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SF IndieFest 2005

Kicking off the San Francisco Film Festival Season

For those who couldn't make it up to Park City for Sundance, the folks at SF Indiefest offer a more geographically convenient alternative. The 7th Annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival unspools on February 3rd offering numerous unique and eclectic celluloid gems that may never see the light of a multiplex. I had the good fortune to view a number of the films on display this year and while not all of them shined, virtually all of them explored intriguing subject matter in interesting and provocative ways.

I, Curmudgeon explores the cantankerous and oft misunderstood subculture of the 'curmudgeon'. Often characterized as 'difficult', 'nay saying' contrarians, curmudgeons are revealed as quite thoughtful, intelligent, and caring by director Alan Zweig (a devout curmudgeon himself). Zweig's interviews with legendary curmudgeon Harvey Pekar (the inspiration for 'American Splendor'), Andy Rooney, and Scott Thompson are frequently insightful and hysterically funny. If you have an aversion to unfiltered candor, this one might not be for you. But, otherwise, 'I, Curmudgeon' offers enlightened discussion and humor. 4 out of 5 stars

Director Will Swenson ardently emulates Christopher Guest (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show) in his absurd mockumentary, Sons of Provo. A spiritual, Mormon boy band attempts to make it big while overcoming a recently departed band member, limited talent, and a narcissistic egomaniac as a front man. But, with songs like "Nourish and Strengthen our Bodies" and "Do Us the Good We Need", success cannot elude these aspiring post-pubescent crooners for long. While Swenson is no Christopher Guest, his story of naïve, twentysomething hacks suffering from arrested development strikes a chord. 3 out of 5 stars

Suffering is all too familiar for the sexually deprived Josey Fargo in The Dry Spell. Director John E. Dowdle gives us the portrait of a carnally starved man on the verge of unraveling. Devoid of any sexual contact with women for at least several dog years, Fargo delivers internal monologues mourning his dry spell in staccato, beat poet fashion. As a male who has suffered his own share of dry spells, Dowdle's sophomore effort resonated for me. Unfortunately, Chip Godwin's Josey Fargo is simply agonizing to watch on screen and is not a particularly endearing character. 2.5 out of 5 stars

While an ad on Craigslist might not have remedied Josey Fargo's conundrum, Craigslist has acted as a panacea for countless conundrums as revealed in Michael Ferris Gibson's 24 Hours on Craigslist. Got a squirrel head in a jar of formaldehyde? Craigslist likely can help you find an eager buyer. Want someone to tie you up, flagellate you with a leather whip, and call you a troglodyte? Craigslist can facilitate sourcing your dominatrix. Gibson illuminates just how influential and impactful this glorified bulletin board has been to Bay Area residents. 3.5 stars out of 5

No less impactful is the performance of veteran actor Eddie Jones as aging boxing trainer Marty Goldberg in Fighting Tommy Riley. Haunted by demons of the past, Goldberg is a given a second chance in the form of a talented, but volatile Tommy Riley. The two make an intriguing pair, but first time director Eddie O'Flaherty enables success too easily, creating obstacles that seem little more than an afterthought. Thus the movie ends up being little more than a poor man's Million Dollar Baby. Eddie Jones provides an intriguing and tormented performance that almost salvages the film from mediocrity. 2 out of 5 stars

Indiefest runs through Feb.15 and is screening all of the aforementioned films and numerous others at the following venues: Castro Theatre, Roxie Cinema, and The Women's Building in San Francisco and Mama Buzz Café/Ego Park in Oakland.