The Berkeley Daily Planet October 5, 2007

Moving Pictures: Festival Brings Out Best in Indie Cinema

By Justin DeFreitas

The Berkeley Film and Video Festivals marks its 16th year this weekend with another vast and varied program of independent productions. If there’s a theme to the annual festival, the theme is that there is no theme; it simply showcases independent film in all its unruly diversity, from the brilliant to the silly, from mainstream to left field, from documentaries and drama to comedy and cutting-edge avant garde.

The festival, put on annually by the East Bay Media Center, runs today (Friday) through Sunday at Landmark’s California Theater in downtown Berkeley.

Festival Director Mel Vapour takes pride in one participant’s description of the festival as a bastion of artistic integrity among film festivals, and one that remains blissfully celebrity-free. This year’s program is no exception, providing a feast of cinematic pleasures untouched by commercial considerations.

One of the most extraordinary films on this year’s program is George Aguilar’s Diary of Niclas Gheiler. Aguilar has created what he terms a “documentary mashup,” consisting of old family photographs and found footage combined with words from his grandfather’s diary. The result is a stirring poetic reverie on his grandfather’s life in Germany from World War I, when he served alongside a young Adolf Hitler, and the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in the run-up to World War II. It’s a 32-minute tour de force that approaches history from a deeply personal perspective.

The Big Game, by L A Wood, presents a sympathetic view of the Memorial Stadium oak grove tree-sit. Regardless of where you come down on the myriad issues surrounding the UC Berkeley’s plan to build an athletic performance facility along the stadium’s western wall, this entertaining 30-minute film is sure to provide grist for your political mill. Though university officials declined Wood’s invitation to comment on camera, he does little to fill that gap in the narrative, at no point providing the viewer with an account of the university’s reasoning behind its plans or its responses to the protest. The result is a film which may be endearing to the like-minded, but which will only fuel the ire of those on the other side of the debate, encouraging rather than tempering the tendencies of each side to paint the other in broad strokes. Familiar faces abound; in fact, the film is a veritable who’s who of Daily Planet opinion page contributors.

Henry Ferrini and Ken Riaf’s Polis is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place provides a compassionate portrait of the larger-than-life poet—his work, his humanity and his influence—using archival footage and audio along with testimonials from friends and colleagues. The central narrative concerns Olson’s quest to preserve the unique qualities of his hometown, a quest one fellow poet likens to a Superbowl match-up between the Minnesota Vikings and the Miami Dolphins, in which the Dolphins abandoned their game plan in favor of tactical improvisation that reached the level of poetry. It’s an analogy many tree-sitters would be loathe to accept, but in the context of Olson’s all-encompassing, all-embracing, big-picture view of life and community, such supposed polarities as football vs. poetry are exposed as meaningless.

Other films from this weekend’s program:

Orit Schwartz’s The Frank Anderson, a sharp comedic short (featuring several familiar faces from larger-budget Hollywood productions), tells the story of an insurance agent who pays a price when he denies coverage for a man’s breast reduction surgery while enthusiastically offering to pay for enhancement surgery for a woman he hopes to bed.

Flaming Chicken, Gerald Varney’s 20-minute impressionistic musing on San Francisco, is comprised largely of hitherto unseen footage Varney shot while working as a Bay Area journalist in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Silhouettes, a seven-minute short by Acalanes High School (Lafayette) students Patrick Ouziel and Kevin Walker, details the plight of a teen whose shadow, which takes the form of a rabbit, leads to bullying from his peers.

Chronicles of Impeccable Sportsmanship, Erika Tasini’s excellent silent short that depicts curious dynamics among a rooftop-dwelling family.

The Homecoming, a solemn and mysterious 10-minute film, consists of evocative scenes that almost play like trailers from longer films.

Tile M for Murder, an absurd, almost cartoonish comedy, features a hostile couple squaring off over a game of Scrabble on a sweltering summer day. “It’s a hot day and I hate my wife,” says the husband, and off we go on a bile-fueled ride in which the words spelled out on the board dictate the course of events.

