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Screen Dream

film
Maria Madrigal

Police Brutality? Branch Davidian members show signs of life in 'Waco: The Rules of Engagement.'

If they show them, will you come?

By Gretchen Giles

TIRED OF WATCHING major American cities get blown up on national holidays? Had enough of natural disasters that turn the coast to toast? Feeling tepid about Hollywood's lingering obsession with the Cold War? Don't care if you never again see Meg Ryan do that little puppy-smile wrinkly thing with her nose that causes her gums to show? Friend, you need pine no more.

Because sitting in the dark just got that much better. Dave Corkill--owner of Petaluma's Washington Square Cinema 5, the Sebastopol Cinemas, and the Sonoma Cinemas, as well as Marin's Tiburon Playhouse and the Fairfax theaters--is finally making good, very, very good, on his promise to bring art films to his Petaluma and Sebastopol theaters.

"Don't blame Dave," laughs independent film booker Jan Klingelhofer by phone from her East Bay office. "I sort of put him off," explains the overbooked booker, who has been busy programming theaters in the Midwest. "There's so much film out there right now and we were coming up on the Academy Awards." Klingelhofer--who is also responsible for the mini-fests and thought-provoking cinema shown at Marin's Lark Theatre and for the programming at Sonoma's Sebastiani Theatre--has contracted with Corkill to bring her brand of off-run films to the county.

Beginning May 2 with Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel Jackson at the Washington Square in Hard 8, and May 2 at the Sebastopol Cinemas with Kenneth Branagh's stunning adaptation Hamlet, look for weekly festivals, and such brushed-up re-releases as Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo to hit Corkill's theaters.

Of particular interest is the April 25 Sebastopol debut of Waco: The Rules of Engagement, a seldom-screened documentary whose launch this January at the Sundance Film Festival caused a firestorm of its own. Playing a limited engagement at a few theaters and festivals throughout the country--last seen in California at San Francisco's Roxy Theatre earlier this month--Waco posits the disturbing theory that the government, not David Koresh's Branch Davidian cult, set the fire that immolated more than 80 occupants of that compound in 1993, a structure already undermined by the ramming of federal tanks.

Using infrared imagery and in-depth interviews, Waco does not decide the facts for the viewer, but rather sets a strong case that botched plans, FBI stupidity--surely you'll remember that agents performed such professional acts as dropping their pants and mooning the trapped residents of the sect--and a wanton disregard for human life all colluded to create this tragedy. According to Corkill staffer Scott Neff, a new copy of Waco has been struck just for the Sebastopol screening, as interest in this important film grows.

Of the mini-fests planned, the Washington Square 5 begins with an American independents' night each Friday, featuring Nick Cassevetes directing his mother, Gena Rowlands, in Unhook the Stars (May 9), followed by the county premiere of monologuist Spalding Gray's serio-humorous Gray's Anatomy (May 16), the day-from-hell comedic encapsulation of Daytrippers (May 23), and the mockumentary of community theater, Waiting for Guffman (May 30). The second weekend in June has been dubbed Mafia Week, with The Funeral leading the dirge on June 13, and the brilliance of Francis Coppola's restruck version of The Godfather honoring Father's Day weekend.

Over in Sebastopol, things go en français with a Wednesday night series of French films that begins with the French-Canadian insect documentary Microcosmos (May 7), and continues with the bourgeois politics of La Cérémonie (May 14), the quiet loveliness of Juliet Binoche's widow in Blue (May 21), the tomfoolery of court life in Ridicule (May 28), and the sharing of a lover by Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil in Thieves (June 4). The whimsical doings of a Downs syndrome group in The 8th Day (June 11) wraps up this Cinema Français series.

Klingelhofer tosses off the admission that while the programming at these two theaters will be very good, it may not be as adventurous as that shown in art houses in San Francisco. When pressed on that point, she promises, "When the feet march in, we'll give programming to match it."

Sonoma County film enthusiasts, tie up your laces. Hup, two, three, four.

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From the April 24-30, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent

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