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BERKELEY VIDEO & FILM FESTIVAL 2004
Press Reviews

 

San Francisco Chronicle - October 15, 2004

Berkeley: Film festival has political bent, featuring final part in trilogy about Bush

- Rick DelVecchio, Chronicle Staff Writer

The third installment in producer Robert Greenwald's "Un" trilogy on freedom and fear in America under George W. Bush -- from the disputed Florida election to the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 -- headlines the documentaries at this weekend's 11th annual Berkeley Video and Film Festival.

"Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties," a 58-minute film, questions the Patriot Act and the government's hunt for terror suspects in immigrant communities after the attacks in 2001. It follows Greenwald's "Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election" and "Uncovered: The War on Iraq." Scheduled for 8 Saturday night at Wheeler Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus, it is one of a series of pre-Election Day premieres in the Bay Area.

The Los Angeles-based Greenwald also produced and directed "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," a critical look at the impact of corporate ownership on the news media. That film had a successful if limited theatrical release in August, at a time when Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" was on its way to becoming one of the most popular documentaries ever.

Unlike Moore, Greenwald isn't overtly partisan. But both are examples of passionate filmmakers using the documentary form to make an impact on events as they unfold. They're melding film's visceral power with journalism's immediacy.

"I've gotten a big conversion in terms of the really incredible and unparalleled impact that documentaries can have on the most important discussions that are going on in our country," Greenwald said in an interview last week.

The conversion he mentioned took place as a result of Sept. 11 and his father's death soon after. "I saw how quickly our country went from pain and shock to anger and revenge," said Greenwald, a veteran producer with 53 TV movies, miniseries and features to his credit. "For the sake of my children and my father, I wanted to work to change that, and I found I could do that best with film."

Mel Vapour, the Berkeley festival's founder and vice president of the sponsoring East Bay Media Center, said documentarians such as Greenwald represent a new and egalitarian force in the medium.

He described "Unconstitutional" as skewed to the left but argued that its stance is part of its strength as a film. He said such films help fill a need that's not being met by the traditional media.

"I feel the rules have changed since the Bush administration has come in, " he said. "I think the news has taken a whole new direction in this country. I think electronic news is totally skewed to the right. I also think the lack of depth in electronic reporting is almost criminal at this point."

That viewpoint has its detractors within the media. For example, a note in the New York Times on last week's DVD release of "Fahrenheit" described Moore's film as "an exasperating blend of serious reportage and grandstanding rhetoric." A separate review of "Unconstitutional" and "Unprecedented" in the same newspaper introduced the producer as "the provocateur Robert Greenwald."

Greenwald isn't bothered. "Provocateur by the New York Times, and Bill O'Reilly called me a smear merchant," he said. "In both cases, I'm thoroughly pleased."

Vapour said he would rather the debate focus on the content of the films than on the form. In his view, the movies make compelling, if circumstantial, cases.

"I feel that Greenwald has done his research, and as the presenter I feel extremely justified in screening these works," he said. "I feel the homework is impeccable."

"Unconstitutional," written and directed by Nonny de la Peña, opens with a series of gravely put questions: "Will it happen again? Was Iraq an immediate threat? Did Iraq have anything to do with Sept. 11? What is the Patriot Act? What would the Founding Fathers think?"

Congress made the Patriot Act into law just a few hours after it was printed, even though it contained provisions lawmakers had rejected before Sept. 11, the movie says. Things went from bad to worse with the questionable detention of more than 1,000 immigrants in a terrorism probe by Attorney General John Ashcroft, the film says.

The "profligate use of detentions" was not only unconstitutional but also undermined the intent of the Patriot Act because it outraged law-abiding immigrants, the film says.

Vapour described himself as an "old leftie" who goes back far enough to remember the McCarthy era and who sees in the government's hunt for terrorists a parallel to the paranoia that led President Nixon to keep an enemies list. He believes this is a time to fight anew for press freedoms and voter rights and argues that film has an important role to play.

Although Greenwald isn't taking sides in the contest between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, screenings of his films are a part of voter information efforts in many cities this fall. And with the disputed 2000 election in mind, filmmakers plan to keep a close watch on the polls in Florida on Nov. 2.