Mark Hammond’s feature film Johnny Was boasts an excellent performance by Vinnie Jones as a former Irish Republican Army fighter hiding out in London. The film also features the screen debuts of boxer Lennox Lewis and former Who frontman Roger Daltrey.

But this sampling just scratches the surface. There are simply too many films on the program to do justice to them in the space allotted here. Suffice it to say, this is a film lover’s film festival, one that eschews the predictable fare that so often passes for independent film these days in an effort to present an engaging and wide-ranging program of cinema artistry.

Photograph: A scene from George Aguilar’s poetic “documentary mashup,” Diary of Niclas Gheiler, a found-footage reverie on the life of the director’s German grandfather in the years between the world wars.


Ferrini documentary on Olson wins at Berkeley Video & Film Festival

By Gail McCarthy, Staff writer

The Gloucester Daily Times - October 5, 2007

The words of Gloucester’s poet Charles Olson, who died in 1970, continue to reverberate after a documentary made by resident Henry Ferrini won a top award at a Northern California film festival.
The documentary, “Polis is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place” won the Grand Festival Award with special recognition at the 2007 Berkeley Video and Film Festival. The 60-minute film will be screened tonight at the festival.

The film is narrated by award-winning actor John Malkovich.

Later this month, Ferrini will present the film at the Detroit Film Festival.
Jack Hirschman, the poet laureate of San Francisco, will accept the award because Ferrini is unable to attend the event.
“The documentary is a triumph,” said Gerrit Lansing, a Gloucester poet and close friend of Olson. “The film has all sorts of ramifications. It is like fireworks with a lot of different angles that scatters its effects in a wonderful way. It’s a suggestive work that leads one to continue contemplation.”
Peter Anastas, a writer and past president of the Gloucester-based Charles Olson Society, said the film’s growing notoriety is good for the city.
“People here are talking about the creative economy and promoting the city, and this film is a tremendous promotion for
Gloucester,” he said. “This award demonstrates the importance of the film for two major reasons. One, as a film, it is extraordinary in its stunning cinematography. Two, in terms of the subject, it is key because right now communities all over America are struggling with saving their characters and preserving their histories in the way that Olson was trying to educate Gloucester so many years ago.”
Olson’s masterpiece, “The Maximus Poems,” is a series of poems Olson (1910-1970) wrote about Gloucester, a place he loved, mainly during the 1960s. A modernist poet, Olson was a visiting lecturer at several colleges. He worked at the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he served as its rector from 1951 until its closing in 1956.
“The film is really a rediscovery of Charles Olson,” Ferrini said. “Since he died, everything written about him has been from an academic viewpoint. This is not an academic approach at all. We wanted to create something that would appeal to all levels. Olson delved into amazing subject matters, like anthropology, English and mythology, that made his work so appealing.”
Although Olson’s written work may not always be easily understood, his intent is clear in provoking people to ponder the importance of where they live.
Anastas described Olson’s work as prophetic.
“The film, and his work, is about the meaning and importance of place in our lives, the place we were born in and the place where we live. These issues are incredibly germane today. It’s not about a dead, white, male poet. It’s about how we live,” he said.
This is not Ferrini’s first work on a literary figure.
His film “Lowell Blues,” about poet Jack Kerouac, King of the Beats, aired on PBS and in 12 European countries.
Ferrini explained that “polis” is the Greek word for a city in its idealized form.
“‘Polis is This,’ is the title because it is a concept contemplated by Olson and a word he used repeatedly in his most famous work, ‘The Maximus Poems,’” Ferrini said.
Another Gloucester resident, Ken Riaf, is credited as a writer for the Olson documentary, in which he wrote the narration and worked in the post-production of the film. “This award is like getting a lead-off triple,” Riaf said.
Denny Bey, a more recent Gloucester resident, is new to Olson and his work. But when she saw the documentary, she was enthralled.
“When you watch this film, you will fall in love with Gloucester. It captures the magic of the city. It’s a beautiful piece of work,” Bey said. “To see the world through Henry’s eyes is an amazing experience. He sees things different than the rest, and he captures that on film. It’s thought-provoking, and there could be a strong educational component to engage students to talk about development, change and smart growth, which are issues in every community today.”
The film, which was shown about a week ago at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, has several upcoming screenings, as well as overseas debuts next year in Austria and possibly England. The following dates are confirmed: Oct. 22 at Endicott College in Beverly at 7 p.m.; Oct. 30 at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly at 8 p.m.; Nov. 14 at Wesleyan University and Nov. 15 at Gloucester Cinema at 6:30 p.m. The film will be aired on PBS in 2008..
The San Francisco Bay area is a center for poetry. Two of its poets, Diane di Prima and Susan Thackery of San Francisco, appear in the Olson documentary. In 2005, Ferrini showed the film in its rough-cut stage when some people drove for hours to attend a standing-room-only screening at the Yerba Buena Arts Center.

