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Filmmakers organize an artistic response to Sept. 11 and its aftermath

Wednesday, Oct 24 2001
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? "We are writing to you because we, as independent filmmakers, find ourselves feeling an emotional need to express, through the medium of art, our thoughts and feelings about the tragic events that have taken place." So begins the letter that Jay Rosenblatt and Caveh Zahedi recently sent to a hundred experimental, documentary, and feature filmmakers around the country. The S.F. artists solicited new work of one to 10 minutes to be compiled sometime next year in a trio of presentations: a video installation in selected N.Y. and S.F. galleries and museums, a touring program of short films to play alternative screening venues, and a feature-length omnibus targeted for theaters, television, and home video. All proceeds will go to charities that work toward world peace, but the initial impetus wasn't only philanthropic.

"Caveh and I were feeling so despairing, powerless, and unfocused," Rosenblatt explains. "We concluded that collective action would be more powerful than isolated individual action. We don't have a political agenda; we just wanted something other than what we're being fed by the media." The response has stunned Rosenblatt: Filmmakers forwarded the contact info of interested peers, pushing the potential number of artists involved to 150. Outlets from the Independent Film Channel to the Sundance Film Festival, in addition to a slew of Bay Area venues, have expressed interested in exhibiting or airing the work. A local post-production facility donated high-end digital editing gear for filmmakers to use to finish their pieces.

In an effort to keep the scope of the project somewhat manageable, Zahedi and Rosenblatt ruled out an open call to all filmmakers. But the organizers -- whose lives were pretty well jammed already -- admit to being overwhelmed by the prospect of wading through a hundred or so submissions, curating the programs, and dealing with all the technical, logistical, and legal shenanigans. All for a good cause, eh?

Dazed and Confused Richard Linklater is lounging in his stocking feet, looking like a Santa Cruz teaching assistant, when I show up at his S.F. hotel suite. The persona makes a certain sense: Since his Slacker debut, Linklater's dialogue-driven films have reflected an obsession with philosophy and the nature of personal responsibility. "Since I don't have a real job, I can sit around and live in a world of ideas," the Texas-based director of Waking Life and Tape muses. "To me, ideas are real and tangible -- or as real as anything else, let's say."

Linklater was a serious kid, and he figured that earnestness would color his movies. "I'm surprised any of my films were funny, because I never felt funny," Linklater confides. Odd, since in a Linklater flick, meeting somebody new is an opportunity to enter an alternate reality. Depending on a character's attitude (and pot intake), that occasion can be either discomfiting or hilarious -- especially in the case of the animated Waking Life. "It's supposed to be kind of absurdist and surreal, but some people get scared," Linklater says. "They shouldn't. It's a fucking cartoon, y'know?" Waking Life opens this Friday (see review above), and Tape, which recently played the Mill Valley Film Festival, opens Nov. 16.

Limelight The California Theater in Berkeley is closed for repairs through the first of the year. ... Acclaimed S.F. experimental filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky screens his latest opus, Love's Refrain, on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the S.F. Art Institute. ... Call me cruel, but I got a chuckle out of the New York Post's line about AIDS fund-raiser and reputed movie star Sharon Stone: "Stone's hospital stint is not expected to dent her career, as she is not currently working on any projects."

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Michael Fox


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