"Moore is going down (to Florida) with seven to 10 crews," Vapour said. "The people who shot 'Unprecedented' will have three crews. They literally are going to be documenting polling so the injustice that happened to tens of thousands of African American voters doesn't happen again.

"As a veteran of Freedom Summer in '64 in Mississippi, it was important and imperative to get one man, one vote," he said. "We busted our asses to do that and now we're seeing the infringement of the precious right to vote being messed with.

"Old lefties feel violated," he said.

The rise of the documentarian-provocateur goes hand in hand with technological advances, such as Internet distribution and high-quality digital reproduction. These changes are helping to make film a swifter, more economical and more personal medium.

"Filmmakers are taking this stuff to the screen in rapid fashion, taking the data, being able to get it out and actually get it out on the big screen," Vapour said. "Prior to 1995 or even 2000, you could never have that."

"You also have control over how the speech is going to be," he said. "This is kind of the coming of age of the egalitarianism of the new medium."

The festival also highlights the advent of the digital feature. With the help of digital editing machines and professional actors willing to work for less than top dollar, filmmakers are getting offbeat stories to the screen without sacrificing production values or running up personal debt.

"With the advent of digital editing," he said, "you have a capability for distribution coming right off the computer. You create a DVD master, and it's low cost to replicate, and you're now a distributor as well as a director and camera person.

"That's power, man."

"Nothing Really Happens (Memories of Aging Strippers)," by Mary Fridley, was shot digitally at 24 frames per second, the same frame rate as 35mm film.

The movie, which plays at 9:10 tonight in its Bay Area premiere, tells the story of the intertwined lives of three diverse women on New York's Lower East Side. "It ties together different ages and different classes, all through the auspices of a stripper and an 80-year-old Nobel Prize winner," Vapour said.

Scheduled for 10:45 tonight is Cliff Roth's "Stoned Channel," shot in 16mm color film and video. It depicts a home shopping club for marijuana users. "This is purely wacky," Vapour said. "It's total fun and should be looked at as such."

The festival also is presenting short works by three young East Bay artists.

Berkeleyan Yoav Potash's "Minute Matrimony" is a comedy about a day in the life of a drive-through wedding chapel. Samm Styles' "Black August" is a pilot for the Oakland filmmaker's feature on the life of the radical George Jackson. The films are scheduled to screen tonight at 8:45 and 9.

Andrew Hasse's "My Friend Freidrich," scheduled for Sunday night at 11:13,

concerns a young man who gets love advice from the unlikeliest of Miss Lonelyhearts: the gloomy philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche.

"I thought it would be funny if he was giving a poor, confused college student advice, because that's what I needed at the time," said Hasse, 23, of Berkeley.

He cast as one of his lead actors a girl he adored when both were teens. "She was the only person who would put up with me when I was in high school," he said. "The only girl, at least."

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Berkeley Voice - October 15, 2004

Video, film festival steps out into world

By Clyde Blue - CORRESPONDENT

Eight bucks barely gets you into a matinee these days. But this weekend, it can get you into a day's worth of feature films, documentaries, music videos and animation (for students, $8 gets a two-day pass).

From little beginnings at Berkeley High's Florence Schwimley Theater, the Berkeley Video and Film Festival has gone global.

Now in its 11th year, BVFF, the brainchild of Mel Vapour and Paul Kealoha Blake of the East Bay Media Center, has been favorably compared to the Sundance Film Festival's "Shorts" weekend.

"We are very pleased to be screening the many documentary works that are having a global, social, cultural and political impact," said BVFF director Vapour.

This year's festival, with 12 separate categories, also reflects the emergence of the digital short and feature, as well as traditional works in film, such as "Nothing Really Happens (Memories of Aging Strippers)," "Photo Finish," The Empty Building" and "The Stoned Channel."

The BVFF has grown so much over the years that it will again be screened over three days. Saturday and Sunday will feature 22 hours and 62 individual projects. Blake, Vapour and a local panel of videographers and filmmakers sifted through every entry -- there were more than 200 this year -- to come up with the lineup.