Mel Vapour, director of the Berkeley Video and Film Festival, applauded the film, calling it “an incredible piece of cinematic art.”
“The bar of historical relevancy of contemporary American poetry has been raised several notches with your piece,” he told Ferrini. “We are all very excited by it, and I’m sure our audiences will feel the same. Every student in a literature class needs to see it.”

This sentiment has been echoed by other writers on the film’s Web site,, including Russell Banks, author of “The Sweet Hereafter,” who stated, “Much more than a merely brilliant bio-documentary, Ferrini’s film about Charles Olson and Gloucester is an invaluable contribution to our literature.”
Jim Harrison, author of “Legends of the Fall,” said, “This is by far the best film I’ve ever seen on a figure in American literature. It is simply stunning.”

Copyright © 1999-2006 cnhi, inc.

Gloucester poet Charles Olson, who died in 1970, is the subject of a new documentary film.



Photo Ann Charters






Click to EnlargeThe Daily Californian

Berkeley Video + Film Festival

Showcases ‘Untold Stories’ by Sarah Dawud

Monday, October 8, 2007

photo/chanel leaf

Kyle Ors, a UC Berkeley senior, buys a ticket to "The Big Game," a documentary on the tree-sitters playing at the Berkeley Video & Film Festival. Eager film buffs and a variety of filmmakers attended the 16th annual Berkeley Video and Film Festival this weekend at California Theatre in hopes of viewing groundbreaking cinema.

The three-day event, which drew moviegoers from Puerto Rico to Oakland, showcased 66 original features ranging from experimental to ethnographic. Mel Vapour, the director and co-founder of the festival, said the event thrives in Berkeley because the community is open to unconventional art.

“Berkeley is film-centric,” he said.

A jury of “media makers” screened the movies in theaters across Berkeley before presenting awards to entries in two dozen categories, including commercials and cell phone videos, Vapour said.

Since its inception in 1990 as a creative outlet for the Bay Area, the festival has continued to attract a larger and more diverse audience. It has also become a fixture for filmmakers, many of whom return year after year.

Numerous students raved about “Special Circumstances,” whose Saturday showing drew a capacity crowd. Directed by Marianne Teleki, the film presents the story of Hector Salgado, who was tortured and forced into exile by Augusto Pinochet’s regime in Chile.

One of Salgado’s friends, Hector Logo, came from Puerto Rico to watch the film Saturday. He said the movie made him uncomfortable because he didn’t realize the extent of his friend’s suffering.

“There are important stories that have to be told,” he said. “They have an effect on the family and the neighborhood.”

Director Peter Bolte made his third appearance at the festival this year. Bolte’s “Dandelion Man,” which tells the story of a man who is unaware of the pain he inflicts on others until he faces his dark past, won the Best of Festival award in the features category.

Bolte applauded the festival for giving young flimmakers a voice.

“It has no agenda like the major movie festivals,” he said.

Environmental activist L.A. Wood attracted attention for his documentary “The Big Game,” which follows the tree-sitters in the oak grove near Memorial Stadium since they began protesting a proposed athletic center in December.

