Albany FilmFest: The Hometown Festival Near Me

I generally have a significant commute to get to a film festival. My own corner of the East Bay rarely hosts such events.

And yet I have never visited the Albany FilmFest, where all of the venues are an easy walk from my home. It’s a calendar problem; for reasons unrelated to movies, I’m generally very busy this time of year.

But this year, I intend to visit the Fest at least once.

It’s a modest festival, with only ten events over nine days, and six of those events – all collections of shorts – happen on the last day. The Fest gave these programs evocative titles such as We Are Family, Living On Earth, and It Came From Albany.

I’ve seen three of the films screening. Here’s what I thought of them.

NOIRS & NOIR: Double Indemnity, Albany Community Center, Friday, March 22, 7:00

Here’s your chance to mix film noir with pinot noir. I’m no wine expert, so I’ll tell you about the movie:

Rich, unhappy, and evil housewife Barbara Stanwyck leads insurance salesman Fred MacMurray by the libido from adultery to murder in Billy Wilder’s near-perfect film noir. Not that she has any trouble leading him (this is not the wholesome MacMurray we remember from My Three Sons).  Edward G. Robinson is in fine form as the co-worker and close friend that MacMurray must deceive. A great, gritty thriller about sex (or the code-era equivalent) and betrayal.

A- Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, Albany Twin, Sunday, March 24, 6:00

I rarely read fiction anymore, but this documentary on the important fantasy novelist brought me back to the days when I devoured sci-fi. Using extensive interviews with Le Guin, her family, friends, and admirers, filmmaker Arwen Curry tells and shows us how the author changed a very macho genre into a female-friendly and intellectual one. Curry keeps the film visually interesting by animating book and magazine covers as well as scenes from Le Guin’s work. One thing really surprised me: Her parents worked closely with the native Californian Ishi.

Preceded by the short Gloria’s Call.

Oddly, the Fest has labeled this program of one short and one feature a collection of shorts called Art! Literature! Feminists!

B+ Satan & Adam, Albany Twin, Thursday, March 21, 7:30

In 1986, a chance meeting of blues musicians created magic. Sterling Magee (aka Mr. Satan), black and old, had had a good career as a session musician, but was now playing on the street. Adam Gussow, white and young, had no real career. Teaming up as Satan & Adam, they had a good ten-year run before life intervened. Director V. Scott Balcerek tells the story so seamlessly and so entertainingly that I sometimes suspected it was a hoax (it’s not). Flowing with joy and music, and with a full sense of the racial issues involved, Satan & Adam tells a story so strong you might (as I did) suspect it’s fiction.

In a Music of the Streets program, Satan & Adam will follow a short called Scraper Bikes Mobbin’.

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