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TV Eye

'The Territory'

By Belinda Acosta, June 22, 2007, Screens

In case you hadn't noticed, summer is packed with reruns and reality series. Cheap to produce, occasionally compelling (Top Chef on Bravo), mostly vapid (The Next Best Thing, Age of Love), it's enough to make you stow the TV in the closet. But no need to on Friday nights: The Territory is back.

Now in its 31st season, The Territory is an electronic art gallery featuring media art from all over the world. Originating in Texas, it's a joint project of the Southwest Alternate Media Project and the Austin Museum of Art. It provides a rare opportunity for the general public to see avant-garde film and media art outside the film-festival circuit or fine-art museums.

The following are log lines of upcoming screenings:

Friday, June 22

"Sommarlek" (D: Axel Danielson, Sweden): a coming-of-age story set in the Swedish countryside. "Dilemma" (D: Boris Pavel Conen, the Netherlands): the thought process that goes into a life-changing decision.

June 29

"Copenhagen Cycles" (D: Eric Dyer, Maryland): a kinetic collage of images set to a jazz score offers a documentary update of the "city symphony" tradition. "Dies Irae" (D: Jean-Gabriel Periot, France): Familiar landscapes are transformed into geometric dreamscapes in a series of hypnotic, flowing images. "Arabesque" (Mary Lucier, New York): rodeo, reimagined through digital abstraction. "Souvenir" (D: Stephen Rose, California): A toy camera is used to capture a bittersweet fable of epic proportions.

July 6

"Ryan" (D: Chris Landreth, Canada): portrait of the legendary animator Ryan Larkin. "The Brainwashers" (D: Patrick Bouchard, Canada): A man goes to his doctor's office and has an unusual checkup.

July 13

"Hadacol Christmas" (D: Brent Green, Pennsylvania): Mixed-media animation tells Santa's story with a familiar problem. "Morir de Amor" (D: Gil Alkabetz, Germany): Two aging parrots remember the past while their owner sleeps, with unexpected consequences. "Medusa: The First Date" (D: Pierce Davison, Australia): Medusa takes a chance and goes on a blind date.

July 20

"Francis" (D: Brent Green, Pennsylvania): An elderly woman taunts bears that appear in her back yard with the hope that they will eat her. "Stiltwalkers" (D: Sjaak Meilnik, Canada): A lonely fisherman's carvings and sketches come to life. "Ester" (D: Petra Elmquist and Pernilla Johansson, Sweden): A woman wills herself to become her idol. "How to Cope With Rejection" (D: Chris Waitt, Scotland): A slacker resorts to desperate measures to win back his girlfriend.

July 27

"Bebop Babies" (D: Gail Reaben, Texas): Fifties girl culture captured by free-spirited teens on Super-8 film. "Vincent Valdez: The Art of Boxing" (D: Ray Santisteban, Texas): San Antonio filmmaker Santisteban presents an evocative look at the life and work of fellow San Antonian and artist Vincent Valdez.

The Territory airs Fridays at 10pm on PBS through August. Check local listings for additional titles.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Little did I know what I was preparing for when I applied for a Flaherty Film Seminar Fellowship, named for Robert Flaherty, the "father of documentary filmmaking." This year's Flaherty seminar is at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where filmmakers, students, academics, and journalists from all over the U.S. and the world – including a lively contingent from Russia – have gathered to watch and talk about films. Or as another participant succinctly said, it's film camp for cinephiles.

As I type this, I am entering the second day of the seminar. What will I take from this? It's too early to tell, but as Flaherty encouraged filmmakers, I intend to be as "sensitive as unexposed film to take up the impressions around" me.

As always, stay tuned.

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