives. Yet their creative choices within in a profit-driven, pressure-filled industry eventually reveal irreconcilable differences. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, DIG! strikes a careful balance between the bands’ opposite aesthetics: It’s at once inventive and accessible, fashionably cultish and the next big thing.
Amie Siegel, director. 92 minutes.
This witty, revealing combination of documentary and fiction explores the tricky intimacy between psychoanalysts and their patients. Interviews with pipe-smoking shrinks of a certain age are interwoven with the tale of a fictional analyst, screen tests of female actors trying out for her role, and a deconstruction of the classic therapist’s chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames. The end result raises provocative questions about trust, power, gender, exploitation, and understanding. Writing in the Village Voice, J. Hoberman calls it “a seriously playful essay on the art and craft of psychoanalysis…meta-documentary to the end.”
GUERRILLA: THE TAKING OF PATTY HEARST
Robert Stone, director. 89 minutes.
“Mom? Dad? I’m with a combat unit…” In 1974, teen newspaper heiress and Berkeley undergrad Patty Hearst was kidnapped at gunpoint by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a small band of young, ferociously militant radicals dedicated to securing the rights of prisoners and the working class. Over the course of three years, the SLA robbed banks, killed innocent people, instigated a firefight after attempting to shoplift a pair of socks, and converted their privileged hostage into the poster child for domestic terrorism in the Me Decade. Guerrilla, with its astonishing wealth of archival footage, is the definitive portrait of one of the most bizarre episodes in recent U.S. history.
I LIKE KILLING FLIES
Matt Mahurin, director. 79 minutes.
The flip side of Super Size Me, this leaner, funnier doc suggests that homestyle cuisine carries its own risks and rewards. The subject is New York philosopher/restaurateur Kenny Shopsin, who brings such a personal touch to his work that he actually exterminates insects with one hand and tosses flapjacks with the other. Irascible and intermittently brilliant, the chef is legendary for serving more than 900 unique items from “matzoh brie” to “postmodern pancakes.” But after 35 years, his family-run Village institution has lost its lease. Mahurin, who has made videos for songs by Metallica and R.E.M., has whipped up his own curiously tasty dish, one that could leave even a vegan with a burning desire to order Shopsin’s lamb chops.
A LEAGUE OF ORDINARY GENTLEMEN
Chris Browne, director. 93 minutes.
When Microsoft programmers hire a Nike ad guru to turn bowling into the next “second-tier sports franchise,” four bowlers’ lives are thrown off their paths to the head pin. Tracing the history of what was once the biggest participatory sport in America (and culminating in a championship match that remains tense to the tenth frame), the film follows the bowlers in their valiant struggle against corporate execs who seem to care far less about them and their sport than about potential TV ratings. Variety says the director’s “sense of humor captures perfectly the contradictions, absurdities and drama at the intersection of class, media, money and sports without dissing any of his [bowling] subjects.”
LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF Thom Andersen, director. 169 minutes. “Movies bury their traces,” Andersen opines in this watershed work of cinema studies, “choosing for us what to watch, then moving on to something else… But what if we watch with our voluntary attention, instead of letting the movies direct us? If we can appreciate documentaries for their dramatic qualities, perhaps we can appreciate fiction films for their documentary revelations.” Surveying Los Angeles-set film both well-known (Chinatown, Blade Runner) and underappreciated (Haile Gerima’s Bush Mama, Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep), Andersen employs his keen understanding of cinema and his native city to expand their definitions–and entertain his audience. Just one of the film noir lover’s many quotably hardboiled voiceovers: “People who hate Los Angeles love Point Blank.”
Jonathan Nossiter, director. 135 minutes.
The other documentary in competition for the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year (besides Fahrenheit 9/11), this thoroughly entertaining survey of winemaking in the corporate age isn’t only for connoisseurs–although it’s most certainly for them. Hailing the director’s “uncanny ability to seduce” expert subjects across three continents (including the billionaire Mondavi family, the consultant Michel Rolland, and the critic Robert Parker), Film Comment’s Amy Taubin writes: “The case [Nossiter] makes about how small vineyard owners have been all but swallowed up by huge corporations, resulting in homogenized wines for homogenized palates, can readily be applied to other industries, most obviously film production.”
