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The 21st Annual Film Arts Festival

A Celebration of Independence

The word "independent" when used in the context of film evokes a plethora of disparate images, ideas, and preconceptions. For some it reminds them of Robert Rodriguez and the lengths to which he went to get El Mariachi made. Specifically, Rodriguez subjected himself to a medical study to help raise funds for his directorial debut. For others, the "independent" label implies avant garde or non-commercial content that perhaps only appeals to a small demographic. Or "independent" could simply mean a film made outside of the conventional Hollywood studio system.

Regardless of how one defines an independent film, there is little question that some are wonderful ideas, stories, and issues being confronted via films that likely won't spend much time at the multiplex and, unquestionably, these are films worth celebrating. Fortunately, the Film Arts Foundation has assembled an engaging and eclectic mix of said films for the 21st Annual Film Arts Festival, which runs from Nov.3 through Nov. 9th.

Some of the films worth celebrating are as follows:

Women in Love
This fascinating, voyeuristic documentary follows Sarah Everett's quest for love in the San Francisco lesbian community. Everett is the star and directory of this intensely personal film in which Sarah interviews lovers (both current and former) and explores the boundaries and limitations of relationships. From monogamy to polyamory, Everett leaves no stone unturned. Is love transitory? Can one love multiple people at the same time? Regardless of your sexual orientation, Everett's film will have you scratching your head questioning your assumptions about love and relationships.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I Am a Sex Addict
Equally candid is San Francisco director Caveh Zahedi in his autobiographical comedy, I Am a Sex Addict. Zahedi finds a way to make his struggles with sex addiction both poignant and humorous in this revealing film starring Zahedi. Zahedi charts the trajectory of his addiction starting with a bizarre fascination with prostitutes that evolves into numerous blowjobs delivered in the front seat of his car. Along the way Zahedi's relationships fall asunder in the wake of his damaging addiction. Zahedi pulls no punches in exposing the depths of his addiction and the challenging and amusing journey he went on to find his way out.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Nuestra Familia
Salinas, California was once known as the home of John Steinbeck and artichoke festivals. Today it is known as a battleground for the Nuestra Familia gang and those who would oppose them. Nuestra Familia documents the origins and rise of the Nuestra Familia gang and the damage that has been wrought as a result of their violent acts. Nuestra Familia also examines the efforts of the local authorities and FBI to crackdown on the out of control gang violence in Salinas. A disturbing documentary, Nuestra Familia paints a bleak picture of a town on the verge of anarchy.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Another politically charged documentary worth viewing is Trespassing. Director Carlos DeMenezes looks at the plight of Native Americans as the United States government encroaches on their land for the purposes of nuclear testing. DeMenezes deftly examines the struggles of the Native Americans on the Western Shosone territory as they fight to maintain the purity of their land and sustain their way of life in the face of powerful economic and political interests.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For those seeking formulaic storylines, one dimensional characters, and hackneyed dialogue, you may want to steer clear of the 21st Annual Film Arts Festival. However, if you are looking for films that explore complicated subject matter and multidimensional characters, the 21st Annual Film Arts Festival provides a wonderful opportunity to do so and support independent (however one defines it) filmmakers in the process.