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[whitespace] 'Dance Machine'
Shake Your Moneymaker: 'Dance Machine' is one of the selections for this year's fest.

Don't Call Them Tiny

The films at this weekend's 'Best of Microcinema' festival may be short, but they still pack a punch

By Rebecca Patt

It's that time of year again when Hollywood trots out its honors material--just in time for Oscar consideration, of course. No matter how you slice it, that means sitting through two, three, three-plus hours of the usual suspects working overtime to be "important."

Maybe they need to study up at the Rio this weekend. Because most of the short films at the Best of Microcinema festival on Sunday have something just as interesting to say as any of Hollywood's top picks, and they manage to say it about 145 minutes quicker.

At one to 11 minutes each, these films cut straight to the soul of wit and deliver concentrated jolts of entertainment. The majority are riveting, provocative and, at times, shocking and hilarious.

"What I like about short films is that it's truly a challenge to express yourself in 30 seconds or 15 minutes," says Joel Bachar, producer of Microcinema/Independent Exposure, an alternative film showcase he started in 1996 in Seattle that has since spread to 37 countries.

The short film screening at the Rio is the "Best of 2002." These films are gleaned from the popular monthly series of shorts Bachar has been presenting since May at the 111 Minna Gallery space in San Francisco. They have also been seen at far-flung theaters elsewhere around the world.

Man of Steelers

The films include Icarus of Pittsburgh, a strange and brilliant look at the exploits of Archie McNally, who is known as the greatest Pittsburgh Steelers fan ever for his attempt, using a suit of his construction, to fly up to heaven to visit his dead father during the 1979 AFC championship game. Other standout films are Right Road Lost, a documentary about how serving in the Gulf War devastated the life of Mexican-American artist Phil Rios, and Timmy's Wish, a twisted comedy about an ax-wielding Jesus.

Bachar says he's not out to please everybody every time, and he intentionally picks films that are going to push people's buttons.

"I think within any program not everybody is going to like everything, but there is going to be something for everybody," he says.

The "Best of 2002" kicks off a new film series at the Rio called First Sunday @ Seven. Laurence Bedford, owner of the Rio, has now dedicated the first Sunday of each month at 7pm to showing the avant-garde and underground films that Bachar curates internationally. Viewers can also look forward to local artists, musicians and performers for entertainment before the show and during intermission.

"Expect wacky surprises," says entertainment coordinator Jesse Rose DeRooy.

Microcinema/Independent Exposure "Best of 2000" at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz; Sunday, Dec. 1, 7pm. Admission is $5. For more info, visit www.riotheatre.com and www.microcinema.com.

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From the November 27-December 4, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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