BVFF has a little bit of everything: feature films (short and full-length), comedies, music videos and animation -- 12 categories in all. As in the past, however, the strongest fare is the documentaries.

In this election season, two documentaries about the Bush presidency are notable: "Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties," (Saturday, 8 p.m.) and "There's Something About W," (Sunday, 7:30 p.m.) both pieces that take a hard look at the Bush White House.

"Unconstitutional" was produced by Nonny De la Pena and is presented by the Robert Greenwald Group, the same team that recently brought "Outfoxed" and "Uncovered: The War in Iraq" to national cinematic prominence. The film begins a local Bay Area run on Saturday evening at Wheeler.

"Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege," (Sunday, 5:20 p.m.) highlights the tensions between astronomers, the University of Hawaii, and Native Hawaiians over one of the islands' most sacred spots. One of the interviewees in Na Maka o ka 'Aina's film lays the conflict bare: "You come to look at the stars while trampling all beneath your feet."

Filmmakers are able to tie in a nearly identical struggle between Apaches and a newer observatory run by the University of Arizona.

Bill Schwartz's "Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator" (Saturday, 4:30) tells the story of the nascent billionaire's quite literal ascent from the presidency of a tool-manufacturing company to a record-breaking pilot and movie producer with starlets on his arm. Before his final, sad days in Las Vegas, Hughes was an iconic figure in the American imagination.

On a lighter note, Cliff Roth's "The Stoned Channel" (today at 10:45 p.m.) makes its world premiere at BVFF. "Stoned" is a wicked send-up of the modern era of enforced drug testing in the workplace, a mind trip for a television programmer who falls asleep and dreams up an online Amsterdam, with programs like "What's Hempening," "Ganja Gourmet" and the "Stoned Channel Travel Club," where hosts travel to Nepal and find some, um, spiritual enlightenment.

Also in the short-but-cynical comedy section is "Mad Twin," (Sunday, 9:45 p.m.) a farce of the high-school cheerleader/jock-versus-greaser paradigm. When one of the twins on a local high-school cheering squad gets a nose job and opts for the bad boy down at the ice cream parlor, all hell breaks loose. This satire was written and produced by real-life SoCal twins Lisa and Amy Kohn.

Vapour and Blake are especially proud of Andrew Hasse's "My Friend Friedrich," (Saturday, 11:30 p.m.) a short romantic comedy that showcases what happens when a college nerd starts taking romantic advice from the ghost of the German nihilist. Haase, a recent NYU film school graduate, once attended EBMC's summer Media Camp and is now a Berkeley animator.

For those of us who survived the dot-com boom-and-bust, Daniel Gamburg's "IPO" (Sunday, 8 p.m.) is a reminder of the heady days of endless investor capital in mad schemes like "hot-tot.com," an enterprise to produce custom babies.

"We're in the peopling business," says the movie's spunky marketing chick.

There are coked-up investors, intercouple dramas of every variety (straight, lesbian, gay) and the high-energy chaos that reigned for that brief period of money, money, money.

"These days, people need a little comic and visual relief," Vapour said. "UC Berkeley students are die-hard film buffs and we've adjusted our ticket prices for this poor Bush economy and the war. After all, it's a real bargain to see these new emerging artists," he says of the $5 one-day student pass.

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Oakland Tribune - October 15, 2004

Satire-filled Berkeley film fest stands taller than ever

By Brian Kluepfel - CONTRIBUTOR

THIS year's Berkeley Video and Film Festival definitely hits the highs -- from Hawaii's majestic Mauna Kea, the tallest peak in all of Polynesia, to Asia's mighty Everest.

The festival, now in its 11th incarnation, similarly has risen in stature in the past decade. With more than 60 entries from around the globe, Berkeley's hidden gem has some of the cinematic cache once reserved for other noteworthy festivals.

"We've been compared favorably to the Sundance 'shorts' weekend," BVFF director Mel Vapour says.

Yet, catering to Berkeley's student population, an all-day ticket to the festival can be had for as low as $5. For such variety -- 12 hours of films in a dozen categories -- you can hardly get a better deal.

