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Wednesday, Jun 16 1999
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Ann Arbor in San Rafael
The Ann Arbor Film Festival, the oldest experimental film fest in the country, is committed to film as an art form -- a quaint notion in this summer of Lucas. Its tour, which features 18 of its 40 awarded films on two different programs, includes works from two San Francisco filmmakers: William Z. Richard's Black and Blue All Over, a detailed examination of our abuse of the environment that utilizes supernatural visual elements, and Daven Gee's Chemistries (which garnered the most promising filmmaker prize), a movie that skillfully juxtaposes text and image to pose the question: Can beauty and/or sexual nature be quantified and measured?

Gregory Godhard's nifty Mind's Eye, which took the award for most technically innovative film, seems to pull the viewer right through the camera lens for an animated journey inside a photographic image. As the trip gains velocity, the images rotate and spin. Come Unto Me: The Faces of Tyree Guyton is Nicole Cattell's documentary about an unconventional Detroit urban installation artist who sees beauty in junk. Though his relatives scoffed at his ambition to become an artist (an unexpected career path for an inner-city kid), Guyton was given his first paintbrush by a loving grandfather. Some inner-city residents weren't so thrilled with his creativity: "Art shouldn't be outside. It should be caged up in a museum," decrees one neighbor.

Where Lies the Homo? (from director Jean-Francois Monette) is yet another rumination on gay identity that uses found footage, film clips, home movies, and cartoons to further the thesis that movies shape what we are and who we want to become. In its mournful tone and style, it's vaguely reminiscent of the work of video artist Daniel Reeves. The real cropper is Lisa Hayes' faux documentary, Women Are Not Little Men (and therefore cannot be expected to do even little men's jobs). Its narration is taken word for word from a 1952 Safety Training Manual that establishes that women blush readily, embarrass easily, are subject to petty jealousies, are sensitive to criticism, and make frequent trips to the restroom when menstruating. Weather changes can bring on lassitude, headaches, and ill temper because, "After all, a woman is a woman." And no matter how hard women try, men have it over them when it comes to physical strength. "If women exercise," the voice-over assures us, "they still keep the fat tissue just where we desire to see it."

-- Sura Wood

Highlights from the 37th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival show Thursday and Friday, June 17 and 18, at 6:50 and 9:10 p.m. at the Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St. (at A Street), San Rafael. Admission is $7; call 454-1222.

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Sura Wood

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