Tale of the Tapes

With headliners like Mike Judge and an impressive list of films, the Dallas Video Festival once again wins by knockout

Jobbing in Fast Food

The language may be French (with English subtitles), but the protests about fast-food service employment in Christophe Gauthier and Benoit Labourdette's documentary cross cultural lines--just as McDonald's has bulldozed borders to fatten slender France. Ten different young adults who work there and at a rival chain called Quick give plenty of face time to describe (and sometimes demonstrate) the crushing monotony, the unreasonable demands (spend no more than 90 seconds per person; if you have nothing to do, clean the counter again even if you've just wiped it), and the low pay. They're more articulate than most--the filmmakers have chosen college students going for degrees in law, drama, and Russian history, among other pursuits--which might account for why most of them seem unusually embittered, even melodramatic about their jobs. (JF)

The Buffalo War

Rene Moreno, stricken with Down syndrome, can't fathom why he can't do what other men his age can in Duane Graves' Up Syndrome.
Rene Moreno, stricken with Down syndrome, can't fathom why he can't do what other men his age can in Duane Graves' Up Syndrome.
Rene Moreno, stricken with Down syndrome, can't fathom why he can't do what other men his age can in Duane Graves' Up Syndrome.
Duane Graves
Rene Moreno, stricken with Down syndrome, can't fathom why he can't do what other men his age can in Duane Graves' Up Syndrome.

According to Matthew Testa's The Buffalo War, since 1985, more than 3,000 of the last remaining, free-roaming bison in America have been killed, most frequently by Montana State Officials who are trying to protect the state's livestock from the spread of the disease brucellosis. Bison are routinely rounded up and tested for brucellosis, which causes a significant reduction in a cow's milk-making ability and can cause sterility and other reproductive problems in cattle. The negative ones are released. The positive ones are sent to slaughter, as are all pregnant females, despite the efforts of a loose coalition of activists, conservationists, and Native Americans in Montana and the Dakotas, who engage in the sort of nonviolent intervention that has been landing hippies in jail since the 1960s. What may sound like an exercise in environmentalist propaganda is actually a competent, even-keeled, compelling, and exquisitely photographed documentary about one of the last vestiges of frontier mentality in the U.S. of A. (BM)

The Nanthology

Friends either love or loathe Dallas-based DNA Productions' Nanna and Lil' Puss Puss; there's no in between when it comes to the old lady with the drooping breasts ("It looks like I have snot hanging off my chest," she moans) and her pet kitty, who isn't above gnawing at Nanna's corpse, even if the old lady isn't quite yet dead. This 45-minute collection of shorts--some of which have been part of the Spike & Mike Twisted Animationtraveling sideshow since the invention of sound, some of which have been little seen--posits that Nanna and Puss Puss actually had their own variety show in 1954, which was canceled around the very moment it debuted. And so we're given clips from their, ah, never-before-seen pilot, including outtakes in which the cartoon characters flub their lines (it's clever, if obvious) and scenes featuring a British lad who urinates a stream of 100 percent Vermont maple syrup. (RW)

Accordion Dreams

You wouldn't believe that the accordion is a sexy instrument, the kind of musical toy accompanied by crotch thrusts and screaming teen-age girls. And you may not believe it after watching Hector Galan's tribute to the past, present, and future dreamers who have made conjunto the most popular style of music among Texas' Mexican-American population. But the proof is right there, as young Jesse Turner thrills a young audience of lip-licking female fans with his, uh, accordion pyrotechnics. Or as Juan Lopez celebrates his 75th birthday by breaking out the squeezebox to the delight of pretty much anyone in the general vicinity. Narrator Tish Hinojosa walks viewers through the German origins of the instrument, the newest crop of conjunto superstars, and how important the music is, was, and probably always will be to South Texas. As one of the musicians says, "You can't hear a polka and be sad." (ZC)

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