As always, documentaries score the biggest points. While "Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege" highlights conflicts between astronomers and native Hawaiians on the big island, "Daughters of Everest" shows the first all-female, all-Tibetan team scaling the mighty Himalayan mountain.

Both films look at the mighty mountain fortresses and attempts by their native people to, in a physical or spiritual sense, reclaim them. "Daughters" was produced by El Cerrito resident Sapana Sakya.

In Berkeley, it's always open season on the sitting president, and two documentaries take clear aim at George W. Bush. The Robert Greenwald Group, producers of "OutFoxed" and "Unprecedented," backed director Nonny De Pena's searing indictment of the administration in "Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties."

While "Unconstitutional" takes apart the U.S Patriot Act point by point, "There's Something About W." is a more broad-ranging and humorous poke at the president's broken promises. Screening a film of the magnitude of "Unconstitutional," which is simultaneously running at Bay Area theaters, is a real coup for BVFF.

In the short feature category, local wunderkid Andrew Hasse's "My Friend Freidrich" is a hilarious romp with a geeky New York grad student who begins taking romance and life advice from the ghost of long-departed nihilist Nietzche.

Shifting back to the left coast, Los Angeleno twins Amy and Lisa Kohn produced a wicked send-up of high-school mores in "Mad Twin," the tale of a cheerleader gone wrong and the resulting, far-ranging consequences on the basketball team -- and her twin sister.

Clifford Roth's "The Stoned Channel" kicks things off today. Perhaps appropriate for a 10:30 p.m. screening, "Stoned" pokes fun at mandatory drug-testing by waltzing through the fantasies of a network producer who literally dreams up a station with 24-hour ganja-flavored programming, including cooking and travel shows. (Be sure to load up on the popcorn!)

On a more serious note, the feature film "Photo Finish," shot on location in London, deals with the treachery and decep- tion of cheating spouses, ultimately confronted by their mutual betrayal of each other. (The rapscallion husband also quotes Nietzche in justifying his "transcendent" morality.)

Likewise, "The Rules," a shorter feature screening Saturday, deals with the obsession and violence of clandestine romance, when one party feels the game has ended unjustly.

"IPO" combines the worst of all worlds, perhaps, in a satire of the dot-com boom. The fictional San Francisco company "hot-tot.com" is in the game of producing genetically customized babies. (Its motto: "We're in the peopling business!") Meanwhile, the cocaine-fueled investor goes slightly mad and the employees have wild affairs of every variety, all the while hoping that their dream of hitting the online jackpot have come true.

"We may not have the star power and galas of other festivals, but we do have the new emerging talents that will be the stars of tomorrow," BVFF director Vapour proclaims.

Until now the BVFF has been one of the Bay Area's best-kept secrets. But not for long. Look out, Sundance.

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Oakland Tribune - October 15, 2004

Berkeley film festival offers a lot of boom for your buck

Film festival offers a weekend of independent delights

By Angela Hill, STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY -- Thank Flash Gordon.
He's the reason Mel Vapour got hooked on movies in the'50s as a little kid, trotting on down to the National Theatre in Milwaukee every Saturday to watch serials and cowboy films with his big brother, which led to his 40-year career in independent film distribution.

Mel, that is, not Flash.

"Those shows were the most important thing in my life at the time, so exciting," said Vapour, director of the Berkeley Video and Film Festival, which begins tonight and runs all weekend at Wheeler Hall on the University of California, Berkeley campus. "I did not want to miss Flash Gordon and Hopalong Cassidy."

And movie lovers everywhere will not want to miss this fest. Put on by the East Bay Media Center, the event is considered Northern California's largest video and film festival, having grown during its 11 years from a small, East Bay-centric event to one that now hosts world premieres of locally and internationally produced independent films.

Sixty-two films will be screened during the 21/2-day event, whittled from more than 225 submissions the center received this year.

Now, these movies are not your typical Hollywood-style, blown-up buildings and splintered plots. They're smart stuff. Thoughtful. Skillful. Creative. Sometimes wonderfully wacky. Political documentaries. Freaky features. Art flicks. Animation.

