Related Articles: Movies, All

SF IndieFest

The art of filmmaking

Film festivals seem to get more bloated every year: what starts out as intimate, casual venues to show and discuss films easily escalates to a near-Academy Awards gala masquerading as an independent event. The SF IndieFest, kicking off its fourth year on January 31, aims to keep it simple, making sure the spirit of the festival stays true to the independent features, shorts and animation it showcases. The festival branches out this year, showcasing works from all over the globe. It starts close to home though, with Thursday's Opening Night Gala premier of Ever Since the World Ended by local filmmakers Calum Grant and Joshua Atesh Litle. There's also the North American Premiere of South West 9 , produced by the same team that created Human Traffic , which is about the British rave scene, and got lots of love from critics when it was released; tons of short films, including work by Jay Rosenblatt, George Kuchar, Caveh Zahedi, and actress-with-a-brain Sarah Polley; and Unspeakable , about a legally ordained Priest in the Church of Satan and directed by local filmmaker Marc Rokoff. Some other films screening at IndieFest worth seeing (or not):

The Journeyman : Directed by James Crowley, this modern take on the spaghetti Western gets Willie Nelson himself onto the screen. He's got a bit part, but hey. It's about young brothers separated after their father's killed by some bandits. When they're older, the eldest (the Journeyman) combs the land in a morphine haze in search of his brother. It's a restrained, minimalist film with some cool, sweeping wide shots of West Texas plains. It's a little too minimalist at times, leaving you wondering how all the characters link up, but overall it's worth a look.

Margarita Happy Hour : Despite some lackluster performances, Ilya Chaiken's debut film offers a poignant take on motherhood, and on growing up from a female perspective. A Brooklyn hipster named Zelda (Eleanor Hutchins) struggles to raise her daughter, deal with her drunk, philandering boyfriend, make ends meet by drawing nudie pics for a porno magazine, and keep up the tradition of meeting her girlfriends (who all seem to have had children at the exact same time) for margaritas. And for any "Sex and the City" addicts there's a scene in this film that seems to have been swiped from an episode, almost word-for-word. Even so, Chaiken's getting at some deep, important truths here, and through her writing and directing she hits the mark with ease.

Party 7 : This opening night film made the festival because people who've seen it either adore it or despise it. It's a Japanese mishmash of a film that's supposedly a tribute to David Lynch, but it feels more like Jim Jarmusch on bad speed with attention deficit disorder. It's a surreal comedy that takes place in a nightmare-induced hotel, complete with a sci-fi looking character that goes by the name Captain Banana. It's visually interesting, but the plot's totally convoluted, and the film just feels like it's trying way too hard.

We Sold Our Sold For Rock N' Roll : Penelope Spheeris ( Decline of Western Civilization , Wayne's World ) is back in familiar territory with this look at OZZfest in all its testosterone-heavy, beer guzzling, tit-showing, metal glory. She followed the tour, which has Black Sabbath, Slipknot, Primus, White Zombie, Slayer and others sweating and mauling their guitars all over the U.S. It's produced by Ozzie's loving wife Sharon Osbourne, so it's also a very positive view of the fam — Sharon walks around backstage, wears tailored suits, and walks her little dogs, and her kids hang out with the bands and support dad. Spheeris knows how to entertain-mix her up with Ozzy and you get a film that does just that, and does it well.