Friday, March 20, 2009

The South By SouthWest Radiation Treatment

Despite being at the South By Southwest Film Festival, I spent little time watching movies. Because of the festival and our own recent filming, Austin had become a town I associated completely with film, a town of images. Our second day there however, the temperature hit 81 degrees, burning a bright hole through the idea of film like celluloid caught in projector. Sun screen beat out screening rooms, I could barely take a picture let alone address cinema. Laying by the water or walking past the bright, battered murals and signs on South Congress I felt each moment sweating by, happily letting it go, happy to walk, watch, feel my blood beat and sweat flow. The photos are weak, and I missed some extraordinary films, but Austin has a physical memory now –my arms are marked with it, pink and still gently warm. Ingrid Kopp and I talked about what the skin remembers - South Africa for her, NC, for me, both of us agreeing that our skins grew nostalgic at the first touch of the sun's heat, remembering the tanned, blonde kids we once were, forgetting, at least along our exposed arms, legs, faces, the pale, thin skinned adults we've become... I told her that when I was in Cancer treatment, I kept sending my mind into the darkness of my body, searching for the disease but feeling nothing, no physical presence, no bone or blood or tissue wetness – not even temperature. During this time I craved light like never before -even San Francisco's foggy sun drew me away from searching fruitlessly for sickness, pulling me up to my own skin and through the skin back into the world. At night in Austin I carried the warm, solid world on my pink skin, happy to be there at festival dinners and parties, while we talked film, more film, and boozed the warm night way.


The complete history of Austin as presented by FoodMart.

The Texas Carne Asada Massacre at Polvo's

Shop window on South Congress

Lights on South Congress

Sunday, March 15, 2009



Sure I could have danced to candy disco with pretty young men under disco lights that gleamed off walls hung with glossy 70's porn, but the real party, a party of one, was out on the street. I passed her the ragged stump of joint and we danced to the music bleeding from the club. Someone called her from the dark doorway across the street and she strutted off, stopping cars to shake her ass on their bumpers while the drivers cheered. I am amazed the the tenderloin remains unchanged, ringed in as it is by downtown and a gentrifying Polk St All that is drugged up, fucked up, down on its luck, racist, multicultural, multisexual, vibrant, and pulsing about SF is caught here. Let the lurid light shine in these darkening days.


In the mission there was music as well, Gannet's gymnastic piano playing, his calloused fingers abusing the keys, forcing notes to backflip, tumble, launch and swing round. He was happy and talkative (with his new communication device) and led me round the house showing me new things and waiting by old items (like the blue desk in what was once my room) for me to use the old phrases and play old games. His laughter was full and wet. We walked to the store and I watched him with Alex, who has worked with him since before I left. They have such a calm relationship and Alex has made Gannet so independent. When I left them they were shopping, gannet lifting items and carrying them along to the next aisle. For the first time since I stopped living and working with him, I felt It was a good thing that I left, that he was in better hands than I had for Gannet to grow. I walked away missing the drooling little bastard, but not worried about him. That gave me a pain, a short selfish one, letting go of the worry that is so much apart of loving him. But it passed quickly as I hit mission St. and for once after seeing him walked our old hood smiling rather than holding back tears.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


(photo by Ingrid Kopp)

Confessions of a Film Festival Virgin

What a special kind of madness this festival was – arriving in the dead quiet airport – a 2 hour shuttle ride through what should have been Missouri but was only a dark road light by billboards for chain restaurants, chur, and adult bookstores. In town we meet and greet with only our films and a few drinks to open up communication. But it works and works well. The next day we get up, walk the bright and friendly town, go into darkness to watch the horrors and joys of life compressed and flickering, then come out to give praise and talk business. At night, after negotiating the shifting ground of the documentary film world and the flux of emotions brought on by the films themselves, we drink and happily deprive ourselves of sleep. By our last screening I was so raw from everything I’d seen that I could barely speak, let alone speak about our film. Seeing my family’s story among such work and appreciated by such a caliber of people split me right down the middle –it’s crazy to be so happy because your family is so sad. To complicate all this, there in audience were Genevieve and Logan who I haven’t seen 12 years and whose love I thought I’d lost. In the midst of all the loaded images, all the talking of film, there I was, held by Genevieve, warm and strong as ever. Thanks again to Paul Sturtz and David Wilson for an experience beyond anything I’d expected.

(March March Parade)

The Award Goes To…

It’s pointless to give a “best” list since I missed half the films I wanted to see and became pals with most of the filmmakers whose films I did. Instead I’ll give my 1st annual Completely Biased Appreciation Awards to some of the folks I met:

First of all the Tough Love Awards go to Esther Robinson, Debra Zimmerman, Jess Search, Heather Croall,Matt Dentler, Kirby Dick, and Rachel Rosen who took on our film like social workers considering the future an at risk child. Many folks helped but these guys really outlined our probation period. Heather also gets the “Why Am I Hearing Chains In the Room Next Door?” special prize.

Family Ghost Awards go to Rick Minnich and Matt Sweetwood (Forgetting Dad)who are not afraid of confronting emotional ambiguity. Also to Kimberly Reed whose bravery and intelligence are matched only by her elegance. Her Prodigal Sons looks at the complications of memory, identity, family love, and violence with sharp sight and unflinching tenderness.

Teen Spirit Awards go to the Brits – Ingrid Kopp, Nick Abraham (The Posters From the Walls) and Jamie Jay Johnson whose Sounds Like Teen Spirit shows us a Europe whose borders are drawn in glitter –a substance that bridges the gap between heartbreak, victory, and national pride. This film made me sure that my inner child is a 13 year-old girl (not just an immature drag queen.)

The Laugh At A Hopeless Cause Awardd goes to The Yes Men Fix the World. It’s delightful as always to see Andy Bichlbaum in action, shifting his persona from a self effacing Clark Kent to would be Superman. Splashing close behind is John Maringouin and Molly Lynch’s Big River Man – which is also the only film from the 4th dimension I have ever seen.

The Quiet Dignity Prize goes to Jean-Pierre Duret, both for himself and the quiet dignity he reveals in his young subjects. Because We Were Born is without doubt the most beautiful of all the films I saw at the festival.

The “Damn son, How’d You Get So Good!” Award goes to Darius Mardur whose Loot has one of the most powerful moments I have ever seen in a documentary and whose charm and inclusiveness make it apparent at first meeting how he got his astounding story.

The Balance Your Profession With Your Cocktail Glass Award goes to Brian Brooks
For serious engagement with the filmmakers and the parties.

The Best Live Performance In Front of A Camera goes to Kimberly Chew, the newswoman who interviewed us live. Seeming to pull a private TV signal into her body she transformed from a soft spoken woman focused on her lines into a full blown television personality –an impressive and frightening skill.

(Before and after)

The Dance Floor Award goes to me - an honor bestowed by Jamie Jay Johnson, who has seen Miss Junior Ukraine in action, (and because jumpin’ around to New Order got me hit on.)

Finally the Life Together Award goes to Mike Palmieri, but I’m the lucky one.