And all at the whoppingly low price of $8. That's far more boom for the buck than at mainstream theaters, because it's not per movie but for a whole entire day of boom. (It's even cheaper and boomier if you get a weekend pass.)

"The qualitative aspects of the work this year are just first rate," Vapour said, quickly getting as excited about these films as he did about Flash. "There are some brilliant, brilliant pieces here. Skillfully done. It's phenomenal."

Indeed, a conversation with Vapour about festival offerings is along the lines of "We have this, and this and this! Oh, and don't forget this!"

Observe:

"We have a Robert Greenwald film, 'Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties.' Very chilling," Vapour said. "It raises so many questions of freedom of press and The PATRIOT Act and how it was enacted. Absolutely chilling. I think it will have an interesting audience base.

"And we have another documentary called, 'There's Something About W,' which also deals with the Bush administration. It's a little lighter fare, but hard-hitting at the same time.

"And we have one from a young producer -- a teenager interviewed veterans coming back from Iraq. It's a brilliant piece. And another from a local graduate of San Francisco State, a short documentary comparing Vietnam and the Iraq war.

"Then there's 'Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea,' just skillfully and beautifully put together. Very compelling. And there's 'Daughters of Everest,' co-produced by a woman in El Cerrito about a group of Sherpa women who attempted to climb Mount Everest. It deals with the struggle, the conviction these women had. It's extraordinary.

"And we have some stunning features. There's 'Nothing Really Happens,' which was shot in New York, about memories of aging strippers. It's one of the most charming stories I have ever seen on film," he said.

"We have some wacky pieces, too," Vapour said. "There's one on a fictitious marijuana channel called 'The Stone Channel.' Like a QVC for marijuana users.

"And the other most incredible documentary is 'Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator.' It uses a narrative voice-over, which is supposed to be Hughes speaking. And there's some archival footage in there I've never seen published anywhere before. The film focuses on his rise and his life at his peak. Everyone here in the facility was riveted.

"I could go on for hours ...," Vapour said.

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Berkeley Daily Planet - October 12, 2004

Wide Array of Voices at Video and Film Festival

By BRIAN KLUEPFEL Special to the Planet

Down at the end of Berkeley’s new Arts District on Addison Street, the East Bay Media Center has compiled a wide-ranging lineup of new talent for this weekend’s 11th Annual Berkeley Video and Film Festival.
From small beginnings at Berkeley High in 1990, BVFF has morphed into a mini-Sundance, with 62 films in a dozen categories to be screened over Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Although the festival has always maintained a little local flavor (included in this year’s schedule is Jennifer Ann Blaylock’s “Bowling,” a ‘shopumentary’ about the Berkeley Bowl), Festival director Mel Vapour, who along with Paul Kealoha Blake has run the EBMC for a quarter century, is quick to point out the breadth of entries.

“We received over 200 entries from all over, from Canada to Brazil,” says Vapour. “Not only are we the biggest independent festival in Northern California, but the world is getting to know us.”

Vapour is particularly proud to premier the Robert Greenwald Group’s “Unconstitutional: the War on our Civil Rights,” which was produced by Nonny De La Pena. “Unconstitutional” is an indictment of the USA PATRIOT Act, and makes its Bay Area premier on Saturday night.

As always, BVFF is heavy on documentary work, but there’s a lot more. Here’s a brief overview of some of the festival’s highlights:

On Friday night, the festival opens with Samm Style’s “Black August” (9:00 p.m.), a short trailer for the George Jackson-related film slated for next year, but the young Oakland filmmaker packs the tension and drama of San Quentin, 1971 into just three short minutes. Next, Mary Fridley and Fred Newman’s “Nothing Really Happens (Memories of Aging Strippers)” (Friday, 9:10 p.m.) is an introspective look at a lost New York: the co-owner of a Bronx candy store who, through her writing tells the tale of the Gun Hill Road neighborhood and its denizens.

Friday wraps up in Stoners’ Paradise with Clifford Roth’s irreverent “The Stoned Channel” (10:40 p.m.). Roth takes a sideswipe at drug-testing, network television and the Reagan-era “Just Say No” policies in this hemp-fueled spoof.

