IndieFest celebrates films between the cracks

Amongst Bay Area film festivals, SF IndieFest is a hard one to classify. It’s not about a genre (documentaries, noir) nor focused on a certain type of person (Jews, Asian Americans), and it’s not big and flashy like the red-carpet festivals (SFFilm Fest, Mill Valley).

Let’s say IndieFest is a festival for films that fell through the cracks. From Wednesday, January 29 through Thursday, February 13, IndieFest will run 47 features and 57 shorts at the Roxie, the Victoria, and the 518 Gallery. All these venues are within a few blocks of each other.

IndieFest isn’t entirely about movies. Two highly popular annual live TV specials will be lampooned in Super Bowl LIV: Men In Tights and Up the Oscars!

Every year, IndieFest screens The Big Lebowski, but each time in a different way. This year, they’re doing the The Big Lebowski Shadow Cast. If you’ve seen The Rocky Horror Show theatrically in the last 30 years, you’ll probably understand what this means. Live actors, or would-be actors, imitate what’s going on behind them on the screen. I never really understood the point, but a lot of people seem to like it.

Other classics – or, at least, old movies – to screen include The Great Rock N Roll Swindle and American Psycho. Actually, the American Psycho event is some kind of party, and I assume the film will be screened there, as well.

The Big Lebowski Shadow Cast

There’s also a live Screenplay Reception Event with readings and discussions.

But IndieFest is mostly about new films that haven’t yet been released locally, and probably never will. As I write this, I’ve seen four movies screening at the festival. Here are my opinions, from best to worse:

A- Come As You Are, Roxie Opening Night Film

Three youngish disabled men, all virgins, take a road trip to get laid. Why a road trip? They’ve discovered a brothel in Montreal intended for people with special needs. And, of course, they need to get away from their over-protective parents. Essentially, this is a comedy, but a realistic one. The humor comes out of the characters’ relationships with each other and with their woman caregiver/driver. Screenwriter Erik Linthorst based this American film on a 2011 Belgian movie, Hasta la Vista, which was based on actual events. Directed by Richard Wong of Colma: The Musical.

  • Roxie, Thursday, January 30, 7:00
  • This film will probably get a regular theatrical run in the Bay Area.

B+ 39 1/2

Using live action and animation, Kara Herold’s very funny comedy follows a nearly-40 San Francisco filmmaker worried about her biological clock. She wants to have a baby (or does she?), but she has work to do, and she doesn’t even have a boyfriend. Meanwhile, she’s trying to make a movie good enough to get her into the festivals, while she wards off her mother’s bad advice, such as “Just have a lot of sex!” This is Herold’s first narrative feature.

  • Roxie, Sunday, February 9, 1:15
  • Roxie, Tuesday, February 11, 7:00

B Woman in Motion, Festival Opening Night Film

This documentary about Nichelle Nichols (better known as Lieutenant Uhura) skips over her childhood, musical career, and Star Trek run quickly, and says nothing about her personal life. Instead, it focuses on her post-Trekkie crusade to make NASA, especially the astronauts, less male and less white. A worthy goal, and an interesting subject for a doc, but let’s face it; that’s not what people want to know about Nichelle Nichols. She clearly had complete control of this doc, which avoids her private life almost entirely. Don’t get up and leave as soon as the credits roll, or you’ll miss a wonderful example of her still-exceptional singing voice.

  • Victoria, Wednesday, January 29, 8:00

C Pariah, Centerpiece Film

Rarely do I see a film that starts so good and ends so bad. With its beautiful black and white cinematography and timely message about refugees, this Indian film starts like a masterpiece. A man, with only a loin cloth, wanders through forest and desert searching for food and water until he comes to a town. But the town is religiously fascistic, with a wealthy leader controlling his overworked, indoctrinated, poverty-stricken followers. Needless to say, the nameless protagonist is hated and reviled. But about halfway through, Pariah becomes a simple torture porn flick, albeit one with artistic pretensions.

  • Roxie, Thursday, February 6, 7:00

Here are a few films I haven’t seen, but do look interesting:

  • The First Angry Man: In 1978, Proposition 13 changed California and the country for the worst. You need to know.
  • Alice: A housewife discovers that her husband has blown their money on prostitutes, so she turns to doing tricks to make ends meet.
  • Jesus Shows You the Way To the Highway: I won’t even try to explain this tale about a CIA operative going into cyberspace.

Jesus Shows You the Way To the Highway