The church of cinema

Our resident preacher saves you from movie monoculture—and hell

From<i> Wake Up You’re Sleeping</i>.

From Wake Up You’re Sleeping.

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I am here to preach to you about the virtues of regional film festivals—and in particular, the Sacramento International Film Festival, because it’s the one that happens to be starting up again this weekend. Regional film festivals, and in particular the SFF, may be the salvation of American moviegoing. Yes, salvation. This is supposed to be a sermon, so why not?

You may not be inclined to trust the wisdom of someone who some days doesn’t even get out of the house except to then go sit alone in the dark for 90 minutes, however, it is through such trials of mental willpower that discretion is honed.

And it is with such discretion that I prescribe the film festival as antidote to the mild but persistent affliction of movie monoculture. I am a preacher and a doctor.

Anyway, it’s basically just the whole “buy local” thing, as applied to big-screen entertainment. Your trusty supplier, in this case, is SFF impresario Martin Anaya, who says, “This is probably the most ambitious schedule we’ve ever had,” and, when pressed, “Yes, I probably say that every year. But it’s true.”

Here’s just some of what’s playing: Water Flowing Together (6:45 p.m. Monday, March 30) is a portrait of the half-Navajo, half-Puerto Rican, all-gay, now-retired New York City Ballet dancer Jock Soto. Adventures of Josh Wolf: Activist Video Blogger (12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 28) briefly profiles that San Francisco citizen-journalist dude who spent almost a year in the big house for not giving up his video of an anti-G8 protest to the Feds. Orphans of Apollo (4 p.m. Monday, March 30) is not another Battlestar Galactica special (although that would be outstanding), but a documentary contemplation of privatized space travel. It gathers the “anarcho-capitalists” who tried to lease and restore the ailing Mir space station prior to its eventual demise. Given that the movie itself bears the whiff of an outlandish vanity project, it achieves a rare affinity between subject and presentation. By contrast, Ruffn’ Tuff: Founders of the Immortal Riddim (4 p.m. Thursday, April 2) offers, if nothing else, the irresistible novelty of a Japanese documentary on Jamaican music.

“A lot of film promoters will talk about doing things that you have to do, that will attract a crowd,” Anaya says. “You know, something with a local angle or with big names associated with it. Well, we have some of that. We have a couple films that would play in any multiplex. And we have several that … um … wouldn’t.”

Presumably, these also include the frustratingly underpunctuated Wake Up You’re Sleeping, an indie scrapper about a Seattle chess prodigy who took on a computer and some personal demons; and AM 1200, a thriller about a financial scammer lured into weirdness by a broken-up radio broadcast (both Saturday, April 5).

“We’re hoping people feel slightly uncomfortable for a couple days,” Anaya says. Isn’t that usually how salvation works?