Saturday’s bill is rich with documentary winners. Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer’s “Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea” is an interesting, disturbing and humorous look at the environmental disaster in the Imperial Valley, and the curious folks and fauna who still insist on living there.

“Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator” (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.) chronicles Hughes’ ascent into the American imagination, setting distance and speed records in the air, romancing Hollywood beauties, before retreating into his final days in a Las Vegas hotel. “The Real Aviator” puts Hughes in the best light, before the freak show began and the tabloids told the lurid tale.

“Unconstitutional: The War on our Civil Liberties” (8:00 p.m., Saturday) is a powerful critique of the Bush Administration’s ‘war on terror.’ Filtered through the experience of every day Americans, from immigrant grocers to champion athletes to ordinary librarians, “Unconstitutional” is timed for the November election.

Much lighter fare is “My Friend Friedrich,” a fictional romp through New York City with Friedrich Nietzche and a Columbia graduate student. Directed and produced by Andrew Hasse, a graduate of both the East Bay Media Center’s summer camp and NYU film school, “Friedrich” is a romantic comedy with several funny scenes in 22 minutes

Sunday’s “There’s Something About W” (7:30 p.m. Sunday) is a companion piece to “Unconstitutional” (get a two-day ticket and check out both), though more centered on the broader broken promises of the Bush Administration, including the “No Child Left Behind” Act.

The excellent “Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege” shows the ongoing conflict between indigenous culture and science atop Hawaii’s most sacred peak. “Daughters of Everest,” made by El Cerrito’s own Sapana Sakya, chronicles the ascent of the famous mountain—for the first time, by an all-female, all-Tibetan team.

“Mad Twin” (Sunday, 9:45 p.m.) is a goofy look at the consequences of a nose job on a fictional high-school pep squad, while “IPO” heckles the greed and insanity of the dot-com boom-and-bust through the story of a start-up that offers genetically processed babies-on-demand.

The BVFF offers all these pieces, and more, for $8 a day ($5 for students). So put down thy NetFlix and get thee to Wheeler Hall, and check out the next generation of movie-makers. You won’t get stadium seating or super-sized sodas, but you won’t be disappointed, either.

m

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Asian Week - October 15, 2004

Clashing Cosmologies Above Hawai‘i

By Brian Kluepfel

Snow-capped Mauna Kea is an anomaly in the lush, tropical Hawaiian Islands — 14,000 feet high, freezing cold, shrouded in fog and battered by 120 mph winds, it’s a harsh landscape where Hawaiian legends tell of a battle between the fire goddess Pele and the snow goddess Poliahu. As the highest point in the Polynesian archipelago, Mauna Kea is also a sacred spot for Native Hawaiians — “probably the first thing our ancestors saw as they crossed the Pacific in their canoes,” says Hawaiian storyteller Marie Solomon in the new documentary Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege.

Although the battle between Pele and Poliahu ended with the fire goddess retiring to the lands below, today another confrontation is happening between Native Hawaiians and modern-day astronomers who utilize Mauna Kea’s ideal location to research the solar system. “The summit of Mauna Kea is overall the best place for looking at stars in the world,” says one astronomer. Eleven countries have built high-powered telescopes at the summit since the University of Hawai‘i was granted a 65-year lease to do so in 1968.

But now Hawaiians and environmental groups are questioning the wisdom of the lease’s unfettered scientific license to explore atop nature’s peak. “They look at the stars while trampling all beneath their feet,” says one local. “This is not a playground for scientists.”

For Hawaiians, Mauna Kea is a place of creation, whether it be the volcanic rock quarries that formed when lava met ice, or the waters from the ancient glacier that still sits directly below its surface — the primary aquifer for the Big Island. The Mauna Kea Adz Quarry is still the place where the most sought-after rock, used to build the adzes for hewing canoes, is found.

The documentary, featured at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival, looks at the environmental impact of astronomy. Although it is known as a relatively “clean” science, there still have been three liquid mercury spills in the past decade atop Mauna Kea. Additionally, the scientific stations generate 500,000 gallons of human waste annually.