Becca Danton, an Oakland resident and high school student, was drawn to the movie and festival in general for the “untold stories and for the outlet that allowed them to be heard.”

Like many audience members, Oakland resident Christine Whalen said she liked the scope of the films.

“There was diversity,” she said. “The festival was amazing and touching.”

Her thoughts were echoed by event organizers.

“A revolution has happened with the onset of the digital age and the filmmakers are empowered,” Vapour said. “Films like these won’t be seen in mainstream cinema.”

Chile's criminals confronted on film by someone who remembers

Abigail Curtis, Special to The San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, October 5, 2007

In early September 1973, the 11 young men on Héctor Salgado's neighborhood soccer team in Tomé, Chile, were practicing hard and dreaming of winning the league championship.

By October, the Frutillares team was destroyed, along with the 16-year-old Salgado's youthful dreams.

The team was a casualty of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's bloody power grab. Pinochet's military dictatorship, which lasted 17 years and left a painful legacy in the South American country, resulted in the murder or "disappearance" of more than 3,000 people. Nearly 30,000 more were victims of officially sanctioned torture - including Salgado's soccer team. The coach, Salgado and seven others on the team were tortured and imprisoned for opposing the military state. Some, like Salgado, were sent into exile. Two were executed by firing squads.

"We'd never seen anything like that," Salgado said 34 years later at a sidewalk cafe in his adopted hometown of Berkeley. "Such a brutal and determined violence."

Salgado remembered seeing images of military planes bombing the country's capital.

"For us it was like science fiction," he said.

For the past seven years, the musician and human rights activist has been working to turn the script of his past into a film. Salgado and his wife, Marianne Teleki, both first-time filmmakers, have made a documentary about his quest to track down and confront the men directly responsible for what happened to the soccer team of Tomé.

"We need to have justice," Salgado said. "We need to have the truth. Those criminals need to say what they did."

Their documentary, "Special Circumstances," will be shown Saturday night , at the Berkeley Video & Film Festival, later this month at the United Nations Association Film Festival in San Jose and Palo Alto, and at the San Francisco Latino Film Festival in November.

Chilean author Isabel Allende, a Bay Area resident, lauded the film.

"Marianne Teleki is a sensitive and talented filmmaker who has been able to record, in Salgado's personal tragedy, the troubles of a country under a brutal dictatorship," Allende said.

More invitations to American and Chilean film festivals are rolling in - four this week alone - and Teleki said that they are "all on cloud nine" about the documentary's growing success.

"You feel validated," she said. "To be accepted finally in Chile is a dream come true."

Especially for Salgado, whose life became a nightmare under Pinochet. A few days after the coup d'etat, the boys of his neighborhood held a secret meeting. They had heard a rumor about a stash of dynamite hidden in the nearby countryside, and decided to find it and give it to people fighting the military.

"We knew it was risky," Salgado said. "We knew it was very dangerous. But we were willing to do the job because we were angry."

Most involved in the dynamite heist were caught by the naval authorities, including Salgado and his neighbor Fernando Moscoso, 20, a university student and natural leader.

"He was an idol for a lot of people in my neighborhood," Salgado said, who noted Moscoso opted not to wear a blindfold when he was shot by a firing squad.

Salgado said that his decision to speak out publicly occurred during a visit to Moscoso's grave in 1976, just before he was exiled to the United States.

"I made a promise to Fernando that one day I was going to tell this story, about what happened to the people of Tomé," he said.

The documentary is both historical and timely, as Chile continues to deal with the repercussions of the Pinochet regime. Pinochet died last December while under house arrest for human rights violations, and more than 30 of his generals are now in prison or under criminal prosecution.

But the men Salgado confronted - most at their comfortable homes in wealthy neighborhoods - did not appear concerned that their pasts would catch up to them. The slow pace of Chile's official reconciliation process is one reason Salgado was driven to make the documentary.

"The judicial system is a disgrace," he said. "Everybody else (besides Pinochet's generals) is free and living well."

