Plenty to celebrate in SCFF 10th Anniversary season
Ten years in the making! Believe it or not, the Santa Cruz Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, May 5-14, with a typically full slate of cinematic goodies: 100 films and videos, of local and international origin—shorts and features, documentaries and narrative fiction, animation and live-action, commercial and experimental—along with film panels, gala receptions and other special events, presented at five venues around town.
This year’s feature films are offered in a variety of sub-genres, including Cine Latino (films about the Latino experience worldwide), and, once again, a slate of eco-environmental documentaries presented in partnership with EarthVision. As in past years, cash awards will be offered in three juried competition categories: Documentary, Narrative, and the EarthVision Environmental Documentary. New this year is a competition for the Spirit of Action Prize, to be awarded to an outstanding film about a person or organization advocating for change. Six separate programs of short films will also be offered (under such provocative banner headings as “Keep Santa Cruz Weird,” and “Ramen and Beer” (UCSC Student Showcase). Community TV will also host film panels on Art and Technology and college film schools.
The festival kicks off Thursday, May 5, at the Del Mar, with the Opening Night selection, Prairie Love, Dusty Bias’ quirky comedy of love, lies, and unexpected chances in frozen North Dakota, followed by a gala reception at the Museum of Art & History. The festival concludes Saturday, May 14, at the Rio, with Ruffo, Rocky Romano’s documentary on local surf legend Anthony Ruffo and his new program to help addicts out of addiction, followed by the Closing Night feature film awards ceremony.
In between, there’s a lot going on. Here are half a dozen SCFF films you don’t dare miss:
‘IF A TREE FALLS: THE STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT’ (USA, 2010, 84 minutes) Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Marshall Curry directs this investigative doc into the life and alleged crimes of Daniel McGowan, prominent member of the notorious Earth Liberation Front. In the late 1990s, the ELF, a loose aggregate of individual activist cells, launched independent arson attacks against conglomerates they accused of despoiling the environment—timber companies, animal slaughterhouses, SUV manufacturers—earning the FBI label “number one domestic terrorism threat.” This cinema verité thriller explores our notions of activism and “terrorism.” (Friday, May 6, 6:45 p.m. at the Nickelodeon.)
‘SPACE, LAND AND TIME: UNDERGROUND ADVENTURES WITH THE ANT FARM’ (USA, 2010, 78 minutes) Celebrate anarchy, performance art, and guerrilla theater with this lively doc from Elizabeth Federici and Laura Harrison about the Ant Farm, the renegade ’60s architectural firm that morphed into an anti-commercial band of counterculture media pranksters, spawning everything from inflatable houses to the infamous Cadillac Ranch in Texas. (Saturday, May 7, 6:45 p.m. at the Nickelodeon.)
‘ROUTE IRISH’ (UK, 2010, 109 minutes) The venerable Ken Loach (My Name Is Joe; The Wind That Shakes the Barley), one of Britain’s most progressive, rabble-rousing filmmakers, directs this conspiracy thriller set in war-torn Iraq. When his best friend, an ex-soldier-turned-private security contractee, is killed in the war zone, a tough British veteran (Mark Womack) plunges into the mystery of his friend’s death, determined to uncover the truth. (Saturday, May 7, 9 p.m., and Tuesday, May 10, 2 p.m. at the Nickelodeon.)
‘A MARINE STORY’ (USA, 2010, 95 minutes) The wages of the inane “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy are explored in Ned Farr’s drama about a decorated female Marine (Dreya Weber) struggling to reconcile her conscience with her chosen career as she attempts to shepherd a troubled teenager through boot camp. (Sunday, May 8, 6:30 p.m. at the Nickelodeon.)
‘FALLING OVERNIGHT’ (USA, 2011, 82 minutes) On the day before he’s scheduled for life-threatening brain surgery, a young man of 22 meets the girl of his dreams in Conrad Jackson’s delicate drama, a tender and intimate meditation on youth, love, dreams, and the quality of life‚ however long it may last. (Monday, May 9, 1:15 p.m., and Thursday, May 12, 8:30 p.m. at the Nickelodeon.)
‘CHICOGRANDE’ (Mexico, 2010, 100 minutes) Our contemporary “war on terror” echoes throughout Felipe Cazals’ epic Western about the US military expedition into Mexico in 1916 to root out Pancho Villa. As the wounded Villa hides out in a remote mountain cave, and Gen. John Pershing’s brigade wages a campaign of torture and terror against local villagers hoping to smoke him out, Villa’s aide and emissary, Chicogrande (Daniel Alcázar) finds himself caught in the crossfire. (Wednesday, May 11, 7:30 p.m., and Thursday, May 12, 2:15 p.m. at the Nickelodeon.)
A Festival Pass will get you into all film screenings, events, panels, and parties. (General admission: $175. Senior: $150. Student: $100). Tickets to individual films and events are also available. Visit www.santacruzfilmfestival.org/ for schedules, showtimes and ticket information. (See page 133 for The Catalyst doc.)