And it was a long day of shorts.
First up, a program of local documentary talent, Life NorCal Style.
EL MILAGRO DE STOCKTON: A working class guy in Stockton finds a rock with the image of the virgin of Guadalupe on it. They mention that the more faith you have, the easier it is to see. I saw a funny colored rock.
DRUGS: An interesting set of interviews of people in various stages of drug addiction and (attempted) recovery. Particularly thought-provoking for not being a scare film but for letting drug users explain how the drugs make them feel good.
SECOND NATURE: It's a bit loose to call this a documentary, it's a kick-ass skating film down winding mountain roads. Great adrenaline-pumping footage.
A SENTENCE APART: A sobering look at the effects of incarcerated parents on their children.
NEW AMERICAN SOLDIER: About 5% of the U.S. military are immigrants. Half of those are not citizens. But serving puts them on the fast track to citizenship. A look at Americans loyal enough to sacrifice their lives for a country that does not let them vote or be officers (until, of course, they get their citizenship)
Life NorCal Style plays again on Monday, Feb. 8 at 9:30
And then I saw the program, None of the Above. A series of shorts about choices, and my favorite of the festival so far.
IL VINCITORE (THE WINNER): A brilliant bit of absurdity from Italy. People are given numbers and assigned the most menial jobs--like being a sprinkler, trash can, or billboard. But few lucky lottery winners get a chance at a real job, which turns them into the clown-like white collar ruling class.
MEDICINE MAN: A boy will do anything to cure his paralyzed father. Even travel to the Adirondacks to find the great-grandson of an Iroquois shaman who might know of a plant that can cure him.
EMOTION MALFUNCTION: When computers learn to love, the world collapses in this visual trip.
THE GYNECOLOGIST: A doctor shows poor medical ethics, refusing to examine a patient just because "she" is a man. My favorite of the series (and festival so far)
LIFE ON EARTH: An orphan about to age out of the system struggles with following the "life skills" course because she refuses to settle for the limited career choices offered.
None of the Above plays again Thursday, Feb. 11 at 9:30
And then yet another shorts program. This time a series on loneliness, You're Not the Only, Lonely
BEAN: A bright young girl struggles to get her mother to acknowledge her. The mom is a total selfish bitch.
WEIGHT: The life of a clown. Sometimes all the helium balloons in the world can't counteract the weight of the world.
LOLLIPOP MAN: Title refers to the sign a school crossing guard uses. After a train accident in London, the traffic--and hence the lollipop man's job--is a huge hassle. Annoying fathers who don't care for safety rules don't make anything easier.
ME, YOU, A BAG, & BAMBOO: Funny, visually and mentally playful story of a lonely guy and girl with crazy back stories watching a robot boy have a seizure.
BACKYARD: A boy playing in the backyard learns a secret about his neighbor and the meter man who pays her a visit.
PENANCE: A man with a troubled past runs a landscaping service. He bonds with his assistant--a man with Asperger's syndrome. But there's trouble from a bad influence.
You're Not the Only, Lonely plays again Monday, Feb. 8 at 7:15
And finally a feature, THE BLOOD OF REBIRTH by beloved Indiefest alum Toshiaki Toyoda (BLUE SPRING, NINE SOULS, HANGING GARDEN). This time he travels to medieval Japan, when Gods and Demons ruled, before humans fully took over. A simple masseur refuses to cooperate with a lord (although his massage technique apparently helps the lords VD-riddled, pumpkin-sized balls). Instead, he helps a captive woman escape, and for that he is murdered. But he comes back as a "hungry ghost" fleeing with the princess to find the pool of rebirth, build up his strength (by staying submerged in the pool for days) and getting his revenge. Beautifully shot (which I could've expected after his stunning step up with HANGING GARDEN in 2005, but this was even way beyond that) and with minimal dialogue, he let's the story and the mood speak for itself in long, sustained, deliberate shots. Absolutely beautiful, but you need to be prepared to be patience with the lingering gaze of his camera.THE BLOOD OF REBIRTH plays again Thursday, Feb. 11 at 7:15