Salgado found his targets using a 1970s Chilean military document that listed names, and Google.

"Google was my best friend," Salgado said.

The first person he located was Anibal Aravena-Miranda, a former Navy captain who was appointed governor of Tomé after the coup.

The elderly captain answered his door when Salgado knocked and invited him inside for a chat. The tape on Salgado's hidden microphone rolled as the former official explained his role in the atrocities.

"What I don't want is for you to look at me as if I'm some sort of murderer," Aravena-Miranda says in the film. "I am perfectly calm here with a clear conscience. If you were detained, you have my most sincere apologies. That was an injustice. But that was another time. You need to forget about that time."

That is the one thing that Salgado can't do.

"For me, I cannot afford to forget," he said. "If we want to prevent these things from ever happening again, we need to remember our collective story."

"Special Circumstances" will be shown at:

The Berkeley Video and Film Festival at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Landmark California Theatre, 2113 Kittredge St. For information, go to or call 510-843-3699.

The United Nations Association Film Festival at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 at Camera 12 Cinemas, 201 South Second St., San Jose and at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26 at Annenberg Auditorium (Cummings Art Building), Stanford University, Palo Alto. For information go to or call 650-724-5544.

The Latino Film Festival at 7:45 p.m. Thurs., Nov. 15 at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission St., San Francisco. For information go to or call 415-513-5308.



Glitterati Need Not Apply
The Berkeley Video and Film Festival by Rachel Swan

Published: October 3, 2007

In the four decades he's spent producing experimental film festivals, Mel Vapour has screened everything from Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome to Michael Snow's Wavelength, along with cult flicks by Lenny Lipton, Stan Brakhage, and Andy Warhol. He premiered Godard's Sympathy for the Devil for New Line Cinema shortly after the company launched in 1967.
As founder and director of The Berkeley Video and Film Festival (now in its sixteenth year), Vapour helps cultivate some of the hottest young producers you've ever seen, allowing them to share the big screen with finished adults. "There's not the glitterati of Mill Valley," he explained, "but the grand festival award winners are really high-end." Furthermore, the student filmmakers all use sound trucks, Mitchell cameras, light crews, and adult-trained actors — these aren't homespun productions by any means.
This year's fest features the Mark Hammond's "high-buck production" Johnny Was, which stars British actor Vinnie Jones and the Who's Roger Daltrey, and also marks the acting debut of heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. The documentary lineup includes Henry Ferrini and Ken Riaf's Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place, in which John Malkovich leads viewers through the strange, incredible universe of poets Amiri Baraka, Diane Di Prima, Peter Anastas, Charles Boer, and their ilk. In the documentary "mash-up" Diary of Niclas Gheiler, director George Aguilar pieces together the story of his grandfather, who served in Hitler's army during WWII. In The Big Game local director L A Wood — best known for his environmental Web site — covers the Oak Grove protest at Cal. Ever the diligent muckraker, Wood has been at the Grove since day one, interviewing all the principles, watching the demonstrators, watching the police, and hanging out in the trees. Vapour wants to make sure Wood gets his props. "From a local perspective I think it doesn't take on a saccharine approach that these are tree-huggers and tree-sitters," the festival director assures. "I think there are multiple dimensions that the piece deals with." (He'd prefer that the viewer extrapolate what those dimensions are.) There's even a short film about man boobies.
The Berkeley Film and Video Festival runs October 5, 6, and 7 at Landmark's California Theatre. A one-day pass costs $11; $25 gets you a three-day pass. Call 510-842-3699 or visit for program information.


Contra Costa Times . Article Launched: 10/05/2007 03:12:09 AM PDT

Film focuses on Berkeley tree protest

A short documentary about the 10-month-long tree sit at UC Berkeley is one of the 65 films in this weekend's Berkeley Video & Film Festival. The 28-minute film chronicles the celebrations, protests, ups and downs and daily life of the people living in a grove of trees near Memorial Stadium. The film is called "The Big Game." "Needless to say, it's not about football," said filmmaker L. A. Wood of Berkeley. Wood, a professional videographer and documentary filmmaker who has made seven films, said he shot 115 hours of video since late last year.
"I hope people will see the real picture of the oak grove with this film," he said. "They say a picture speaks a thousand words. A video speaks a thousand pictures, and so this is probably the most accurate view of the oak grove."

