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Short Cuts

War isn't good for much, except maybe art. Austin's microcinema community responds.

By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 24, 2003

Dude, Where's My War? Dept.: War may not be good for children and other living things, but one thing it is good for is art, in general, and, by extension, the microcinema movement. Global conflict is generally considered to be a lousy way to forge lasting relationships with faraway peoples and cultures, sure, but just think what music and film during the Sixties and Seventies would have been like without the critical launching pad created by the Vietnam war: Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are Pretty Good" and Country Joe McDonald's "Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Take a Nap" (or for that matter Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Bunny) obviously lack the cultural and emotional resonance of the real McCoys. Austin's microcinema movement -- small, floating minifests with particular thematic identities -- has been picking up speed of late, thanks in no small part to the current administration's headlong rush to war in Iraq and, more ephemerally, that nebulous, ill-defined "war on terror" we keep hearing about. Presented by Blue Screen (Refraction Arts) and Cinescape, next Monday, Jan. 27, 7 and 9pm, at the Hideout (617 Congress), U.S.A. (Unified System of Accounting) Tour is a textbook example of the politicization of the microcinema movement. Co-conspirators Kyle Henry and Spencer Parsons (along with Carlos Treviño of Physical Plant) have assembled six short films with an eye toward cinematic subversion and status quo bludgeoning. Henry and Parsons are also the guys behind the popular (and timely!) War Report minifest, which brings together various short documentary and narrative films that primarily focus on the buildup to war, hawk-and-dove politicos, and similarly loaded subjects. Says Henry, "In times like these, independent work that has a political content is necessary. During times of war the national- and major-media conglomerates rally around the flag, and it becomes very difficult for those working within those systems to be critical. The money that supports those industries is intimately tied up with national policy. During the Vietnam war, it was only toward the end of that conflict that the major media, including the motion-picture industry and the television-network news, become outwardly critical of American political policy. These days the activism is occurring at a much faster rate." Henry cites the "news reals" of the Sixties -- independently produced 16mm film projects frequently of a political, anti-war bent that are now widely regarded as the birth of the college arthouse distribution circuit -- as a direct antecedent to the microcinemas of today, as well as the nontraditional distribution networks arising from the past decade's anti-globalization movement, such as Indymedia.org. "Critical content is only going to come from the independents, especially if war is declared," says Henry, and to that end the Jan. 27 assemblage (a benefit for Blue Screen's 2003 season, by the way) is a rock-solid way to show your nonsupport of the assumed vox populi. Resistance is not futile... AFS on eBay! The Austin Film Society is auctioning off a chance to "visit the set of Rick Linklater's new film School of Rock, starring Jack Black" on eBay. The auction began Wednesday, Jan. 22 and runs like any other eBay bidding war, with the winner (plus one) visiting the New York set (travel fare not included), scarfing craft services with the cast and crew, watching the shoot, and ("if possible") hanging with Mr. Black. For more info, call the AFS at 322-0145.

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