Reel People

It's about the artists, not the stars at the 31st annual USA Film Festival

You Don´t Know What I Got
Tuesday, May 1, 9 p.m.

Don't be distraught over the mildly indulgent, anxious setup of director Linda Duvoisin's documentary. What follows it is a surprisingly engaging and probing look into the lives of five robust women who have found a way to balance their creative impulses with their lines of work. Linda Finney and Julie Brunzell both became female police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at a time when women--and in Linda's case, an African-American woman--just didn't do such things. Myrtle Stedman moved to the southwest, where she became the architect-qua-philosopher for which she's best known today; Jimmie Woodruff is a mixed-race, retired housekeeper in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who reflects on her 82 years as a Southern woman who does and doesn't fall on either side of the racial divide. Rounding out the cast is indie-music rebel girl Ani DiFranco, who is so boisterous and bouncy through the entire movie you start to wonder if her music is going to cause you to succumb to a spontaneous seizure. Duvoisin intertwines their stories, interviews and ideas into a tight tapestry that illustrates how much these women share despite their different ethnic backgrounds, ages, professional choices and even spiritual beliefs. You Don't Know What I Got doesn't break any new ground as far as illustrating the sorts of barriers these women have encountered during their lives. Luckily, that also doesn't feel like its objective. It does, however, put a very human face to the feminist and post-feminist rhetoric that can often read too didactic to be pragmatic. Director Linda Duvoisin is in attendance.(BM)

Big Eden
Wednesday, May 2, 7 p.m.

Writer-director-illustrator Bill Plympton and a scene from his feature Mutant Aliens
Writer-director-illustrator Bill Plympton and a scene from his feature Mutant Aliens
Star Wars fans really unite in The Last Hope.
Star Wars fans really unite in The Last Hope.

This Northern Exposure-meets-Queer as Folk debut feature from writer-director Thomas Bezucha goes to great pains to delay its inevitable rosy ending with layer after layer of interpersonal conflict that never really feels too dramatic. Henry Hart (Arye Gross), an up-and-coming NYC painter, has to abscond the imminent opening of his new work and return to the small, Montana town of his youth--the Big Eden of the title--because his grandfather had a stroke. Once there, he starts to remember and relive what it was he loved and hated about the town: its great outdoors and his familial memories, not knowing how to go about telling his grandfather that he's gay despite the fact his grandfather--and everybody else in the town as well--already knows. Funny thing is, the movie never explains why Henry is so reticent--or why the movie itself doesn't have the self-respect to identify Henry as a homosexual other than through coy implication. His dealer makes references to him finding a boyfriend, someday. The manager of the general store in Big Eden--a kind-hearted if terminally shy Native American named Pike (Eric Schweig)--has an obvious crush on him. And a local older woman who feels it is her duty to play matchmaker with the town's younger generations, first invites a gaggle of young women over to meet Henry before deciding a herd of men may be more appropriate in one of Big Eden's far-too-few comic moments. It's frustrating, because Eden tries to balance its drama with splashes of romantic comedy, and neither story line is sufficient to survive on its own, much less entangled in its feel-good message. In an age of writers such as Armistead Maupin, Dennis Cooper and Edmund White, gay stories have become much richer, more dynamic and, most of all, unashamed of their subject matter than what Big Eden wants to offer. As a result, it feels more timid than cute, and by the time Big Eden comes to its uplifting conclusion, you feel like you've watched an after-school special. Writer-director Thomas Bezucha is in attendance.(BM)

The Last Hope
Wednesday, May 2, 9:15 p.m.

Christopher Hrasky and Kurt Volk hate Star Wars fans. Hate, hate, hate them. Sure, The Last Hope is about the people who waited in line for six weeks outside of Mann's Chinese Theater, in anticipation of the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but it is not a celebration of these fans or even the film. Even the most ardent Star Wars supporter would start to question the logic of it all after watching The Last Hope, which, with its constant surveillance and, uh, interesting cast, comes off as The Real World for the D&D set. It's combative at times (Hrasky and Volk provoke as much as they observe) and uncomfortable at others; nothing makes a fan feel like a bigger dork than watching another fan explain why these movies are such a big deal. They talk of deeper meanings and higher truths, like college freshmen wading through a comparative religion course. Much of the time, though, The Last Hope is not even about Star Wars. More than anything else, it's a portrait of the ridiculous extremes of fan behavior, with Star Wars as the frame. You get the point about 10 seconds in, repeated often, until the big finish when they say, no, they wouldn't wait in line for six weeks to go to church, but they absolutely would, without question, for Star Wars. "You've made a movie bigger than God," he shouts, stomping away. "You're all going to burn in hell." He probably has a point. Directors Christopher Hrasky and Kurt Volk are in attendance. (ZC)

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