Thursday, April 06, 2006

The WRIF is Online - The White River Film Festival -- And: All Kinds of Wednesday Stuff, No Nonsense

Morning, all -- for a number of months now, a group of dedicated filmmakers, artists, writers, teachers, activists and film lovers (including yours truly) have been busy screening, selecting, and bringing to fruition the White River Junction, VT Independent Film Festival. As of today, the website is up and running --
  • WRIF White River Independent Film Festival Site
  • -- sporting writeups by yours truly.

    This festival brings a pretty amazing selection of films and filmmakers to the area the final weekend of this month. I won't be there (Marj and I will be elsewhere), but filmmakers like Nora Jacobson, Matt Bucy and many others will be -- including the directors, producers, and writers of a number of the films showcased in the festival. All the details await you at the website -- check it out, and if you've needed one more reason to come to White River Jct. other than the Center for Cartoon Studies, this may be it.

    I've a number favorites among the films, but the key one I brought to the table is Coke Sam's incredible "lost movie" Existo, which I'll talk about at length here later in the month. Here's my writeup, just to whet your appetite:

    EXISTO (THE FORBIDDEN MOVIE) (1999) This antic, inflamatory satire of the ongoing US culture wars is unlike any movie ever made. Fusing the anarchic impulses of John Waters (Existo is arguably a companion to Cecil B. DeMented -- and its superior in every way) and Trey Parker & Matt Stone (South Park, Team America, etc.), Existo lands as savvy and savagely funny a musical bullseye against mainstream values as any the Parker/Stone team have scored. In a not-too-distant future when art is outlawed by America’s fundamentalist Christian government, Existo (Bruce Arntson, who also co-scripted and scored the film) and Maxine (Jackie Welch) return to the underground guerilla performance art outpost of their glory days. Despite his addled brain and unbrideled libido (“Spin the Bishop!”), Existo rouses the group’s ‘art assaults’ on conformity & complacency even as an embedded ally of the repressive conservative gov’t undermines Existo’s resurrection.

    An outrageous Millennial ‘midnight movie’ musical from the Nashville-based creators behind the popular Ernest phenomenon of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Director Coke Sams was key to Ernest’s multimedia incarnations from the 1981 launch (via commercials & TV spots) to the breakthrough hit Ernest Goes to Camp (1987), helming Ernest Goes to School (1994) before moving on. Coke’s co-conspirators are veterans of the Ernest troupe, from brassy Jackie Welch to vet character actor Gailard Sartain (who debuted [on the big screen] as the Big Bopper in The Buddy Holly Story in 1978): Bruce Arntson created Existo for the popular TV show Hey Vern, It’s Ernest (1988), and the late Jim Varney (Ernest himself) appears in his final screen role as a diehard guerilla artists. Don’t let the Ernest connection mislead you into thinking Existo isn’t the sharp, subversive, hilarious cinematic political antitoxin it is. Nothing you have ever heard or seen will prepare you for -- EXISTO! [NOTE: Be sure to stay through the credits to enjoy the concluding musical number!]

    “If you have to go out and you see art, do not -- I repeat, do not -- try to interpret it yourself. Call 911 and let the Art Squad defuse it.” (- Gov’t PSA in EXISTO)


    Incredibly, the Amnesty International report issued this week on CIA "extraordinary rendition" practices and the ongoing US kidnapping and imprisonment of targetted 'detainees' hasn't galvanized much attention here in the US -- or so it seems. The increasing abuse of assumed Presidential "executive power" to incarcerate individuals sans due process of any kind on unchallengable, unquestionable premises and make people simply disappear for years on end should be setting off shockwaves to dwarf the recent public protests against pending immigration laws -- but we aren't seeing any such outrage.

    In the meantime, the UK is facing the issue in a far more responsible manner. Earlier this year, heated Parliamentary debate in the direct wake of the London subway bombings over whether suspects can be detained without formal charges for more than 14 days prompted intense discussion of the powers of the British police and government -- the very debate we in the US never, ever had. Now that we're seeing the Supreme Court refuse to hear a case involving a US citizen seized from a US airport to be imprisoned for years now without due process of any kind, it seems more significant than ever before that the international community is scrutinizing the abuses of the US "War on Terror". Britain's Defense Secretary recently suggested revision of the Geneva Conventions, setting standards for conduct during times of war (including the treatment of prisoners and protection of civilians and journalists, and treaty bans on torture, rape, mutilation, slavery, genocide, etc.) -- even 'faux' wars like our national war on a tactic, "The War on Terror." This is an ongoing story, but there's a decent summary online at
  • British Secretary Wants Geneva Convention Reviewed

  • More later today...


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