"The Big Game," which screens at 6:55 p.m. Sunday, was chosen for the festival from hundreds of entries, festival director and co-founder Mel Vapour said.
On Dec. 2, 2006, six people climbed into trees in the grove slated to be razed to make room for the university's $125 million athletic training center west of Memorial Stadium.
The protesters took to the trees to save about 40 oaks that the university wants to remove before construction starts. Three lawsuits currently being heard in Alameda County Superior Court stopped construction and tree sitters, albeit not the original group, remain in the trees now.
The no-budget film does not aim to be objective but is rather an advocacy tool for the tree sitters, Wood said.

Now in its 16th year, BVFF offers screenings of recent independent cinema from Bay Area, national and international filmmakers. Vapour said there are features, short features, documentaries, student films, commercials, music and cell phone videos, and more.
Vapour said these films should not be missed:
·  "Polis Is This -- Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place" by Henry Ferrini and Ken Riaf -- a 60-minute documentary that screens at 9:35 p.m. Friday .
·  "Special Circumstances" by Marianne Teleki -- a 73-minute documentary that screens at 6:05 p.m. Saturday.
·  "Diary of Niclas Gheiler" by George Aguilar -- a 32-minute documentary that screens at 7:35 p.m. Saturday.
·  "Johnny Was," a Ben Katz Production -- an 88-minute feature that Vapour calls "one of the highest-end films we've ever screened." It will show at 9:40 p.m. Saturday.

The Berkeley Video & Film Festival is at the Landmark California Theatre, 2113 Kittredge St. The box office can be reached at 510-464-5983.
Tickets will be available at California Theatre Box Office on the weekend. Tickets are $11 general admission, students and seniors, and $8 forEast Bay Media Center members. A general admission ticket is good for all screenings the entire day.
A three-day festival pass is available for $25 at the East Bay Media Center, 1939 Addison St. For more information, call 510-843-3699.


...and Welcome to the 16th Annual Berkeley Video & Film Festival!

We are thrilled to be back screening in Downtown Berkeley, and many thanks to the Landmark Theatre folks for making this happen at the California Theatre. We’ve lost three great cinemas in Downtown Berkeley over the past decade, two of which BVFF screened at for many years. East Bay Media Center, the mothership of BVFF, is committed to Berkeley’s Downtown Arts District, with it’s corporate offices and studios on Addison and Milvia Streets. EBMC’s 16th Annual Berkeley Video & Film Festival is also about commitment, artistic and cinematic commitment.

One of the filmmakers in this years’ festival, said he submits his films to BVFF because of “the festival’s continued support and commitment to independent, artistic integrity and because it’s a celebrity-free festival”! Make no mistake, this guy’s getting a Major Award.

BVFF has also further committed to Young Producers, Student Filmmakers and Senior Producers, as well as, Bay Area and East Bay producers, all substantially represented in this years edition.Young Producers from Houston, Texas, Katie McDowell and Andrew Edison’s “Tile M for Murder”, Bay Area student, Max Strebel and his two submissions “The Homecoming” and “Dessert” co-produced with Ashlyn Perry, Candace Infuso’s “My Father’s Tears”, and Patrick Ouziel and Kevin Walker’s “Silhouettes” share the big screen with their adult counterparts. Unquestionably, the above teen works have transcended any stigmas of being “films by kids”, these teen mediamakers are the future of indie cinema, at it’s best.

Student Films “Somewhere in the City” by Ramsey Denison and “Vanished” by Adam Bolt, grace our screen with stories that have multi-dimensional meaning with astounding production values, direction and cinematography. These are two of the best student films in the U.S.

