Yesterday, and today at Cinequest (March 3 and 4)

Saw a good part of Una Vida Mejor on the grounds that I’d run into Atlanta filmmaker Andrew James at the lounge upstairs at the Hotel Montgomery. He seemed a little perplexed by the reception of his film; there’d been walkouts. His film, which means “A Better Life” in Spanish, is an impressionistic series of vignettes about an illegal alien couple, another couple who is bringing down slightly more money than allowed them to get public assistance, and a hard-working white American couple—all headed on a  collision course.

As Michael S. Gant pointed out in his review, there’s blood when that collision happens. The finale is what James called “symbolic” violence, and I guess it’s similar to the part in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities about the sapling tree that eventually will provide lumber for a guillotine—thing is, I couldn’t make it to the end, partially because of time constraints and partially because of a midsection set at a small Hispanic grocery store where the English subtitles drop out entirely. James and his team had a subject of imperative political importance, and the willingness to go all the way to promote it with fliers and posters, but the film’s hastiness—the one-take looking performances and the glancing exteriors—defied the hard work he took to make this, get it out on the road and challenge an audience with it. I wish the guy better luck next time and I hope there will be a next time, especially if he takes as much attention with the surfaces as he did with the message.

Opening for this short on Monday afternoon was the series of commercials from the sponsors. “I have cancer but it doesn’t have me,” by Kaiser reminds me of the Cheeseman in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (“I wear the cheese but it doesn’t wear me.”) The excerpts from remind us that the starting point of so many films is the idea: “Christ, I could so easily make a movie that’s better than this.”

And finally there’s the Intel’s commercial showing a group summing up the majesty of the chip (I mean, they are cute little buggers) with really mundane praise: “This will let me play video games with people in Iceland” and “We can write reports with this!”

How about some more realistic Intel Inside-driven goals: “I can’t wait to crack NORAD with this!,” “All you Beanie Babies on eBay now belong to us” and “Oh, the porn I’m going to download!”

Finally met Charlie Cockey, Cinequest’s man in Eastern Europe, who hits all the trans-Danubian film fests; he’s a droll ex-San Franciscan who can be asked about nightlife in Albania (he’s all for it) and what Grace Slick did with her gold 45 for “Somebody to Love.”

Today at the ‘Quest, Mar. 4:

Call of Cthulhu (see separate posting) 4:45, Cam 12

Around the Bay, if you missed it or want to see it again plays at 4:15pm, at Cam era 12. Since I’m all for this film was very happy to hear it went over well on Saturday’s showing, with a crowd of 400 and the crew from my TV show CinemaScene on hand filming the reception afterwards. Morton Marcus and I interviewed the San Jose-based filmmaker Alejandro Adams ( We’ll also have an interview with him posted tomorrow on metroactive.

Also recommended:

The Silence Before Bach (6:45, C1)

Les Paul (9:15, C12)

Sputnik Mania (9:30, Rep).

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