Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jason goes to Cinema By The Bay

The SF Film Society puts on a whole fall season, and I'm always too busy/distracted for it. But I did manage to catch one day of their weekend of locally made films last Saturday. It also turned out to be all documentaries. Weird. Anyway, here's how it was:

First up, a collection of short student docs from Stanford, THE STANFORD SCENE. They were all pretty good, but as short student pieces (that had to be finished in one quarter) the dominant theme was that I wanted most of them to be longer.

SHAVING THE CASTRO: A look at a neighborhood barbershop in the Castro that's been there long enough to pre-date when all the gays moved in. And it survived the change and has become something of a neighborhood landmark.

TIGHTLY KNIT: A quirky look at knitting circles. More than just old ladies, there are all kinds. The best part is the knitting equivalent of graffiti taggers who "yarn bomb" knitted sleeves around trees, parking meters, etc.

DREAMS AWAKE: Winner of the 2010 Student Academy Award. Doroteo Garcia (who was in attendance) is an immigrant janitor whose planned short stint making enough money for his family has turned into a decade long separation. So he's turned to poetry (and union activism) to express himself.

STILL REVOLUTIONARIES: A candid, insightful look at the Black Panthers from former members Madalynn Rucker and Katherine Campbell.

AN ARCHITECT'S VISION: Chris Downey was an acclaimed architect, and then he went blind. A fascinating look at how he's coped and learned to explore space by touch and sound instead of sight.

ZEUF: Zeuf is a breast cancer survivor, a nurse, and a surfer. And this movie is about her story and particularly her body image issues and accepting herself as she is--a strong, confident, proud surfer woman (who happens to have lost a breast).

KEPT: A look at hoarder--people who collect stuff and never throw stuff out. That's a lot of clutter.

WITHOUT COUNTRY (SIN PAÍS): The story of the Mejia family, torn apart by an insane deportation system (deport the parents first, then the son who was brought to America when he was one a year or so later. Leave the daughter who was born in America here?)


Next up was the coal mining documentary (didn't I see another one of those about a week ago?) DEEP DOWN. Like ON COAL RIVER (from Docfest), it's a movie that contrasts the effects of mountaintop removal mining with the beautiful scenery of Appalachia. And it's a portrait of locals who fight to protect their land. Terry Ratcliffe's family has lived there for generations, he owns his land and built his own log house. A mining company has offered him quite a bit of money to mine the mountain just above him, but he doesn't really want to sell (although he's tempted. He makes a meager living selling handmade wood furniture). Meanwhile Beverly May is an activist who works to prevent the coal company from destroying their hollow. Also like ON COAL RIVER, there's not a lot from the coal companies' point of view. Which is kind of expected, it's hard to justify mountaintop removal on any level other than 'we can make a ton of money doing it.' And that doesn't really fly well against personal stories of people struggling to survive.

Next up, a movie 30 years in the making, ED HARDY TATTOO THE WORLD. 30 years ago was when director Emiko Omori first ventured into Ed Hardy's tattoo shop. She made a short film at the time, but now she's made a feature length film about the entire scope of Ed Hardy's life and art. He was interested in drawing at a young age, and dabbled in fake tattoos before pursuing a "serious" art career. He graduated from the San Francisco Academy of Art and was primed for a career in fine art, but sort of shocked the world by declaring he would return to his childhood fascination with tattooing and elevate it to high art. He immediately learned that tattooing was harder than he thought. He could draw, but knew nothing about how bodies moved, how deep to get the needle, etc. He apprenticed under Sailor Jerry, and quickly learned his chops and did make an undeniable impact on the world of tattoos, especially by introducing Asian motifs (including the huge all-back tattoos) as well as classic Americana. Recently he's retired from tattooing, and taken up "serious" art again. And he's opened up his own shop for his art. A good movie about a fascinating, amusing man.

And finally, the night ended with 4TH AND GOAL, a documentary about NFL dreams with a focus on the class at City College of San Francisco. Under coach George Rush, Sr. (whose son is a producer on the film, making this kind of a father worship film) City College dominates the world of junior college football. Kids who for some reason (often financial) didn't start out in a division 1 school but want to play football flock here, and coach Rush really forms a family that is not just based on dominant football, but also demands academic achievement. As much as he doesn't want to squash anyone's dreams, he knows that the chance of any of them--no matter how good they are--of making the NFL is pretty slim. But all the subjects of this film at least make it into division 1 schools on football scholarships after two years there. And for the most part, they all find there is much less of a supportive, family atmosphere there. In fact, it seems right that the one kid from Sierra Leone that coach Rush officially adopted--a young Gibril Wilson--did go on to the NFL, and won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants. Each player was allowed to bring one friend/family member onto the field with him. On the field celebrating the Super Bowl win with Gibril was coach Rush. None of the other players had a career in the NFL--some fell to injuries, some made it to training camp but were cut. But all have a starring role in this film, and their stories, drive, and love of the game make this movie work.

And that was Cinema By The Bay. Or at least the one day I saw of it.

Total Running Time: 283 minutes
My Total Minutes: 215,098
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