“Polis Is This - Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place by Henry Ferrini and Ken Riaf, is brilliant, text book documentary filmmaking, infused with slices of beat and literati culture at it’s best. Ferrini and Riaf’s work is centrally important in the larger picture of placing our literary, cultural icons of the past into the present. Yesterdays heroes are tomorrow’s icons. Every lit student should see this brilliant ‘bio-docu-entertainment’ masterpiece.

Bay area doc-makers top the bill at BVFF with “Special Circumstances” by Marianne Teleki, “Diary of Niclas Gheiler” by George Aguilar and Berkeley Citizen - L A Wood’s “The Big Game”. These three producers’ films, with divergently different themes, exude a neo-socio-cultural committment to the documenatry craft.

In “Special Circumstances”, East Bay producer Marianne Teleki follows former political prisoner Hector Salgado, as he returns to Chile almost 30 years later, camera in hand, to confront the perpetrators and his former captors looking for answers and justice.

Aguilars’ “Diary of Niclas Gheiler”, is one of the most unique films we have ever screened. He combines ‘mash up” archival films from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, all taken from on line archival resources and created extraordinary foley sound work to puncuate these haunting images of Europe as it prepares for war and catastrophy. Aguilar’s search for his family’s lineage is unlike any other in it’s genre.

L A Wood and Berkeley Citizen’s “The Big Game” is a community video action document, Wood did his due diligence with daily recordings of the “Oak Grove” tree sitters, attempting to save the endangered oak grove from the axe of the UC Berkeley regents, and the opposition forces.

A master of experimental filmmaking with a 40 plus year curriculum vitae, Gerald Varney and his “Flaming Chicken”, also fuses present with past, pasting the present and the pyschedelic era of San Francisco with the flash back. This film is vintage Varney and gives us all a glimpse of the times when a “Chicken Delight” was as politically correct, as Kesey’s acid tests. Remarkable 8, Super-8, and 16mm glimpses of Kesey at the Fillmore, the first Be-In, Ginsberg and ooooh, the ‘City’ in the sixties. Bravisimo....

Shannon O’Rourke’s “Maybe Baby”, is the quintessential bible for birthing and biological timeclocks. Superbly documented, researched and filmed, O’Rourke follows several women on their intimate path of reproduction liberation.

Grand Festival Awarded Short Features “The Frank Anderson” by Orit Schwartz, “Chronicles of Impeccable Sportsmanship” by Erika Tasini and “Cowboy Johnny Yamada” by Yohei Kawamata, share a commonality of humor and whacky niche stories.

“The Little Documentary that couldn’t” by Ken Saba and Matt Lambro, is the feature film most documentary filmmakers dream of making, especially after completing a major project. This film has all the elements that a doc filmmaker needs to a create a doc and it’s quite funny, especially if you’re in the industry.

The Grand Festival Award for Features and the Baseline StudioSystems Award winner, “Johnny Was”, is a remarkable seminal indie feature, part of a formula of overseas feature productions by Hollywood’s Ben Katz. Starring the enigmatic Brit actor, Vinnie Jones, also with Roger Daltrey of the Who and former heavy weight boxing champ Lennox Lewis. Katz appears to have broken the indie veiled ceiling with this film and expect to witness his formula for getting to the big screen emulated by other indie producers.

We are screening over 60 plus stimulating, currently produced films, from very unique and diversely committed filmmakers; watch their films and be inspired, as we are, with everything up on the big screen.

Lastly, we lost Antonioni and Bergman this year, they inspired many of us to pursue venues in this great medium of ours, however, we did gain youtube and many other web and film-dvd distribution venues for independents. Seven past BVFF award winners in the past year, have made distribution deals with HBO, PBS and others, while “Soldier of God”, by Mir Bahmanyar, 2005’s Grand Festival Features winner, is now in major DVD release and distribution and Hoku Uchiyama of “Rose” fame, ( last years’ Grand Festival Student Filmmaker Award) and his Director of Photography were featured in American Cinematographer, this past July. Job well done! Now, Onward, to another great Festival!

- Mel Vapour, Director - Co-Founder - BVFF .