Eyes at Front

At the 16th Dallas Video Festival, you cannot--and should not--look away

First Kill
With the U.S. of A. on the brink of another war, a screening of Coco Schbers documentary couldnt come at a better time, since it puts its audience in an uncomfortable position: with a gun in hand and the enemy in its sights. What would you do? To help make up minds, Schber pulls from various sources, including film and TV clips and interviews with authorities such as the paralyzed tunnel rat. Though his speech is peppered with gook and other slurs, he may be First Kills best voice, a man who volunteered to shimmy through the tiny, dark, rat-infested network of underground passages with the goal to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible. Hes unapologetic about what he did and says he would do it again, but its clear he wishes he never had to make that choice in the first place. Schber also talks at length with Michael Herr, who wrote about the Vietnam War for Esquire and later turned his years of in-the-shit notes into Dispatches, considered by many to be the definitive account of the war and the people who fought it. If war was hell and only hell, Herr says early on in First Kill, I dont think people would pick war. Schber doesnt necessarily agree with that statement--what could it be besides for hell?--but it doesnt pick sides either, letting the audience make up its own mind. March 22, 1 p.m., Video Box, DMA. (ZC)

Foreign Objects
This Canadian series from Ken Finkleman, a small-screen legend north of the border, is the kind of show American television seldom attempts and always fails at: an anthology series about Big Issues, be they war or celebrity or marriage or even a womans self-image. Its brilliant (if often a bit precious, as Finkleman does whatever he wants because he can and will) and scabrous (if a bit obvious, because most episodes end with a predictable punch line), but always watchable as hell; you should see it if only to lament the fact other countries always do right what we dont do at all (see: BBCs The Office). A brilliant offering is the self-loathing The Award, but the best episode screening at the fest is Celebrity, a damning look at, among other things, celebrity publicists for whom a best friend is a hot star or a resurrected Jesus Christ (says one would-be Lizzie Grubman, He was amazing for all of humanity and were going to be amazing for him), TV networks who would crucify J.C. all over again if he got bad ratings (and he does), fashion mags who turn anyone (even the Son of God) into a bawdy pinup, and the Catholic Church for turning the Savior of Man into a commodity. Funny as hell, mean as hell, watchable as hell. Even if Finkleman is going to hell (after he makes an appearance at the fest). March 22, 5:30 p.m., Horchow Auditorium. (RW)

Girl Wrestler
Tara Neal is a typical 12-year-old girl: She goes shopping at the mall with her friends; she fights with her parents; she coos when a neighborhood boy asks her out. Tara Neal isnt a typical 12-year-old girl: Shes a wrestler in Texas, a damn fine one by some accounts. Its a life that pulls her in very different directions, sometimes at once and almost always without resolution. Through unpolished home video footage, Diane Zander grants us access into an emotionally intemperate and complex world. Were Neals practice partner as she trains for various tournaments. Were in her corner when she wrestles against the opposite sex. Were the ear she bends when she vents about the preconceptions and atavistic expectations of others who think it weird that a girl would want to participate in a boys sport. Were the shoulder she cries on when her lip gets bloodied and her body gets bruised and the pressure of an incredibly tough pursuit begins to weigh her down physically and mentally. We ride shotgun in the car as her father dumps on her and adds to her sorrow. Were there to share her triumph, but mostly were there to absorb her sadness as she learns that wrestling is simply a metaphor for life--the game gets less fun, and far more painful, as the years go by. March 23, 3:15 p.m., TV Diner, DMA. (JG)

In Seeing is Believing, a man with a video camera is as powerful as a man with a gun.
In Seeing is Believing, a man with a video camera is as powerful as a man with a gun.

Details

For ticket information and a complete schedule of films and show times, go to www.videofest.org.
runs March 19 through March 23. Screenings will be held at the Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, and the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood St.

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Lifetime Guarantee: Phrancs Adventures in Plastic
Phranc has a secret: The Jewish lesbian folksinger, a hot novelty in the 80s when she was signed to Island and releasing albums such as I Enjoy Being a Girl and Positively Phranc, sells Tupperware. Not only that, but shes so damned good at it shes a Tupperware manager in Los Angeles, where she strums and sells at parties that move plenty plastic; turns out you make a better living keeping veggies store-bought fresh than touring the world with a guitar round your neck. (Hers now bears the sticker This guitar sells, which might make Woody Guthrie a wee bit uncomfortable.) When Phranc tired of life on the road, she settled in L.A. with her partner and their child (who was 3 when this doc was made in 2001) and became a hot commodity in cold storage, and Lisa Udelsons film is as engaging as its subject and subject matter; hell, halfway through I kept wondering how I could get me one of those cheese-grater-cum-measuring cups and started hoping Phranc would show up to sell me one. Phrancly, this might be the most enjoyable philm in the phest (Ill stop); Ill even guarantee it (sorry). March 21, 10:30 p.m., Horchow Auditorium. (RW)

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