Channel surfing

The 1994 Dallas Video Festival mixes equal parts ineptitude and brilliance

A.R.M. Around Moscow:. (Nov 20, 2 p.m., Horchow Auditorium.) This documentary by Jeanne C. Finley and Gretchen Stoeltje concerns Ron Rollband, an entrepreneur who, four years ago, created the international dating service A.R.M. (American-Russian Matchmaking). Four times a year, Rollband shuttles hundreds of American men to the former Soviet Union to meet Russian women eager to leave their homeland. (Rollband, himself the husband of a peroxided Russo-waif at least 20 years his junior, is the first to admit, "Many of these men are over here to find their mothers.") While the piece drags badly once it follows two couples back to the United States, footage of the selection process--documented in a series of brutal, anonymous cattle calls known as "banquets"--contains some hilarious peep-hole moments. The men are pursuing women accustomed to less, thinking they'll be happy forever that way, while the females see these guys as tickets out of an uncertain economic future. If only camerawoman Finley had recorded the fights after the couples really got to know each other! (JF)

Armond White presents Change the Style. (Nov. 19, 7:15 p.m. Horchow Auditorium.) One of the most original and infuriating pop culture critics in America today, Armond White--who writes for the nation's largest black weekly, New York's City Sun--has taken a number of gleefully inflammatory positions over the years. (He believes The Color Purple is the most significant movie in the entire history of African-Americans on film, and insists that The Fabulous Baker Boys was an inherently black story told in cynical whiteface.) He'll anchor a panel discussion revolving around yet another of his patented confrontational and hard-to-prove theses: that music videos represent African-American society more accurately than any movies from the so-called New Black Renaissance. (MZS)

Beljiquiero: Portrait of a Serial Kisser. (Nov. 19, 8 p.m., TV Diner.) This Brazilian-produced short introduces us to a squat, bug-eyed fellow named Jose Alves de Moura, a.k.a. "the psychokisser," who travels across his native country getting into various high-security public functions and planting a big fat smackeroo on the lips of anybody he comes into contact with, including Pele, Pope John Paul II, and Frank Sinatra, who shoves de Moura away so violently that it's a wonder The Chairman didn't snap his own spine. De Moura is irrationally exciting to watch, but he's also disgusting, not to mention certifiably insane. Like Harpo Marx, he presents himself as an innocent, love-happy gnome, which means you alternate between adoring the guy and wanting to zap him with a Taser. (MZS)

Black Is, Black Ain't. (World premiere Nov 19, 5:15 pm, Horchow Auditorium.) I hold much admiration for the late Marlon Riggs--for the charming way he could be gentle and outspoken at the same time, and for his benevolent view of human nature, which could have easily turned venomous given his unenviable status as both an African-American and a gay man in a society which respects neither. But his work has often left me cold. Tongues Untied and No Regrets squandered creativity on the novelty of their missions--groups of homo black men snapping their fingers and airing their joys and fears in your face--and left little but bumper-sticker rhetoric for second helpings. Color Adjustment, his survey of the evolving image of blacks on American television, was at once leaner and more muscular, building a visceral mood of injustice from broadcast images of American pop culture.

His final film--completed by associates after AIDS took his life last year, and

making its international debut at the Dallas Video Festival--is his most ambitious and courageous work. It's a terse, confident video essay that lifts the robes of the civil rights movement and invites us to peek at the wounds beneath. It's a call for the African-American community to stop emphasizing Anglo racism and start discussing the internal sexism, homophobia, skin-color prejudice, and class conflicts that reign in black America--and are seldom acknowledged by its leaders.

These are the same ills that threaten to capsize the entire American ship, but it's black people Riggs weeps for here. Using (thankfully) less poetry, talking heads, and famous quotes this time out, Riggs guides the viewer through a series of conflicting opinions about the role of history, identity, and gender in black life. Black Is, Black Ain't maneuvers deftly between the personal and the political, with Riggs including scenes from his rural Louisiana roots and taping commentary from what would turn out to be his deathbed. Although he didn't survive to complete the project, the producers have crafted a final version which reflects the awesomely perceptive mind we have lost. Bob Ray Sanders will moderate the discussion afterward. Marlon Riggs' grandmother, Katie Hendrix, will be in attendance.(JF)

Come on Down and Out!. (Nov. 18, 7 p.m., Horchow Auditorium.) All you really need to know about this English-produced game show spoof, which pits homeless folks against each other to win a brand new house, is that when it aired, audiences and political groups mistook it for a real game show and went into conniption fits. The show itself is too long and full of obvious jokes. It might have made a brilliant "Saturday Night Live" skit, but as a half-hour short subject, it wears mighty thin. Discussion will follow with Dallas Morning News social issues writer Jonathan Eig, the Union Gospel Mission's Rev. Bill Thompson, and activist John Fullenwider of Common Ground. (MZS)

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