Now the University of Hawai‘i is increasing the number of telescopes beyond the limit of 13 in the 1983 master plan. “They have to realize that this is an island, not a continent,” Solomon says. “No more.”

Astronomers, though, say the data collected has been invaluable. “We have written the history of modern astronomy,” says a German scientist. Fred Chaffee of the Keck Observatory notes, “Ancient Hawaiians (in their search for the islands) and modern astronomers share a tremendous amount in common.”

Nainoa Thompson of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, an expert in ancient navigational techniques, casts a doubtful eye on the scientists’ point of view. “Quality science cannot be at the expense of our culture,” he says. Thompson cast the lone dissenting vote on the university’s board of regents against the new master plan.

Festival co-director Paul Kealoha Blake, himself born on the island of Maui, lauds Mauna Kea. “Our festival provides a venue where filmmakers can actually use videos to document and affect change,” he says. “Joan and Puhipau (of Na Maka o ka Aina, also creators of Act of War: Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation) are two of the most important figures in [the] documenting of Hawaiian issues — they’ve been unflinching.”

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The Daily Californian - October 14, 2004

Enticing Homecoming Counter-Programming

By JESSE BROWNSTEIN

Cal is getting ready for a big weekend. It’s Homecoming, and there will be many festivities including the big Cal/UCLA game. So where are you going to be this weekend? That’s right, the 12th Annual Berkeley Video and Film Festival. What, did you think I was going to say Memorial Stadium?

On Saturday and Sunday, Wheeler Auditorium is opening its doors from 1 p.m. until midnight to offer a smorgasbord of delectable local and independent videos and films. In fact, the BVFF, which is the largest independent video and film festival in Northern California, has enough movies to suit everybody’s unique tastes with over fifty selections from a variety of genres.

What gets a Cal student’s mouth watering better than a juicy documentary? The BVFF has many to choose from but one necessary flick for the left-leaning Berkeley student is Uncon-stitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties. I know, I thought everything about how much this country’s administration sucks was summed up by this summer’s “The Corporation,” “Outfoxed,” “Control Room” and, lest I forget, the ubiquitous “Fahrenheit 9/11.” But guess what folks; “Unconstitutional” gives a whole new personal perspective on how Bush’s policies, specifically the PATRIOT Act, are striping away our civil rights.

But let’s say that you’re tired of politically infused and wholly depressing documentaries. Then try checking out “Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator.” This informative documentary chronicles the accomplishments of the reclusive millionaire in a rather innovative way by narrating it in first person, as well as sprinkling it with interviews of Hughes’s friends and colleagues. This is definitely the movie that will help you bone up on your Hughes knowledge in preparation for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biopic on that crazy film producing/air-plane-flying womanizer “The Aviator.”

For the comedy buff, the Berkeley Video and Film Festival has just the movies for you. Slapstick humor abounds in Berkeleyian Yoav Potash’s short “Minute Matrimony,” which pokes fun at America’s idea of marriage in a series of "live-action-cartoon" vignettes. And hey, you know who really likes to laugh? Stoners, and who better to go in droves to see Cliff Roth’s “The Stoned Channel,” a bizarre feature film that proposes the programming of a television channel made by and for purveyors of pot. Now I’m not advocating that you should come see it stoned, but …

The highlight of the festival for me is San Francisco acting troupe Barewitness Players’ “IPO.” The Players put together this entirely improvised movie about a group of people trying to establish themselves in the dotcom industry just before the bubble burst. Delivering great performances, the Players blend humor and poignancy to show how people try to cooperate while dealing with their own personal problems.

So, to all of you cinemaniacs out there, this weekend’s Berkeley Video and Film Festival offers a flavor of what’s happening in the local and independent film scenes. For everyone else, the BVFF will give you a much-needed respite from football and ... well ... really, just football. For students, a one-day pass is only $5, two days is $8 and a full festival pass is a mere $10. You know what you should do? Just tape Cal kicking UCLA’s ass on TV and come to the BVFF to watch a sampling of movies you won’t see anywhere else. And if you’re going to “The Stoned Channel,” don’t forget to bring munchies.