Brett Ingram, director. 80 minutes.
A cult figure from his days working on the trippiest scenes of several Frank Zappa films (including Baby Snakes), underground clay animator Bruce Bickford toils alone in a basement studio near Seattle, giving stop-motion life to flesh-eating monsters, magical hamburgers, and human skin that literally crawls. Tracing the origins of Bickford’s wildly unique sensibility, this disturbing and often hilarious film–winner of the Documentary Jury Prize at Slamdance–journeys back to the artist’s Cold War childhood in a competitive household, which it identifies as the source of his painstakingly animated torture chambers.
David Ofek, director. 76 minutes.
In June 2002, a suicide bomber blew up a bus traveling from Tel Aviv to Tiberius. Seventeen people were killed: 16 identified and one unknown, the body burnt beyond recognition. When no one came forward to claim the unidentified remains, police assumed the deceased was a foreign worker and the case went cold. But Ofek was haunted by the image of the victim’s unmarked grave and set out on a six-month quest to give No. 17 the dignity of a name. A real-life detective yarn, No. 17 builds nail-biting suspense en route to a surprising conclusion, demonstrating that behind every statistic lies a human story.
Jonathan Caouette, director. 87 minutes.
Redefining the word documentary, this psychedelic whirlwind of nonfiction is the product of Caouette’s obsessive self-portraiture in Super 8 and video since the age of 11. Beginning with the artist’s discovery of his mother’s lithium overdose, the film surveys a painful family legacy of mental illness, abuse, and neglect–leading, ultimately, to hope and reconciliation. Deemed “powerful and heartbreaking” by Roger Ebert, Tarnation is a raw and deeply sensual display of self-destruction and rebirth, a film that heralds the arrival of an exceptional new talent–and perhaps a new genre as well. Caouette will appear in person to introduce the screening and answer questions afterward.
THIS AIN’T NO HEARTLAND
Andreas Horvath, director. 106 minutes.
Call it the Fargo of documentaries or the Midwest Fahrenheit 9/11: This chilling report of wartime bloodlust in the “heartland”–winner of the Grand Prize at the Chicago International Documentary Festival–is guaranteed to divide opinion even as it hits us all right where we live. Near the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, filmmaker-photographer Horvath traveled from his home in Austria to the American Midwest to interview rural inhabitants of states from Iowa to Kansas; his questions about the war were greeted with evasiveness, obfuscation, drunkenness, and, perhaps most telling, blind faith. “Horvath,” claims Variety, “appears to be patiently shooting fish in a barrel.”
VENUS OF MARS
Emily Goldberg, director. 105 minutes.
Onstage, wearing a vinyl corset and stiletto boots, s/he is Venus, lead singer of the glam rock band All the Pretty Horses. At home in Minneapolis with Lynette Grandell, her/his wife of 20 years, s/he is Steve. To some, the transgender Venus–born male, taking female hormones, but not planning to have sexual reassignment surgery–is a pioneer in a brave new world. To others, s/he is a freak. Venus of Mars is both the unique tale of its hero(ine)’s gender-redefining journey and a love story about a couple weathering dramatic changes in uncharted territory. Goldberg, Venus, and Grandell will appear in person to introduce the screening and answer questions afterward. A live performance by All the Pretty Horses follows at the Cabooze (917 Cedar Ave., Mpls.).
Z CHANNEL: A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION
Xan Cassavetes, director. 119 minutes.
Devoted and volatile even by cinemaniac standards, Jerry Harvey was 32 years old in 1981 when he suddenly found himself head of programming at a pioneering pay-TV station that ran rare movies in L.A. all day and all night. Within six sleepless years, Harvey transformed Z Channel into a major film industry force, rescuing butchered works by the likes of Leone, Bertolucci, and Peckinpah by enlisting the directors’ help in badgering studio execs until they gave up the vault keys. Aided by a wealth of film clips, Cassavetes (daughter of John) recruits fellow Z fans (Altman, Tarantino, Jarmusch) to salute the programmer’s genius, but hardly neglects the dark side that makes this a Star 80-style cautionary tale.