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j. - the jewish news weekly of northan california - October 15, 2004

From humor to polemics, Jewish films and videos run gamut at Berkeley festival

by brian kluepfel - correspondent

From 29-year-old Berkeleyan Yoav Potash to 72-year-old Hannie Voyles of Chico, a number of Jewish directors and producers will present their works this weekend at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival.

Documentaries, humor, animation and features round out the marathon three-day screening of more than 60 films, which begins 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, at U.C. Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall and continues until after midnight Sunday, Oct. 17.

The festival, once the domain of local talent and held initially at Berkeley High School, has gained international cache as it enters its second decade.

Making its Bay Area debut is Robert Greenwald’s “Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties.”

“We received over 200 entries from around the world, and we’ve been compared favorably to the Sundance ‘shorts’ weekend,” says festival director Mel Vapour.

“Nothing Really Happens (Memories of Aging Strippers),” a 90-minute drama, is a highlight of the opening night showings, at 9:10 p.m. Oct. 15. Written and directed by New Yorker Fred Newman and starring Living Theater co-founder Judith Malina, the film is a loving bow to a long-forgotten North Bronx neighborhood — of candy stores on Jerome Avenue and Gun Hill Road, of cherry cokes and egg creams.

Malina is wonderful as Tillie Hirsch, an aging East Village denizen who prowls the neighborhood cafes and stores, recreating, or sometimes creating from whole cloth, the memories of her old Bronx candy store and husband Abraham. Ex-New Yorkers will long for the borscht and Katz’s pastrami she munches at an interview with a Village Voice writer. Those with even longer memories will nod in appreciation at the memory of cherry-marshmallow candy from the Hirsch-Hoffman establishment. Mary Fridley produced “Nothing Really Happens,” which earlier this year won the best drama award at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival.

On a decidedly less serious note, the festival screens Potash’s “Minute Matrimony” at 8:45 p.m. Oct. 15. The satire of pop culture, where anything can be packaged and sold, appealed to the Generation Xer’s wacky sensibilities. The motif is a drive-through wedding chapel where options ranging from Jewish, black and gay are all gleefully rung up on the cash register. A group dance mixing a gospel choir singing “Hava Negillah” and some very confused rabbis is the highlight of the film. Politically correct? No. Funny? Yes.

Voyles’ “Children of Fate,” at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, joins a strong documentary lineup. The film is constructed from Voyles’ memories. Born to a Jewish-Catholic family in 1933 Holland, she documents, through historical footage and interviews with survivors, her country’s terrible transformation from a polyglot, tolerant culture to one that became a model country for Hitler’s Final Solution. It documents the change of the Westerbork camp for Jewish refugees from the “camp of hope” to one that became a short stop-off point before the extermination camps. The statistics brought forth by Voyles, who bears the name of a grandmother who perished in the camps, are a chilling reminder of the near-complete (85 percent) elimination of Jews in the Netherlands in just five years.

Also on the political front is Greenwald’s “Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties,” showing at 8 p.m. Oct. 16 . Directed and written by Nonny de La Peña, it follows successfully in the path of Greenwald-produced “Unprecedented” (about the 2000 election fraud in Florida), “Uncovered: The Truth About the Iraq War” and “Outfoxed,” the recent indictment of what the Los Angeles producer calls “the Republican network.”

“Unconstitutional” is a scathing indictment of the USAPatriot Act, and shows the hurried manner in which the bill was ramrodded through Congress. (According to the film, it was printed at 3:45 a.m. and voted on at 11 a.m. the same day.) Greenwald shows the effect of the bill on everyone from Seattle Middle Eastern grocers to an Olympic athlete with a Muslim first name, to small-town librarians, demonstrating the far-ranging and dire consequences of the act.

One-day passes to the Berkeley Video and Film Festival are $5 for students, $8 for others. Two-day passes are $8 and $15, respectively, and three-day passes are $10 and $17.

Festival director Vapour explained the rationale behind ticket pricing: “U.C. Berkeley students are die-hard film buffs and we’ve adjusted our ticket prices for this poor Bush economy and the war.”

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